The Swagger Coach: Nip it, Snip it, Crop it, Dye it – Using Alterations to Create the Perfect Wardrobe

swagger coach
alter
You’ve stood in a change room, leering critically at the outfit you were wearing at the time and thought to yourself, “This would be perfect if it were just a little more ______.” Then you probably tossed it on the bench (or hung it up neatly, and if you did, thanks kindly on behalf of the retail world) and went on your merry way. You may have even thought back on it later that day or week, wishing it was different in some way.

You missed out.

The Swagger Coach: Put’em up, Put’em up: On Courage

swagger coach

“What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?”

The Cowardly Lion got it right. I mean, I don’t expect to model my behaviour after a territorial muskrat, but you get the picture.

I’ve been conducting a bit of an experiment amongst my friends. I’ve asked people if they consider themselves to be courageous, or when the last time they demonstrated courage was. I tried this on about five or six people. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM replied stating that no, they did not identify as a “courageous” person by nature, and most could not recall the last time they demonstrated courage. In fact, a handful of them identified ME as the most courageous person they know, and when I asked why, they (in various different explanations) said that they felt that way because I’m outgoing and boisterous. Funny, I saw the total opposite, but since I’m privy to my own inner-head workings, I was the wiser.

I do identify as a courageous person (not all the time, but some of the time. I possess the ability to be courageous and try to tap into that when its needed) but I also identify many of my friends as courageous as well. I pointed out one instance to a friend who has taken on a rigorous fitness routine, and in just a few short weeks has seen a big change in her body and how she feels. That, along with (at the time of publishing) 9 weeks without smoking, have worked wonders in beating sluggishness. She said that she decided to take action not out of courage, but simply because she felt that it was time to start living a healthier lifestyle. I told her that I totally thought that committing to that kind of routine required courage; Courage to hold herself accountable, courage to change her lifestyle and habits so drastically, and courage to share this with her friends and allow us into that aspect of her life. She accused me of being a “cheerleader”, and told me that she didn’t think she was doing anything worth recognition. I pointed out another instance to another friend, when she applied and was hired for a position she thought she was unqualified for. She responded that yes, she took the chance, but it didn’t require any “real courage”. I asked why she would have applied if she thought there was truly no way she’d get the job, but she played down her initiative and chalked it up to a “might as well” mentality. These chicks are courageous, whether they know it or not.

So that go me thinking, what exactly is “real courage”? Is it jumping in front of a moving train to save 6-year old Jimmy who’s tied to the tracks? Is it being a rock for a loved one who’s going through a hard time? Is it trying something you think you may fail at? We quantify courage as a trait which is manifested through grand, dramatic gestures and intentions, yet we totally fail to recognize the day-to-day situations where we show courage. How lame is that? It definitely takes courage to make a change in your life, be it in the workplace, in your personal habits, in your communications or in the relationships you maintain. I see courage in interactions around me every single day, from the women who come into my store and try on a dress in a more-vibrant-than-they’re-used-to hue, to the folks who picket and protest for the causes they believe in on the street and in the market, to the moms who balance work and children and being a partner with all the other tasks the day has in store for them. Courage, courage, courage.

This week’s point to ponder is where YOU’RE showing courage in your life. Consider all the little areas in which you push yourself that much further, or follow the steps as rationally as they maybe should be followed, and the little victories you claim as a result. Are you a great leader in your workplace? Are you an amazing friend to those around you, and unwaveringly reliable? Are you the problem solver in your family, or the one who cools things down as the serene voice of wisdom? Consider all the tiny flickering moments of courage in your days and weeks, and give yourself credit for the ways YOU are a courageous force to be reckoned with!

I may be a Leo, but I'm no cowardly lion!

I may be a Leo, but I’m no cowardly lion!

(PIC LION) : I may be a Leo but I’m no Cowardly Lion!

The Swagger Coach: PROactive PROfiles: Or as Some People Call it, Common Sense.

swagger coach

A thousand pictures of the same baby. Corporate logos. Emotional rants. “Pass this on or you will have bad Karma for 7 years” images, posted by people in their thirties and forties. Yuck.

I remember when Facebook was clean, simple and effective. Your status was intended to reflect your mood of the day. Jamie is _________. I’d fill in that space with phrases like “hooked on a feeling, she’s high on believing, that you’re in love with heeeeeer.” or “the bomb-diggity” just for laughs, because “eating a chicken ceasar sandwich” or “drying her hair” didn’t quite have the same ring to it. Now Facebook can send you a notification when your bff posts yet another another pic of her cat (or her dinner, she’s so artistic) but it also allows you to selectively weed out posts from that guy you work with who only posts pics of himself posing with cars that aren’t his. He’s weird.

