Jul 14, 2015

TIME FOR SUSTAINABLE THINKING: EDMONTON FASHION STARTUP, BERG + BETTS


Meet Emily Fee and Jessie Atkins, the savvy, design-minded best friends behind Edmonton-based, eco-chic accessory line, Berg + Betts

With a shared passion for sustainability, community and creativity, the two brainstormed a timely new concept – handmade, cost-friendly watches from leather scraps otherwise destined for a landfill. 

In Jessie's basement, a tidy little studio hosts the two-woman assembly line. Here, they produce their handmade watch and necklace collections using leather scraps rescued from across Canada, sourced from designers such as Kimder Handbags and large leather suppliers. They've recently partnered with bespoke shoe brand Poppy Barley to up-cycle leather from its Leon factory in Mexico to produce a signature Tassle Necklace collection.  

We dropped by the studio to get the full scoop on the startup's beginnings, sustainability philosophy and what the future holds for Berg + Betts. 



How was Berg + Betts born, what are your backgrounds?
Emily: I’d hate to disappoint people, but literally we have no education in design.

Jessie:  Emily is a teacher and I have a background in nutrition. We started making watches for ourselves and for our friends’ birthday just as a fun DIY thing.

Emily: A girl approached me at the gym one day and asked if she could buy the watch off my wrist. I called Jessie and said, “You know what, I think we have something here.” 

What's it like being an entrepreneur in Edmonton?
Emily:  Amazing! The local support has been ridiculous. People seek out local and look for what Edmonton is producing. The response has been one of our biggest motivators to keep going. 

Jessie: We always talk about what would have happened if we had started this business in the heart of Toronto, or Vancouver, or even Calgary… there is something about Edmonton. The people responded and lifted us up. 

Your niche is obvious - recycled leather and a focus on sustainability. This was an evolution of your brand, can you discuss why this became important to you?
Jessie: Honestly, I don’t know why we got started using scrap leather. You look at a hide of leather and you go to cut it into little strips and something just didn’t feel right about it. There is a lot of waste that goes into the landfill – tonnes and tonnes of leather. Rather than buying hides, we started cutting up scraps.

Sustainable fashion is important to us because we all have an obligation to protect our environment. The fashion industry generates millions of tonnes of waste each year, and if we can rescue any of that waste material, then we'll have a positive impact on the environment.




What does the future look like for Berg + Betts?
Jessie:  We have kind of been flying by the seat of our pants since we started. We find that as soon as we plan something hard and heavy, something of wicked opportunity comes up and takes us in a totally different direction. We don’t want to plan too far ahead. We want to just live in the moment. There is so much self-doubt when starting a business. We are hand-making a product and putting it out there, and asking the world, “do you like it?” We are always vulnerable.

Emily: Having each other as business partners is great because we can build each other up when we are feeling insecure. We don’t know where it’s going to go, but we want to do more products.

Jessie: We are thinking clutches. And possibly feature a men’s line in the coming season. 



Blog post and photos by: Kassy Wills, DMD Intern
*First photo supplied by Berg + Betts

Jun 2, 2015

SHOP LOCAL SERIES: DMDxMONJELOCO JEANS - LET'S HAVE A PARTY


Well hi there DMD readers. Janis here - you probably didn't recognize me. This was the steamiest photo shoot of my life in collaboration with Monjeloco Jeans and photographer Aaron Pedersen. But when a sexy Colombian denim brand asks you to rock their jeans, you best step up and rep its curve embracing designs at full capacity. 

I've heard a lot about Monjeloco, first falling in love with Founder, Nora Furber while watching her charm the jeans off the Dragons Den investors. But the proof is in the mirror. After slipping on a pair at Monjeloco's St. Albert flagship location, I've never been more grateful for what my momma gave me. In all honesty, and completely bluntly - these jeans make your ass look amazing - and that's the point. The thick denim, strategically placed pockets and waist design, lift and accent your booty like none other. 

