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Catherine Millen worked as a cosmetician for four years, all the while dreaming of one day creating her own makeup line. In spring of last year, she realized the inspiration she needed was right in front of her.
“I started to notice that women were looking more to social media and their friends to set beauty trends for them, rather than looking to celebrities or magazines,” says Millen, who is based in Pictou.
She launched Foxbrook Lipstick—its namesake the street where she grew up—in hopes of collaborating with some of those influential women. Some of them were people Millen already knew, while others reached out or were recommended to her.
“They’re all Canadian women and they’re all doing something that I find admirable or something that they are proud of,” says Millen. “Whether that’s with their career or their lifestyle—or even some of them have such a huge social media following because of their fashion sense.”
The colour Luna, for instance, was created with Torontonian style blogger Luna Lindsay.
Each lip colour is designed with the individual woman’s input to make sure it’s something she would wear on a regular basis. It’s also named after her.
For Millen, it was important to find a Canadian manufacturer for the lipstick, so it’s being made in Ontario and is then sent to Millen and she packages it herself. It’s available at a few retail locations across the province as well as online.
“I don’t want people to think that I feel like you need makeup to be beautiful,” she says. “I just think it’s like, a fun way to express yourself.”
Name: Thanh Phung Age: 31 Spotted: Terminal Road Wearing: Sweater, H&M; jeans, Zara; jacket, ASOS; bag, Longchamp (purchased at Foreign Affair)
How would you describe your style? My style matches how I feel so it never is the same all the time. Overall I would describe my style as feminine and comfortable.
Who do you derive inspiration from when putting together an outfit? I take inspiration from some of my favorite bloggers and from what is trending from my favourite brands and designers on Instagram.
How does living in Halifax affect your fashion choices?
I love to buy local and support small shops as much as I can but often times I can't find the right fit for my petite height so I order online.
Name a current trend that you just can’t get on board with? The fuzzy sandals and mules...especially with our weather! That faux fur would be a mess the moment you hit the pavement.
Local hotspot for gems? I love visiting shops like Sweet Pea, Alexa Pope, Makenew and Foreign Affair.
It’s Instagram official: On Tuesday night, Big Pony announced its plans to close by mid-April.
“This has been a dream of both of ours,” says Lindsay Stewart, who co-owns the store with Emily Ross. “We met a lot of people, we made a lot of friends, lots of connections in the city—but I think we’re kind of just excited to start new adventures.”
The store originally opened on Brenton Street in 2013, moving its stocks of secondhand clothing and locally-made odds and ends to Gottingen Street less than two years later. Looking back, Stewart says many of her best memories were “after hours” events such as Christmas pop-ups and the North by Night markets.
“Any chance we got to open up the space to the community and get to do something special.”
While the store may be closing its doors, Stewart stresses that customers shouldn’t stop following them on social media, as they have plenty of future happenings their sleeves.
“Our favourite part of the store was organizing craft markets and doing pop-ups,” she says. “So like, going to unconventional spaces or music festivals and doing sales there—at this point, we’ve got it down to a science. It’s easy for us and it’s way more fun.”
Those are the kinds of things Pony fans can expect going forward.
“We don’t want to let people down, but we want to let people know that we’re excited for the next phase of Big Pony, and we’re excited for the next phase of Lindsay and Emily, honestly.”
This weekend the largest quilt conference in the world takes place in Savannah, Georgia and there'll be a little piece of Nova Scotia in the mix. Two, actually: Andrea Tsang Jackson, the maker behind 3rd Story Workshop, will be showcasing her bright, intricate work at the Modern Quilt Guild's Quilt Con—hers are among the 350 that were chosen from a pool of over 1,500. "I'm the first that I know of coming from Atlantic Canada," says Tsang Jackson, who won't be travelling with her work this time around but is elated to be sending two special pieces south. A project nearly two years in the making, she started Crow Quills Analog in 2014 when she found out she was pregnant with her second baby, and drew inspiration from artist Andy Gilmore. "I wanted to make a sort of physical manifestation of that work," Tsang Jackson says of the piece, which uses over 2,000 triangles of fabric in 25 colours. The second piece on display, Land & Sea, is a collaboration with fellow Nova Scotian crafter Alissa Kloet. "That quilt was really about place and what it is to be in Nova Scotia. There's a land portion and sea portion and micmics the interplay between the two," she says. "It can be really lonely being a crafter, working alone in your studio all the time. Having Alissa, and the community of crafters in this region is like having colleagues." Quilt Con runs February 23-26.