"Sick whip, bro...'

“Sick whip, bro…’

With all of the evolution Facebook and other media channels have seen, its more important than ever to ensure that you dot your T’s and cross your I’s (har har) throughout your social media profiles. People now maintain friendships and relationships for years through wall posts and smileys, and social media channels are often the go-to platform to evaluate a person’s social involvement, behavioural patterns or emotional stability. Its pretty easy to get a decently complete view of someone’s nature by browsing their Facebook. Also, I’ve got to say that I’m having fun playing with the new option to remove people from your news feed. Not because I dislike them or find them annoying as people, I just don’t need to see that they bought a cow in Farmville, or that their toddler is being cute, again. Because he’s the most beautiful child in the world, and everything he does is captivating. From holding a spoon to laying on a blanket, brilliance.

Yes, your friends can see your posts... but who else can?

Yes, your friends can see your posts… but who else can?

I’d never deny anyone the freedom to construct their online profiles in any manner they wish, but it MUST be said that you post at your own risk, and posting “LOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!” often reads exactly as it sounds, someone exploding into maniacal “LAWLAWLAWL”. Think of what that would look like in real life. Waiting at the bus stop with two buddies and one says something funny. The second one tilts their head back and shrieks that battle cry and everyone around scatters like mice. No one wants to be that person. So maybe not being that person online would be a good idea too. The occasional lol is acceptable, and even the rare LOLOL, when used with the majority of the relevance placed on the irony of it. As trivial as it seems, the connotation of the communication which we put forth is often more telling than we know, with folks who use witty, creative content seeming more cultured and intelligent. Up one on the social ladder. But how much further can these things affect us, our lives, our careers?

As an employer, I’ve “accidentally stumbled” onto the Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest profiles of potential employees. The most impressive ones are those with open profiles, seemingly positive communications and well-rounded interests, folks who show patterns towards desirable traits an employer would look for. They’re followed by the folks who have closed profiles, who are sharp enough to know that privacy is a good thing, and the person has strong enough critical thinking skills to realize that first impressions are important. I’ve also found open profiles of candidates with accessible posts and most palm-to-head, photos and videos containing illegal activity, racial slurs and complaints about their former employer. That’s right, one girl had posted a Youtube rant about how her employer was the devil reincarnate, that she was “dismissed without reason” and was going to sue the company. All of this after she states “I had the right to take the month off, I told them more than two weeks in advance.” Yeah. Not contacted for an interview. Posting shots of yourself in compromising situations can and often does result in being perceived by both employers and friends alike as a person of compromising character. I know, some of us may truly have no need or desire to construct their online profile with any sort of judgement, but most of us do, and many of us should, but don’t. Be cautious, conscious, and creative with your profile.

Just imagine if she went to work the next day! Top quality customer service.

Just imagine if she went to work the next day! Top quality customer service.

Where to start? Change your profile picture from one of you doing a keg stand, a cartoon character or a unicorn. These do not reflect maturity, a sense of self or a personal brand. They reflect that you’re a high-impact party girl, a four year old, or living in another realm. Pick a shot that represents who you are. A clear shot of your radiant smile is usually the best way to “introduce” yourself, but for those who want to be a bit more creative, use a shot of yourself engaged in your favourite activity, or a shot of your family on vacation, to show you have interests and activities. Be smart when you’re setting up your privacy settings, because a couple of clicks now can save a lot of strife later on. “Like” the bands, shows, movies and books that you ACTUALLY like, because it paints a fuller picture of what interest you have, and can connect you with others in your network who are into the same things. Don’t fight over facebook. Don’t fight on their wall, don’t fight in your status, don’t fight on a picture. Don’t do it. Use it as a tool to reach out and connect with the people you DO want to stay in touch with. Passed an old friend on transit? A “Hey, it was great to see you today! Lets get lunch soon?” posts can open up a new friendship or reignite an old one. Speak up about and to your favourite businesses, to show your love of the business and help them spread the word. Networking is the single most powerful business tool, and surveys have shown for decades, that people are more likely to try a product or business if they know someone who has done the same and had a good experience. Be free with your profile. Be fun, playful, sarcastic, genuine, and expressive, but be aware that we’re responsible for how we come across both online and in real life.

