Monday, August 31, 2009

Be-spoken Questionnaire, Monday August 31: Natalie Dawes

Allow me to introduce a new feature that I will be posting every Monday: the Be-spoken Questionnaire. Twenty-five questions to delve deep into the psyche of the stylish. Sometimes I look at people and wonder, "what makes you tick... why do you dress the way you do?" Now, dear readers, I will know, and so will you!

The first subject for the Be-spoken Questionnaire is Natalie Dawes. I can honestly say that Natalie is one of my closest friends. We've done everything together. One of my most vivid memories of our adventures together is the day we packed up my Toyota Tercel and moved from our small prairie town to Toronto. We didn't have jobs — or housing — lined up, but we followed our dreams and had so much fun along the way. During those years of friendship I've seen Natalie's sense of style blossom into a full-fledged fashionista. One of my favorite shopping pastimes with her is to sit back and watch her SPEND!

Natalie and I dressed up to dine at The Asiate in New York. Note Natalie's exquisite makeup application!

1. Name: Natalie Christine Dawes

2. Claim to fame: Umm. That's a tough one... I'd never claim to be famous, so how about what I'm proud to be: daughter of Jack & Jeanette, aunt to Kaylee, a true friend, mom to Louis Arnold and an up-and-coming communications professional.

3. If you could wear any designer exclusively, which one would you choose (money is no object)? Why? I'd have to say Michael Kors. His pieces are beautifully made, suit my aesthetic and stand the test of time. Although Chanel wouldn't be all that bad either!

A look from the Michael Kors Fall '09 Ready-to-Wear Collection

4. If you had to wear a mass-market brand, which one would you choose (money is tight)? Why? Banana Republic. They've got clothes for almost every occasion; I love their classic, slightly preppy style; and it's pretty well-made stuff.

Vivica equestrian flat boot from Banana Republic

5. What was the first clothing purchase that made you excited about shopping? Describe the item. When and where did you buy it and where did you wear it? My Gucci sunglasses. While not technically clothing, accessories are my number one thing. I bought them at the Edmonton Holt Renfrew while visiting Rick. I wore them everywhere — EVERYWHERE — because they made me feel like a star. Such great memories.

6. Which aspect of the entire outfit head-to-toe do you pay the most attention to? Accessories, for sure. Bag, shoes, jewels, scarves.

7. Which current trend has jumped the shark? Or, which current trend should be fed to the sharks?
What does jump the shark mean? I don't get the first part of this question. Fed to the sharks...ankle boots. Absolutely detest them. [Editor's note: I will be taking out the "jump the shark" reference in future questionnaires — both people I've shown it to had no idea what I was talking about.]

8. Look into your Swarovski crystal ball. What do you think the next big trend in fashion will be? Elements of the 80s...cardigans, bright colours in outerwear.

Red Frill Trenchcoat by Anna Scholz, at Lola & Gigi

9. What’s the most beloved item in your closet, dresser, or shoe rack? My Louis Vuitton wallet. It goes everywhere with me.

Pochette Wallet in Monogrammed Canvas by Luis Vuitton — I was there for this purchase... New York, 2007

10. Fashion-wise, what’s the most versatile, bang-for-your-buck, must have item you could own? Do you already own it? If so, describe. If not, do you have your eye on a specimen? So many to choose from. The ones I own now are my Louis Vuitton bag and wallet. I don't think you can go wrong with a perfectly tailored, kick-ass Armani suit (yet to come).

Updated suiting from the Giorgio Armani Fall '09 Ready-to-Wear Collection

11. Best sale find? Give us the sense of how satisfying the markdown was. Black Prada heels from Holt Refrew Last Call in Toronto. I seem to recall getting them for about $100--regular price $500. I felt like a million bucks that day!

12. Biggest style blunder (merely saying you lived through the ‘80s doesn’t count, I want details
: Where to start? Or end? Let's just say my entire high school, oversized framed glasses; teased bangs; a NKOTB t-shirt that made entirely too many appearances. I could go on. I just had no clue. In fact, I didn't have a clue until you and I moved to Toronto and you became my personal stylist available 24-7.

13. Where do you go to get your fashion or style-related information (blogs, websites, magazines, television shows)?
First and foremost, Rick Zayshley and Be-spoken; Vogue; the Sartorialist.

14. Favorite department store(s):
Bergdorf's, Macy's, Holt Renfrew (although I wish most of the sales people would get over themselves) and The Bay...who doesn't love Bay sales? Boutique(s): Right now, Lola & Gigi.

Inside the Lola & Gigi showroom in Toronto

15. Is there an item that you’re continually on the hunt for? Even though I have more than 40 bags in my collection, I'm always on the lookout for the next one.