When Katelyn Armstrong's oma taught her to sew as a child, her designs were usually made of satin and as poofy as possible. Despite promises that she would wear these creations, when it came time to get dressed the garments seemed too fancy for her lifestyle.
Today, Armstrong's handmade high waisted underwear line Moon Beam Creek is all about the glam. Luckily, with the discreet nature of underwear—no one can ever accuse wearers of being overdressed.
"I really wanted the underwear for myself," says Armstrong. "It's nice to know you have a secret special pair of underwear and if there are people you want to share that with you can."
Armstrong models most of the designs herself, alongside her cats Linda and Kimber. She calls sizes "arbitrary" and encourages buyers to request personalized designs for a different style or fit.
"I try to make underwear for all bodies, all genders and all folks who want a pair of underwear," says Armstrong. "I want to be conscious of everyone feeling comfortable wearing them."
The line is available at Big Pony (2168 Gottingen Street) or by order from the Moon Beam Creek Instagram. With an Etsy shop just around the corner, Armstrong hopes to expand the brand to include matching bralettes.
As someone who lives with fibromyalgia and has been through four car accidents, Bree Philippe knows what it’s like to deal with chronic pain.
“As awful as all of those things were, they made me really good at my job,” she says.
Philippe works for Comfort Foam—a small business owned by Emily Calkin—which specializes in custom-cut mattresses, among other things. People seek out the company to get mattresses for their RVs or boats, and Comfort Foam also gets referrals from hospitals, chiropractors and occupational therapists. According to Philippe, it’s the sole commercial-grade foam supplier in Atlantic Canada.
“It’s really incredible what a properly-designed foam mattress can do for someone, and back pain is one of those lovely beasts that most people deal with.”
Philippe decided she wanted to “take the company to the next level” by releasing a line of standard sized foam mattresses in addition to the bespoke ones. She and Calkin collaborated for a year-and-a-half before launching the Secours collection three weeks ago.
The mattress has interchangeable layers and a removable cover that’s “bed bug-proof, waterproof, dust allergen-proof.”
“There’s nothing like it on the market,” says Philippe, adding that all the materials are sourced locally or within Canada. “I can do it here in Dartmouth for a very competitive price.”
There's no shortage of talent in the realm of local African-based designers, and this Friday that's being celebrated through fashion, music and artistry in a must-see show.
Toria Aidoo, founder of Kwestomar Kreations, is one of four designers coming together and breathing life into the local fashion scene at Mount Saint Vincent University's second annual Fabric of our DNA.
The show is organized by MSVU's Africentric Support Group and Soli-productions to celebrate African Heritage Month, as well as raise money for the university's Africentric scholarship fund.
"It's good because it gets students realizing they need to appreciate their culture and that identity will allow them to propel forward," says Aidoo, who came to Canada from Ghana at the age of 18 to further her education.
"I realized the rich culture I left behind in Ghana, but being involved in student activities propelled me to work harder to reach my potential. We need to help them become leaders for tomorrow and keep that cultural side alive," she says.
Though Aidoo is one of Halifax's most seasoned designers her designs are ever-changing, embodying tradition and North American appeal. Even after spending decades living in Canada, Aidoo has been using her talents in educating and designing to help her Ghanaian people. She works with 15 designers in Ghana, and uses materials manufactured there.
"My goal is to help them to export their work and to help people in this part of the world appreciate a piece of Ghana," says Aidoo, who will be donating proceeds from Kwestomar Kreations towards reopening her mother's school.
