Monday, December 22, 2008

the gift that keeps on giving

We've all done it. It shouldn't be a surprise. At some point in our lives, we'll receive a present that will inevitably be "re-gifted". Maybe it's something we can't use. Maybe it doesn't match our taste. Or it's just down right tacky. Regardless of the reason to not be happy with the gift, it's better to give the gift to someone who will actually use and enjoy it, rather than keep it and never use it.

When giving gifts, "the thought" doesn't always necessarily count. Consider this: if John Q. Neighbour delivers an unexpected holiday gift to me, and feeling obligated to return the favour, I dig through my collection of random gifts to find something for John, he might not enjoy receiving something I didn't buy specifically for him.

If "the thought" really counts, make sure you put some thought into the gift selection process. Will the person actually use your gift? Does it match their style or tastes? Is the gift easy to use? Will it fit properly?

For all of the gifts we'll never use, never like, or never enjoy - I propose a "re-gifting party". After Christmas, gather your friends. Get some of your favourite champagne or holiday punch, some appetizers, and your closest friends. Instruct them all to bring a gift they wanted to regift. Then, amidst the party atmosphere, everyone can provide an entertaining sales pitch for their item, and then let others trade gifts for something they'll actually enjoy!

If you make the atmosphere light hearted and spritely, no one will mind getting rid of their less-than-desirable presents. After all, it's more about the presence of friends and family than the presents anyways.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Louis Vuitton Movie

Louis Vuitton's new campaign is all about travel - iconic places, iconic people, iconic style. There's one particular short movie about "journeys". You must watch it. I found it on the LV main site, and also on youtube. If I was more technologically savvy, I'd include the clip here. It's powerful. It is the perfect answer to "why I travel".

Travel is an emotional experience, a process of self-discovery. It has been the defining value for Louis Vuitton for more than 150 years. More recently, Louis Vuitton has established itself among the world's leading fashion houses. This enables Louis Vuitton to communicate in two different but complimentary ways: with seasonal fashion statements and a long-term campaign about Louis Vuitton's core values.

To convey the values, Louis Vuitton chose personalities of extraordinary stature: Mikhail Gorbachev, Catherine Deneuve, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff. And only the world's foremost portrait photographer, Annie Liebovitz, could have captured their emotional depths, in such fresh, unexpected fashion.

Louis Vuitton also has a long-standing commitment to environmental responsibility. The core-values campaign is therefore a perfect opportunity to promote this cause, and Al Gore's Climate Project is a natural match, a truly worldwide initiative to fight global warming.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

holiday sale shopping

Every holiday season, before I go shopping for my friends and family, I always make a list.  On the list, I write down who I think I'm buying for, any ideas I may have for them, and then I assess my holiday budget.  Once I've determined how much (or how little) I'm going to spend, I then make a budget for each person. 

This list is incredibly useful when shopping - there can be so many options and items, that shopping can become overwhelming.  It also keeps you from going crazy in the spending department.  If you start early, you'll find enough options to choose from for each of your recipients.  You may also be lucky and find a sale.  Remember, if you're giving gifts that are on sale, make sure they're from the current (or most recent) season, are still in "brand new" condition, and don't appear to be spoiled or unkept.  Also, if you find something on sale, for budget purposes, you consider the original value - not the sale price.

For example, if my budget for Carl is $75, and I buy him a tshirt that was originally $50 but on sale for only $25, I would only spend an additional $25.  The extra money that I saved will go towards paying off any holiday debts.  If  you stick to your list and stick to your budget, you will still give great gifts without having to pay for weeks on end in the new year.

Be smart.  Shop smart.  Make a list.  Check it twice.  Stick to a budget that you can afford.  After all, holidays aren't about presents.  It's about the presence of friends, family, and holiday cheer.

Friday, December 12, 2008

a fashion riddle

I travel quite frequently. When I'm on the run, whether for work, play, or both, I always take a moment (or several for that matter!) to scope out the local shopping scene and squeeze in some retail therapy. Some would say I've transcended the "retail therapy" and now am just plain addicted to shopping.

