F-Listed: Milliner David Dunkley is the Tops

I have always believed in the power of the hat as an expression of personality and style. I attribute this to the endless selection of outfit-matching bonnets my mother tied to my head, a clever distraction from the little hair I had as a toddler. Last month I was invited to indulge my grown up hat passion as a judge for the RBC Woman to Woman event at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. This annual fundraiser brings together florals and fashion with ladies who lunch. It’s a gorgeous spread of food, flowers and femininity with women turning up in stunning hats and fascinators hoping to win bragging rights of Best in Show.

Who do I call for a proper head topper in Toronto? The one and only David Dunkley.

Couture Millinery DDFM show

After studying millinery in Toronto, David Dunkley headed to England for training by the former Royal Milliner to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Since then his designs have been sported by members of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s royal entourage and guests of the Royal Wedding. He’s outfitted racegoers from Kentucky to Ascot – including the Royal Enclosure. His celebrated Diamond Jubilee collection millinery has been inducted into the Fashion History Museum.

And this year David was named the official milliner of the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s most famous horse race.

“Hats have always been a fashion statement for both men and women at the races,” said Ann Scott Director of Events & Sponsorships for Woodbine Entertainment Group. “We expect the nearing Queen’s Plate to be no different. It’s our pleasure to name David the first ever official milliner of the race.”

The Queen’s Plate is the first race in the Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. This iconic sporting event celebrates its 156th edition this Sunday, July 5th at Woodbine. In addition to the action on the track, there’s a Hats and Horseshoes party for the ultimate in pomp and pageantry. The yellow feather pillbox hat I wore at the Toronto Botanical Gardens event was created for the 2014 Queen’s Plate, but he typically collaborates with clients to develop custom pieces for weddings, special events or real life runway.

This Sunday David will host a pop-up shop in the Hats and Horseshoe arena. He’ll also appear as a judge for the George Brown Millinery contest with hosts from CTV’s The Social .

David Dunkley Fine Millinery is located at 974 Bathurst Street in Toronto.

A Foot Fetish for the Ages

Bata exterior

The Bata Shoe Museum

“I want you all to close your eyes.” Sonja Bata, the 88-year-old founder of The Bata Shoe Museum is addressing a roomful of press. Canada’s fairy godmother of shoes wants us to imagine what stood on the very site of the Museum’s Bloor Street location over 20 years ago. “A gas station.” Hardly the state-of-the-art artifact storage and exhibit space here today.

Since its opening on May 6, 1995, The Bata Shoe Museum has become North America’s foremost shoe museum with one of the world’s finest collections. If what we put on our feet suggests our attitudes on life, then consider the history of shoes a fascinating sociological exploration. Footwear illustrates entire ways of life, providing insight on climate, religions, professions and attitudes to gender and social status of different cultures through the ages.

Yes, you can tell a lot about someone from their shoes. Over the past 20 years the Bata’s collection has grown to over 13,000 shoes and related items spanning 4,500 years of history.

And I thought I had a shoe fetish.

The Bata kicks off (shoe pun!) a yearlong anniversary celebration this week with a fundraising gala, a public celebration and a new exhibit Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels.

You read that right. Men. In. Heels. Used to be the boys loved wearing heels and no one minded. It’s only in the last few decades that Western culture has been unable to find masculinity in shoe height.

Persian, 17th century riding shoes

Persian, 17th century riding shoes © 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Ron Wood)

Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator, explains how the research for this exhibit has been a remarkable exploration. “For me personally, it has been unraveling a long history of the high heel and proving that heels were first worn by men in the Near East for horseback riding, and that European men happily wore heels for the first 130 years of their use in Western fashion.”


American, 20th Century Justin and Tony Lama boots
© 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Ron Wood)

The Bata also features a number of permanent and rotating exhibits such as Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century. Turns out the phrase “fashion victim” was not the result of some red carpet accident. People actually died in the 1800’s as a result of wearing shoes made with poison-laced dyes and highly flammable materials.

Those blisters from your new Jimmy Choos pale in comparison now, huh?

