TALK TO ME: Amanda Lew Kee, part II

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

This is the second part of our conversation with Toronto fashion designer Amanda Lew Kee. You can read the first part here.

If you could collaborate with any person (past or present) on any project (fashion-related or otherwise), who would it be and what would you create?

“Past: McQueen. Create structural objects to beautify one’s foot.

Present: Intern with Mark Fast, Erdem Moralioglu, Nicolas Ghesquière.

Future: Nick Knight. Make fashion films.”

Lady Gaga. Is she: a fashion revolution, a fad, or a fake?

Continue reading

TALK TO ME: Amanda Lew Kee, part I

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

The first time I heard about Amanda Lew Kee was from a friend raving about her Mass Exodus showing as part of the Ryerson University student collections. It wasn’t until I met Amanda a few weeks later—when she rolled up to The Room at the Bay, leather-clad in her own design and with supermodel-in-the-making (and good friend) Nadine McAdam in tow—that I appreciated how far ahead of the young pack she is.

Amanda’s capsule-esque collection, shown last month at the Great Hall, further confirmed the hype. The short film/model mash-up preview was very Dracula’s love child running around in Berlin—all black, mostly leather, and heavy on the layers and texture. Her cult status just keeps growing: Amanda was chosen as one of the Toronto Star’s Best Dressed 2010, her collection is on display at Holt Renfrew this month, and she’s the subject of a two-page spread in Flare’s August issue.

What’s the best project (aside from your own label) that you’ve worked on?

“One of the best was dressing 90210’s Shenae Grimes for the MMVAs. I also worked with Fritz Helder on a viral video shoot. He first approached me to do some wardrobe and later asked me to be in the video; he said he was using me as his muse for the looks. The girls were dressed in Helmut Newton-inspired black bodices with a bondage detail spiraled down one arm and one leg, slicked back hair and my signature pastel blue lips.”

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“A few! Meeting Derek Blasberg at his Toronto book launch, having him tweet about my ‘gang’ (I brought some friends that dressed in my clothes), and when he emailed me on the eve of my debut to wish me luck! Most recently, I had tea with Stacey Kimel and Adrian Mainella, and they both offered inspirational advice and guidance. I rushed home to review my Spring 2011 collection and made appropriate revisions.”

Who is your favourite person (other than a designer) in the fashion world?

“Daphne Guinness! I idolize her personal style, charisma and confidence. There is something about her majestic character that fascinates me.”

In film, which character’s style do you most admire?

Continue reading

TALK TO ME: Calla Haynes

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

It’s always inspiring for the Canadian fashion industry when one of our own branches out in search of monumental opportunities. So when Calla Haynes was nominated for ANDAM’s prestigious €220,000 prize (alongside homeboy Mark Fast), it was a sign that she had officially arrived. After paying her dues in Paris for five years—with Olivier Theyskens at Rochas, then Nina Ricci—the Toronto-born designer launched her own label, Calla by Calla Haynes, last year.

The Spring 2010 collection features ridiculously amazing textures (snakeskin anyone?) and a muted, streamlined colour palette which, at first glance, looks so stylized you wonder if you could ever pull it off, but it’s also so wearable that you vow to try. It’s all infused with as much Parisian joie de vivre as New York cool.

From Paris, Calla answered The Style Notebook’s Talk to Me questionnaire.

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“Going into the Chanel boutique on Bloor with my mom at age 12.  The director of the store was so nice—he gave me a press kit that I took home and scanned over night after night.”

Your wedding dress got a lot of attention, and there was talk that you designed it. What was the inspiration behind the dress?

“Actually, Olivier Theyskens made my wedding dress for my ceremony in Canada (I designed the jacquard linen and silk fabric), and Robert Normand made my civil ceremony dress.”

What’s the best project (aside from your own label) that you’ve worked on?

“One of the most rewarding projects I worked on was my first collaboration with Jeremy Laing. I had just left Nina Ricci and it was nice to get recognized right on style.com for that work.  It’s led to many more collaborations with Jeremy, and I’m very happy about that.”