There are a lot of charitable efforts at the core of Fabric of our DNA as it has already helped a lot of students, says Randy Headley, the Africentric Support coordinator at MSVU. "It brought a community of students together. It has united current students along with alumni to generate momentum," he says. The show has also been a great way to expose new and upcoming design students. "I look to DaVinci College for students to give them an opportunity to showcase their work on our level," says Headley.
As they prepare for the show Friday, Solitha Wallace, the director of the runway show and founder of Soli-productions, is happy to be a part of such an inclusive event.
"There needs to be more diversity on the scene and I hope I can bring that to the market that's here," she says.
Wallace, who is originally from St. Vincent and The Grenadines, also works for designer Eyal Zimmerman and will be featuring his 2016-2017 collection in the Fabric of our DNA. Zimmerman's line features evening gowns that are mostly streamline couture and ready-to-wear pieces she describes as "very glamourous."
Other designs on showcase are Selassie Tagboto's collection Identity and Wafa Ouzri's fascinating collection from Morocco.
Fabric of our DNA
Friday February 17, 6-9pm
Rosaria Student Centre, Multi-purpose Room
Mount Saint Vincent University, 166 Bedford Highway
When 21-year-old Ashley Lemmon picked up #Girlboss for some light winter-break reading last year, she didn't expect it to motivate her to start her own swimwear line. But the self-sufficiency of author Sophia Amoruso inspired Lemmon to build a company out of a project that initially used almost entirely her own labour.
"I thought OK, I don't need to hire a massive team of people from the get-go to start a business," says Lemmon. "I can use what I've already learned and apply it to what I want to do."
With a marketing and business degree under her belt, Lemmon's Fredericton-based line Nora Swimwear has grown a large online following and is being sold in Fredericton, Saint John and now Halifax. Lemmon taught herself how to sew and to design her own samples, aiming to make flattering swimwear for as many different body types as possible. For each design, Lemmon asks her friends who say they feel insecure in swimwear how a design for their body type could make them feel more comfortable.
"I show them what I'm thinking and ask 'Would that make you feel better?'" says Lemmon. "'Would you feel good in this swimsuit? Would you feel good in this design?' And then I take it forward."
Lemmon only started the business eight months ago so the line doesn't have swimsuits for everyone yet. She hopes, as the company grows, she will be able to offer more variety. The brand has introduced sizes extra-large and extra-small, and made size charts specific to each design to help buyers make informed decisions.
As of last week, waterfront boutique Alexa Pope (1457 Lower Water Street) is now carrying Nora Swim's spring collection. Watch for the summer line as soon as it's released.
It hasn’t been easy being Inkwell Modern Handmade Boutique (1658 Market Street) these past few years. Convention centre construction and street closures have been a pretty consistent thorn in the shop’s side, but despite that it’s kept calm and carried on bringing letterpress stationery and adorable handmade gifts to the table.
“It’s been a real exercise in patience and perseverance,” says Inkwell’s owner, Andrea Rahal, who announced last week that after six years in its current home, the shop has finally decided to move to another location. “We really wanted to stay downtown, we didn’t want to inconvenience our established clientele. And this one really did tick all the boxes I was looking for.”
Big windows, foot traffic and accessibility are what made 2001 Brunswick Street (just across the street from the new 2 Crows Brewery) the winner. Though the spot has similar square footage as the current space, Rahal says it’ll be more friendly for displays and will make way for more of what Inkwell does well. “We’ll be expanding on the categories that we’ve dabbled in, so more home wares, more accessories, more apothecary,” she adds.
The new Inkwell aims to open in April.
Name: Josiah Stevens Spotted: Alderney Landing Occupation: Barista and owner/operator of Drifter Goods Wearing: Maru Photo Moto jacket, Taylor Stitch chore pants and button-up, Vans shoes, Drifter Goods five-panel
How would you describe your style? Workwear/layered/outdoors.