American, early 1970s © 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Ron Wood)

American, early 1970s
© 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Ron Wood)

Expect plenty more to come this year including an appearance by distinguished guest lecturer Dr. Martin Roth, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London at this year’s Founder’s Lecture on November 12th. The Museum’s second anniversary exhibition, True North: Traditions and Technologies of Arctic Survival, will open in February 2016.

I wonder where our relationship with shoes is going, now that sites like Shoes of Prey, which allows customers to design their own shoe, are in vogue again.

“Historically shoes were, to some degree, a collaboration between customer and shoemaker.”

“I am actually fascinated by this trend,” remarked Elizabeth. “Historically shoes were, to some degree, a collaboration between customer and shoemaker. Industrialization erased the presence of the indiviual maker, and customers were required to find footwear that suited them from the range of ready-made shoes. It is interesting to me that the trend towards shoe customization is in many ways reviving age old practice.”

For more on the Museum’s ongoing celebrations including a public event Saturday, May 9th, visit batashoemuseum.com. Stay tuned for pics and stories from the Bata’s Twentieth Anniversary Gala event in an upcoming profile on luxury event planners Candice & Alison.

Exterior shot of The Bata Shoe Museum courtesy of @izsarah.

Downtime at the Drake Devonshire


Photo courtesy the Drake Devonshire

(This post was updated May 2017.)

The Drake Hotel often gets credited with helping draw people to an emerging West Queen West, that downtown Toronto strip of Queen just east of Dufferin. And deservingly so. Upon opening in 2004 it not only ushered in a new kind of boutique hotel experience, it set the stage for hipster lifestyle before hipsters even existed.

Less than a decade later the brand expanded to the financial district with a restaurant called Drake One Fifty. Last fall they did it again, this time in Prince Edward County – specifically Wellington, Ontario – with the Drake Devonshire. The brand’s extension into a lakefront inn has been done beautifully.

“The Drake Devonshire flirts with the luxury summer camp in English country house style.” ~ Paris Vogue

Prince Edward County offers a bounty of things to do in the summer – beaches, cycling, wine tasting, antiquing. But even if you don’t leave the hotel, your time at “Drake by the Lake” won’t be dull. The Drake brand is rooted in design, art, music and culinary excellence. There is always something happening.


photo by John Cullen | Travel + Leisure


As with the original Drake, the Devonshire’s guest rooms and suites come in all shapes and sizes. The rooms have been meticulously designed and outfitted with custom furniture and millwork, mixed with antiques and vintage pieces, and feature original artwork. Some even boast balconies that overlook the Lake and the property.

Fish Fry Friday

photo courtesy of Drake Devonshire


I met Matthew DeMille, Devonshire head chef, a man who brings plenty of big city experience and a wealth of knowledge on the local area. Everything is a nod to PEC. His ‘farm and lake to table’ philosophy extends all the way to featured wines from the region’s many wineries. There’s nothing precious about Drake’s food, not with special events like the Good Friday Fish Fry or a Terroir Run Pasta Party, but it aims to please. Don’t overlook their well-stocked beer list and cocktail program which is always ahead of the trend.


Here’s another thing Drake fans will recognize. The Devonshire features a rotating exhibit of work regularly with a new show installed every couple of months, as well as an ongoing Artist-in-Residence program. Even the guest rooms are an exhibition unto themselves.


Devonshire’s weekly calendar listings include open mic nights, live music performances and events like flow yoga. And since hipsters have babies too, they offer kid-friendly, mid-afternoon Highchair Hangouts for parents and little ones.

Room reservations and other Drake Devonshire information available here.

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.


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


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

Now’s the Time for Men’s Fashion

photo by Julio Donoso: Corbis

photo by Julio Donoso: Corbis

Now’s the time – this is the name of the new Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit at the AGOJean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time (through May 10, 2015) marks the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in Canada and features close to 85 large-scale paintings and drawings from private collections and public museums across Europe and North America.

