Before the year ends tonight, while some are frantically going through all the options of party wears for the count down, I am rushing to organize my closet. I figured this is my last chance of redeeming myself from all the procrastination piled up throughout the year that's been weighing me down. And that's putting it lightly...drowning me is more accurate! Holding onto my last chance of redemption and hoping for a brighter start next year, if the reorganization of my closet today is to symbolize hope the new year can bring, what will I keep?...what will I give away?
GIVE AWAYS/PUT AWAYS:
Clothes I no longer want to be
In the same way who you are will reflect on the way you dress, the way you dress will have the power to change who you are. Like forcing a smile when you are down, or getting out of your PJ and putting on a power suit when you just can't find any motivation to get out of bed, there's something about the way you look that has an often unnoticeable but powerful effect on your inner well-being and identity. So who do I no longer want to be in 2016? I no longer want to be a helpless romantic that perpetually lives vicariously through my fantasy. What to put away? My kaftans, dresses with lots of ruffles, and everything I bought for a walk along the beach during sunset. I guess there's a reason why this kind of clothing belong in "the resort collection". Put them away until the next vacation.
I don't know about you, but I have committed the crime of buying that less than perfect pair of black Mary Jane or that "just not so good" everyday winter coat way too many times. The lesson learned? Don't compromise!!! Because when that perfect black Mary Jane comes around, you will not have already wasted 5 pairs of shoes you will eventually give away. Don't waste your energy and resources on anything short of perfection. Give Away!
On the last day of our summer trip in Milan this year, my Mother and I had our first fight during the trip. She wanted to spend her last day in Milan shopping, more specifically, shopping for Lora Piana on via Monte Napoleone. That was something I really didn't want to do, so I tried persuading her out of it. In my attempt, I called her preference for brands like Lora Piana, boring in style and pretentious in the pursuit of quality and elegance. So you can imagine how the day went! But now I feel that my pompous remarks were wrong. Because time and again, quality and elegance have proven to be the winning combo to avoid or minimize fashion mistakes. More than half a century later, Jackie's wardrobe continues to inspire. The time tested classics are like wisdom that can carry you through life gracefully, even if you don't become the next fashion icon...
I have never regretted sacrificing a little rack space to keep the memory of how my first little black Prada dress made me feel. That freezing winter wind gusting through Bloor street had no power whatsoever over my determination to walk back what felt like 100 blocks to acquire that little piece of heavenly trophy. That little black trophy was part of the reason I fell in love with Canada. We moved to Canada 5 months later. However, we opted for a much lesser blazing climate and settled in Vancouver. Although I haven't worn the dress for over 20 years, that little happiness still puts a smile on my face every time I pull it out for a quick glimpse. It's priceless. Aren't memories what stories are made of? Designate a special space for them. Keep them alive!
'Another Level' Pieces
When something has the quality to inspire you, cause you to marvel at their beauty, even if its practical purpose or return is very little, it's a keeper for sure. I call them 'another level' pieces. They are not meant to be practical; so the price divided by usage rule or 'give away if you haven't worn it for a year' rule really don't apply. Like plunging into a great romance that doesn't end in a marriage or babies, the value of an 'another level' piece lies in how it takes your breath away. Plus, they often make the best party wears. I always say, "keep a good arsenal of great party wears." It's often difficult to find that most stunning dress after you receive a party invitation.
Note to self on welcoming the new year:
Don't be afraid to invest in beauty. People without the capacity to appreciate the value of beauty will continue their lives without. An impeccably curated wardrobe is an art not everyone will see the value of pursuing. They will just not be impeccably dressed. That's all. Happy New Year!
If I tell you that 10.5 million tons of clothing go to landfills every year in US alone and that the textile industry is one of the biggest water polluters in the world, second only to agriculture. Would it change the way you shop? The stats are true. The world bank estimates that almost 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment of dyeing textiles. These stats are for textiles only, not accounting our other favourite fashion items such as purses, shoes, and other accessories. These daunting facts force us to rethink our grand ambition to acquire all that is on our wish list this season, doesn't it? If it is a fashion trend to be environmentally conscious, it would be the best trend ever to be popularized. It should be ingrained in the fashion bible (if there ever was one?) as the number one style principle to follow...don't you think? You may think being environmental makes a boring wardrobe full of linen blouses and pants, but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, the combination of being a smart shopper and having a sharp sense for style might just make you fashionably environmental! In fact, some well known principles to having real style may just make that environmental difference, if you follow them!
