SOME LOOKS WE LIKED: At Magnolia’s BASCH party

Brandon Dwyer, designer of BASCH outside Magnolia Boutique (333 Eglinton Ave. W.). Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

In Toronto, there are few reasons for the style set to travel north of Bloor: family, friends or, in my case, Magnolia Boutique. As a precursor to tonight’s BASCH by Brandon Spring 2010 presentation at 99 Sudbury, designer Brandon Dwyer teamed up with shop owner Juan Carlos for a sneak peak at the collection last week.

A cult haven for well-to-do Forest Hill-iates, Magnolia has been around since November 2008. Juan Carlos’s background in fashion design (he was an aspiring designer two lives ago) fueled his passion to get great work noticed. “Instead of being part of the designers that compete with each other, I wanted to help showcase local talent alongside international brands, so my customers would realize that fashion is not just European or American style,” Carlos explains.

Among Magnolia’s offerings for the upcoming season (shipments arrive daily): fur faves IZMA, painstakingly pretty Lucian Matis, the print piper Zoran Dobric, and body-con dresses and perfectly versatile tweeds from BASCH.

“I was happy to pair with BASCH because we share a value: uniqueness,” says Carlos. “That’s important at Magnolia: We don’t get more than three pieces per style, and we don’t reorder anything, no matter how fast it sells out. We don’t want our clients to think that they’re unique, only to run into a friend in the exact same outfit.”

Click through to check out our favourite looks from the night!

Continue reading

SOME LOOKS WE LIKED: At the Ruins opening party

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

“Is this the Ruins party?” I asked my co-cabbers as we pulled up at the corner of Queen and Shaw. Bright, busy, white walls. Drinks, art, crowds. Nope, definitely not Ruins, but an art gallery. Then we glanced to the right and saw a small sign in the corner window in neat block letters: “Come around the back.” Which we did.

Like its art gallery neighbour, the selection at Ruins, a new clothing haven for the Queen West set, is carefully curated. From Opening Ceremony to American menswear line Loden Dager, the shop feels like the cool, younger brother of Queen West comrades (rivals?) JacFlash.

The vision, courtesy of owners Josh Reichmann and Mikey Apples, seems to be simple enough: Bring back the independents and the no-fuss retail environment, where the boutique is an experience, not a chain. (It’s so chill that you can even get your hair cut in the back.) There weren’t any price tags on the clothing—that’s how ironic I thought the duo was being—but it turns out that they simply didn’t have time to price everything before the opening.

We’ll be posting an interview with Mikey and Josh next week, but in the meantime, check out our snaps from the opening party. (And check out Ruins too! It opened to the public this morning: 960 Queen St. W.)

Continue reading

THE BUY: Military chic

Story by Caitlin Agnew.

For Fall 2010, designers sent their troops marching down the runway—literally—in military-inspired getups. From Balmain to Burberry, never has there been an army so stylish. Crisp details and muted colours are perfect for back-to-school fall chic and also lend some much-needed structure after a summer of lace and free-flowing maxi-dresses.

Military style also allows for versatile fashion strategies. Channeling your inner Napoleon?  It’s brass buttons all the way. Take back the uniform and make it your own, mixing pieces from all eras of combat and fashion.

Here are our favourite military-inspired pieces, from $8 to $4,900, and all available in Toronto.

Continue reading

SOME LOOKS WE LIKED: At the Beckerman sample sale

Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

With their bright hair and even brighter outfits, the Beckerman sisters—Caillianne, Samantha and Chloe—know how to make an entrance. Lucky for Toronto’s style set, they also know how to make a dress. And a jumper, and a hand-knitted showpiece skirt, and plenty more besides. This past weekend, they hosted a sale of their own samples along with choice items from their individual vintage collections (think Dior, Pucci, Ungaro).

As you’ll see from our snaps, the event attracted some of the cutest people in town.

Continue reading

THE BUY: Top leopard prints

Story by Caitlin Agnew.

“My weakness is wearing too much leopard print.” — Jackie Collins

Why not take a style cue from the grand dame of racy print and animal instincts? If there’s one surefire way to add some grrr to your look this fall, it’s by adding a leopard-print piece or two. Keep it classic—there’s no such thing as a hot-pink cheetah—and pair with neutrals and solids so as not to overwhelm.

From undies to belts to bags (including the amazing Banana Republic one, above), here are our favourite jungle-cat inspired pieces, all available in Toronto.

