Monday, 25 February 2013

Freedom to read and be inspired

Freedom to Read Week is happening right now, it's a celebration of exercising your intellectual rights, a week planned to promote the idea that banning books and magazines in a free country like Canada is wrong.

I love the fact that in my house I can have my Harry Potter next to my Catcher in the Rye. These books inspired and comforted me in my formative years. Recently, I’ve been finding inspiration in fashion biographies, and coffee table books.

Photographer and stylist, Justyna Baraniecki has just finished reading Stylists by Katie Baron.

“If someone wants to get into styling, it’s a really great book to get,” she says. “It takes 100 to 150 of the top stylists working today and interviews them and takes a look into their aesthetic and what inspires them, I look at that one often.”

Local fashion designer Amy Scarlett Donovan is currently reading Grace, the biography of Vogue’s “unsung hero”, Grace Coddington.

It's wonderful,” Donovan says. “I'm falling more and more in love with her every page. She's very honest and candid and shares so many amazing little secrets about her encounters with people within the industry.”

“It's really special and I encourage anyone who loves fashion, Vogue, or the September Issue to absolutely read it.”

Donovan says that as a visual person, she gains inspiration from fashion books such as the official Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood books.

The premise of Freedom to Read Week seems to go hand in hand with Freedom to Find Inspiration. And isn’t that what books are all about?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Love Joe Fresh? Enter this!

I'm sure you all know that Joe Fresh is opening up at the St. Laurent Centre in a couple weeks, last I heard it was opening on Feb. 27, and to celebrate, St. Laurent is hosting a pretty cool contest.

As a brand, it's pretty impressive that Joe Fresh has gone from being sold at select Loblaws to opening stand-alone stores in such a short period of time. They are even showing at Toronto Fashion Week again this season! 

You guys probably already know how much I love supporting local and supporting Canadian, and Joe Fresh totally fits the bill. But did you know that Joe Mimran, the designer who created Joe Fresh also launched Club Monaco once upon a time? Cool Huh? 

It also doesn't hurt that Joe Fresh is still great quality for the price. Some of my favourite items in my closet came from between the soft-drink isle and pharmacy, and I'm super excited for them to stand-alone at St. Laurent!

Enter the contest at St. Laurent's Facebook Page.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Girl's Got Courage

Being a part of last year's Bust a Move committee inspired Ottawa native Carolynn Lacasse to amp up her game and raise even more money for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation in 2013.

Late last year she designed, produced and began selling two beautiful bracelets for charity. Her original goal was to raise $2,000 by March. After reaching that before Christmas she has since doubled the goal she originally set in December and is looking to raise $4,000 by the end of February.

Photo taken from the Courage Brand website.

The bracelets have a very simple design that compliment any style and are the perfect addition to a stack of bracelets, or 'arm party' as we've come to know them.

"The bracelet idea came to me while shopping at Viens Avec Moi, I love that store and they have a really good collection of jewellery," she says. 

"One time I was shopping there, buying a bracelet for one of my girlfriends and I thought, 'this is a really great gift' it was really simple -- one bead -- and I thought, what if I made it myself? What if I did it as a fundraiser."

Lacasse brought her idea to Viens Avec Moi co-owner Renee Morra, who was completely behind the idea of creating a bracelet fundraiser right from the get-go.

"I thought it was a great idea and 100 per cent of proceeds go to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation," says Morra. "Cancer pretty much touches everyone in a certain way, for myself it has on my mothers side, that’s why when Carolynn came to me with the idea I thought, OF COURSE."

Morra and Lacasse brainstormed together and decided to sell the bracelets exclusively at Viens Avec Moi. 

All of the branding and supplies were donated to Lacasse and she puts the bracelets together herself, which allows the entire profit from the bracelets go straight to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

The "Fearless" bracelet, taken from the Courage Brand website

The "Traverse" bracelet, taken from the Courage Brand website

Lacasse says that the name in front of the brand – Courage – serves as an inspiration to everyone who may be affected by cancer.

“I think that after being close to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, I realized that everyone in that organization has a lot of courage, the people who go there who are facing cancer, also the families and friends who are touched by it,” she says.

“Those people have a lot of courage and give a lot of support, that’s why I chose it,” says Lacasse. “That’s not the only reason though, every person goes through things that they need courage for, and its just a little reminder on your wrist to have the courage to do what you want.”

Lacasse says that she may continue the brand over to the Fall or even design a new line of Courage bracelets for the Spring.

