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COCO POWELL

There are so many things to be proud of as a Canadian. We have an incredible roster of new fashion and accessory designers who start here quietly, reservedly, until we assure them that they are good enough to explore the rest of the world, and then they run it. We have a brilliant nouveau literary rat pack made up of names like Chrystia Freeland, Lynn Crosbie, Miriam Toews, Joseph Boyden and a slew of others. And triumphantly, as a result of our overly conservative banking postulation, we’ve managed to keep most of our homes, our jobs and a scrap of pride. And yet, somehow, we seem to be the last country to adopt major design trends, we don’t have very many fashion magazines that we can truly stand behind and most U.S. retailers often seem to forget about us all together, until now. Our patriotic Canadian stores are finally starting to feel the settlers of American fashion hone in on their stomping grounds. Nordstrom has announced a Canadian interest, Target just launched nation-wide and Zara has finally answered my prayers and made shopping online available to us canucks. Most recently, Zara launched a #DearCanada campaign where they sent some of Canada’s bloggers, editors and socialites a $100 gift card to their new online store. As one of the most successful fast-fashion retailers in the world, I thought I’d dedicate this post to honour their new Canadian endeavor. Here are the top 10 (fine, 11) items you need to get your spring wardrobe into gear and they are all available at Zara's new Canadian online store. 

Okay, I know, you’ve caught on to the fact that I think you should rework what you already have in your wardrobe rather than buy new stuff (see the last few posts). And to be quite honest this is a relatively new philosophy even to me. Only yesterday I walked into my favourite store and picked up a few bright spring staples that I wanted to wear to the office. This included a tweed pencil skirt, lime green sweater with a gold zipper down the back and purple and black polka dot trousers. I walked up to the cashier and then asked if she could put them away because I had decided not to purchase them at the last minute. In the act of picking them out, trying them on and waiting in queue I had satisfied my shopping urge.

Now it is completely absurd to imagine not shopping anymore and that is not at all what I am suggesting, I’m only trying to impose a smarter shopping experience. A few days ago when I finally managed to approach my spring closet cleaning plans head-on I also decided to keep a notepad handy. As I started putting things away I jotted down the pieces that I thought were missing in my wardrobe. Some of the items included a sharp pair of cropped black trousers, pointed-toe pumps in a bright hue and a tweed jacket - none of the things I had picked up impulsively on my last shopping trip. In one of my more OCD moments, I  typed out this list, found images of the perfect items and included links to where I could find them in the future. This list is now tacked to the inside door of my closet. This way, I won’t just be purchasing items that look nice on a rack, but I will be more logically buying pieces that I know are a missing component to a well-rounded wardrobe. In addition to this list, I’ve also setup an automatic savings account that will put away an allocated sum I’ve defined as affordable to my budget, and this is the only account I will shop from. If I want to splurge on the perfect tweed Chanel jacket then I will have to sacrifice a few months of shopping until I can afford the jacket.  I know that for me it has become significant to save for more substantial purchases, such as a new car or home or a life-altering trip, and if I continue with my previous spending habits, none of my other dreams will come to fruition. So, my little fashion heads, I think it’s time for a new responsible but equally-stylish Coco. 

In the fashion collage above, I’ve spotlighted the closet staples that everyone surely has in their wardrobes, like a white sleeveless blouse, a boxy tee and loosely-knit sweater and paired them with a few items that really bring the look together and send the outfits sailing into spring. With a fitted tweed jacket, bright spring sandals and the perfect black trousers you can make anything in your wardrobe look spot on.

Anonymous asked: Fab look! Love the idea of finding new things in your own closet. Would love to know any more tips you can thing of for getting the closet organized!

Thank you! To be honest I’ve been quite disorganized with my wardrobe in the past. It seems the easiest thing to do when attending a special event, starting a new job or transitioning into a new season is to buy new clothes -  which actually aggravates the whole small closet situation. Think about it, you’ve selected the items in your wardrobe because you like them but now you are replacing them with new things that you also like but may not need.

So, here’s what I’ve been doing and it has changed the way I’ve been dressing over the last few weeks. I’ve mounted two antique brass clothing hooks on the inside of my closet door, one around the middle and the other closer to the top. I choose one item that I love wearing, for example a staple black skirt or a pair of cropped jeans and I hang the skirt or pant on the bottom hook (still on the hanger, of course). Then I try to work out a few looks that are a little more creative than I normally choose; one for the office, another for a night out on the town and one for a casual Sunday afternoon. Once I’ve chosen the top I hang it on the highest hook and  layer on a lightweight coat or sweater, choose my shoes and bag and then snap! I take a picture of each look. This allows me to mix and match the items in my closet without becoming frustrated by trying them all on. It also allows you to have an image that you can go back to for inspiration or to send to your fashionable friends if you need a little advice. I know this wasn’t really a how-to on organizing per se but I think it will help you rework some magic into your style. xo.

It’s not often that you truly utilize all of the great pieces in your wardrobe. Old jackets are often stuffed in the back of your closet from seasons ago, sweaters are jammed in a drawer somewhere and you are left wearing the same boring basics over and over again. Sometimes it just takes a bit of spring cleaning (and purging and reorganizing) to rediscover some of the brilliant separates you bought and forgot about. 

