Rain or Shine: Spring into Colour

Monsoon season photo by STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

Monsoon season photo by STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

Spring has always been one of my favourite seasons for many reasons. My April birthday aside, I adore the optimism of spring as winter gives way to blooming buds and chirping birds. Everything is anew again in spring, making it a perfect time to evaluate – and adjust – those personal goals I kicked off at New Year’s. (One of my goals is to train for the Nike Women’s 15K taking place on Toronto Island on June 14th, so expect more about my training and goal-setting in general soon.)

This season is also fashion’s collective return to colour, so I’ve picked a few of my favourite things for whatever comes, be it rain or shine. Except snow, I’m done with that now. Seriously, Mother Nature. Done.

RAIN

Canadian-made Trout Rainwear is the brainchild of sisters Ashley McDonald and Jenn Lancefield, who understand the importance of being prepared for extreme weather conditions while not sacrificing style for function. The designed in Toronto, made in Vancouver label sports some classic styles, fun colours and feels refreshingly breathable.

Trout Rainwear

Trout Rainwear

Did you think Hunter Boots were only for models and music festivals? You thought wrong. Fun fact about this brand – the iconic British company was founded in Scotland by an American entrepreneur. Beyond the original Hunter boot – which come in a dazzling array of colours and finishes – you can choose also from shorter styles and even platform sandals. Think about it, a puddle can’t touch you if you’re four inches off the ground!

Hunter Boots

Hunter Boots

SHINE

I’ve talked about Icebreaker before, mostly about their well-constructed brand story. Their Merino wool apparel combines traditional wool, synthetics and cotton for a blend that keeps you warm in the cold, cool in the heat and defies sweat and stink, making it a great option for activewear (hello, 15K) and travel. It’s designed with layering in mind, perfect for bi-coastal trips. In spring and summer, I love a comfy dress that can take me from my home office – er, I mean patio – to an evening event. That’s why I particularly like the Aria tank dress (96% Merino wool, 4% LYCRA). It has just enough detail to give it feminine structure while remaining relaxed and easy. The grapefruit colour is a perfect pop for day while the black would work with evening accessories and heels.

Aria Tank Dress by Icebreaker

Aria Tank Dress by Icebreaker

What’s spring without shades? Like most accessories, sunglasses fall into the category of “You Can Never Have Too Many.” And you don’t need to spend a fortune to get unforgettable face. I recently discovered a true gem, G Fox & Co. in Miami of all places, which is odd only because they also hailed from Toronto. This lifestyle brand aims to bring the beach and cottage style together with a variety of accessories, but their sunglasses are the real winner. The Jetsetter collection is made from mixed-layered woods, each features polarized lenses and a frame that floats in the water. Prices start at $100.

Acapulco shades from G Fox & Co.

Acapulco shades from G Fox & Co.

If you’re looking for something more Euro-style check out Le Specs. This 1980’s brand had a design resurgence in 2006 and has since become a cult favorite of Bae, Gaga and Rihanna. The styles are bold and cheeky, inspired by 70’s and 80’s glam. Prices range depending on style from $59.95 to $120.

Runaways Luxe by Le Specs

Runaways Luxe by Le Specs

The Tools of Engagement

This week I was invited to a spring preview by Montreal-based public relations firm NATA PR. Previews are opportunities for media and bloggers to meet a firm’s clients and their products for the upcoming season. It’s where I discovered Icebreaker®.
 
Wearing my new merino wool Icebreaker shirt
Icebreaker is a line of active lifestyle clothing made in New Zealand from merino wool. I know what you’re thinking already, wool?! That’s right. Evidently the merino is a tough breed of sheep whose fleece is built for extremes – breathable in summer, insulating in winter, yet exceptionally soft and lightweight. Icebreaker turns this formidable fiber into a system of ultra-comfortable layers for humans. Soft and breathable with no itch or no odor makes Icebreaker perfect for high performance lifestyle. Outdoor, fitness, running, travel – they have you covered. But they didn’t stop there. They even make underwear. The New York Times called it “wool with sex appeal.”
 
 
Icebreaker was created in 1994 by a 24-year-old marketing graduate. Looking through the website it’s no surprise they have strong roots in marketing. The brand’s story is thorough and told with witty text, great imagery and videos detailing everything from their evolution to their ethics.  
 
But this, this really got me:
 
 
Icebreaker has created one of the most clever customer engagement tools I’ve seen. Customers can trace the barcode — or “baacode” — of their item back to the actual sheep that produced it. They can see the living conditions of the animal, meet the farmers and learn more about the area New Zealand where they live, e.g,:

“Branch Creek is nestled on the west side of the Cardrona Valley, a skiing and snowboarding haven that served as a location for filming of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

Not just marketing, smart marketing. The more the customer reads, the more they are invested in the product. (Of course, it helps to have a great manufacturing story in the first place.) The point is when you’re a brand competing against Gap and Joe Fresh to outfit the yoga or running enthusiast, you need something compelling to get the customer’s attention, because you are likely to lose over price.

Go with what you’re great at, that’s what I say.