Articles

I freelance for a few different publications and it’s not always easy to get a copy in to the hands of everyone who wants one. Here is a little collection of some of my favourite articles I’ve written:


Alyssa Lau // New Classics Studios alyssa
[image via: ordinarypeople.ca]

“New Classics Studios, above all else, is an ideology that revolves around quality, social responsibility and environmental awareness,” writes 23-year-old Alyssa Lau on her website NewClassics.ca. “Since the emerging of fast fashion, the nature of the contemporary fashion industry has evolved into mass trend-based consumption of low quality clothing, resulting in heavy environmental and social impacts.”

She writes so eloquently and passionately about sustainability in fashion that if you’ve never met her you might not realize the hilarious, bubbly, creative genius that lies beneath her big shades and cool haircut. New Classics Studios is her e-retailer that launched in October, but she is presently even more well known for her worldwide popular fashion blog OrdinaryPeople.ca.

She and her cousin Kurt started Ordinary People in 2011 to “document our rather insignificant existence in Edmonton, Alberta,” says Alyssa. “It was so embarrassing to tell people about it, there’s a huge stigma with blogging being an antisocial behaviour.”

The reality, however, is that the so-called antisocial behaviour has brought Alyssa some pretty cool opportunities and she even found herself at New York Fashion week for the third time this February. Alyssa has also been featured by FASHION Magazine, Teen Vogue, Ny Mag, Forbes Magazine, The Gap and the Huffington Post.

With nearly 25,000 monthly visitors stopping by Alyssa’s blog to find out what she’s wearing there is an obvious opportunity to make some money from advertising, sponsored posts and shopping links. Surprisingly, monetizing her blog is a fairly low priority.

“There’s a lot of requests to showcase items, products or clothes that I would not consider part of my style,” explains Alyssa. “It’s part of the whole ethics of blogging– do you promote something for money that you wouldn’t wear? I totally do not believe in that.”

What also might surprise you about this fashionista is that she comes backed with a Bachelor of Science and was on route to becoming a doctor before realizing some other avenues she wanted to explore could be lucrative.

“I wasn’t quite ready to do my masters and I wanted to approach new opportunities,” says Alyssa. “I didn’t want to open just any online store, I wanted it to be something I could affect change with.”

The issue of sustainability in fashion is one that is important to Alyssa, but one that I and many others might be totally uneducated on. She simplifies it as an approach to fashion that uses environmentally-friendly methods and materials in clothing production, adding that sustainable fashion aims to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

“My interest started with a book my cousin gave me a couple years ago called Naked Fashion,” she explains. “I really enjoyed the idea of trying to change the world and environment one garment at a time.”

Alyssa wanted the clothing in her shop to be minimalistic and contain only items that she would actually wear. The stigma associated with sustainable clothing is one she is hoping to break, swaying minds away from the idea of hemp and hippie clothing. The goal of the shop is to educate shoppers and show them that sustainable clothing doesn’t have to be unappealing.

“It was really exciting, and something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” says Alyssa. “Ordinary People is definitely one of my biggest marketing tools!”

As with any issue, it all starts with educating yourself and making small, important changes.

“Understand how your clothing is made, and who makes it,” Alyssa suggests on NewClassics.ca. “Only then can we can start making choices that will positively impact the world.”


Hayley Wright // Paper & Ink  paperink
[images via Hayley at paperinkart.com]

Wispy hair that looks impossibly natural, eyelashes that rival Twiggy’s and expressions that leave you wondering what darkness might lie beneath are the key elements that make Hayley Wrights art so whimsical and addicting.

“I love painting pretty girls, but it’s only really interesting if they have a story behind them,” explains Hayley, the creative mind behind her business Paper & Ink. “I choose images which are beautiful to look at, but reflect darker and more dynamic moods.”

The 23-year-old Edmonton based artist is an aspiring fashion illustrator, a career she describes as a dying art. Before the invention of photography, fashion illustration was a way to show the public the current trends and clothing styles. In 2015, photography typically takes precedence in magazines and advertisements but that doesn’t sway Hayley’s aspirations. To her, the art form is a unique way of translating fashion and beauty images to inspire the audience, and that’s enough to keep her chasing her dreams.

Like many students, Hayley entered university with a general idea of what she wanted to do, but fell in and out of love with the journey several times.

“I’ve always been an artistic person, but before I began fashion illustration I sometimes struggled to find great inspiration,” explains Hayley.

After graduating from an arts based high school in Ontario, she packed her bags and moved solo to Kelowna, where she attended the Fine Arts program at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

“I never really knew what it was that I wanted to create and I had a hard time staying motivated.” A sentiment nearly every student can relate to at some point or another.

She then decided to move to Vancouver to earn her Fashion Marketing diploma at the Vancouver College of Art and Design. While enrolled in the program, one of her classes was an introduction to fashion illustration.

“What an amazing day it was when I discovered both of my passions could be combined into one amazing art form!” Hayley explains, excitedly. “I was hooked and I knew it was what I was meant to do.”

The ambitious red-head has accomplished some impressive feats in the last couple years, from a pop-up shop at Western Canadian Fashion Week to having her art shown in FASHION magazine this winter, but she credits much of her success to the little app that could: Instagram!

“Social media has had absolutely everything to do with my success as an artist. It feels surreal to have such a following on Instagram!”

As a result of her online presence (over 5000 followers to date), Hayley has had the opportunity to collaborate with other artists and to sell her prints to buyers all over the world.