Basquiat’s legacy might be as deep in menswear as it is in art. Even as a budding graffiti artist in the 1980’s, Basquiat inherently knew fashion was what the man tried to sell you, but style is what you did with it. His style aesthetic was realized during his poor childhood and struggling artist days in New York. According to the blog On this Day in Fashion, Basquiat’s clothes were “a hodgepodge of preppy thrift-store finds, an old college T-shirt and jeans or a loose-fitting frock in bold African fabric.”

It worked. As his success grew, his taste grew into Armani suits, albeit paint-splattered. That worked more.

“He looked like a combination of a fashion model and a 19-year-old Bowery bum.”

Basquiat’s look was admired and copied by many during his life, one that ended far too early at 27 from a heroin overdose. “He looked like a combination of a fashion model and a 19-year-old Bowery bum,” said curator Diego Cortez, who got Basquiat into the PS1 show “New York/New Wave” in 1981. Posthumously, his influence on fashion is resurrected and examined every few years and for good reason. Basquiat was a renegade from the streets who breathed authenticity. A stylish, bilingual, mixed race, heterosexual, black Latino artist from New York whose inner circle included Andy Warhol and Madonna? You can imagine today’s hipster trading their left sleeve tattoo to rub elbows with Basquiat.

Basquiat in 1985 photo by Lizzy Himmel (AP)

Basquiat in 1985 photo by Lizzy Himmel (AP)

The Business of Fashion notes that in the US, men’s apparel sales grew 5% in 2013 to over $60 billion. Sure, that’s the kind of revenue Apple generates in a single quarter, but it’s nonetheless impressive when you consider that’s more revenue than womenswear brought in during the same period, and on par with other “fluff” industries such as the entire US sports market. We’re talking BIG business.

Fashion is finally catering to the man, but that doesn’t guarantee they are getting style, too. Style is kind of like a good singing voice – you either have it or you don’t. If alive today, Basquiat would have been hounded by the paparazzi as much for his personal style as his visual artistic nobility. In death the Basquiat brand has collaborated on timepieces, skateboards and sneakers featuring his art. Today’s corporate brands love a real life Basquiat.

The fashion world is working at light speed to embrace menswear. Until recently menswear designers were lost on the women’s calendar or showed their collections in London or at Pitti Uomo. Toronto’s own Men’s Fashion Week (TOM*) debuted last August to fill this void, and will return with fall 2015 collections on February 25th. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) will kick off New York Fashion Week: Men’s this July 13-16th with the spring 2016 shows.


You have to respect a market segment that’s shown such phenomenal growth without the same kind of  support from the fashion industry. Meanwhile, one thing hasn’t changed in fashion: if you want style, it’s still on the streets. Do you know a modern day Basquiat? Let me know, I’d love to profile them.

Umbra’s Design Innovation


I have the Penguin in red, which do you have?

In 1980 a graphic designer by the name of Paul Rowan couldn’t find a nice window shade to hang in his apartment window. So he made one and people liked it. It was then that Rowan teamed up with his childhood friend Les Mandelbaum to create Umbra (Latin for “shade”).

Problem. Innovative solution.

Such has been the circle of design at Umbra ever since. Rowan and Mandelbaum’s mission of bringing intelligent design to everyday items has resulted in some iconic pieces over the years, which were on display for guests at a recent anniversary party held at their Toronto flagship store. In the process they’ve become a global housewares design company and Canadian success story.

The emphasis on design cannot be lost on their customers. Karim Rashid, the flashy and famous industrial designer (and Torontonian), has been a catalyst to many of the signature items including the Garbino Can, his first Umbra collaboration in 1997. It was an instant hit, catapulting both Rashid and Umbra to household names. Today it’s in the permanent collection at the MOMA.

Umbra encourages their designers to rethink everyday objects. Every designer has a byline on Umbra website next to the product they designed. A global company who cares about keeping it real with their people? Now that’s intelligent.

Mackage x PurseBlog Nomad

Megs Mahoney Dusil and Vladimir Dusil of Purseblog.com

Sarah Jessica Parker’s character on “Sex And The City” once said, “I’m thinking balls are to men, what purses are to women. It’s just a little bag but we’d feel naked in public without it.”  