16. Style-wise, are you more London, Paris, New York or Milan? Why?
New York no nonsense, serious style. I love the city and I love New Yorkers' style.

17. Word association time: Shoes —
Christian Louboutin. Leather — I've got nothing. Basics — The Gap? Bags — Louis Vuitton. Jewelry — Chanel...I'm currently lusting after Chanel pearls (specifically the ones Anne Hathaway wore in The Devil Wears Prada). Sunglasses — I love my Louis. Underwear — hmmm. Often wish I didn't have to wear it. Makeup — MAC.

Black pearl necklace from the Chanel Spring/Summer '09 Collection

18. What was your first fragrance purchase? Why did you choose that one — what criteria did it meet? Would you wear it now? It was Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren. I think I liked it because it was fresh and not too flowery. While I probably wouldn't wear it today, those criteria still ring true.

19. What fragrance(s) do you wear now?
Cheap and Chic by Moschino; Daim Blond by Serge Lutens; Marc Jacobs by Marc Jacobs

Cheap and Chic's Olive Oil-inspired bottle by Moschino

20. Memories are deeply linked with our sense of smell. Can you recall the scent your mother/aunt/grandmother wore? What was it? Describe the impression it gives/gave you. I don't know what it was called, but Grandma Whyte always smelled like a combination of roses and baby powder. To this day, I can her scent and it brings incredible comfort and wonderful memories of great hugs, great food and carefree summer days on the farm.

21. Can you recall the scent your father/grandfather wore? What was it? Describe the impression it gave/gives you?
Neither my dad nor my grandpas wore any scent. When I remember my grandpas and when I think of my dad, I smell honest, hardworking, real men.

22. Is there a movie, an album, or some sort of creative work that inspires your style, or at least goes hand-in-hand with it?
Rene Russo's wardrobe in the Thomas Crown AffairI LOVED it. It was all Michael Kors. And I loved her kicking-ass-and-taking-names attitude and unashamed sensuality.

23. Past or present, real or fictional, famous or not, who is your style icon? Why? Is there an iconic look or photograph that comes to mind when you think of him or her?
Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Clean, classic, elegant, beautiful and confident.

Holly Golightly after a night of being fabulous. I think her cat looks very much like Natalie's feline friend Louis Arnold

24. You’re about to eat your last meal on earth and you want to impress your host (or maker). Where are you going, what will you eat, and, most importantly, what will you wear? Of places I know (and since I've yet to make it to Italy and Paris), I'd say Capo in Calgary. Beautiful, simple food. Superb, unassuming service. And a room so well-styled that it complements the food and doesn't overpower the occasion. At the very least, I'd have the lobster gnocchi and the seafood entree and wear something that made me feel confident and fabulous.

Capo restaurant in Calgary

25. Any final words of wisdom? Final thoughts? Be a guru and tell us something deep. Savour every aspect of life. I'm just learning to do so and, so far, it's been enlightening and a blessing.

Continued reading: (Daim Blond by Serge Lutens)
Thomas Crown Affair @
Breakfast at Tiffany's @

Friday, August 28, 2009

Calling all public radio junkies — iPhone does it again!

I've had my iPhone for about a year now, and in that time I've downloaded many applications. Several of them are fun (I'm kind of addicted to Scrabble), a few are productive (like Evernote, a nifty way to organize thoughts and inspiration on the go), a few are downright impressive (the New York Times app is amazing!); however, two recent additions to the App Store — from NPR (National Public Radio) and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) — have really impressed me.

I am a public radio junkie, and love listening to random programing. You can learn a lot from people great and small, and NPR and CBC radio really take the time to delve into issues and let the stories get their time in the sun. Just today I listened in rapture as Konrad Ejbich waxed poetically on the merits of fine wine on Ontario Today. So you could imagine how elated I was to discover that these fine organizations have created applications for the iPhone. Now I can listen to live streaming broadcasts or specific shows on demand as I jet around town, workout at the gym or relax at home. CBC even offers the option to listen to television audio — now sports fanatics can listen to the game when they're away from the TV.

With the CBC app you can listen to Radios 1, 2 and 3 (I didn't even know that Radio 2 offered a station featuring only Canadian songwriters). As you can see there are several other options, including a favorites page that allows you to customize your listening experience.

I admit that I don't listen to NPR too often, partly because it's not accessible over Canadian airwaves; however, with the addition of this application to my iPhone I'm sure I'll tune in more frequently. I like that the homepage of the app is a news update. I swear I check various new sites ten times a day, and I like to check out the American spin on things. There's also something deeply satisfying about picking up 90.3 FM WMAH in Biloxi — it's like owning a shortwave radio.

