Friday, January 29, 2010

Build Your Wardrobe with Great Fashion Basics

While we’re waiting for the advent of events like Fashion Week and (of course!) the Art of Fashion Design Competition and Trunk Show to show us what designers have in store for the year ahead, why not take this time to stock up on your fashion essentials to make sure you have all the basic wardrobe building blocks to put together a polished look every time? Having the basics, after all, is the foundation of good fashion sense!

The white shirt
A classic white dress shirt is the perfect accompaniment to jeans, sweaters and suits. It should always look clean and crisp, so if you can, replace this staple garment every year. Try the Gap for a fail-proof standard shirt.

The perfect pair of jeans
It is THE standard garment in most wardrobes, and for this reason most of us rely on several pairs. Typically, a dark wash is more commonly worn in the winter months, while lighter shades come out in the spring. A good pair of trouser jeans will serve you well when you want to dress up but aren’t sure how dressy to go. Try a jeans-only store to find the pair that matches your exact specifications, or invest in one of the tried-and-true brands, like 7 for All Mankind.

Black trousers
Even if you have no other trousers in your wardrobe, a good pair of well-tailored black trousers will serve you well in a variety of situations where formal or conservative wear is required. A good fit is essential, material should skim the thigh, but not cling to it, and pants should be long enough to wear with high heels.

The little black dress has got so much publicity lately, it’s the one thing that every woman knows is a staple. The versatile LBD can go from the most formal situation to a casual one as long as it’s accompanied by the right accessories. Something knee-length provides the most options, although fit is the most important consideration here. Don’t be afraid to invest a little, as this is a piece that can last you for years and will never go out of style.

A nice leather jacket
It’s durable, and enduring fashionable. Buy a classic fit that you could see yourself in for a long time. Perfect with jeans and a nice scarf, many leather jackets are warm enough to wear well into winter.

A traditional peacoat
It hasn’t gone out of style yet. Wear it with tall Hunter boots for a rugged English countryside look, or over your trousers or LBD for more dressed-up occasions. Real wool coats look best and will keep you warmest, but there are a variety of options, and a variety of price-points to choose from.

When possible, buy the best when you are buying your fashion basics, as these are the pieces that will eventually give you the most bang for your buck. But don’t spend too much – you’re going to need some of that cash to buy some of Canada’s hottest up-and-coming designers’ wear at the Art of Fashion show in October.

Image: Suat Eman /

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fashion Trends: Looking Ahead to Spring

We’re gearing up for this year’s annual design competition and trunk show next fall.  But while you’re waiting to see what 10 of Canada’s hottest up-and-coming designers are planning to put on the runway, let’s review what trends are looking hot for spring!

Edgy and slightly aggressive looks were popular this past fall, with bold shoulders and angular lines echoing the severe attitudes of the global economic downturn.  But with spring, say some stylists, we’re going to see softer, slightly more feminine looks reflecting the restlessness that comes with keeping one’s belt tightened all winter.
One of the popular looks we’ll see new variations of is the military jacket.  We’ll see more streamlined and softer versions of these in 2010, if Balmain, Burberry and Celine are any indication.

Ruffles and whimsical touches will also be popping up on a lot of structured pieces, like jackets, giving them a fun and girlish appeal.  Think Carrie Bradshaw’s over-the-top flower brooches on a safari jacket or with stern epaulettes.  Hemlines will go short once again as the weather warms up, from short shorts to Chanel’s short-skirt suits.

As for colours, neutrals on drapey fabrics will lend a conservative background to bold statement colours like yellow, red and purple.  Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen have bright patterns and bold prints in their collections.  Expect to see some Lady Gaga influence in the season’s wilder pieces, with more demure 1920s and 1930s influences at the other end of the spectrum.

Image: thephotoholic /

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Where Are They Now: Erin Keatch, Las Valentias

Art of Fashion recently caught up with Erin Keatch, owner of the Las Valentias clothing line, and winner of the Art of Fashion: Hollywood show in 2004. Erin’s participation in the 2004 show helped her get her foot in the door and jump-start her career. Here’s what Erin had to say about her experience with Art of Fashion and the state of the fashion industry in Canada:

AoF: ”How did you first hear about Art of Fashion?”
Erin: “I first heard about it through Toronto Fashion Incubator, when I was just starting out in the design world and still working in the display aspect of the fashion industry. The opportunity to participate in the 2004 show came up and I decided to give it a shot.”

AoF: ”How would you describe your experience with the show?”
Erin: “The experience was a lot of fun, because I was using models I knew, and most designers there were at the same stage in their career as me, which made the experience very welcoming. It was a great atmosphere.

“At the time, I was doing more one-of-a-kind pieces. In doing the show, I created 10 pieces for my line. I’ve also kept in touch with a lot of the designers I met, too, and other opportunities presented themselves afterwards through the contacts I met during that time.”

After the show, Erin got a job as a knitwear designer with a small company in Toronto that allowed her to travel the world for work, and exposed her to more of the business side of fashion. When she decided that she was ready to work on her line full-time, she did the new labels collection with Toronto Fashion Incubator. She launched Las Valentias with a friend from school, Tara Kelly, in 2007. They are now in their fifth season.

“I think it is an exciting time to be a Canadian designer. Recognition has typically been a problem for Canadian designers because Canada is quite a small marketplace compared to the U.S., for example, and Canadian fashion tends to be sold to a limited, niche market. But things are changing, thanks to events like Fashion Week, and with the growing awareness among consumers about the importance of buying locally and sustainably, more Canadians are turning to Canadian brands. Canada has always had a good reputation of manufacturing high quality clothing, and it’s a point of pride that our label is completely Canadian-made.”

As a designer, Erin aims to produce collections that are not trend-based, with pieces that could be worn season after season. Las Valentias focuses on silhouettes over trends, although it’s not a “classics” line, per se.

AoF: ”What do you think it takes to succeed as a designer in Canada? Is marketing crucial?”
Erin: “Marketing is crucial, absolutely. It’s helpful if you know who you are selling to, and how to reach your audience.”

But the only sure formula for success, she says, is having a great product that’s going to sell.

“Getting an agent can be helpful. Their role is to take your product to their list of retail stores and boutiques for you. They make appointments with the boutiques and do a lot of trade shows, like Trends, The Apparel Show and 100% Fresh. They also have access to the Ontario Federation of Exhibitors, which is only available to agents.”

Most of all, though, it comes down to making the best possible product, something Erin says Las Valentias is committed to doing.

The Las Valentias line will be available at in March, as well as Pho Pa in Toronto, Espace Pepin in Montreal, and 4 new stores will be carrying the line in Spring 2010. To contact Las Valentias or Erin Keatch, call 416-465-4604, or email