Not all of us have the privilege of a walk-in closet and so it take a little more effort to keep your wardrobe in rotation. This week, in a last-minute decision to attend Toronto Fashion Week I finally faced the mess that was my bursting closet. I decided that since I was pinched for space I would only hang the pieces that were delicate or easily wrinkled; blouses, shirts, dresses, silk tanks and skirts. The rest; jeans, sweaters and t-shirts were folded neatly and placed on a top shelf so that they would be easily visible. By doing this, I found some standout pieces that I hadn’t worn in a few seasons - not because they were shunned and disliked but because there were new and more exciting things to be worn. And so, out of this massive overhaul of my closet I found this houndstooth bomber and brilliant Joe Fresh hat that really made my outfit on the first day of fashion week standout. I hope that this inspires some of you to go through your wardrobes to find some of those pieces you forgot about and bring them into the spotlight once again. 

Some say wedding season is approaching, as though weddings are dictated by the advancing monsoon or are somehow still reliant on the blessing of a bishop, who has to travel miles by horse buggy from your neighboring town, and so you might as well all get married on the same day. I imagine, in fact, the majority of weddings happen in the summer so that grains of rice flicker in the sun and everything seems holy - because how many times have you thought ‘holy’ when the sun’s going down and the sky turns 50 shades of pink? 

Now maybe you are being invited to a lot of Stepford weddings with perfect ivory flower arrangements and chalk board cocktail menus, but I, on the other hand, am not, and haven’t been for the last fifteen years. My best friend got married in her apartment so she could move to Doha with her boyfriend and their children - he got a job at Al Jazerra, I congratulated them over the phone. My other friends, well, they aren’t getting married at all. One lives in Montreal and has had serious relationship after serious relationship but no one has stuck, another lives and teaches in Egypt and is having an affair with the millionaire proprietor of Egypt’s best resorts and yet another is a relationship expert who appears on television in the mornings, giving everyone advice on how to get and keep their boyfriends, she’s been single for a year. 

Maybe we aren’t getting married because most of us almost-30-year-old women are being more particular about what we want, or maybe we just have no clue at all, maybe we are all afraid of commitment or more focused on our own ambitions, who knows? Perhaps we’ve even passed our expiry date because men our age didn’t want to grow up until now and now that they have, younger women seem to be the partners of choice. We’ve been abused as a generational anomaly and used as a particularly interesting news topic. We’ve been the producers and supporters of countless dating apps, some notifying you when there is a potential mate at your local cafe, others hooking you up with like-minded polyamorous lovers. 

Not to say that we will never get married. The day will most likely come when all of your friends do decide to get hitched but it probably won’t be for another couple of years. The majority of us do end up walking down some makeshift aisle but not until our mid thirties and it won’t be the kind of wedding you were expecting to attend. As the framework of weddings begins to change and the importance of family acceptance wanes, our generation will be transforming the ceremony all together. Whether it is amalgamating the traditions of two different cultures or bringing together clashing religious beliefs in a civil ceremony that represents a small-scale peace talk, you should probably ignore any speculations of white dresses and ringing church bells. 

Which leaves us all a little clueless about how to dress if you are finally invited to a lovely, intimate-in-your-apartment kind of wedding or if your friend decides the local hipster bar where they met is the way to go. So here are a range of wedding looks that will take you from rock bar to repurposed church. 

Check out this amazing editorial on the Hudson’s Bay Company’s blog, B-Insider, that I got to model for. It features some of the season’s most stunning colours and includes an interview with my friend Micah Cameron, the brilliant Associate Fashion Director at the Bay. If you want to see the rest of the shots and read the interview, go here

Layering has always baffled me. In theory, or as seen on blog style-luminaries, it looks perfectly nonchalant. All it takes is a flannel shirt, a sweater, a leather jacket and some badass bling and suddenly you’re ready for the pack of street style photographers conjured up in your dreams. And yet, in reality you look more like a grocery clerk than anything else. So, this fall I’ve decided to try a different kind of layering, one that doesn’t include anything borrowed the boys, and has a more sophisticated appearance.  

In this look I’ve worn a Joe Fresh paneled sweater layered over an Equipment blouse and topped off with a Calvin Klein cardigan. Gloves are Causse Gantier and bag is Pulicati.

The crew neck was our first love and this fall we’ve become attached at the neck again. We can’t fathom pairing our a line skirts or leather pants with anything else. And our love doesn’t discriminate. Whether it’s a mongolian wool style or a sweatshirt that looks like it’s borrowed from the boys, nothing seems to work as hard for our affection. For the best way to wear this closet staple, pair a casual crewneck sweater with an embellished or patterned skirt, or try it the other way around by wearing a formal sweater with your favourite beat-up jeans and heels. 

I am normally not one to exalt designers just because they are from where I am from. Sure, local support is an important means for upcoming designers to become validated and feel their work is appreciated enough to continue on, even when profit margins are slim. But I will never think that praise is important enough to warrant half-praise, the kind of praise that I’m only giving you because I know you’re starting out and there’s a learning curve. I will be happier and more proud and perhaps even a little more lavish, but I will never hand it out unless I actually believe that what you’re doing rises above the rest of your counterparts work. 

Having said this, I just came across the work of jewelry brand Biko, whose headquarters are in my stomping grounds, and they sure give good neck. These scruff parties are perfect for casual looks and use some really arresting materials like vintage African trade beads, raw amethyst and polished coral. This is the kind of local I can get down with. 

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