Regardless, I was at a shop this morning. I took several photographs with my mobilephone. And we're going to play a game. See if you can guess where I was? I'll give you hints along the way.

Notice the higher end skincare. Strivectin. Origins. Clairns.

Notice the beautiful signage and product cards.

There's also a fragrance section.

With luxury brands like Armani...

...and Calvin Klein and DKNY.
There's a salon haircare section - with ranges like Bumble & Bumble.
Clearly labeled with lots of options...
So let's recap - there is an entire section of fine fragrances, great haircare, and an extensive selection of higher-end skincare.
This could describe many places.

Was I at Sephora? Nope.

Was I at SPACE.NK? Nope.

Was I at a Duty Free Shop in Dubai? Nope.

Was I at Harrods? Nope.

Give up yet?

I was at, none other than...

TARGET! Now, I too was shocked when I saw the amazing selection of goods. I'm such a fan of Target. Don't get me wrong, stores like Sephora and SPACE.NK for example are always beneficial to shop at, especially with their extensively trained staff and ability to get samples and professional opinions. But for those of us who know what we like already, your local Target really can be the "one stop shop". Brava, Target!

a holiday toast to you

So in honour of the 2008 holiday season, and my 100th posting here at Thirsty.Threads, I've got a fantastic drink to celebrate.

Instead of the traditional mimosa (champagne and orange juice), combine your favourite champagne with pomegranate juice. The sweet-tart flavours of the fruit juice, combined with the sprite and effervescence of the champagne, make the most beautiful coloured holiday beverage, and it tastes ab.fab.

So for 2009, and all of your future days, here's to family who are like friends, and friends who are like family.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

my 2008 Christmas gift suggestion list

I know you've been patiently awaiting my annual Christmas list. Without further delay...

1. The Converse 1HUND(RED) initiative is a year-long global project celebrating our partnership and commemorating the brand's 100th anniversary. We have brought together 100 artists from around the globe to celebrate the artistic spirit and help eliminate AIDS in Africa.

The Chuck Taylor® ALL STAR® x Africa line uses canvas sourced in Africa and features African mudcloth designs, bringing global inspiration to the classic Converse style.

Prefer to do-it-yourself? Build your perfect pair and make a difference with the customizable “MAKE MINE (RED)” option. Turn your favorite kicks into an instrument of global change.

My favourites are # 72 and #75. I wear a US size 11. I don't think these styles have been released yet, so a gift card is optimal.

2. Emporio Armani, Product Red 2-button suit. Was originally US$1,095. Now only US$658. This is absolutely an incredibly deal. So much so that I'm hesitating to even post it publicly, as I don't want it to sell out. Armani suits are top notch, and to add that 40% of the profit are donated directly to combating HIV/aids in Africa, and that it's on sale - wow. I need a size 42R, which they currently have. I know this is a lot to ask for - so gift cards work too.

3. Also from Emporio Armani's Product Red range, the Logo Card Holder is a great accessory as well. I'd love to own it. Originally US$125, now US$75.

4. I'd like a gift subscription please to (red)wire. It's US$5 per month. I get exclusive downloads and lots of other fabulous stuff.
5. Marvis makes the most delicious toothpaste. I love the Acquamint flavour - it's about US$10,50. You can buy it at anthropologie.

6. Gift certificates to Bliss and Sephora are always lovely. I use a lot of products from both of these retailers.

7. I've already got the product red iPod - but I'd love product red iTunes gift cards!

8. Marimekko's hetkia wallhanging. Was originally US$89,95 and now US$39,95. I love these wall hangings - I have a few others that I'm collecting. This piece is one of my favourites, and I've been admiring it for quite some time.