Both designs of Courage bracelets are available at Viens Avec Moi, and sell for $20 each. So far Lacasse has raised $2,640 for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and with a little under three weeks to go, I am positive that she will reach her new goal.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Getting Dressed for Ottawa Fashion Week

OFW is right around the corner, actually it literally starts today. Everyone who goes sees it as the perfect opportunity to go nuts and showcase their best outfits. As someone who would fake sick to get out of school, when really I just hadn't picked my outfit the night before, I see OFW as my time to shine. The outfit planning is the most fun of the whole thing.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A Conversation with Justyna Baraniecki

For Justyna Baraniecki, fashion is not a priority. "It's not a very romantic answer," she says. "But at the end of the day, I just try and create really good images.", photo by: Joel Bedford 

The stylist, photographer and blogger has been maintaining a successful creative career in a city that sometimes seems intimidated by creativity.

A self-professed 'visual communicator', Baraniecki and her partner Joel Bedford run a successful photography company ranging from weddings to fashion editorials to food and landscapes.

In the future, Baraniecki says they would like to do more architecture photography. "If you're working as a photographer in Ottawa, it's really hard to be a specialist and only do one thing," she says. "You have to be able to do more than one type of photography."

She is also adamant about having a strong business sense in the creative industry. "Most people think that if you have a creative job, you're doing your hobby," she says. "They don't realize that if you work in the creative industry, only about 10 per cent of your work is actually being creative, the other 90 per cent is business."

It's that business sense that has allowed Baraniecki to be successful in the past. Three years ago when starting her fashion blog, she made the conscious decision to never work for free. She believes the creative industry is full of people trying to take advantage of artists.

"If you're doing creative anything, the expectation is to do it for free," she says. "If you work for free, you're never going to get credit, and no one is going to respect the work you do."

"Mine and Joel's motto is that quality costs. If you want your product to look good, or your article to sound good, it's going to cost. I would recommend never doing anything for free."

The work that Baraniecki and Bedford produce definitely falls under the "good images" tag that Baraniecki described. She says they gather inspiration from movies, and right now are in a phase where they want all of their photos to have a cinematic feel. Although it is sometimes hard to reproduce the image in her head in a city with limited resources.

Baraniecki wearing a dress by local designer, Amy Scarlett Donovan, styling by: Justyna Baraniecki, photo by: Joel Bedford

"When styling a fashion shoot one of the first things I'll usually do is go on Pinterest," she says. "I'm not a very good communicator, so I usually end up looking for elements in other people's work."

"It's like, imagine the lighting in this shot, but with hair like this girl, and then she's wearing something more like this," Baraniecki says. "We kind of just go from there."

Baraniecki has also cultivated a list of designer contacts that she uses in her work for Ottawa Citizen Style . On developing the contacts, Baraniecki's method is just as effortless as everything else about her; she just emails them up and asks for what she wants.

"When it comes to online communication, I justimagine the internet as a giant room and if I want something from someone Iwould just go up to them and introduce myself."

Baraniecki says she always seems to do whatever feels right for her regarding style and fashion.  Even though fashion blogging in itself has lost its lustre, she still enjoys reading some style blogs.

"I read Style by Kling religiously," she says. "There's nothing in this world I love more than sleep, so each morning I give myself 10 minutes to brush my teeth, do my hair and get out the door, and 30 seconds of that 10 minutes goes to looking at her blog."

According to Baraniecki, fashion blogging is something that started off fresh and new, but has progressed into something stale and uninteresting. At first, style blogging was an amazing alternative to looking at photos of celebrities and models, but Baraniecki feels that the bloggers of today are not people we should look up to sartorially.

"You realize that a lot of these bloggers are 16 or 17 years old and have limitless budgets," she says. "You have to ask yourself, why am I looking up to these girls?"

Baraniecki chooses to find inspiration elsewhere. "Why on Earth would I care what some fashion blogger -- I don't care if she has a million followers -- is wearing? Quite frankly, I'm more interested in what Kate Moss is wearing."

When it comes to leaving the norm behind and chasing the creative career you want, Baraniecki offers some advice:

"Recognize that when you are doing what you want,it’s still the same, it's still a job," she says. "Get really good with your taxes, know how to charge peopleproperly, networking, sourcing clients, marketing, take a look at how to run asuccessful small business an apply to whatever avenue you want to take, it’s alot of work," she says.  "But always schedule fun time."

"[Trying to stay on top of fashion] will drive you crazy, I always just try and do what feels right in the moment." Photo from