Continue reading

STYLE MAP: Carte Blanche

Tania Martins, owner of Carte Blanche. Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Carte Blanche (758 Queen St. W., 416-532-0437, shopcarteblanche.ca)

True to its name, Carte Blanche gives free rein to your imagination as soon as you walk through the door. The space calls to mind a sexy collision of Lichtenstein pop art and high fashion—and the clothes only add to the artful effect. Every piece on the CB racks has at least one of the following: a cut-out, a unique pattern, an atypical textile, and a way of making you believe that yes, you can pull it off.

I sat down with owner Tania Martins to learn about shaking up the “safe” Toronto style scene.

Carte Blanche displays an obvious confidence in the brands it carries—you’re obviously no fashion rookie. How did you become involved in the fashion world?

“When I was in high school, I interned for a Canadian designer as part of a co-op course and that pretty much made me fall in love with the industry. I ended up working with that same designer for four years. Shortly afterwards, I met my current business partner, Dan Agostino. He’s really driven, exciting, motivating—and he loves fashion even more than I do. He had a store on Queen Street called Pink Cobra.

Now Pink Cobra has turned into a fashion line, but at the time, the store carried really fashion-forward pieces and brands that no one in Canada had ever heard about. The store eventually closed because Dan was going back and forth to England, but once he got back for good, the ball started rolling again. We went from a makeshift studio on Dundas back to our original space, which is where we are now, and launched Carte Blanche.”

Do you think that, in general, Torontonians follow what’s on trend versus taking a risk with their wardrobe?

“Yes. Toronto is safe. A perfect example is the brand April 77, an amazing denim brand from Paris. The jeans cost about $170. When we first started carrying them, people weren’t buying them. They had never heard of the brand and thought they were too expensive for a denim line that didn’t have the cult following of, say, Sevens or Nudie.

Then two seasons later people caught on and started asking for them all the time. Torontonians have a tendency to buy what they’ve already heard of, what’s hyped in magazines, and what celebrities are wearing. That’s not what we’re about. We’re here for the people who want to live outside the bubble.”

Continue reading

STYLE MAP: Over the Rainbow

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Over the Rainbow (101 Yorkville Ave., 416-967-7448, rainbowjeans.com)

I spent yesterday morning hanging out with the fascinating Joel Carman, the owner of Over the Rainbow, Toronto’s premiere denim destination for 35 years. Joel showed me all the nooks and crannies of the 4,800-square-foot emporium, which includes an alterations room and a mini version of an Ikea warehouse—only this one is stocked with pairs and pairs of Seven for All Mankind.

Legend has it that you built your denim empire on $2,000 made from your time working as a cab driver? Is this true?

“Absolutely. I graduated from university, travelled around Europe for a couple of years, and then started driving a cab. It paid the bills and, back in 1973, driving a cab in Toronto meant that you were kind of an outlaw. All the young guys were driving cabs. We’d get together after a night’s work to party a bit—it was this whole subterranean lifestyle. But I knew that I wanted to do something, to build something, and that I wanted to work for myself. One night,  I picked up a gentleman in my cab; we started talking and I found out that he did alterations. He invited me to go to a party with him and his friends. I said sure. After that, I brought him a couple pairs of pants to fix. One day he asked me to go into business with him.”

What happened next?

Continue reading

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

THE BOULEVARDIER: Flirts in skirts

Every week, our Boulevardier, Marq Frerichs, considers matters related to men’s style. This week: Why men in skirts are totally hot. (See Marc Jacobs, above.)

OK, I swear this is the last one. Really, I promise. No more of this tangent I’ve been on. As a friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook: “After the mensire, the murse, now the mirt?” Yes, it’s time to drag out that ol’ chestnut, the male skirt. Why? Have you been in the city for the last month? The heat, ya lummox!

I’m going to strongly advocate that the skirt is the best male garment for three distinct reasons.

1. IMAGE. This summer’s heat reminds me of a wonderful commercial from the late ’70s or early ’80s for York Peppermint Patties. It starts with a POV of an opening elevator door, then zoom through the first two figures to the bored face of a young “office girl.” She lifts a York peppermint patty to her lips and slowly takes a bite. Cue the sound of breeze; her hair beings to billow. She says: “When I eat a York peppermint patty, I feel the cool wind blowing through the forest and racing up my legs and …” Pull away to the whole elevator, and we see the others edging away from her as she begins to reach an ecstatic moment of consuming. Gale force winds ensue and she is rapt in the refreshing coolness of the chocolate. Needless to say, her skirt is being blown out of control.

Now I realize that I’m completely crazy to have this image in my head but that’s what I picture when I think of donning a skirt. All my over-heatedness would magically disappear. (I live in a special place.)

Continue reading