9. I know it's lame to ask for cleaning products for Christmas, but I love Method's entire cleaning range. I buy them at my local Target. So a gift card to Target would be just swell. And speaking of things are Target, I always get my Preserve toothbrushes here, and online they have the Preserve razors I've been looking for. So a Target giftcard would be multifunctional and definitely appreciated.
10. There're 2 pairs of Robert Wayne shoes I'd like from DSW. So a gift card to there would also be enjoyable. (On a side note, I know, I know, I know - "designer" and "warehouse" never go together - but I must say, if you have time to look through the endless inventory, you can randomly find a great shoe at a great price. Don't knock it. It's like a palatable garage sale for shopping addicts!).

11. Cash is always accepted. Happily.

If you see something that I just have to have, by all means - don't let me prohibit you! Christmas isn't about the presents. It's about your presence.

eco-friendly tip of the day

Whenever you drive your car, charge your mobilephone (or other important electronics). You'll save money on your home electric bill by using the energy created by driving - and it won't effect your car's driving performance either! Even on short trips, I charge my mobilephone - and can't tell you the last time I actually plugged it into a home outlet!

an ode to the Moms in our life

For those who don't know, my Mother died on April 15, 2007. She was one of the most elegant, stylish women I think I'll ever meet. She wasn't pretentious. She wasn't flashy. But she was always classy. She was the one who you would see with her traditional wool skirts that actually covered her lower half without looking frumpy or shapeless. And cashmere shells and cardigans with her favorite denim. Or her black patent mary janes from Florence. And she loved her coats. Whether pale blue lambskin, beige suede, or goose down filled puffers, or bright red trenches, she always dressed for the weather. She always wore her diamond wedding ring, and usually diamond studs or pearl earrings. It really was the little style and design elements that set her wardrobe apart.

Here are some quick tips from her wardrobe that may help other Moms (and women without children) on the go.

  • don't be afraid of wearing heels, even with kids (or a busy schedule) - just make sure they're comfortable, and that the heel is thick enough or supportive enough to be on the go. You may have small children (whether your own, students you may be teaching, or random children out) that you have to chase after/run away from. But don't think that flats can't be sexy or stylish either - a ballerina flat, a driving loafer, and even sporty trainers can have just as good of an effective and statement as their higher heeled varieties.
  • keep makeup simple. Dedicate a few moments each day to practice good skincare. Use a great facewash everyday. Follow up with a balancing tonic, a great moisturizer (with sunscreen). When your skin is healthy and radiant, you won't need to cover it up with traditional cosmetics. A concealer, a lipstick, and a bronzer can take you to new heights during the day. And you won't be constantly touching up and reapplying the makeup either.
  • spice things up with accessories. A fun watch. A great bracelet. A beautiful necklace. Earrings. Keep things fuss-free with minimal moving accessories - watches and bracelets should be fitted, like cuffs. Earrings should be studs or small hoops. This way everything is free from getting caught, damaged, tangled, or torn.
  • if you have small children, or work around/with them, consider wearing pants. You know what your schedule is like - if you're going to be crawling on the floor, climbing trees, or chasing little ones on the soccer field - dress appropriately.
  • most importantly, schedule time for yourself. Each month, set a date for just you and your spouse. No kids allowed. Break out the sexy dresses, heels, and great jewels. Similarly, ditch the diaper bag and "Mom jeans" to dress up and go out on the town with just your girls. Trust that all will be well at home with the kids and your husband and have a blast!
  • When in doubt, heels, great jeans, and a button down shirt are always classy, stylish, and age appropriate. When you find heels that fit well and are comfortable - buy them in multiple colors. Every woman I know instantly feels more beautiful, more sophisticated, and more elegant the moment the put on heels. Try it.

Just because you have children doesn't mean you have to be in a fashion rut. You don't have to pretend to be someone else. You don't have to look like you stepped out of the latest Bravo "reality" show or off of a rap video. Take a few moments each day to do something for yourself. When you look good, you feel better. And when you feel better, you look your best.

Monday, December 8, 2008

it's all in the details

If you took a cashmere sweater from J. Crew and a cashmere sweater from Loro Piana, the everyday shopper probably wouldn't notice much difference, except in the price of course. But to those who know, to those who appreciate the art of fine knitwear and fantastic design, one would instantly recognize the incredibly fine gauge. The higher the gauge, the finer the knit.