“It’s so easy for people to click the ‘follow’ button and when they do, they get to see all of my most current illustrations and video tutorials and they are the first to know when my prints go on sale!” You can follow Hayley on Instagram at @paperinkart for a behind-the-scenes look at new drawings, glitter and gold leaf embellishments and the occasional peek in to Hayley’s personal life.

It’s easy to fall back on the stereotype of an artist with such talent as a dark and moody introvert who spends her time cooped up and creating, but Hayley is very much the opposite.

“I love to take tiny road trips, play with my silly kittens, and vintage shop along Whyte Avenue,” she laughs, admitting ‘a day in the life of Hayley Wright’ is not all glitz and glamour. But on top of a full time day job and hours of drawing and packaging up orders to follow, her days end on a sweet note. “I usually eat a chocolate bar and head to bed!”

Her outgoing personality allows her to be tenacious enough to approach big time companies with her artwork and, of equal importance, to laugh off the inevitable mistakes that come along the way.

“I had just finished a portrait that I was really proud of and I wanted to embellish it with metallic gold paint,” remembers Hayley. “I accidentally dripped a huge glob of paint right over her eye and completely ruined it!”

Naturally the artist glued paper flowers on top and fans would never know the difference, but Hayley jokes that she never got over it. Another aspect of her career she can’t get over? The kindness and generosity her city has offered during this journey. ”The people of Edmonton have been absolutely amazing with their support.”

So what can we expect from this young, determined artist in 2015? More experimenting, more artwork, more collaborations and of course, more glitter.


Kendall & Justine // Poppy Barley popppppyFotorCreated
[images via poppybarley.com]

Inspiration can strike anywhere. For Justine Barber, it was while vacationing half way across the world in beautiful Bali!

After falling in love with a pair of boots that sadly didn’t come in her size, the storeowner offered to make a pair for her. A foot measurement here and a leg measurement there was all it took and the custom made boots were handcrafted and sent to Justine’s home in Edmonton, Alberta.

After just a few days of pondering Justine conceived the idea to bring this same custom fit experience to North America, available to anyone with a measuring tape and internet access. She approached her sister Kendall Barber to join her as a co-founder, and together they created Poppy Barley.

With the mission to revolutionize the way women buy footwear, the two Edmonton sisters set out to provide high quality, stylish boots and shoes at an affordable price. Since their launch in February 2012, they have expanded to several styles of footwear, including a men’s line.

The unique name evokes a common question, where does it come from? Poppy Barley was inspired by the units of measurement used before mass manufacturing took over the shoe industry. Barleycorns and poppy seeds were used as measurements to make custom footwear, with one barleycorn being equal to 1/3 inch and four poppy seeds equaling one barleycorn. To this day, barleycorns and poppy seeds form the basis of shoe sizing in the United States and United Kingdom.

The Barber’s partnership has been tremendously successful, but it wasn’t anything either of them could have predicted.

“I never thought I would work with Kendall. We always worked on different things, always had different interests and for a long time lived in different cities,” explains Justine.

While working with a family member presents natural challenges, the sisters keep it simple.

“We don’t talk about work outside of work.”

It’s evident that the shoe industry is a competitive one, with just under 50 stores in West Edmonton Mall alone. But custom, made to order, keep you comfortable all day, fit your arch just right shoes? Much fewer choices.

“We feel strongly that there aren’t a lot of great options for footwear that address fit,” explains Kendall. “Often if you’re getting a wide calf boot or a narrow shoe you’re compromising the style to have the fit.”

Not only have Justine and Kendall built a thriving custom shoe business, they’ve done so in a way that helps their customers feel good about shopping with them. Poppy Barley offers 100% transparency on their website about their production practices, employee wages and factory conditions in Leon; a city about three hours north of Mexico city.

“Consumers need to start asking better questions about the goods and products that they purchase, and where they come from,” says Kendall, on letting customers take a look behind the business. “Thats a really important link that needs to evolve in fashion.”

The duo says that anyone with a measuring tape and internet access can order Poppy Barley, but they do have certain ideas of the type of woman they design for.

“Poppy Barley is for women who have full lives,” states Kendall. “She can be at various stages of her life, but she’s at the point where she wants less and she wants better quality. She’s considerate, confident and has a really clear idea of whats important to her.”

When they stop for a moment and let themselves dream of which famous feet they’d love to see a pair of Poppy Barley’s on, Justine doesn’t miss a beat.

“Kate Middleton! She’d be transformative in a way that I don’t know any other celebrity would be.”

Kendall agrees but opts for some entrepreneurial famous feet instead. “Women who are famous but also run really great businesses, such as Jessica Alba or Ivanka Trump!”

The co-founders set up their headquarters in the historic Mercer Warehouse downtown Edmonton.

“We were lucky to coincide with the rise of a startup community in Edmonton, it’s a really supportive community,” says Justine. “I think there are a lot of women who want to support and elevate women entrepreneurs,” adds Kendall.

At Western Living Magazine’s awards in Calgary this fall, Kendall and Justine were awarded ‘One to Watch’ in the fashion category. While they embrace their own accomplishments, they humbly credit their partners and fans for the success they’ve had in the last couple years.

“Lupita and Laura; our counterparts in Mexico, have been there from the beginning,” says Kendall. “It’s really a story of four women, and what they’re doing there in Mexico is just as important as what we’re doing here in Edmonton.”


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