Tuesday, November 17, 2015


This Saturday, November 21 The Fine Art of Schmoozy returns! Schmoozy is Latitude 53's annual super soiree and fundraiser with proceeds supporting the contemporary art gallery's exhibitions and programming. It's a guaranteed good time with live music (there's an inevitable dance party at the end of the night); great eats; cocktails (this year featuring the exclusive SPECTRE Vodka from Belvedere); a silent art and fashion auction; and a chance to party with some of Edmonton's finest artists, scenesters, philanthropists and art lovers – including me!

I'm the official Fashion Correspondent for License to Schmooze – this year's instalment inspired by the glamourous and mysterious world of international spies.

We're forever grateful to Schmoozy's presenting sponsor, Kingsway Mall for their support of the Edmonton arts community and we've been sharing party fashion inspiration from the shopping centre over the last few weeks on CTV Morning Live, SHAW TV and social media. Check out our Pinterest board for some awesome double-0-7 party looks>

Don't miss one of my favourite parties of the year. Get your Schmoozy Tickets here and support Alberta arts!>

Thursday, September 24, 2015


She's in Simons is a blog series produced in collaboration with Canadian fashion brand, Simons. We're profiling inspiring Alberta creatives who celebrate style through their work and wardrobes. This instalment was photographed by the very talented Carmyn Joy at the Pinterest-esque Poppy Barley Edmonton Showroom. 

You might call Monica Gault the woman behind the brand. She's been with Edmonton-founded e-commerce success story Poppy Barley right from the beginning. Actually, even before the beginning. 

Monica works as the Brand Designer Manager at Poppy Barley – which if you don't know about, you should. It's one of our proudest Alberta fashion success stories, a revolutionary online bespoke shoe company that is changing the way we wear shoes by offering custom made footwear through the click of your mouse at affordable prices. 

The company's now iconic blue logo and minimalist poppy flower and barley stem were thoughtfully designed by Monica. After completing a post-degree design program in Vancouver, she was introduced to Poppy Barley sister founders Justine and Kendall Barber. Monica would eventually move back to Edmonton to mould a visual identity from scratch that would communicate a new online concept to shoppers – not an easy feat. 

As the lead graphic designer, Monica keeps extraordinarily busy creating and designing everything from packaging, ads, signage, the company's website, even the tiny engravings you'll find on Poppy Barley's shoe hardware and the hand painted blue flower motif inside the brand's new bag collection. From the moment you click to the homepage of the Poppy Barley website, to the branded box that arrives at your door with your new shoes, Monica has visually designed each step of your Poppy Barley experience. 

Monica is wearing an Icone Top, A.L.C Skirt and Simons bracelet all from Simons, and Modern Mary Jane flats from Poppy Barley.

When and how did you join Poppy Barley?
While I was still living in Vancouver my sister Caroline Gault actually connected me with Kendall Barber, Poppy Barley’s co-founder through Skype, because at the time Kendall was looking for a graphic designer to help design a logo for a boot company her and her sister were starting. This was a really exciting prospect for me, because in design it's rare to be given the opportunity to design a brand from scratch. When they were ready to offer me a position full-time, though perhaps a risky venture, it was a no-brainer to join them.

What were your first steps in designing the Poppy Barley brand?
Company identity is very important for me, I’m not the type of person who can just design a logo overnight for a client. I need proper resources to truly figure out what makes each client unique and how I can best tell their story through design. So for Poppy Barley, rather than jumping straight into design, I spent a lot of time figuring out how Justine and Kendall envisioned their company. I did this through conversations and questionnaires, but also by getting them to share examples of brands they found inspiring, and also, hearing what they think the brand voice might be. I was gathering information from a spectrum of sources. These materials are what get me going. Once I had all this information from them I was able to design a few mood boards and then eventually create a few preliminary sketches for Poppy Barley’s logo. How has Poppy Barley’s logo evolved over time, or has it?
It absolutely has. It’s a lot simpler today. When Poppy Barley began we didn’t have lot to work with in terms of visual content, so I ended up designing something that had a lot of graphic style to it because when you don’t have a budget for lifestyle photos or models you have to convey that message in other ways. But gradually as we have been able to grow and tell a fuller visual story through photography we have pulled back on the logo, creating something a little more simple and streamlined. What is your design philosophy?
Design is never finished – after collaborating, tweaking and reworking in as many ways as you can think of, you have to decide when to stop and just put it out there to see what kind of response you get. Then you can take the results of real users and analyze the reaction to improve the next version, and the next and the next. Test, get smarter, tweak and improve the design. That is what Poppy Barley does every day — always trying to get better at what we're doing and knowing nothing is ever final.