Which literary hero do you most identify with?

“Eeyore or Judy Blume’s Margaret.”

You went to Parsons in New York and now you’re based in Paris. Do you follow the fashion scene back home? Do you sing our praises around town?

Continue reading

TALK TO ME: Robin Givhan, part II

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

This is the second part of our conversation with Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan. You can read the first part here.

After the Critical Mass discussion, a Toronto fashion blogger wrote: “I think no matter what, fashion is inherently elitist and status driven.  If it can’t exclude with cash, other tactics will fill the vacuum.” Do you agree?

“Fashion certainly traffics in elitism. And yes, money is not always the dividing line. It can be geography, waist size, hair color, age, whatever. But couldn’t you say the same thing about sports or music or the art world? Each of them excludes based on money, knowledge, geography, etc.”

Lady Gaga. Is she: a fashion revolution, a fad or a fake?

Continue reading

TALK TO ME: Robin Givhan, part 1

Fashion writer Robin Givhan is refreshingly down-to-earth, naturally eloquent and unguarded. She’s also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The Washington Post. (Take a look through her portfolio.)

Recently, Paul Aguirre-Livingston asked Robin questions from The Style Notebook’s “Talk to Me” questionnaire.

Has winning a Pulitzer always been an ambition of yours? Did you ever doubt that colleagues would view fashion criticism as a viable genre for the prize?

“I think every journalist, in the dark recesses of their brain, imagines what it would be like to win a Pulitzer. But the possibility is so remote; you simply do your best work because you love what you do. The Washington Post nominated me for the Pulitzer, which is generally how it’s done. I was honoured to have been nominated, which is quite special. A fashion critic had never won, so I really didn’t know what my chances were.”

Which fashion writer(s) do you most admire?

“I have always been a fan of Teri Agins, who wrote for the Wall Street Journal and is now a freelancer. She really focuses on the business of fashion, and I admire her reporting skill, which is incomparable.”

Top three fashion documentaries that no fashionphile should miss?

The September Issue and Unzipped. I’ve heard that the Valentino documentary is great, although I haven’t seen it.”

Continue reading

TALK TO ME: Sarah Nicole Prickett, part II

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

This is the second part of our conversation with fashion writer Sarah Nicole Prickett. You can read the first part here.

You’re known for your personal style. Have you always liked getting dressed? When did you first realize that you had a look?

“Always liked getting dressed. Not always good at it! In my seventeenth summer, I was at a Christian youth conference in Michigan—you heard me—and as part of some game, we had to divide into groups and choose the best-dressed from each. I won in my group. I was wearing a red-and-pink-striped shirt, red backless sneakers, and a red visor.”

What are the inspirations for your current look?

“My style is all about what I wasn’t in the ’90s: grungy, sexy, cool, platform-heeled, blonde, etc. I heart the teen movie wardrobes of that decade. But I’m growing up, and so, returning to prepster obsessions: stripes, pleats, a trench as a dress, a white shirt as a dress, a cardigan as a dress… I’ll wear anything as a dress.”

Does the term It girl make you smile? Or…

“Smirk? Look, if I were living in New York, I’d be one of a thousand girls like me. Only here do I catch hell and attention for having a certain haircut or attitude, or for going to parties and getting up to bitch about them the next day. Shinan Govani, the shrewdest observer, tweeted something about me being an It girl by positioning myself as the anti It Girl. Such adroit positioning. I must have done it in my sleep.”

Continue reading

TALK TO ME: Sarah Nicole Prickett, part I

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

Sarah Nicole Prickett is a fashion writer—most frequently for EYE WEEKLY and FASHION, and formerly for Torontoistwho gives as good a quote as she gets. She’s as opinionated and complicated as you might expect from a style-conscious rebel who grew up in a born-again Christian home in London, Ont.

Recently, SNP answered The Style Notebook’s “Talk to Me” questionnaire.