Like many others, I am aware that it is good for the environment to recycle, to drive less, or to eat less meat, but I never really gave much thought about the link between being environmentally friendly and being a fashionista.
Let's take some time to give it some thought, shall we?
Like everything else, whatever we use to produce fashion pieces, leather, zippers, feathers, so on and so forth, is extracted out of mother earth. When we are bombarded everyday by the fashion industry with what we "must" buy from all the angles they can get to us, keep in mind that over-consuming is NEVER good for the environment. I care about our earth, but I know I am not nearly as dedicated as the real environmentalists. For me, to enjoy fashion while, at the same time, be accountable for our mother earth, I have come up with some practical suggestions to follow when making fashion choices.
Every season, and pre-season and sometimes pre-pre-season, the fashion industry feeds us with all kinds of beautifully packaged styles that would make us look just the coolest and chic-est version of ourselves. One season, you are bringing out the rockstar in you when you wear studs. The next season, you are becoming the adventurous heroine that you've always wanted to be when you put on that ethnic print poncho made of Angora wool. I have to admit, they do the trick for me like magic! Having so many best versions of myself has definitely made my closet look very exciting but also very confusing, almost like a person with an identity crisis. One way to be fashionably environmental is to know yourself. Know what works best for you and stick to it. As the almost cliche quote by the queen of fashion Coco Chanel goes: "Fashion fades, only style remains.". When you have a sharp sense of what your style is, you are less likely to buy everything the fashion editors tell you to buy. Of course, sometimes we just can't resist the urge of trying something different. Instead, get a piece or two...or just accessorize. And all the more appreciation to those who make their own staple statements of who they are in all seasons - Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld?
Buy the best you can afford
Love me or hate me. I love to quote Oscar Wilde to fuel my vanity: "I have the simplest of taste, I am always satisfied with the best." It turns out, this simplest taste could greatly reduce consumption. For example, instead of getting a new luggage every 2, 3 years, invest in the best quality that you can afford, and sometimes they really last a life time. For Louis Vuitton luggages, it's generations. Even when they do retire as a functional luggage, they make great vintage decor pieces you can pass down to your kids. Ever heard of Cradle-to-Cradle?
Choose natural fibre over man-made fibre
Remember that scene in The Devil wears Prada when Stanley made a joke about Andy's sweater, "I'm sure it has a lot of polyester in it?" Yes, choose natural fibre over manmade, for comfort and luxury. It is also less harmful for the environment. Man-made fibres require much higher energy use and produce much higher GHG (green house gas) than natural fibres. With wool being a special case, where although it emits less GHG, it creates methane emissions, a common problem with any kind of animal farming. So do keep in mind when you are picking a sweater for the winter. Don't compromise on quality and style, so you don't have to buy more than what you need.
Vintage is fashion's best answer to recycling and repurposing. If you have lived long enough, you will know that even the most hideous fashion trends come back. While we were still making fun of our disastrous fashion moments in the 80s, it creeped back. Even if it doesn't come back, you can always repurpose a vintage piece. Find a good tailor, a professional cleaner, and a good shoe smith, you will witness the wonders they can do to give new life to vintage items. Some people really need to have the best accountant, lawyer, and banker in place to go to bed in peace. For me, the best tailor, cleaner and shoe smith are the equivalent. Therefore, reconsider your mother's offer to pass you her favourite Escada jacket and skirt sets. Alter them to your preferable cut, mix and match them differently, you may be surprised how stunning and modern they will look on you. Escada's glory days may be gone, but with a little update, it can still shine like it used to!
Boutique Hotels - My Idea of Conde Nast Traveler's Motto "At Home in the World" - for a Good Night Sleep
When I find that perfect boutique hotel, it always instantly upgrades my travel experience beyond 5 stars. Way beyond! I am always searching for that special "home away from home" experience that will not only provide the comfort of a home, but also that magical element of surprise and curiosity that you can find nowhere else. A well designed boutique hotel is often the answer to my ongoing quest of exploring a destination with an unique base that is an experience in itself. An unique experience customized with local aesthetic elements, style heritage, and design innovations. Not to say that an international chain is incapable of providing that, some can do it. However, the experience of staying in a smaller independent hotel is more like that experience you get from visiting an independent art gallery or museum. It allows you to see more than the main stream. They draw attention to the different facets of subcultures you sometimes don't see in a big national gallery. Boutique hotels provide insights into local architectural and design talents, allowing you to live inside their ideas of what a well designed space should be. It's always so fascinating to me how much interior design speaks of a culture. For example, European designs definitely incorporate a lot more humour into luxury than what you will find in Asia. And if you pay attention, you might catch their humour in the bed that you sleep in! It is no surprise that you will find more well designed independent boutique hotels in cities that are more mature in their liberal arts culture. A city richer in its liberal arts culture will naturally have more independent voices in its galleries and theatres, and naturally restaurants and hotels, so on and so forth. A place speaks to its guests through all kinds of venues. Hotel culture is definitely one of them. Communication through design is a way of cultural exchange that enriches any trip. For me, some of the experiences I get from a boutique hotel is so much more than just a five star service. With this attitude, a hotel stay is never just a place to sleep and rest. It is always a part of the whole experience - a boutique experience packed with big personality and swagger.