Same with a trench coat from Burberry and a trench coat from Banana Republic. Burberry, the creator of the most iconic outwear, includes phenomenal fabrics, visible darting and pin tucks for the perfect, tailored fit, and backer buttons (those little buttons on the reverse side of outer buttons that provide addition strength and durability) for additional quality. You'd be lucky to find any of these details in the cheaper, more mainstream version.

Price isn't everything. You can find great style, quality, and design at a bargain as well. But the cliche is true - you get what you pay for. Design and details aren't cheap. And the most important part of each garment is always in the details.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Please, Please don't ever...

...wear sweatpants in public. I can understand a sweat jacket on a cold day with jeans and a tshirt while visiting the local farmer's market or vintage furniture mart. I could even imagine some vintage fleece shorts to wear while working in the yard. Lounging in the house, traditional sweat-type materials are perfectly fine. As long as no one but immediate family are home.

But under no circumstances shall one ever wear sweatpants or sweatshorts during any retail activity, while dining, or doing anything that doesn't naturally cause one to break a sweat. And I don't mean sweating from a day-long power shopping surge. Hence, the term "sweat"pants.

I don't care how "fashionable" Juicy Couture or J. Lo think this look may be. It's tacky. Classless. And unattractive. You're better than that. And we deserve to look at something more pleasant.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

the perfect host/hostess gift

I never thought giving a gift could appear offensive to the recipient. Imagine someone has invited you to their home for dinner.

You could bring flowers, but that might signal to the host/hostess that you thought they didn't have good taste in planning a tablescape. Also, flowers may be a hassle - the receiver may have allergies, may not have a place for them, or may have already planned a floral arrangement for the evening's festivities.

You could bring wine, but that may signal that you don't trust your host/hostess in planning the liquid portion of the evening's event. While the wine doesn't have to be consumed that evening, your simple gesture could be in poor taste.

As are other foods and desserts. Bringing food as a gift to a dinner or dinner party signal that you second guess the cooking of the evening. Be kind.

I know it seems confusing. You're trying to show thanks for the invitation and hospitality, not offend. So follow these surefire suggestions:

1) candles and home diffusers are always en vogue. Select a light, airy fragrance that suits the attitude or tastes of your recipient.

2) beautiful pottery. Think elegant vases. Decorative bowls. Something that will actually be used and appreciated.

3) one of the best gifts I received at a dinner party I through were actually kitchen gadgets. My guests knew I loved to cook, and actually did their homework to know which gadgets I didn't already own. I also suggest Illy espresso or coffees and whimsical cups.

A little thoughtfulness. A little homework. A huge impression.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

an Environmental Christmas

I love decorating. We're "that" house that has decorations, vintage yard signs, and banners for nearly every holiday. Christmas is a very important season for my family, so I always make sure to decorate the house and yard.

This year, like many other years, I have decorated the trees in our front yard. Only this year, I've become even more environmentally friendly with my decorations, and you can too. Instead of placing lights on all of the trees, I opted for beautiful red velvet ribbon that I wrapped up the trunks of the two large trees. I've also put a half dozen large red ribbons, and probably 4-5 dozen small red ribbons throughout the branches of the three biggest trees in the yard (all of these ribbons, mind you, were reused from years past). I then hung 2-3 dozen shatter proof silver and gold ornaments throughout the tree canopy as well. When the sun hits the ornaments, they instantly shine - brighter than any electrical lights could!

Don't get me wrong - I'll still be using some electricity - and am definitely putting lights on the main tree in the front yard, just like every year. Only this year, I'm using a timer to limit when the lights are actually powered on.