Who are your favourite writers, fashion and otherwise?

“Fashion: Lynn Yaeger, Hadley Freeman, Sally Singer, Guy Trebay, Harriet Walker (really, just her ‘In the Cut’ column for AnOther’s blog). Otherwise: Kitty Kelley!! Just kidding. Zadie Smith, Ariel Levy, Joan Didion, David Rakoff, Sloane Crosley. (Note my real love for women writers, beginning with L.M. Montgomery at age 4.5, and never ending. Also note these are all names of the living; the dead are too many!)”

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“Yes. Oh—you want to know what it is? OK, so I went to London Fashion Week three seasons ago. I didn’t have a hard invite to Christopher Kane, and I didn’t know if I was on the list, but I went anyway. I wasn’t on the list. If Jasmine from Relative PR is reading this–hi Jasmine, I love you and your Pantene commercial hair. Thanks for winking me in. It was jammed, so I stood on a mezzanine at the back of this cavernous room—the Topshop venue—and watched the show unfold below me. It was the collection all done with velvet ribbons, and it really did unfold, like a flip book of felt-tip artwork. It was dazzlingly methodical, and moving, seriously. I had the kind of moment after which you realize you’ve been holding your breath.”

What inspires you, in the fashion world and beyond?

“Surprises and silences, the two rarest things in any world.”

Continue reading

TALK TO ME: Danielle Meder, part II

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

This is the second part of our conversation with fashion illustrator and blogger Danielle Meder. You can read the first part here.

What inspires you?

“For illustration: gorgeous human beings, beautiful clothes, a sense of confidence and poise. For writing and thinking: provocative ideas, stories of successes and failures, revealing humanity, broad trends and minute details.”

Which literary hero do you most identify with?

“Lillian Hellman, specifically in her memoirs, and especially in Pentimento. She’s not fictional, but I can’t think of another character who I’ve identified with so closely, and at so many different stages in my life.  I look forward to re-reading that book over and over and over again.”

Continue reading

TALK TO ME: Danielle Meder, part I

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

In her excellent blog, Final Fashion, Danielle Meder shows that there is nothing contradictory about being a straight-talking artist who loves fashion. She has a clear eye, a unique voice and—as evidenced by her lovely illustrations—a handy way with a pen. Recently, Danielle answered The Style Notebook’s weekly “Talk to Me” questionnaire.

What was the first fashion blog you started reading regularly?

“I believe it was Manolo’s Shoe Blog in 2005. He (?) was really the first big fashion blogger that I remember. He’s still around, and with much the same layout too.”

What are your favourite blogs now?

“There are so many that I tend to drift through blogs sort of aimlessly now, finding them through Twitter or Google searches, letting their posts pile up in my RSS reader. Many of the blogs I consider my favourites had their glory days a long time ago, much like saying that New York was my favourite city 40 years ago.

I got rid of my sidebar a year or two ago to reflect the new way that I tend to harvest content and friends in blogland. It’s less clubby and political that way. I replaced it with widgets that show my del.ici.ous links, something that I hope rewards current, compelling content as well as randomly unearthed old-but-good stuff, rather than a particular blog title.”

Continue reading

TALK TO ME: Nathalie Atkinson, part II

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

This is the second part of The Style Notebook’s conversation with Nathalie Atkinson. You can read the first part here.

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“Age 3, before starting junior kindergarten, I had to get inoculations at the local health unit and be ‘evaluated for readiness’ for school. I was scared, but my parents promised me a treat if I could be a big girl and not cry–anything I wanted. I chose clothes (to which, when my mother tells the story, and that’s often, she now meaningfully adds: ‘Of course’). Not a tear was shed, and immediately afterwards we went straight to Kay’s Tot & Teen, the kids clothing store in town. I remember the outfit perfectly: an apple-green gingham sundress, smocked and covered in tiny appliqué red felt cherries, with a matching kerchief. Truth be told I somehow managed to finagle two dresses out of my mother that day! She still has them.” Continue reading