Month: August 2010

The situation

It’s no secret that I love The Jersey Shore; watching those kids (minus the perpetually annoying Sammi & Ronnie) is like a postmodernist comedy hour. I was surfing the Jersey Shore forum over at Television Without Pity when I came across this interesting article in New York Magazine, in which Simon Doonan is quoted as saying that high-end brands have taken to sending Snooki their competitors’ bags in an effort to launch a stealth smear campaign against them. Interesting …
Doonan thinks this PR strategy is “brilliant”, but I have to respectfully disagree. It’s premised on a somewhat mean-spirited but ultimately questionable assumption – that a luxury brand will suffer a loss in value or prestige by being associated with the likes of my girl Snooki. I’m pretty sure that Snooki doesn’t give the Jersey-equivalent of two figs about what hoity-toity fashion types think about her taste level; I also imagine she’ll take all the free stuff she can get without any qualms. At the same time, I don’t think a brand like Chanel or Louis Vuitton is going to suffer any appreciable losses out of the association. Even if I knew the stuff was real, it wouldn’t cause me to raise an eyebrow, and here’s why. 

By today’s very loose definitions, Snooki is a “celebrity” and, as such, is presumably making money for her participation on the show as well as for sundry public appearances – as sad as it may be, probably more money than you or me. Would it be so strange for her to spend some of that money on a high-end bag? After all, she’s from Jersey, not another planet – she can read InStyle (if not Vogue) as well as anyone else. In fact, the girls from JS were featured in Harper’s Bazaar not that long ago; the fact that they continue to dress as they do is, arguably, only proof of their disregard for “high fashion”, not their complete ignorance of it. So the fact that a wealthy person with questionable personal style chooses to carry an expensive bag doesn’t make that bag any less expensive or, by extension, exclusive. Karl Lagerfeld can rest easy.

The bottom line is that, until every Snooki-lookalike guidette on the East Coast starts carrying genuine Birkin bags, the Hermes brand is not in danger of becoming declassee. It’s not like Hermes is a well-kept secret; anyone who has ever seen a picture of Victoria Beckham — or, heck, even Heidi Montag – knows about the Birkin bag. Fundamentally, the key to its exclusivity is mostly its price tag, not necessarily its aura of mystery. [Yes, I know there are waiting lists. But they can’t be that picky – after all, a bit player like Montag has managed to get through.] Look at Louis Vuitton – being knocked-off three ways to Sunday (for decades) hasn’t made much of a dent in its reputation. A lot of that has to do with the fact that LV never has sales, doesn’t put out diffusion (or outlet) lines, and reliably costs an arm and a leg. So you can always be assured that anyone carrying its bags came by them the expensive way.
What I find fascinating is the love-hate relationship that high-end fashion seems to have with the “middle classes”. On one hand, luxury labels want the “average joes” to aspire to their products; it lends the products a cachet of desirability that no advertising campaign can manufacture. On the other hand, “average joes” are not their primary target market and, consequently, labels don’t want too many such individuals actually procuring their products because that would defeat their whole raison d’etre. If mass marketability was their goal, every label would go the way of, say, J Crew. At the same time, though, that mass of desirous (yet unfulfilled) consumers helps to sell their products – to their wealthier counterparts who pay a premium not only for quality, but also the exclusivity. An interesting dynamic, I think.
What are your thoughts? Would a “sneaky” strategy like this put you off a particular brand?

Pin it on

As unlikely as it sounds, considering how often my closet is replenished, I still occasionally experience those moments of utter boredom with my clothes – when, standing in front of the many racks, I sigh disconsolately “I have nothing to wear!”, much to the bemusement of my husband, who has half the number of clothes I do. There are a few cures for this sartorial ennui. Shopping is only the most obvious and, in fact, hardly a guaranteed success; if there is one thing worse than being dissatisfied with one’s own clothes, it is being dissatisfied with the clothes one finds in stores. Depending on my mood, another answer is to ditch all plans that require the picking of an outfit (i.e. going out) and stay in bed with a fashion magazine (tub of ice-cream optional). A third option is to get creative.
There are plenty of ways to spruce up a wardrobe without spending a lot of money, from the low-risk (mixing separates in novel combinations), to the communal (organizing clothes swaps), to the drastic (bringing out the scissors). One of the easiest is playing with accessories. An overlooked option in that category is the brooch. 

The brooch gets no love or respect, but it’s a hard-working little powerhouse of style. It might be the magpie in me speaking, but how can something sparkly not instantly lift one’s spirits?

I love vintage brooches and, luckily, there are plenty of beautiful ones to be found at reasonable prices ($10-30 range) around town. Edmonton has two antique “malls”, both on Gateway Boulevard just south of Whyte Ave. There, you can find enough sparkle to satisfy the greediest of magpies. [A word of caution: prices can quickly escalate, though, depending on the make, so don’t be put off by sticker shock; signed pieces by makers such as Coro and Trifari can reach into the three figures and higher.] Some of my other favourite places to shop vintage brooches (and costume jewelry generally) are Iban, Swish and Junque Cellar. I also love the colourful (non-vintage) brooches at Avenue Clothing – at $15 a pop, they’re a good deal.
The ways in which you can wear brooches are only limited by your preferences and imagination. I’ve seen brooches pinned to multi-strand necklaces as a bit of added bling. One of my friends loves to wear them on scarves. You could also use them to add a touch of glamour to an old coat:
Or take colour up another notch:

Or add some extra embellishment in unexpected places:

Happy experimenting!

The beginning, not the end

Transitioning clothes from one season to another is a big plus around here – mostly because the seasons tend to be short (with one major exception we all know), and this is a good way to get the most out of your favourite clothes. I’m always looking for new ideas in that line, and I was inspired in that regard by a couple of features in September’s Loulou magazine.
If you love cropped pants as much as I do, you can wear them well into fall by pairing them with boots. This works for dress pants as well as jeans. If you want to be a little more adventurous, try booties.

Layering is another obvious strategy … though it is easier said than done. You have to mix the right fabrics, the right lengths, and the right colours; there are a lot of balls to juggle. Layering requires a good eye for editing clothes, and I’m not above ‘borrowing’ other people’s ideas. This look was inspired by one the Loulou-featured bloggers, Helene Bellemare. It’s a little bit gamine, a little bit preppy, but 100% fall-aproved.

I was excited to read in one of the September issues (Marie Claire?) that tan blazers are “hot” again for fall, so I decided it was time for mine to make a reappearance. To be honest, I haven’t found this piece to be very versatile, but a new season is always a time for second chances. I decided to tweak the layered look above and substitute the blazer for the ubiquitous leather jacket. The result was not half bad. 

I guess you can never go wrong with neutrals after all …

With a little experimenting, I did manage to get a hold of some basic layering tips. One of the easiest things to start with is a knit (like a cardigan or V-neck sweater) to anchor the look; its texture will provide a contrast to the other layers. Underneath, go with a higher-neck top; a collared shirt is more formal, but it can always be balanced out by the rest of the outfit if the goal is a casual look. On top, you can try anything from a leather jacket, to a trench, to a blazer, and even a sweater coat — provided it’s a chunkier knit than the layer underneath. If you are concerned about bulkiness, a belt can be a good way to give shape to the outfit.