Pack Profile: Nancy Chen

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You may not immediately recognize Nancy Chen, but if you live in Toronto and have a pulse, you’ve likely danced at one of her techno parties. Or perhaps you’ve seen her crowned among Marketing Mag’s recent 30 under 30 set. Nancy splits her time as creative strategist for Mosaic and co-founder of Mansion and still finds time to travel around the globe, research new talent, consult within the arts community, cook adventurous meals for her friends, and hone a refined personal style. Her compulsive drive to explore new places and experience new things while she’s still ‘under 30’ spills over into the work she undertakes to pull off some of Toronto’s most impeccable music and art events.DSC_1000

I first met Nancy after one of her Foundry parties. I mostly remember her wicked lace-up heels climbing out of a taxi and her take-no-prisoners approach to getting us into a weird after hours where the djs were mixing polka. Since then she’s continued to impress with her thoughtful style choices and the ease with which she pulls them off.

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Flash forward a few years and we’re chilling with Nancy in Cindy’s bedroom discussing the particularities of dressing for our jobs and how the work of styling oneself helps to communicate certain messages in the workplace — the power of clothes in translating confidence and how to best bend workplace dress codes. We’re laying about styling Nancy after helping her put together the outfit she wore in her Marketing Mag shoot, but our process is always collaborative. Her discerning attention to detail in mixing proportions and respecting clean lines while being persuaded by voluminous, dramatic shapes reflects her working style and her aspirations for the city she loves. She tries on a leather lattice-cut dress and tugs at the hem, noticing that it doesn’t fall exactly right and that it just doesn’t work. She casually passes elaborate new event ideas by us while thumbing through pieces in Cindy’s closet and swiftly pairs seemingly inauspicious pieces together in the mirror to her quiet, knowing approval.Untitled-2

Nancy’s drive to dive deep and push boundaries while keeping people guessing has made her one of our city’s best kept secrets. For all these reasons, we invited Nancy to be our first Pack Profile. We spent the day shooting her around Parkdale and asked her some pretty probing questions. Click after the jump for our full interview with Nancy, as well as all of the looks from our shoot!

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WMCFW: Day 4

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5cWearing Zara derbies and chiffon knit, vintage suede skirt and coat.
Images by me

Guys, going to fashion shows everyday after work is hard. I know I know. #firstworldproblems. But something about the insane crowds, the endless product pushing, the photographers, trying to pick a new outfit every morning that’s me but also practical and stylish, etc. It’s enough to make me feel like a very cranky fish out of water.

By day 4, a big part of me was ready to GTFO, preferably to my bed. Boy am I glad I stuck around for what I saw at Maison Matthew Gallagher. Set against a dreamy backdrop of soft pink screen and manicured garden hedges, Gallagher’s SS15 collection was the perfect palate cleanser to cap my hectic week of shows, half of which weren’t even worth writing about (*shots fired*).

The show began as an image of a black rose bloomed on screen. Admittedly, taking inspiration from spring awakenings and “new beginnings” is a little expected for a spring summer collection. But, I’m of the opinion that the inspiration behind a piece of work matters very little—it’s where you go from its starting point that means so much more. Drawing from a palette of grey, cream, and pastels, the overall look of the collection is classic and feminine without being too sugary (although the mint coloured teared dress is definitely high on the glycemic index). The dramatic peach maxi skirt in satin paired with a black T (the 6th photo from the top) recalled one of my favourite runway shows everJil Sander’s SS11 collection under the creative direction of Raf Simons, a.k.a. Fashion God. And there are strong notes of Lanvin in there as well. See: those perfect mint shorts.

Fashion, like music and art and film, is undoubtedly referential. And copycats proliferate in both mass market and high end luxury retail. Derivative as some of these looks might have been, the impeccable craftsmanship and elegant simplicity of the pieces more than convinced me. I especially loved the floor length pink coat (5th photo) that was cut like a graduation gown. The inspiration is apt. Graduation itself is the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next, and Gallagher took this idea and ran with it, applying it to a pristine ivory dress too (top photo).

Click after the jump for a closer, higher quality look (sorry for the phone camera pics guys….) at the collection!