I say a purse, perhaps more so than anything else in fashion, is all about the details.
After last night’s Mackage runway show, the brand hosted a pop-up at the Soho House. It was here I met Megs Mahoney Dusil, co-founder and chief editor of the wickedly popular PurseBlog.com, who worked with Mackage to create the Nomad. 
The Nomad is like the Swiss Army knife of purses. It does everything!  Megs wanted a bag that appealed to the busy, modern woman – functional, but works with everything in her closet.
“It’s actually three bags in one – you can carry it all together, or separate the two storage sections to be carried as two small clutches, plus all options allow you to use the shoulder strap if you’d like,” she explains on her site. “The two sections are connected by a cool zipper that adds a nice metallic element, and the black box leather is sturdy and sleek.  We added a special finishing touch with blue edge paint.”
This is the first design collaboration for both Mackage and Megs, who had a blast working with Mackage designers Elisa and Eran. I love seeing designers collaborate with bloggers.
Ahem, I said, I LOVE seeing designers collaborate with bloggers.
The Nomad retails for $395.00 and is available for pre-order.

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?)

Giveaway! Pretty on the Outside

Those of us old enough to remember Billy Crystal’s ‘Fernando’s Hideaway’ skit on Saturday Night Live will recall the character’s famous credo, “It is better to look good than to feel good.” I don’t necessarily agree that it’s better, but I do believe looking good can help you feel better, no matter your mood. 

Like most women, what makes me feel better is a great pair of shoes, a good hair day or a brand new manicure. What makes me feel great? Having all three at the same time.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, so I’m continuing the celebration with a giveaway just for the ladies. Between now and Saturday, March 16, 2013* enter to win a prize pack designed to give you great hair, great nails and great shoes.

My friend Caitlin knows the power of a great manicure

To enter, you must do two things: 1) either comment here on this blog post telling me what makes you feel pretty on the outside or post a photo on Instagram using the hashtag #prettyontheoutside and 2) add your name to our mailing list by opting in here. (If you’re already opted in, you’re good!)

Prizes include:


Rowenta Beauty Curl Active iron (retail value $179.99)
SensationNail by Nailene Invisible Gel Polish Starter Kit, LED lamp included (approx. value $50)
A $100 gift certificate to Town Shoes
* Open to all residents of Canada except Quebec. Only one entry per person. You must be 18 years or older to enter. Only one blog comment or Instagram post is required to fulfill requirements for #1. Period ends at 11:59PM on Saturday, March 16, 2013. One winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries and contacted via email. If the selected winner does not reply within 48 hours, an alternate winner will be selected. #prettyontheoutside 

Stylelab a Screen Awards Success

 You don’t have to work in fashion to agree that the red carpet is usually more fun than the awards show. And while last week’s inaugural Canadian Screen Awards may not have the same level of glitz and glamour as the Globes or Oscars yet, we are a talented bunch and damn it, we ought to look good too.

Global TV’s Rosey Edeh – outfitted by Stylelab – on the red carpet

That was my thinking behind launching Stylelab, where Screen Awards nominees could rent applause-worthy apparel and accessories for their big night. (Because really, how often are you going to wear that dress again, ladies?) Stylelab made red carpet fashion accessible for men and women with apparel and accessories from Rent Frock Repeat, MMCrystal Jewelry, Off the Cuff Resale Designer Menswear, Cuffwear and Kara Ross.

Guests could relax in our lounge area provided by Andrew Richard Designs and enjoy refreshments courtesy of tabl’eau filtered water. Tabl’eau is a new Canadian company whose philosophy “how far should your water travel?” is simple and yet so revolutionary. (Perhaps that’s why it’s the water of choice for Toronto’s Soho House, among other top venues.) Their sparkling water mixed with Monin flavorings gave everyone a little pep in their step. And might I add, it would be perfect for lounging on the patio come summertime!

Stylelab had something to offer everyone whether they needed a full outfit or just a little icing. This is the part of the business I love most – making people feel great. It was a fantastically fun two days, especially when eTalk and Oh So Cosmo stopped by to shoot the action. 
Rent Frock Repeat with eTalk
Off the Cuff Resale Designer Menswear on eTalk