Where do you derive inspiration from when putting together an outfit? Normally it’s a bit of form and function. I’ll see what it’s like outside, and what I’m doing and throw something on based on temperature or function.
Name a current trend that you just can’t get on board with? Chino joggers, the ones with elastic around the ankles.
Local hotspot for gems?
Jeska Grue has always been inspired by the forgotten, the discarded and the left behind. The now Sackville, New Brunswick-based seamstress and designer grew up loving pre-loved clothing, sparking her imagination by sifting through the colours, patterns and fabrics of piled-high Frenchy’s bins. As a rural-living teen dealing with anxiety and depression, she says fashion served as both an escape and an avenue of self-expression.
“When you’re from the middle of no place and you can’t access creative objects, you can find that at second-hand stores,” says Grue. “More and more I started to express myself outwardly with what I wore.”
Her keen eye for quality clothing stuck, leading her to follow up her undergrad with a degree in costume studies at Dalhousie University—an intentional step toward her self-titled line of self-made, natural-fibre women’s clothing. The collection nods to the struggles of her hometown of Bass River, which took an economic blow when its livelihood—a furniture factory—burned down the same year she was born.
“There’s the attitude that if you’re smart you go on to university, become a doctor or lawyer and leave the community behind. My interest in fashion was incongruent with Atlantic Canada,” says Grue. “But doing it here with the help of the internet is a bit of a push back.
“Some of these communities have felt like they’re left behind, or that slowly that they’ll evaporate—but I don’t think that they are,” she says of small towns like Bass River or Sackville. “There’s vitality in them.”
Next week Grue brings the key pieces from her line to Halifax as part of Lost & Found’s (2383 Agricola Street) February pop-up, Cool Crush, which will also feature fragrance and skin care from Barre, art from Sara Russell and Caitlyn Rose jewellery.
The event launches Wednesday, February 1 (with a separate jewellery pop-up on February 10). The Jeska Grue wrap top, ruffle top and Queen Heed dress will be in store in a slew of patterns and sizes, from extra-small to extra-large. “They’re somewhat minimal, but don’t have to be,” she says of her pieces, which call back to her costume studies days, Grue opts for French and welt seams rather than any serging. “There’s a heritage quality to it. I like the feeling of well-worn, very old clothes. Not even second-hand, but 18th-century clothing with bound seams.”
Brett Evans wants to squash the stigma around cannabis and do away with the stereotype of lazy “potheads.” He’s invented the DoobTool, a product meant to cater to cannabis users with active lifestyles.
“Here’s a tool that will allow you to go hiking and camping,” says Evans, who is based in Halifax. He’s also the founder of the Canadian Pro-Cannabis Group, which connects patients with licensed producers of medical cannabis. The DoobTool is a “cannabis case and multi-tool”—a Swiss Army knife for weed, if you will. It’s been about a year and a half in the making.
“What we wanted to create was something that was multifaceted,” says Evans. “People consume cannabis in different ways, so we wanted to incorporate the masses when it came to designing the tool.” The DoobTool is actually nine different tools in one, including a glass dabbing tool for cannabis oil or wax, a grinder card and a pair of fold-out scissors.
The Indiegogo campaign went up online a little over a week ago. Evans and his colleague Chris Lewis had to deal with a few hurdles when setting up a crowdfunding page for a product that clearly falls under the category of drug paraphernalia. For one thing, they aren’t allowed to offer the DoobTool as a “perk” for those who contribute to the campaign.
Instead, a $35 donation will get you a return of a $35 credit for the online store. That also happens to be the cost of a DoobTool, but you could use it to buy a bunch of stickers if you really wanted. They’re also not allowed to advertise on platforms such as Facebook.
“We’re running into some problems with that, but it’s not stopping us at all,” says Evans. Evans specifically wants the DoobTool to be launched ahead of marijuana legalization. This way, they’ll be able to have “all of the kinks worked out” and make people familiar with the brand beforehand. “We wanted to be ahead of the curve,” he says, “and say, ‘You know what? This is what legalization is gonna look like.’”