What are you continually working towards or trying to achieve with your work at Poppy Barley?
User experience is super important for me. The design is not good unless it’s functional. Brand-story is also very important and carefully choosing how we tell this story. There is so much that can be done in terms of telling our company, employee and customers' stories. What is a typical day of work?
Everything I do is to support and drive forward our brand, website and community. Of course there are daily activities to maintain operations — social media, product development, website optimization, marketing, promotions, advertising, customer experience and concierge support — but the biggest part is envisioning with the team the possibilities for Poppy Barley, and prioritizing all our ideas so we can keep pushing e-commerce, transparent manufacturing and fashion-tech forward. Pushing it forward into something that is honest, fun, approachable and people-focused.

We have to ask... you work with your sister, Caroline Gault, how is that?
It really is great. Caroline and I are quite close, and it’s so awesome to work with someone who you are 100% confident with their ability to do something. That said, this goes for everyone at the Poppy Barley office. It’s so great to have co-workers who are uniquely incredible at their position. Is it hard being creative everyday?
It can be. There are definitely days when I’m just not feeling creative, but it’s important to take some personal time to really hash out ideas and get to that creative point. Creative group exercises can also be really helpful.

How has working for Poppy Barley changed your personal style?
It’s definitely changed the way I shop. I’m so much more aware that my clothing is made by actual humans, so I tend to invest in higher quality pieces that will last a long time, rather than just indulging in fast-fashion.
I also used to wear heels 85% of the time. I felt it was classier and more feminine and elongated my legs. But gradually, I tried out the flats and now have completely done a 180 — barely ever wearing heels. I think back to early days of walking 20 blocks to work in heels and just think how silly and painful! What I love about our shoes is that they feel professional, dressy and put together, but they are totally comfortable and practical.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Video by Jillian Schecher Studio  /  Music by Bebop Cortez

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with Clinique and LOU LOU Magazine on their #FaceForward campaign, a Canada-wide storytelling project encouraging brave, bold and beautiful women to share their inspiring stories on how they put their best #FaceForward to reach their goals. 

While sharing my #FaceForward commentary on Instagram with posts on how I put my best #FaceForward and advice I'd give my future self , I’ve also been testing out some Clinique products at home, tailored just for me through the Clinique Diagnostics Test. Spoiler alert: I have super dry skin. Thanks, prairie climate!

My favourites from the bunch were the Foaming Sonic Facial Soap with the Sonic Cleanser and the Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+. The face wash and cleansing brush helped polish my complexion and rid me of dry, flaking skin during this transitional weather. The lotion (which I’ve heard rave reviews about for years) is really the perfect under-makeup moisturizer. It’s light, long-lasting and kind to sensitive skin. This is a new favourite in my skin-care regimen.

How do you put your best #FaceForward?

Thursday, September 03, 2015


She's in Simons is a blog series produced in collaboration with Canadian retail icon, Simons. We're profiling inspiring Alberta creatives who celebrate style through their work and wardrobes. This instalment was beautifully photographed by Alyssa Lau of Ordinary People at Little Brick. 

Amor Carandang is that girl. The one at the party with the giant grin on her face, likely laughing with the kind of sincere, wholehearted, open mouth laugh that is undeniably infectious. She's the one with the twinkling eyes and nonchalant spirit, perfectly put together in a tiny package of great substance. 