Well, in celebration of all that is bootylicious, why don't we have a party? On Thursday, June 11, I'm hosting an exclusive VIP/Blogger Soiree at Monjeloco Jeans in St. Albert, and we have two guest spots open for one lucky winner. There will be Latin inspired cocktails, treats, shopping, gift bags and mingling with Edmonton's fashion insiders. Enter below to join us and try a pair of Monjeloco Jeans for yourself. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Jun 1, 2015

HAPPENINGS: JUNE 2015


Pride Patio Party
Saturday, June 6 / 2 pm / The Black Dog Freehouse, 10425 82 Ave
After the Pride Parade on Whyte Avenue, you'll find the Dress Me Dearly team sippin' beers over on The Black Dog Wooftop patio (one of our favourites in Edmonton). Join us to celebrate love, diversity and equality!

Barber Ha Four Year Anniversary and Pride Parade After Party

Saturday, June 6 / 2 pm / Barber Ha, #202, 10011 82 Ave
A smokin' BBQ plus karaoke and dancing adds up to an incredibly fun birthday bash and Pride Parade after party! Entry is by donation in support of Pride and Edmonton Pride Centre. 

DMD x Monjeloco Jeans VIP Party
Thursday, June 11 / Monjeloco Jeans, St. Albert
We're collaborating with the famous Columbian curve enhancers to host a VIP/Blogger party. Stay tuned for steamy photos of our Founder, Janis, rockin' Monjeloco Jeans and find out how you can win tickets to the exclusive soiree.

Change of Clothes

Saturday, June 13 / 11 am - 4 pm / Vacancy Hall, 10363 104 Street
An ethical fashion event that welcomes the Edmonton community to discuss, learn and get hands on with issues regarding sustainability in fashion. Join us for a free day of events including a discussion panel featuring industry insiders, a clothing swap, sewing session, and even get your jeans mended.

The Works Golden Summer Gala
Friday, June 26 / 6:30 pm / The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, 10065 100 Street
We love a reason to get gussied up, especially in celebration of Edmonton arts. It's going to be a helluva party with performances by cymbal smashing, synchronized dancing, trumpet tooting, The Wet Secrets; the teasing beauties of Capital City Burlesque; and the lady who knows just what your ears (and hips) are craving, DJ Andrea Why. (Rumour has it FASHION Magazine is going to be there snappin' photos of Edmonton's best dressed – so put a little effort in OK?) Proceeds support Education Initiatives and Council Scholarships at The Works Society. 




Photo: Poppy Barley

May 28, 2015

SHOP LOCAL SERIES: KATE HEWKO



In early May, and in true Dress Me Dearly fashion, we hosted a bumpin' little shindig for Calgary jewelry designer, Kate Hewko

We were stoked to bring Kate's hefty stone designs to Edmontontians in the wake of some awesome national attention for the designer from mega style publications including Flare and FASHION Magazine. Guests shopped, bought and awed over Kate's earthy spring collections while sipping a refreshing (boozy) punch and snackin' on a picnic-inspired buffet of sweet and salty treats. 

Mega thanks to our venue host and the staff at Bamboo Ballroom, who always set the right tone for a fun fashion night out in support of Alberta's best designers.



May 14, 2015

SHE'S IN SIMONS: BIANCA OSBOURNE OF VITALITY KITCHEN

She's in Simons is a new blog series produced in collaboration with Canadian retail icon, Simons. Over the next few months we'll be profiling inspiring Alberta creatives who celebrate style through their work and wardrobes.

Bianca Osbourne is the free-spirited, hilarious and wonderfully honest, firecracker chef and holistic nutritionist behind The Vitality Kitchen – a no fuss natural food apothecary based in Edmonton that offers creative catering, customized meal plans and hands on cooking classes hosted in the bright and sunny Vitality Kitchen. Bianca is out to prove that flavour not need be sacrificed for health and healthful living doesn't need to be extreme or intimidating. She's spreading the message with her tasty, body-loving recipes and an incredible army of food-wise educational tools including a Dress Me Dearly favourite - The Vitality Kitchen podcast (We highly recommend giving a listen to the "Eat for Amazing Energy" episode). 