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WMCFW: Days 2 & 3

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left to right: the lights at Mackage; Canadian baewatch in between shows2

left to right: my well-dressed squad; the mood and music at Target
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the big finish at Target
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day 2: I wore a vintage denim uniform jacket and vintage suede skirt, with a top by Topshop and sneakers by Zara
day 3: I wore my Calvin Klein bralet with culottes by Topshop and a vintage top

Day 2 of Toronto Fashion Week was decidedly underwhelming. Although the mood at Target was exuberant and the room abuzz with happy chatter, I couldn’t quite muster the excitement for a collection that lacked the innovation and luxury I’ve come to expect from ready to wear runway shows. Yes, I understand it’s Target and it’s meant to be super wearable for the entire family, even grandma. But you wouldn’t go to NYFW to watch an Old Navy show, why would you do this?

There is a very nagging sense in Canada that designers who are groundbreaking don’t stick around or they call it quits. This is mostly true. Just look at Jeremy Laing, CallaKaelen, Steven Tai, Erdem, Thomas Tait, the list goes on. I do believe that a huge part of the reason is that the high end market, by way of consumer demand, has not always encouraged thinking outside of the box. You need not look any further than the clothes the wealthy elites of Toronto prefer to wear to fashion events, or chat with fashion buyers about how hard it is to move garments by fashion forward brands like Jacquemus and J. W. Anderson in Toronto. Not to say that there aren’t Torontonians with a taste for the weird—if that were the case this blog wouldn’t exist. But the Venn diagram of Torontonians with money and Torontonians with a taste for the avant garde would probably look like two circles, barely grazing each other’s sides.

That’s why design competitions and grants for young designers are so important. I was surprised to learn that this year was the first time that the Mercedes Star-up Design show actually awarded a cash prize. But of course also very happy that things are slowly changing. It would be devastating to the future of Canadian fashion if we continue to lose innovative designers like Sid Neigum and Thomas Balint to New York, London, or Paris. This made Sid Neigum’s win even sweeter this past Monday.

Click after the jump for two other collections I saw during days 2 and 3 of WMCFW that impressed.

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World Mastercard Fashion Week: Day 1

sidNICO1575_osidfashion_toronto_sid_neigum_20141020_34772517As a tried and true member of The Pack, I love nothing more than showing love to emerging designers. Even better if they’re home-grown. And so it was with great joy to embark on day 1 of World Mastercard Fashion Week, seeing everything that this city had to offer in terms of fresh talent and innovative design.

Appropriately enough, my first show of the week was the Mercedes Benz Start-up show. Half runway show, half design competition (kind of like our very own Project Runway!), the program provides a national platform to discover and support emerging Canadian fashion designers. Winners gain access to to fashion business experts that help build their business through mentorship, a fully produced runway show during Toronto Fashion Week next March, an editorial spread in Fashion magazine, well as a $30,000 bursary to give them that extra financial push. This year’s entries include Alberta-born Sid Neigum, whose designs can be seen in the above photos, Eliza Faulkner, BLAK.I, Vaiken, Laura Siegel, and Toronto Fashion Week mainstay Beaufille 

Sid Neigum’s intricate origami textures and avant garde silhouettes earned him the top prize at this year’s competition. Having watched him grow for the past few seasons, I was happy with the panel’s decision. Although I was a much bigger fan of his previous collection, there’s no denying the beauty of the painstakingly woven pieces seen above. What makes Neigum especially deserving of the award is his refreshingly anti-trend and sculptural take on ready-to-wear. Beaufille was another label that impressed me with its SS15 runway looks, and you can see more of them, as well as a few other collections after the jump.

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These are a few of my favourite things

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Fashion week officially starts today in Toronto. Look forward to lots of runway and personal style updates here and on our Instagram in the coming days! Lucky for me I also get to spend the next 4 nights pacing frantically in my closet trying to figure out what shade of white goes with which kicks. Oy vey.

In the meantime, I give you some of my favourite street style looks from the last month in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, which also serve as fantastic inspiration for my sartorial game plan for the week. Of course, unlike many of these international editors and socialites, I don’t exactly have at my disposal the latest in designer RTW pieces. But that’s ok. Sometimes all it takes to look good and dress interesting is a closet of rare vintage finds, a badass shoe collection, and heaps of creativity.

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Alley Cat

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA 3SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA12bSAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERACulottes are my favourite thing to wear during this balmy autumn we’ve been blessed with. They keep your bottom half warm and cozy while leaving your ankles just a little PG-13. I like wide-legged culottes the most and this pair from Topshop Unique has just the right amount of stiffness to give the garment shape. The overall look is very TLC “No Scrubs”, which has long been a style goal of mine.

I found this incredible one-of-a-kind cross body bag from my favourite vintage shop in Toronto, Odd Finds General Store. My love for it was enough for me to ditch my go-to backpack, which is a huge deal. Plus, for just 15 bones, I now own a bag made from freakin’ bamboo. How very Asian of me.