To stay on top of all the fun things Fresh Collective has in store for spring, check us out at www.facebook.com/freshcollective!

The Swagger Coach: For the Love of the Fight

20130301-132423.jpg

I’ve never been one to shy away from conflict. In fact, in a way I kind of like conflict.

When I was four years old, and in junior kindergarten, my class held a Valentine’s Day pageant. All the girls were instructed to wear headbands, all the boys were to be in collared shirts, as the teacher planned to affix huge tissue paper bows to our heads and shirts, respectively. I showed up in a crushed velvet dress with lace at the collar and sleeves, and a white lacey headband, covered with tiny beads and pearls and feathers, which was quite the headpiece for a kid my age. I loved the headband, and thought it was the best part of my outfit. Fast forward to where the parents are sitting, on the other side of the classroom, hidden by the folding wall which was drawn out to create a “backstage” area. Over the buzzing the group of twenty-something four-year-olds were making came a single child’s voice.

“I am NOT going to wear that. Don’t touch me. You can’t touch me! I’ll scream! Get it away from me! GET IT AWAY FROM ME!”

And then a hush came about, and the lights dimmed. Out from behind the wall came the bunch of four-year-olds in single file, each donning a fluffy tissue paper bow. All of them except for me, who wore the widest smile and the most self-righteous look of accomplishment imaginable. My dad still owns the handicam video of this, and shows it to anyone who will watch it. Most parents seem to think its hilarious.

I fought for what I wanted and I challenged authority, and I won. I was noticed! Best of all, someone’s Mum even complimented my lacey headband after the show and said that I looked “angelic”, and commended me on speaking my mind. My head grew three sizes that day.

20130301-100030.jpg

I don’t believe in starting random arguments and fights for the sake of working your assertion muscles. I believe in being true to yourself, and speaking your mind in whatever context you need to. As a four-year-old brimming with decisiveness and the desire to obtain control over my appearance, this came in the form of rebelling from tissue paper bows (damn them). Later in life its re-emerged in less explosive ways. I’ll send a dish back politely if its not what I ordered. I’ll speak up politely if I notice someone trying to cut me in line. I’ll speak honestly and openly with people when I’m upset, irked or put off by something they’ve said. Yes, I’m sure its rare to hear someone say “excuse me, Sir, but I’m next in line” rather than “Don’t try to bud me, dude, get to the back of the line”, but the result, at least what I’m finding of this, is that often the offenders have no idea that they’ve overstepped a boundary, or are even aware of their actions. Yes, there are some people who intentionally cut in line, and there are careless cooks, but often these errors are a result of typical human nature, or a very loud restaurant, or a busy store with six cashiers but seven different lines of people. Trust me, that middle-aged guy with two hyperactive kids truly did not see you in line at the dollar store, as you were leaning off to the side, kind of looking at something. He was too busy prying the water guns from his sticky children’s hands. In these kinds of cases, something was communicated clearly and received well, and there was no need for conflict.

It’s also necessary as a breakdown of communication. It makes minds churn and forces feelings to rise to the surface, and can be the most honest type of communication. There are so many types and forms of conflict, and yes, some are destructive and hurtful, but on the other hand some situations of conflict can bring about a profound change in the reality of the folks involved. Typically arguments happen as a result of two passionate but opposing viewpoints. They serve themselves, serve an idea, a theory, or various other concepts, but ultimately, they boil down to two sides being so invested in that concept that they are willing to rise against an opponent.

They also create an environment of totally raw, unfiltered communication. Comments and criticisms are thrown out carelessly, but many breakthroughs happen in these moments too. People suddenly have motive to highlight the flaws in the other person, which most often reveal NOT the person’s flaws, but the flaws in the relationship or topic of argument. “You never keep plans” means “I feel as though I can’t rely on you, and as though you’re not eager to see me”. “You don’t care how I feel” is a simplified version of “We need to be able to better express our needs” and “I hate you” usually means “I’m very upset with what’s just happened, and my trust for you is ruined. I reject this reality entirely and now reject you from my life”.

