TALK TO ME: Leith Clark, part II

Story by Mishal Cazmi. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

This is the second part of our conversation with Leith Clark, stylist and editor-in-chief of Lula Magazine. You can read the first part here.

How would you compare Canadian fashion with British fashion?

“For me Canada is an environment where I can’t not be outside. So there is an element of practicality brought in. Imagine my shoes lasting a Canadian winter! (Tabitha Simmons pale pink suede wedges.) All four seasons are so strong and vivid here. The people are so real. Fashion needs to to match it. Practicality is an issue more than it is in a city like London. The lifestyle is different. Some of the dresses that I bring here when I visit, I know I’m just going to hang them up. I know I’m not actually going to wear them.

Or maybe I do wear them, just under gigantic coats and with my motorcycle boots from when I was 14! I think you have to think about the environment you’re in. I want to be outside when I’m here, even when it’s snowing. Especially when it’s snowing. Fashion should never inhibit you or limit you.”

If you could give your 16-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

“I did this thing in the ninth grade that I thought was a good idea. I probably read it in Sassy. On the first day of high school, I had to be the first person to raise my hand or volunteer, no matter what the question, in every class. It made that whole year so easy. I think that fearlessness and applying it, so that you’re never intimidated by anything and you don’t have long enough to psych yourself out, is a very nice thing and I wish I remembered it more often—especially at 16. I would tell myself to keep doing that.

And—the only person whose opinion reeeally matters, is your own.

Also, everyone, no matter what career they choose, has a point of view…. I think it’s important to encourage it in others and ourselves…. Sometimes we’re discouraged, and everyone’s creative view point is unique and important. We all had universes we created as kids that we would play inside. There’s no reason why that doesn’t have to continue when we grow up. You know, stare at paintings to figure out why certain ones make you feel something… make scrapbooks….  It’s so interesting when you get to dip into someone else’s world. People like to meet other people and have a place they can visit. Nurture yours in yourself and in others…

You’re having a tea party. You can only invite five guests, past or present. Who would they be?

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TALK TO ME: Leith Clark, part I

Story by Mishal Cazmi. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

Only the prettiest adjectives—ethereal, whimsical, and dreamlike—can describe Lula magazine. It’s a magazine dipped in sunlight and enchantment, a world inhabited by dreamers.

Published twice a year, Lula has become more than a magazine; it’s evolved into brand and a lifestyle, made in the image of Clark herself. A Lula girl is a special kind of a girl. She’s a bit Sofia Coppola, a bit Enid Blyton. She eats cupcakes and sips champagne. She wears Moschino and Erdem.

Leith Clark, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, also happens to be Canadian. Clark’s journey is a familiar narrative in the magazine world—a small town girl who moved to New York City in pursuit of her dreams. She interned at Interview magazine before moving to London to work at British Vogue as an assistant to Kate Phelan. But Clark also made it in a big way.

She’s styled stars (Keira Knightley), campaigns (Chanel), and shoots (Harper’s BazaarVogue). And of course, she created Lula, a magazine that began as a small labour of love and has since earned an international cult following. In other words, Leith Clark is the best friend you wish you had. Every suburban girl need only look to Clark, a former resident of Oakville, Ontario, to realize that dreams can come true. She’s the living embodiment of the Lula fairy tale.

Clark was recently in Toronto for the opening of her Lula pop-up shop, curated for The Room at the Bay in celebration of its God Save the Queen event. In a Chanel dress and her favourite Tabitha Simmons suede platform wedges, Clark sat down to chat with The Style Notebook.

You curated the LULA pop-up shop for The Room, which you also did earlier this summer for Harvey Nichols. What were you looking for when selecting items for the pop-up shop?

“Sometimes it’s very selfish. The Miu Miu shoes that are in there were actually shoes they did five years ago. I think I called every Miu Miu store in the whole world and they were all sold out. This May, I got engaged and I remembered those shoes again. I wrote a letter to them saying, just so you know, one of the very first thoughts I had about a wedding were those shoes. So they made them and sent them to me to my house with a card, which was amazing. And then Harvey Nichols asked me to do a pop-up shop for them last summer and one of the first things I thought to do was phone Miu Miu again about those shoes.