 I’m wearing culottes by Topshop Unique, shoes by Pixie Market, vintage bamboo crossbody bag c/o Odd Finds, & an old H&M bomber.

All photos by Eric and me.

SS15 Trend Watch: Racing Stripes

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 L-R: Paco RabanneZDDZ for VFiles; Viktor & RolfReed Krakoff; Apiece Apart

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L-R: Lisa Perry; Carven; ZDDZ for VFilesProenza Schouler

 My parents came of age in the seventies and they took me and my little sister to the races pretty regularly when we were growing up. My dad worked in the pits on friends’ cars and sometimes we got to go down there with him and get our eardrums blown by the inconsolable sound of engines and tires all around us. Without any mechanical inclinations myself, but with fierce curiosity and a propensity to put everything into categories, I was always asking and re-asking about the difference between indy car racing, stock car racing, and drag racing. Then there were classic motocross racing and all the varieties of motorcycles. I don’t think I ever figured any of it out, but I can remember the event of going to the races making my nineties upbringing feel a little seventies-tinged, a little gritty and rebellious.

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 L-R: Public SchoolReed Krakoff; Tim CoppensCarven

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L-R: Louis Vuitton; Heohwan Simulation; Topshop Unique; PradaCarven

As a grown adult I can’t even drive standard, but harbour a special appreciation for Scorpio Rising and a false sense of authority, like I can uniquely gauge designers’ uses of racing stripes, exaggerated seventies leisure suit collars, and brown suede patchwork on the S/S 2015 runways because of my over-exposure to Victory Lane Speedways and classic rock. (let’s roll with it…) That seventies vibe that designers were pushing for this coming Spring falls flat when it’s too polished or precious. Proenza Schouler win this competition handily – their baggy leather midi-length racecar driver dresses are a fucking dream. Carven crosses the finish line second, sending out a crew of Euro racer girls in stiff smocks clutching their leather satchels to their sides like helmets.

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L-R: Miu Miu; Lisa Perry; Viktor & RolfCarven

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L-R: Paco Rabanne; Proenza Schouler; Sachin & BabiLouis Vuitton

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L-R: Prabal Gurung; Miu Miu; Heohwan Simulation; Miu Miu

Futuristic Monochrome

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After the endless PR chatter and corporate branding of fashion month, it’s a relief to discover the directional works of under-the-radar designers who let the clothes speak for themselves. It’s especially a treat when the garments appeal so much to my personal tastes. Yes, if you’ve visited this blog before, you probably know that monochrome and unconventional shapes are two of my favourite things in fashion design. German designer Melitta Baumeister (top) and Taiwanese designer Bei Kuo (bottom), both graduates of Parsons the New School for Design, have each designed SS15 collections that pack plenty of both. Be sure to click after the jump for complete lookbooks from both collections.

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Fun in the 6

FUN1-1200x800 fun2-1200x815 fun3-1200x841 fun4-1200x800 fun5-1200x893 FUN61-1200x800 FUN71-1200x800 FUN81-1200x774 FUN91-1200x800We first hyped the work of Toronto styling and photography project MILA back in July when the duo (Maddalena Petrosino and Eleonora Gaspari) released part 1 of their Yonge St. editorial series for nssmag.com. Showcasing Toronto apparel and retailers, each part of the series features clothing pulled from some of the most forward-thinking local shops and vintage boutiques. While Yonge St. no. 1 used vintage and new garments sold exclusively at Dundas West retailer, SOOP SOOP, Yonge St. no. 3 was styled with pieces from one of my personal favourite Toronto shops, Parloque.

Located about three blocks from my house, Parloque has been doin’ its thang and doin’ it really well during the seven short months since it opened its doors in the spring. Self-professed to serve the “bold & boundless, the visionaries & vanguards”, the menswear and womenswear retailer carries a range of indie and streetwear brands like South Korea’s S=YZ, New York’s Kathleen Kye, Copenhagen’s Soulland, London’s Malmo, and local heroes Willis Chan and Daily News Project. Much like that other hugely influential retailer reppin’ emerging designers and cult labels, Opening Ceremony, Parloque fills that gaping hole in the Toronto retail scene for stylistically innovative, fashion forward clothing that won’t necessarily require a month’s rent in order for you to afford it.

Yonge St. no. 3 was shot in the Little Italy neighbourhood of Toronto and features the babelicious babe Daphne. You can see the editorial and complete list of brands in Cake magazine and online at nssmag.com.

All images via MILA.