But they also say that what’s said during an argument is what’s been laying just under the surface all along. Do we really mean what we say? We take things to extremes in the heat of the moment, but actually, these thoughts were indeed swimming around our little brains, not being bold enough to come out for fear of hurting the other person. We’re pre-programmed to think that any criticism will come off as offensive, and we’re pre-programmed to be defensive too. Effective communication is already shot to the ground like a duck in Arkansas during hunting season. So then, this effective communication, how does this happen? By learning to communicate through the conflict, not to yield to it. When we reposition ourselves in our dance with conflict, and we handle it as a summit of passions, Its a whole lot easier to receive. Conflict rarely has anything to do with facts or events, rather with the way they were perceived by each side of the debate, and the grey area is found where the disconnect is in the story. Usually each side of the story starts and ends the same way, but the murky middle bits are all perception, feelings, and mistaken intentions.

20130301-131827.jpg

Recently something happened in my life which created substantial conflict in my world. I was disoriented, angry and hurt, and these feelings endured for a while. Any communication with the people involved ended in tears, yelling and fury, but it was probably the most honest communication I’ve had with these people since I’d known them. Suddenly, tiny issues were rising to the surface. Things that had been bubbling below the surface for years finally came to a nasty head. This resulted in two amazing discoveries regarding my relationships with these people. One revealed loads of potential to grow and strengthen, the other revealed myself to be insecure in addressing and ending a friendship which truly wasn’t working for either of us, and had been strung along further than it probably should have been.

This conflict changed my world in a big way. In a good way. It was the cutting of the ribbon in a new stage of my relationship with someone, and I see amazing change in the way we relate to each other immediately. We have a long way to go, but I truly see the lines of communication being unobstructed by fears or assumptions or insecurities. With the other person, it was a sad but liberating experience to be able to say that I simply no longer have anything in common with this person, and the ideals and norms which we maintain in our own lives are simply not compatible any longer. Its unfortunate that this discovery was made in such an emotional way, but freeing nonetheless to know that I’m being that much more honest with myself.

What conflicts are YOU avoiding? What’s the price you pay for calling it out, and what’s the payoff? What’s holding you back? CHALLENGE YOURSELF, guys. Look at conflict as a powerful, productive conversation and don’t shy away from it! One way or another, conflict brings about change, understanding, knowledge and tolerance. Its a healthy part of every relationship, be it platonic, romantic, professional and should be taken with a grain of salt. The challenge I set out there today is to have a conversation with someone which you’ve been avoiding because you’ve been afraid to create conflict. See what kind of things can come of this discussion, be they be positive and unexpected, or offer closure to something which may desperately be in need of it.

As they say, you can’t make a splash without making some waves! ;D

-Jamie xo

The Swagger Coach: Whoah-oh-oh Jamie’s Crying (with EXCITEMENT!)

swagger coach

Bright, vibrant shades. Swirly, whimsical patterns. The ability to wear shoes without socks. Heck, the ability to wear shoes in general. Spring is a-coming, folks, and I’m super excited to feel wind on my legs and sun on my shoulders again. Will I be that girl dancing like a lunatic in the park in flip-flops and a summer skirt during the first semi-decent weekend in March? Possibly, but consider it my ode to the upcoming season rather than a chemical imbalance inside the ole’ noggin.

I’m a fashion fiend and a tragic over-spender, so any change of season creates a rush inside of me that can only be compared to new love, or possibly a really well-made pasta dish. Your wardrobe is your uniform, and it conveys more about you than you know. Are you fussy with details and accents like trimming and buttons? Are you simple and classic like a well-fitting pair of jeans and a cute tee? Are you a girl-on-the-go in yoga pants and a hoodie? What you wear is the image your project unto the world, and if your outfits start to form a pattern, it begins to tell a bit more about you as a person, your lifestyle, your attitude. Right now, my outfit tells me that I’m the lovechild between the citizens of Pleasantville and Shoshanna from Girls. I’m in a coral pleated dress, a white lace-on-knit cardigan and a matching set of pearl earrings and necklace. Tonight I’ll likely be in skinny jeans, knee-high boots, a long layered necklace and a fitted top, since I’ll be hitting a show at the Hard Rock. The following day, I may not even wear pants since I have no plans other than cleaning my apartment and doing dishes. Oversized t-shirt for the win.

My wardrobe is stylistically diverse, and I keep it that way to prevent myself from falling into the “trend trap”, where it appears as though your entire collection of clothing was supplied by the same fast-fashion retailer. I play with trends, but I’m not a slave to them, and like to keep a hint of retro flair in my outfits to keep things unexpected and playful. I get plenty of inspiration from the lovely ladies I work with and our outstandingly creative, funky customers, and would love to share my top three style-friendly trends for spring with you, primarily so that I’m not the only one hyperventilating about them. Basically, come to my store and flap around like a maniacal bird with me, there’s strength in numbers.