I will be sharing more of my hotel treasure finds in the coming months. For now, just take a sneak peak into some of the amazing boutique hotels that I love!
House Hotel Bosphorus in istanbul
Only You Hotel in Madrid
les Rosees Hotel in cote d'azur
Stay tuned for more hotel treasure finds! Petite Louis
La dolce vita, the sweet life as emulated by the Italian way of life, is to enjoy the everyday pleasure of living. To most of us, who don't live in Italy, such a notion seem like a luxury with an expensive price tag only to be experienced temporarily while vacationing in Italy, or it is of something dreamy in the future, to be lived when that dream mansion is acquired. But does the sweet life really naturally ensue only after the bank account is flushed with millions? As evidenced by one of the most outrageous phenomenon of the twenty-first century - the explosive birth of the ultra nouveau-riche, the sweet life doesn't ensue wealth. In fact, without the cultivation of good taste and elegance, big money will likely buy you big hideosity. The ability to purchase surely doesn't equal the ability to live beautifully.
The sweet life is yours to live right here and right now, in your twenties, thirties, and for the rest of your life. We face all kinds of choices everyday. What differentiates a stylish person from the rest is that, he or she chooses to do everything beautifully. It's that simple. You can eat a meal senselessly just to put food in your mouth, or you can light up a candle, enjoy your food, pour a glass of wine and pair it with an interesting conversation. In everything that you do, you can choose to do it without flare, or you can slow down, savour it, and amplify the experience with beauty. It could be a meal, a bike ride, or an afternoon stroll. Yes, in everything, you can choose the sweet life over the for-survival-only life. It may sound like an efficiency-crippling task to some people (the industrially-driven products of society), but it really is a habit that can be picked up, and this habit, once manifested, will stay with you. This habit will shape the way you live. This habit is the secret to la dolce vita.
Some Tips to consider at different stages:
In Your Twenties - celebrate what you don't have. Take dining or entertaining for example. You may think that you don't have the budget to buy designer plates and cutleries. Therefore, you have to wait 'til your thirties to begin your life as a hostess with the mostess. Not true! Be creative, mix and match fun vintage finds. Use wine or beverage bottles as your vases. Celebrate, or even showcase, the opportunity of having to do with little. The outcome can sometimes charmingly outshine one's abundance in resources.
In Your Thirties - streamline your personal style. If you are not a style prodigy like Yves Saint Laurent, you probably went through many style mistakes in your twenties. By thirty, you should have a better idea of what your personal flare and likings are. Invest in a few good pieces that will showcase your personal style. For example, invest in a good set of dinnerware and cutlery. Focus on developing one thing that you will be really good at in terms of style. For example, if you know you love "dressing up in style" over "entertaining in style," be an expert at it. I am lucky that I have a friend to go to for advice for different things. It's only fair in a circle of friends to be a contributor of something rather than being the receiver all the time. Plus, why wouldn't you want to be really good at one thing? How do you know when you are an expert? When people come to you for advice!
In Your Forties and onwards - be a collector in your own right. By then you are probably an expert of your personal style. You know exactly what makes life that much sweeter for you. Embrace this expertise you have developed over the years, and feel confident when splurging on things that will bring real value, or the other way around. Embrace your confidence when deciding not to buy the "it" luxury item, because you know yourself all too well to follow trends.
"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening." - Coco Chanel
The Holiday season is coming close. Everywhere you turn, Christmas is in the air. If you are like me, who loves celebrating Christmas, hosting unforgettable gatherings for friends and families can be both a rewarding and stressful experience! To decrease the stress as much as possible so that you can fully enjoy the party and embrace every minute of your event, I have come up with a step by step timeline of entertaining preparation to share with you. I will also share some useful tips on making the party that much more successful and magical. Enjoy entertaining like a true hostess! Happy Holidays!
A Week Before the Party
Finalize your guest list.