I love to support these institutions — actually I'm continually impressed with how well CBC distributes their material through podcasts and their websites. I hope this new medium makes them accessible to a new crop of listeners... There, I've done my community service for the week. If you have an iPhone, download these applications. They're like culture in your pocket.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Domino, Of Thee I Sing!

January 28, 2009 — shock waves spread through the office of Kontent Publishing. Emails and calls, "is it true?... have you heard?..." The rumors were flying — Domino magazine was set to fold. "How could this be," the fashionistas at my office mourned. This is our home décor bible... the editors our redecorating gurus... the holy grail of stylish living.

I'm a lover of magazines. I visit my local magazine store every month to pore over the new array of glossy covers. "Ahhh, Nicole Kidman looks amazing in Chanel on the cover of Vogue; Christy Turlington is on W wearing Donna Karan," and so on. Regardless of the endless stream of tantalizing titles, until recently two purchases were always imminent: Vogue and Domino. Vogue to feed my insatiable appetite for fashion, Domino to feed my insatiable appetite for home décor. How would I cope with the absence of my go-to source for the latest and greatest in color schemes, fabric swatches and wallpaper trends?

To my relief, the makers of this wonderful magazine left an equally wonderful volume that will sit proudly on my bookshelf for years to come — Domino: The Book of Decorating (Simon & Schuster).

The book is basically a "best of" Domino magazine, but organized by room, and by aesthetic. Just look at the cover alone. Doesn't it make you want to redo your entire house in all bird-motif Chinoiserie? I'd have to say I seriously considered it! What I really love about the book — other than it's stunning photography and layout — is that the examples feel attainable. The rooms are real, lived-in spaces. And at the end of each chapter, an editor at Domino tackles a room of his or her own, details the planning/editing/decorating process, and then shows the results.

The book cleverly breaks down the steps to creating your ideal space: 1. Find your inspiration; 2. Determine your style; 3. Consider how you'll use the room; 4. Asses your stuff; 5. Draw up a floor plan; 6. Set a budget; 7. Research, research, research; 8. Create a design scheme; and, 9. Make a decorating schedule. As you read the book, you learn a lot about your personal style. It's nice to codify your likes and dislikes: "Oh, I'm a 'cool collector' with a touch of 'mid-century elegant' and a hint of 'rich and handsome,' but I'm not a fan of 'hollywood glamour'" Fancy!

I'm basically finished decorating my apartment, and I'm happy with the results. I put a lot of thought into everything I do — I love amazing food, I read excellent books, I have incredible friends — so why should my living space be treated any differently? I am, however, always looking for ways to amp up my surroundings, and complete ideas I've either started, or have intentions of starting. Fortunately, the book has several suggestions for "finishing touches" in every room. On page 102 and 103, there are several ideas for the dining room:

Don't you love these photos? Each one makes me want to transport myself into its world. Books in the dining room, who would have ever dared? Here is a picture of how my dining area looks at this moment:

Good, but not great. While it's clean and modern — I love the Farrow & Ball Blue Green on the wall, and the framed wallpaper samples —, there is a lot of room for improvement. Actually, one of the biggest improvements came when my roommate Jonathan purchased these great plywood chairs to compliment the mid-century modern table. Domino has inspired me to rejig this area. Stay tuned for the results... to be done on a shoestring budget, I must add.

For those who are lost in the realm of redecorating and home décor, my best advice is this: Don't be embarrassed to try to copy a room that inspires you. Practically speaking, there is no way the finished result would actually look "copied." And as you search for substitutions or modifications based on your budget, or architectural limitations, you'll inevitably end up creating a room based on your own likes and dislikes and you'll discover your own sense of style in the process. That is why it's important to garner inspiration from excellent sources such as this book. For all of you who are embarking on a project at home, or anyone who loves a pretty room, I implore you to buy Domino: The Book of Decorating. In my humble opinion, you may never need to buy another home décor book again, even though I'm sure you (and I) will.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Keep it Simple This Summer

I've been enjoying rediscovering simple taste combinations and good, fresh produce this summer. And I'd love to share with you a simple, yet delicious, lunch idea that takes advantage of the tasty cherry tomato:

1. Toss a pint of cherry tomatoes with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and place uncovered in a shallow pan in a 400 degree oven. Season with salt and pepper (I use Vege-Sal, which I will blog about some day). Bake for 20 minutes with the oven door closed, and another 5-10 minutes with it open until the tomatoes are slightly browned. (I like to do this to dry out the tomatoes a bit — it intensifies the flavor.)

2. Combine the roasted tomatoes with a can of good quality tuna and about 5 chopped basil leaves. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season to taste.

And there you have it. Serve with a piece of no-knead bread and you'll be surprised at the great combination of flavors. Of course, this dish can be adapted to suit your taste. I think it would go really nicely with orzo to make an elegant dinner.

Bon appetit.