1) OXFORDS – I have always loved oxfords. When I was in high school, I found the most hideous pair of size 7 men’s oxfords in a thrift store, and although I knew I’d likely never get the chance to wear them (they really were decrepit) I had to have them and took them home. I racked my brain trying to find an excuse to break out these bad boys, but alas, it was late summer and they were roughly 5 lbs apiece. That chance didn’t come until early October, when it dawned on me. I collected an oversized blazer, tuxedo pants and a top hat, and a ruffled shirt. I drew two lines from the corners of my mouth to the sides of my chin, and darkened my eyes and eyebrows. I was a haunted ventriloquist dummy for Halloween. Times have changed and the oxfords of this spring are ladylike and classic, rather than boxy and clunky. Plus, with the vintage trend emerging in full-force, the oxford pattern is now found on bags, skirts and even sunglasses. Oh, and these (below) are coming to my store in both black and brown in the upcoming weeks, and are from one of my favourite shoe lines. Pardon me while I take out a line of credit, this season is going to hit me like a ton of bricks.

spring oxford

2) CORAL – Every season I have a colour crush. During the winter season, it was mustard. The one before was emerald and before that (in the summer) I was obsessed with butter yellow. Once every couple of years I fall head over heels with coral, which is (in my opinion) the most universally flattering shade on almost any skin tone, and is the quickest way to liven up a complexion since cream blush. Picking a shade can be a bit tricky, so my best suggestion is the most well-known: Stick out your bottom lip, as though you’re pouting, and the deepest shade of pinky-coral is your best match. This season, orange-based corals are hot, so take that in stride and keep an eye open for those peachy-pinks and grapefruit tones! In store, we’re expecting our best-selling Yoga Jeans in a brand-new shade called Cardinal (vibrant coral) and our year-round essential Paper People tops in a similar shade. We’re also getting the farewell piece from the Fresh Baked Goods collection, the Lauren dress, in coral as well. I wouldn’t suggest wearing them together, per se, but individually these are sure to punch up your wardrobe in a splashy way!

spring coral

3) BELTS – I remember low-rise jeans. I know you do too. Now here’s the dilemma: allow them to shimmy down your hips, or belt them for that exquisite muffin-top look that happens to everyone, regardless of how tight your mid-section is. Belts were things to be hated, and quickly became a staple accessory for the skater crowd of Avril Lavigne wannabes. Then someone in the fashion world sat back on their couch on a night off to watch Grease and said to themselves,”Hmm. Those high-waisted belts sure do create an awesome silhouette.” and suddenly the wide belt was back in fashion. Luckily for us, designers are working in fabrics like elastic, satin and leather for more contemporary versions of throwback styles, and words like “sash belt” and “skinny belt” are commonplace. If you were to walk to your closet right now, you’d find at least five different pieces that could be contemporized or refreshed by adding a belt. Personally (and I know I’m biased here, but you’ve got to see them to understand) I’m absolutely in love with the Susana Erazo belts (carried at Fresh Collective!) which all feature elastic sides, adjustable widths (like a bra strap, they’re unbelievable) and oversized leather-bound buttons as clasps. Her collections also include wide sash belts and skinny classic ones, but the way I see it, the bigger the better! I’ve collected several in classic tones, intense colours and funky combos but my all-time favourite is a whiskey-coloured leather one with two buttons. Love love love.

belts (1)

What are you excited for this spring? Are there any trends which you’re interested in but unsure of how to pull off? Picked up a wicked item but just not sure how to pair it for a modern, stylish effect? I love getting feedback from our fans, so send in your comments and questions! You can reach me at Jamie@freshcollective.com and I’m available for advice, style tips or just to listen to you rant about your terrible ex. Better yet, swing by the Kensington Fresh Collective location and we can do it in person. See you soon friends!

The Swagger Coach: A Day By Any Other Word Would Be As Sweet…

swagger coach

Its a-coming, folks. Yup, in fact it’s less than a week away.

At this moment, people all across our great city (country, planet, etc) are calling in reservations to romantic restaurants, torrenting Boyz 2 Men albums and hitting Ikea for an assortment of matching-by-mismatching candles to scatter around bathtubs alongside rose petals, fluffy towels and champagne flutes. Or maybe you’re like me and you’re highly considering watching 500 Days of Summer for the six hundred and fortieth time after a bountiful dinner at the semi-lame Italian restaurant me and Fern had our very first date at. But not at OUR restaurant, that would be weird. Get your own restaurant.