Everything else in the shop is by people that I love. Charles Anastase made a dress similar to this one three years ago, but it was short with much wider straps and a higher neck. The Sonia Rykiel dress is a variation of one that existed that was longer. It usually starts with something they’ve already done. With Rodarte, I was really annoying and decided I wanted to wear white dresses forever! There’s also a book called Pretty Things by Liz Goldwyn. It’s so wonderful and I think people don’t see it enough.”

Lula has a very particular aesthetic. When you’re preparing an issue, how do you decide who gets to be in the pages—who the photographer is, the writer, who to interview?

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TIFF SPECIAL: Black Swan review

Story and illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

After months of hearing about Rodarte‘s foray into costume design, this week the anticipation became reality as I excitedly watched the design house’s tutus in motion in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

This psychological thriller stars Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers, a professional dancer at a New York City ballet company, whose life is completely consumed by her career. Every night, she returns home alone, where she lives with her overly protective mother (Barbara Hershey), and leads a sheltered, isolated life, seemingly frozen in childhood.

When principal dancer Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) unexpectedly retires from the company, artistic director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) looks for a new dancer to star as the Swan Queen in his raw interpretation of Swan Lake. Desperate for the role, Nina is faced with a challenge.
Innocent and inexperienced, she is able to personify Odette, the White Swan character perfectly. But despite her strong technique, she has difficulty embodying Odile, the seductive and manipulative Black Swan. Enter Lily (Mila Kunis).

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TIFF SPECIAL: Party-pretty with the Brill girls

Story and illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

Brill Communications knows what girls like. Last week, the hip Toronto PR firm hosted a pop-up beauty lounge in their John Street offices, offering hair and makeup touch-ups, as well as polish changes. The pros at Donato Salon + Spa were on hand to ensure that overstretched media and TIFF guests were red carpet ready.

From the moment I contacted Brill’s Ashley Bartlett to book a last-minute appointment, I felt like I’d entered an oasis amid a hectic, hopped up TIFF schedule. The glass of Prosecco on arrival was a particularly welcome touch.

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TALK TO ME: Rita Liefhebber, part II

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

This is the second part of our conversation with fashion designer Rita Liefhebber. You can read the first part here.

Describe the girl who wears your garments. Who do you design for?

“She is a woman who is understated and effortlessly stylish. She appreciates minimalism and subtle luxury.”

If you weren’t a designer, you would …

“Open a dog sanctuary. Something I may still do one day.”

What’s next for you?

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TALK TO ME: Rita Liefhebber, part I

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

You could be forgiven for thinking that Rita Liefhebber, with her model-worthy looks (yeah, she was one), would be intimidating in person. But the Toronto fashion designer is as lovely as her mesmerizing mermaid hair—not to mention smart, down-to-earth, and—oh yes—talented.

Liefhebber has dipped her toe into almost every fashionable pond: modelling, assisting veteran stylist Lori Goldstein in New York, and overseeing the fashion pages as an editor at Flare in Toronto. Last fall, she launched her eponymous collection and continues to work as a stylist.

What I love about her is that she’s not afraid to dream big: She’s about to show during New York Fashion Week for the third time, a major feat for a new Canadian designer. Liefhebber isn’t about being a big fish in a small pond—she’s the girl who wants to run the empire.

Tell me about your journey. What made you decide to start your own collection?

“I started in fashion as a model at 15. I then became a stylist while living in New York and later moved back to Toronto. Shortly after, I became the fashion editor at Flare. New York called again and I returned to be Lori Goldstein’s first assistant. I had been planning on starting the line for the last few years but I didn’t want to pass up those opportunities.”

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“Assisting Lori on a Hedi Slimane shoot in L.A. He is cooler than you can ever imagine and he travels with an entourage of skinny well-dressed guys in a Rolls Royce. Amazing.”

What inspires you?

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TALK TO ME: Kealan Sullivan, part II

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

This is the second part of our conversation with Kealan Sullivan, the owner of the amazing 69 Vintage. You can read the first part here.