This bright attitude and ease of personality are surely traits of those who "make it" in fashion out here in the landlocked prairies. 

A talented designer and brave fashion entrepreneur, Amor and partner Chris Provins' fateful meeting in Australia has led to thoughtful designs, which have established their label, Hunt Amor, as one of Alberta's most celebrated jewelry brands. Favourites from their previous and current collections include delicate body chains, hand-cut brass 'V' earrings (like really, who doesn't have a pair?) and now, impressive custom creations for a growing list of clients. 

Amor is wearing an Acne Studios dress, Phillip Lim Jacket, Sol Sana Sandals all from Simons and Hunt Amor Jewelry. 

What's it like working with your partner?
Chris and I share the same design value and it's rad to work with somebody who knows me so well. Also, he is just totally amazing. (Editor's Note: You might know Chris from his brilliant design work over at Lift Interactive). Because we're in a personal relationship, it's super important to make sure we have time for each other and separate business from that. We're so passionate about what we do,  so we could go on and on about it, but it's important not to let the lines blur between personal and professional. 

What is your typical day like?
A typical work day is 8am to 5pm, which includes meeting with clients. gathering inspiration, market research and of course... production.

What are each of your roles within the business?
I like to work closely with people, that's my first and foremost love. Chris has a really strong background in technical product design. I manage all the before and we work together on figuring out what our client wants and our collections and then we process that together.

What kind of metals do you work with?
We love getting our hands dirty in the studio – we work and manipulate a lot of brass. Everything is cut and polished by hand. We really enjoy the custom tailored process and work closely with clients to uncover what they want and make it meaningful. We also work with a goldsmith for silver and gold and we're now moving towards working with more precious metals.

What tools are essential to your trade?

A ruler and guillotine, but really the most important? A sketchbook, pen and calendar. I have to be super organized.

How do you think your own personal style affects your collections? Are you designing for a customer or yourself?
I, without a doubt, am a customer of Hunt Amor. But of course we work closely with our clients, and try to uncover a lot of inspiration they want to share with us. Chris is really curious about technical production, and part of our design process is really about experimentation. We've actually done a couple pieces in 3D printing - a ring and a bottle opener in black steel.

Twik Dress, Sol Sana Sandals from Simons and Hunt Amor Jewelry. 

What do you wear when you're working? No pants party?
In the studio I'll wear scraps. No one is going to see me (laughs). But if I'm meeting with clients I'll put on some makeup and dress up a bit.

How important is your own personal style as an entrepreneur in fashion?
You have to feel comfortable. I like simple, clean design. I want something that subtly pops out and I believe that's what Hunt Amor's designs do.

Has there been any significant milestone for Hunt Amor?
Awe, so many. I think the most recent one, the engagement ring and weddings bands we did for our friends Shaun and Nicole. I cannot wait to show people the bands. Going through the custom tailored process it felt magical. We got to know them on a different level. It was our first time working with diamonds and we're injecting our personality and everything they've shared with us into something they are gonna carry with them for the rest of their lives. There are so many different things to consider. It felt like we were all in this relationship together.

When the products were done, we were so excited to give it to them. I really like custom work because I get to hang out with people and find out what makes them tick.

What have you learned along the way?
Always have a process. Know what you're getting into and explore all realms before committing to anything.

Monday, August 31, 2015


Investing in a few key and classic pieces is the quickest way to warm up your wardrobe for the fall chill. Some Dress Me Dearly trend favourites this season include structured backpacks, wide-brimmed felt hats and animal print footwear.

a) Slip-on Oxfords in Cobra and Black Nubuck from Poppy Barley  b) Delicate Yellow Gold Bracelet (#50G107) from Maty  c) Wide Brimmed Felt Hat from Simons at West Edmonton Mall d) Fine Pebble Leather Backpack in Beet Red from DKNY at West Edmonton Mall e) Cashmere Pashmina from DKNY  f) Burgundy Foldover Clutch from New Classic Studios

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


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