Val4

Unintentional, but irresistible to post.

At the very same moment, there are teenagers sobbing to Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato songs, the two most insightful and sage victims of love of our times. Modern day Cyrano De Bergeracs, you know. Lamenting from afar. There are freshly single lovers poring over Facebook (and Linkedin and Twitter and the most poetically artistic and heartwrenching of all, Instagram) for any proof that their exes are living miserable, restless lives without them.

Basically, Valentine’s Day is a touchy area for most people. Its a polarizing day and one of the best examples of putting the horse before the cart I know of.

What does Valentines day represent? Is it a day to celebrate the love and romance in our lives, or is it a day to recognize the concept of romance in general?  I’ve been on both sides of the fence, personally. The last four years of my life have provided me with a guaranteed date and plans for the Big Day (thanks, LTR/engagement!) but before that I was excited for the day to come whether I was single or not. Then again, I’ve always been the kind to get a bit excited over “special days” (come to my store around Easter, you’ll likely find me in pastels and wearing bunny ears) and I’ve even been known to make themed playlists for my iPod based on the time of year (right now there’s a lot of She and Him, Neil Sedaka and Lucky Soul, in case you’re wondering). I’ve never been the kind to get upset about being single on V-Day, and have actually gone out of my way to break up with Mr. Right Now before the day to alleviate stress, emotional pressure or lofty romanticized portrayals of our relationship. In fact, one of my favourite Valentine’s was spent watching The Notebook (while it was still in theater) with my bestie at the time (a very openly gay fella) and being able to sit through (cry through) the entire thing while not having to worry if my lip gloss was too sticky, or if I should turn my hand upwards on the arm rest, just in case.

So many of us lust after romance itself, but are so willing to forgo the things that create romance, like true chemistry and compatibility. We romanticize romance so much, that it completely escapes us. Those who place such high expectations on the day are so much more likely to be let down, as their attention is focused on hitting all the points of a “perfect” date that they overlook the forest for the trees. They don’t see the cute subtle hints which make themselves apparent through the experience because they’re watching for epic, sweeping gestures like a bushel of roses or a theatrical flourish while pulling out their chair in true gentlemanly fashion.

We’ve focused our energy and expectations on a single day, smack in the middle of February (when the weather is always terrible, I may add) and many of us allow it to conjure such emotion, whether in favour of the sentiment behind the day, or not. My friends are divided almost equally. Refreshingly, the majority of those who are excited for the day are males, either in relationships or going on dates, and most seem genuinely enthused to participate in the return of chivalry and romance and all the pageantry which comes with the territory. Also refreshingly, most of the “oh yuck” crowd are my female friends, many also in relationships, but less excited about isolating one single day to celebrate their love, opting for a more modern view on what romance is. Amen to that.

Val3

This is how he proposed. It was at the bottom of a stack of photos, organized by year. I screamed like a 14 year old at a Justin Bieber concert.

Today is my 4-year anniversary with Fern. For years before this we were best friends, and would be there to support each other through our own struggles with our respective significant others. We’re romantic, geeky, and love “love”, so the next week will be one full of adorableness. We’ll be indulging in all of the sappiness which comes with this time of year, but more in honour of OUR special day, not Valentines Day. I hope that everyone can spend the day (and every other day, really) in the arms of someone they love, but realistically, there will be days when that won’t happen. There may be weeks, months, or maybe even a few years. During these times its important to allow romance into our lives, even if its ourselves we’re doting on. We shouldn’t need to wait for someone else to romance us, or spoil us or adore us, we should be totally comfortable providing this service to ourselves. Treat yourself to something luxurious, whether that be a mani-pedi for the overworked and under appreciated mom, a long bubble bath for the stressed-out student or a night of doing absolutely nothing but reading a good book. Or maybe reading a paperback version of The Notebook. It’ll be a couple of hours of your life and you’ll be able to say you at least READ your daily dose of sappy pop lit. What I’m trying to say is, there’s always a reason to ogle Ryan Gosling, or mind-ogle Ryan Gosling.

Val5

Friday afternoon treat. You’re welcome.

So, friends, what are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Which side of the fence do you sit on? Is this a day you’re anticipating? Dreading? Let me hear it!