Here are some other great tips for keeping your holiday spirit low cost and environmentally friendly.
  • reuse when you can. if you care for your decorations, they will last for years and save you a bundle on buying the same things year after year.
  • upgrade your holiday lights. I'm all for saving decorations to use in the future, but when advancements in technology, newer LED type lights are incredibly more efficient and durable. While initially more expensive, the lights will save you more over time.
  • don't buy a "cut" Christmas tree. Many Christmas tree farms and retailers are offering "potted" trees that can be planted after the holiday season. Artificial trees are also great options for those with allergies, and can be quite economical and durable as well. If you do buy a "cut" Christmas tree, make sure the retailer has a tree recycling program for after the holiday is over.
  • get creative with wrapping. Why buy paper and gift bags that will simply be thrown away immediately? Look for gifts and accessories that can be used as wrapping. For example, last year we gave our neighbours a "movie night" - complete with a large popcorn bowl that was filled with unpopped corn, candies, other various snacks, and a gift card to a local video store. Everything fit in the large bowl - no need to wrap! I also love the "vintage" appeal of packages wrapped in newspaper.
  • buy cards made with recycled materials and consider sending electronic cards as well.

Being "green" at the holidays doesn't mean you have to sacrifice beauty, elegance, or pizazz. You can create the most beautiful holiday scene, and still be sensible to both your economic and environmental situations! Happy Decorating!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In Ted We Trust

The day after Thanksgiving in America is called "black Friday". Traditionally, this is the day that crazed shoppers begin their holiday shopping blitz by waking up incredibly early solely for their shopping pleasure. This increased shopping trend is usually when stores cross over from being red (or negative in terms of sales, year-to-date) to black (or positive, in terms of sales, year-to-date). Stores open as early as midnight, but mostly between 5 and 8 in the morning. Shoppers are enticed with sales, gifts-with-purchase, additional inventory and selections, and often complimentary gift wrapping and tailoring as well.

In our current economy, analysts and investors alike were closely watching the performance of Black Friday. Personally, I think shoppers have been saving a little extra cash to allow for more shopping on this Black Friday (and the entire weekend, actually). Think about it - when more stores have more merchandise for lower prices than normal, of course it would be the optimal time to shop. If you get more for your money, you get more in the end.

And I definitely did my part. My brother and I both have been stalking a particular Ted Baker jacket since it literally was placed on the sales floor of a local department store. Originally priced at US$400, I probably tried the coat on at least a dozen different times. And, the day after Thanksgiving, it just so happend that the coat was on sale for about US$140. I didn't exactly want to spend the money on the jacket. After all, I've been saving money for vacations and traveling and my brother's upcoming wedding. But since I had seen it, I compared every other jacket I saw to this jacket. I just had to have it. So, as you guessed, I'm happy to add it to my collection of wonderful wares. I've included a few photographs from Ted's website of the jacket.

I have big plans for this jacket. I'll keep it casual with my favourite tshirts (especially navy, chocolate, black, and white) and jeans. And I'll dress it up with tailored dress pants (also from the aforementioned colour scheme), a button down oxford, and great scarf.

When there's something you love, whether you can afford it or not, trust that if it's meant to be yours, it will be. If not, you can always wait until next season. Fashion is like a constant, ever-changing crush. Just when you think you're in love with something, there's something bigger and better on the horizon. And as always, In Ted We Trust.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Haute Couture? I don't think so!

I must say it. "Haute Couture" is officially the most overused, misused term in fashion today. It seems like every day another "reputable" company is using the French term to describe the fit of a garment. Some companies have even incorporated a portion of the term into their name.

Last time I checked, there is nothing "couture" about anything that Juicy Couture makes. It is indeed brilliant marketing campaigns that promote Liz Claiborne's younger, "hipper" range. You'd think that owning, in addition to their namesake, DKNY, Dana Buchman, Kensie, Lucky Brand Jeans, and Kate Spade, that they would understand that "high fashion" is far from the truth when it comes to their Juicy "Couture" line. After all, there's nothing "high fashion" about sweat pants, tank tops, and the like.

I don't want to say Juicy Couture should be sued for false advertisement, but they should indeed change their name. Enough is enough. We must put an end to overpriced goods. Especially the ugly ones.