Unlike entertaining during other times of the year, when you can send out invitation two to three weeks prior to the event, Christmas is a season when everyone has parties lining up to attend. It is best that you send out invitations a month to six weeks in advance, and finalize your guest list a week before the party.
TIP: Consider hiring help for parties of ten or more. You will have more time to enjoy your guests. For larger cocktail parties, hiring someone to bartend will be extremely helpful. The same person can help with cleanup afterwards! Help doesn't always have to be professional, you can hire your teenage nephews or cousins to be servers. Just have them wear their black pants, white shirts, and maybe bow ties!
Six Days Before the Party
Now that you know who is attending, select music that will set the right mood for the party, and maybe just get all the guests moving to the music!
TIP: I have a small party just for selecting my music. Invite one or two close friends over. Take turns nominating songs, go through them together over pizza or light dinner, and the songs that get majority vote in this small party will make the list for the real party! Count each song to last 3 minutes and calculate the number of songs you will need. For example, if your party is going to be 4 hours, you will need at least 80 songs. This is the perfect way to get yourself and your close friends excited for the event to come! And trust me this little party is a lot of fun!
Five Days Before the Party
Do a thorough cleanup of the whole house. Yes, including all the bedrooms. Sometimes you might want to showcase something you just bought in your closet, or kids may play hide and seek under your bed. Plus, you never want to block your guests from entering a room! You are not Bluebeard. Your house should be sparkling clean for the party. Do a main surface dusting one more time the day before. But get all other cleaning out of the way. After the house is cleaned, you can now start designing the style and decor of your event.
TIP: Sorry, there's no shortcut on cleaning. The only tip may be to hire someone if you don't have enough time!
Four Days Before the Party
Decide on the service style of your party and which rooms of the house to be used. Is it going to be a more formal RESTAURANT STYLE SERVICE, a more casual FAMILY STYLE SERVICE, a BUFFET SERVICE, or a COCKTAIL PARTY? After you have decided on the service style, you will have a better idea which rooms will be used for what, and how to move your furnitures around. (Now is a good time to decide if you will need catering or rental.)
Now that the service style has been decided, choose your dinnerware, glassware, flatware, and serving pieces. Have them washed and shined, and set them aside for the party. If you don't have everything, consider renting or borrowing from family or friends. Mothers have proven to be very resourceful in this department!
TIP: Mix and match your dinnerware! It creates a fun layering on the table.
Decide whether you will have the party catered. If you are cooking yourself, start thinking about your menu!
Three Days Before the Party
Two Days Before the Party
One Day Before the Party
Shop for everything you need on the menu. Don't forget your shopping list!
Wash, cut, and marinate everything and organize them by the dish in the refrigerator.
Give all the main surfaces in the house a good dusting one more time, make sure all the bathrooms have clean hand towels , scented candles or diffusers, and are sparkling clean.
The Day of the Party
"After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one's relatives."
Personalize your Christmas decor with monograms.
Why not decorate the holidays with black and white? After all, the most fabulous presents come in black and white!
I can never decide if I love boho or classic more. Can I adhere to two totally different style doctrines at the same time? If I don't choose one, does it make me a confused dresser? I am far from a full blown hippie in style, yet I feel very phony and uncomfortable dressing head to toe classy; I always find a way to make a boho twist into my classy outfits. For example, I will pair ethnic vintage jewellery with lbd instead of pearls.
If you are like me, a half-ass boho that still cares very much about being elegant and timeless, yet hate myself for still holding onto that bourgeois notion, what does that say about us????
Do I have to eventually decide who I really am? or can I continue to straddle two boats to inhabit both the free spirit and the elegant world?
I looked to some style icons for answers: Kate Moss, Jane Birkin, the Olsen twins, and Jackie in the Onasis years. It turns out, our "greedy" ambition to inhabit both worlds has long made us quite the star hybrid. We just might be the kind of hybrid that is not easily categorized. We know very clearly what we like and don't like from different fashion lines. We break away from cliche pairings that often box people. We take what we like and make it our own. The perpetual dilemma? how about we call it the constant struggle to stay true to our unique selves.The never ending struggle that makes us the most interesting fashion scripts!
Many of us have this preconceived idea that once you grow up, your room should grow out of pink. But if you still love the colour, why let it go? Many style icons take this rosy colour to adulthood and beyond with the utmost elegance or chic playfulness. The Rothchild mansion in the French Riviera and Inez de la Fressange's office just to name a few. Be confident in your favourite rosy colour, play with it, live in it, and that rosy glow on the face shall follow you forever!