Have a marvelous week, everyone. May your Valentine’s (celebrated or not) bring you much love from your partner, friends or yourself (the best love of all) and may you enjoy the most luxurious bath/dinner/spa treatment/shopping spree/massage/date simply because you deserve it!

Val2

Photobooth photos are extra-cute, all the time.

The Swagger Coach: You’re a Romantic. You may just not know it yet.

swagger coach

You’re a romantic. You may just not know it yet.

Valentines Day always conjures loads of emotions and feelings. Spending your first v-day with your new special someone? Fresh out of a relationship and looking forward to spending the day doing totally non-romantic things with your gal pals? Planning a cozy evening in? Whatever your plans, Fresh Collective has you covered for styling and wardrobe advice, plus some fun date ideas! Read on, gals!

 THE CLASSIC ROMANTIC

Where To Find You: At a quaint Italian restaurant sipping wine with your sweetheart, then hitting an evening showing of The Notebook at your local independent theater.

Why You Rock: Your loyalty to classic romance and rose-tinted take on the occasion allow you to shamelessly indulge in the best the day had to offer… Roses, chocolates and all!

Romantic

What to Wear: The Michelle Carey Amelia dress is a throwback to feminine charm and ladylike fashion from eras past! Paired with a sweet pair of kitten heels and a simple string of pearls, they’ll fall in love with you over and over again!

 

THE REBELLIOUS ROMANTIC

Where To Find You: Getting matching tattoos, or hitting a rock show/roller derby/art installation exhibit with your partner followed by dinner a-la-street (Hotdogs and softserve, anyone?)

Why You Rock: You don’t follow anyone’s drum beat but your own! You embrace the fun cheekiness of the day without all the sappiness, which makes you a fun and adventurous date!

rocker

What to Wear: Being chic and sexy doesn’t have to mean being cutesy! Bring out your inner rock start with an offbeat-printed tunic (like this one, the “Dania” with the x-rayed tooth pattern by Desserts and Skirts paired with tights, a wide belt and some funky footwear, like the “Charley” boot from Miz Mooz

 

THE MINIMALIST ROMANTIC

Where To Find You: Curled up on the couch watching a movie with your special someone, or taking your pooch for a late-night stroll while walking hand-in-hand with your sweetie under the moonlight.

Why You Rock: You’re so easy to be around! This type of gal appreciates the romance of the day, and celebrates in her own comfortable way. No fuss, no pageantry, just a comfy couch and a cutie to curl up with!

Minimal

What To Wear: Marry (Ha! See what I did there?) comfort and style for a look which just screams “hug me now!” in a comfy fleeced Bionic “Danielle” tunic-dress which is striking but comfy enough to wear to bed! Worn alone (hello legs!) or with leggings, this bestseller is sure to become one of your favourites. PLUS it’s just $40 in-store right now!

THE INDEPENDENT ROMANTIC

Where To Find You: Bowling with your group of pals, hitting a singles’ event or spending the evening with your bff getting pedicures and hot-stone massages.

Why You Rock: Who needs a significant other? You treat yourself like the catch you are and you don’t need anyone to buy you flowers! You’re a good sport about the lovey-dovey day but want to celebrate it in a less-traditional way!

independent

What To Wear: Go casual-cool with a pair of to-die-for Yoga Jeans paired with a soft cowl top like this one (the Alexi, from Studio Fresh!) for a look that says you care about having fun, looking chic and being comfy while you’re doing just that! These pieces will give you LOTS of wear, as they’re classic enough to coordinate with the items you already own, but paired together create a modern, chic twist on the jeans-and-tee look!

For even more advice, styling tips (or more fun date ideas!) Swing by the Kensington Market Fresh Collective and visit me, the resident Swagger Coach! I’m here and ready to help out in any romance-related area of your life!

See you soon, friends!

-Jamie xo

 

The Swagger Coach: CLOTHING: A Love Story

swagger coach

As many of you know, Fresh Collective is currently offering our HAPPY NEW YOU sale, which is allowing us to offer some of our best selling brands at ridiculously low prices. It got us thinking about the concept of creating a “new you” and how to go about presenting yourself in the best possible light. I’ve been thinking about really taking control over our image and how it reflects upon us.

Me, Fern and my best pals Rob and Corey at the WORN Fashion Journal's Black Cat Ball. Retro dresses and pin-up couture will NEVER go out of style!