In your experience, what does it take to be a good businesswoman?

“Have a willingness to learn from everyone around you. Practice focus, self reliance and patience. Be stubborn and do it your own way.”

What’s a favourite vintage find that you’ll never ever part with?

“The list is never-ending, really, and includes glass beads, quilts, vintage lingerie, crochet dresses, suede chaps, 1950s denim, 1940s fringe suede jacket(s), bathing costumes from all eras, cotton hippie dresses, ‘80s patent leather hip-high stiletto boots…”

Any advice for a novice vintage shopper?

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TALK TO ME: Kealan Sullivan, part I

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

This week, I’m taking a break from profiling fashion designers to focus on what keeps fashion in business: the retailers. As the owner of both 69 Vintage and 69 Collective/Buy the Pound, Kealan Sullivan is Toronto’s vintage queen. Kealan has her finger on the pulse on what is nouveau, but her cool-hunting skills are paired with an equally honed education in what makes an excellent vintage piece. Her taste is instinctive and sartorially encompassing: Flipping through the racks at 69, you’ll find everything from sweet satin prom dresses to original Levi’s cut-off denim vests.

Tell me about your journey. How did you get into vintage?

“It all started with collecting hundreds of pieces of baby and doll clothes from the Salvation Army, using all of my allowance at 6 years old.”

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“The first time I heard ‘You’re Kealan Sullivan.’ Really, it means nothing but this was my best friend’s usual response to the question I asked so often: ‘Can I seriously wear this?’ Her reply gave me courage. It still does.”

What makes you decide if you’re going to buy a certain garment for the store? Is there a “Kealan Criteria”?

“There are five rules:

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TALK TO ME: Anastasia Lomonova, part II

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

This is the second part of our conversation with fashion designer Anastasia Lomonova. You can read the first part here.

Describe the girl who wears your clothes. Who do you design for?

“Over the years, the girl I was dressing changed quite a bit. When I started, at 22, I was designing very cute, hyper-girly things (yes, that’s a word!) for a somewhat younger clientele. I’ve grown up quite a bit since then and I think the customer I’m catering to has too. She is confident, eclectic and bold, not afraid to have a strong presence. Her look is polished and refined. Previously, my girl was merely trying to be stylish, now she is a woman who just effortlessly is.”

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

“Sophia Loren. Timeless.”

Which literary hero do you most identify with?

“Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.”

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

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TALK TO ME: Anastasia Lomonova, part I

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

Anastasia Lomonova has been called “Montreal’s rising star” seemingly forever. Now, after winning the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s (TFI) New Labels competition (and a $35,000 grant) in April, she’s sprinting toward fashion star status.

After four grueling months under the watchful eye of the Canadian fashion scene’s elite (including the womenswear buyer for Holt Renfrew and the editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada), Lomonova emerged with a collection so brilliantly simple that it won over both the judges and the crowd. From a self-professed “wannabe painter” to one of the most promising talents to come out of Montreal since Denis Gagnon, Lomonova is looking to move into more custom, one-of-a-kind work for Spring 2011. She won’t move to Toronto (or anywhere else for that matter), but we won’t hold it against her.

Tell me about your journey. How did you get into fashion?

“I wanted to be a painter—I had formal training and everything. Somehow, though, I never really felt that I had much to offer to the world with painting. I was looking for a way to express myself in an everyday setting, where my creations would infiltrate day-to-day life. To me, fashion is the ultimate means of self-expression—clothes really tell so much about a person, they can make us feel a different way. That aspect was very attractive to me, so I enrolled in Ryerson’s fashion program. I only lasted two years there before moving to Montreal to intern with designers, and finally start my own line.”

You won the TFI New Labels competition. How did you stay focused through the process and not let the hype of being a finalist get to you?

“I never compete with anyone else—ever. I don’t think that life is really about being better than someone else, but rather being better than yourself, if that makes any sense. I don’t compete with anyone else other than myself and it’s usually a pretty intense battle!”

What were the most challenging parts of the competition?

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