The Fifty Shading of Fashion

First there was the book. You know the one. Next came rumours of a lingerie line inspired by the book. Then we heard that sales of men’s ties had increased – along with calls to 911 for handcuff-related emergencies. (Oh, you crazy Brits.)
Now it seems the Fifty Shades of Grey effect has crept beyond the foyer and is standing squarely in the house of fashion and pop culture.  Leather – always a major look for fall – is popping up in more intimate, bondage-inspired scenarios.  Buckle your seat belts, Mom and Dad.  Bondage fashion has gone mainstream.
The Broadway sensation, Venus in Fur, pre-empted Fifty Shades by a year, but its current run at Canadian Stage is right on trend.  The main character, Vanda Jordan, breaks out her best leather corset, stockings, thigh high boots, along with some fabulous acting, to nail the role of a lifetime.  (Aside: this is one of the most captivating plays I’ve ever seen. The Toronto production is fantastic, but only on through October 27.)

photo by David Hou | courtesy Canadian Stage
Madonna shows up in the October issue of Harper’s Bazaar sporting gilded glamour and little else.  The spread – no pun intended – is shot by shock fashion photographer Terry Richardson.  Of course, it’s one thing for the Queen of Pop to get away with leather and chains, but when major designers weave a bit of bondage into their spring 2014 collections, well, I am officially calling it a trend.  
Will Canadian designers will follow suit?  Stay tuned to World MasterCard Fashion Week to find out!
Madonna in Harper’s Bazaar
photo Harper’s Bazaar
Versace spring 2014 | photo by Yannis Viamos |
Alexander McQueen spring 2014 | photo by Marcus Tondo|
Libertine spring 2014 | photo by Umberto Fratini |


Designer Jessica Jensen moves in with MINTO

One thing that’s usually true about good designers is, they have good taste.  So when I heard that leather handbag designer Jessica Jensen was designing a model penthouse suite for MINTO’s 775 King Street West building, my first thought was – YES!

It’s exciting to see what designers can create when working outside of their usual category. But having seen shots of Jessica’s recent studio renovation on her Instagram feed – gorgeous! – I was extra intrigued was she would do with an entire condo.  

A snap of Jessica’s studio renovation from her Instagram feed

The two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with wrapping balconies faces south and west to some of the most impressive views of the city.  Her challenge was to turn a naked apartment – with floors, countertops and cabinets complete – into a home to sell.  Luxurious, sophisticated comfort was behind the design’s theme of “Let me take you home.”  Jessica channeled the aesthetic of a “Parisian architect’s flat” in her mix of modern vs. traditional luxury, masculine vs. feminine and industrial vs. rustic.

A buyer might expect to see hints of leather from a leather goods designer. They would not be disappointed.  I, unfortunately, missed the installation of a custom tufted leather headboard by a day, though I did catch a glimpse of whimsy in the one pink kidskin upholstered dining chair and a leather-topped metal tanker desk in the study.

Jessica collaborated with a number of local tradesmen to create custom furnishings and fixtures for the suite, including a concrete moulded coffee table, console and stools, plus a reclaimed barnboard wall and industrial hot-pressed sliding door in the master bedroom.  Most of the furnishings are from local retailers with a few pieces from IKEA and Pottery Barn coyly integrated.

I feel like I’m at home. (Can I be?)

Danier Does it Again with the Design Challenge

In marketing, they say it always starts with the kids. Four years ago Danier initiated a design challenge with Ryerson University’s School of Fashion that would allow third year students to demonstrate their fashion chops. In return for creating an original women’s leather garment design, a handful of students had a chance at seeing their garment put into production for Danier stores, a paid summer internship and cold hard cash.

At that time the concept of designer collaborations was still relatively new. But sure enough, a series of successful collabs with notable names from Canada’s fashion industry quickly followed – Winnipeg-born, London-based Mark Fast, Toronto’s Greta Constantine and Philip Sparks and stylist George Antonopoulos. (That’s me wearing Greta Constantine’s SKIN for Danier on the left; George Antonopoulos’ OBJECT line on the right.)

Just as school returned to session this month, I stopped by Ryerson to see this year’s design challenge winner revealed and catch up with Olga Koel, Danier’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.

“Getting students to create something commercially viable was our initial goal, but it has evolved to focus more on the creativity and innovation,” she remarked. “We want to encourage these students creativity, help them understand leather.”

Oh, there is creativity alright. This year’s winner demonstrated some sick design skills. The fact that young Ostwald Au-Yeung was unavailable for comment or a congratulatory handshake speaks volumes: he was finishing a design internship in Hong Kong. 

I have a hunch Ostwald is not long for this land. As we see often in Canada, talent like this either gets snapped up quickly or itches for bigger experiences than they can enjoy here. And with talent like this, I would rather see him rubbing elbows with another next big thing. 

World domination, Ostwald, it’s yours for the making.