Was there a moment you knew you were destined to be an entrepreneur?
My dad is an entrepreneur, and I’ve always known that owning your own business can provide you with a lot of freedom. Also, I’ve always been a terrible employee, I’ve hated authority or people telling me what to do, because in my head I’ve always thought, 'I don’t want to be building your dream, I want to be building my own dream.' "

When did nutrition become important to you?
Well, I grew up fat. When I graduated from high school I was 200 pounds. Then I moved to Toronto and lost a lot of weight, but I was calorie counting and you can still fit in a lot of garbage when you are calorie counting. Because of my unhealthy lifestyle my body broke out into a rash covering my entire midsection, so then I was like, 'I’m skinny, but I don’t have the perfect skinny body.' So I knew something had to change. After moving back home to Edmonton and studying at culinary school, I made the decision to finally get healthy and count nutrients not calories.

What is the best thing about building a business from scratch?
You feel totally badass. Especially being a female entrepreneur. It feels great to prove to people you can run your business organically and not take crazy risks. It’s also great to lead your team with a compassionate emotion-based focus, and show that not only does it work - but it works really well.




What is the worst thing about building a business from scratch?
Besides being poor initially, I guess just conveying to people exactly what you are doing. In the beginning of Vitality Kitchen it was difficult to explain to people where exactly I was going with it. So many times I had people suggest that I cater big events that weren't really right for Vitality Kitchen, and these usually went tits up because they weren’t part of the vision I had for myself.

It is also easy to get discouraged from one bad review or hiccup. It’s easy to take criticism from your business as a personal criticism, but overtime and with the help of my business manager, I’ve started to develop a thicker skin.

What advice would you give to those wanting to start a business?
Realize your life is going to change. Things that used to mean nothing to you begin to mean a lot. For example, before starting Vitality Kitchen I didn’t think much of sleep, but now I realize how important it is to keep me strong and healthy.

Also, get your financial house in order. When I started Vitality Kitchen I had zero money saved, but I’ve learned just how important it is to have good credit, be with a good bank and be aware of your budgets. This has been a huge learning curve for me. Faith is really important too. I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve had no money in my bank account, no one seemed to get what I was doing and I was doing so much hard work, but eventually things start to happen. For example, I’ve been doing this for about two and a half years, and just now I am starting to see good livable money coming in consistently.

What does your typical day look like?
Every day is different. Mondays are the longest day, and I’m here at the crack of dawn, but I have a two-hour break during the day at which point I usually try to do some yoga and relax. Running a business can be extremely stressful, so it's important to take time to relax and decompress, or you can get sick – and then not be able to run your business at all. I try to do at least 20 minutes of yoga a day, I love Yoga Glo.

Does your personal style impact your life and business?
It definitely does and I love fashion. It’s how you represent yourself. If I’m out and I look schleppy it can reflect poorly on my business. Typically when I’m in the kitchen I wear active wear, but I try to incorporate more stylish pieces so when I go to and fro I still look good. 

Why did you pick this outfit today?
This is pretty much my summer look. It feels good, and I’m all about comfort. I definitely think you can be stylish and comfortable. There is nothing worse than seeing a girlfriend teeter tottering in an uncomfortable outfit and shoes.

Is there an essential fashion item for a chef?
Basics. Pieces you can move in, bend and lift. Of course as an entrepreneur you need some more professional looking pieces too. 






Bianca is wearing an Icone jersey maxi dress, Chiqle denim vest, raw stone necklace, double-wrap gold bracelet and the Ancient Greece Ring, all from Simons at West Edmonton Mall. Photos by Jillian Schecher. 

May 11, 2015

DMD STYLING: ALBERTA VENTURE "OFFICE ESSENTIALS"


Last month, the Dress Me Dearly team was on set with Alberta Venture to style its May "Office Essentials" fashion spread and chat spring trends. What are we loving? Culottes for women, pineapple prints galore and the classic camel suit for men.