Me, Fern and my best pals Rob and Corey at the WORN Fashion Journal’s Black Cat Ball. Retro dresses and pin-up couture will NEVER go out of style!

There are three types of clothing. Well, there’s a lot more than three actual kinds of clothing, but for all intents and purposes, for this argument, there are three kinds of clothing.

1) The kind of clothing which you love because they’re COMFORTABLE
2) The kind of clothing which you love because they make you LOOK GREAT
3) The kind of clothing which you DON’T love but they likely take up the majority of your closet. These are likely a size too big/small, a strange colour, or just not the right cut for you, but they’ve made their way into your closet due to hasty shopping decisions or a lack of purging.

Go to your closet and fill up a big bag with everything that falls under the third type. These items are the frienemies of your closet. They lurk in the shadows and may be regularly called upon, but they sabotage a good outfit and leave you feeling less than sensational about yourself. This bag should be donated to a worthy charity, organization, friend or family member who could really use them, and may have the perfect shape/colour for them. Toss in those shoes which are adorable but pinch/slide/squeeze. I promise, no matter how adorable they are, you’ll find something cuter, and with the right fit, before the snow melts.

I personally suggest reaching out within your community to see if there are any organizations which are in need of specific items or garments. Many shelters and women’s centers offer programs which provide women with job training, interview skills and even assist them in building a professional wardrobe for work. One shelter which I’ve donated to in the past expressed a need for plus size garments, while others are in need of petite-sized items for teens. Most desperately seek shoes, outerwear and new undergarments (those cute undies you’ve never taken the tags off and show through all your slinky work pants? Check).

 ...found these at a thrift shop. This means someone actually bought these at some point in time.

…found these at a thrift shop. This means someone actually bought these at some point in time.

Now, you’ve got two types of clothing left, and this likely amounts to about a third of your closet remaining.

“But Jamie, now I barely have any clothes left to wear! What do I do?”

You shop. You’d be shopping for new spring clothing anyways, but this time you should be shopping with purpose and seeking out items which truly contribute to your wardrobe, not just add volume to it. We’ve all heard that its not the quantity of an item that matters, but the quality, so ensure that your closet is curated with items specific to your body type, colouring, lifestyle and PERSONALITY. A customer came into my store here in Kensington Market and shared her shopping secrets with me, and I’ve got to say that I absolutely loved the way she communicated this. Her rules were simple: First, you MUST like what you’re trying on BETTER than what you came in wearing. If you’re not excited to wear the item, It’ll make its way to category #3, which is a no-no for your closet. You MUST be really drawn to the item, and you MUST take risks in trying on items you would not typically try on. You’ll often be surprised by what you like, and it will lead to a more exciting, playful range of outfits.

Secondly, You MUST have at least two coordinating pieces at home to create an outfit with. Basically, if the item you’re trying on right now is the ONLY thing you buy today, can you wear it tomorrow? Can you pair it with at least two other things currently sitting in your closet? If not, skip it. It’ll sit on a hanger for weeks until you find a matching skirt/pants/top/belt to wear it with. Basically, it’ll be a lovely piece of art for your room.

My friend Chantel and I modelling the Bionic Suki skirt at Fresh Collective Kensington Market. We LOVE the forgiving chevron pattern and the simple cut, not to mention the ultra-comfy stretch knit material!

My friend Chantel and I modelling the Bionic Suki skirt at Fresh Collective Kensington Market. We LOVE the forgiving chevron pattern and the simple cut, not to mention the ultra-comfy stretch knit material! (NOW ONLY $25 – SHOP ONLINE)

I’ve shopped using these two rules over the last couple of months, and have REALLY noticed a difference in how I shop, and am truly impressed with my own ability to say no to iffy items. I’ve saved a bundle! Not only that, but once I started purging my closet, and my only options were the pieces which made me feel and look amazing, I started getting compliments from total strangers! On a side note, keep the flattery coming. Its great.

The next step is to figure out how to make Type 1 and Type 2 one and the same. This means being unforgiving while selecting new items to be added to your wardrobe, and ensuring that each new addition is both comfortable AND flattering. Those too-big yoga pants are a great choice for a home-from-work-with-the-flu day, or for painting your living room. The “comfortable” but not “wearable” clothing should be kept to a minimum unless you work as a painter for a living. Comfortable clothing can be stylish, and stylish clothing can be extremely comfortable! Check out this shot of me in the Fresh Baked Goods jersey dresses and cardigan, which feel like nightclothes but look darling for springtime!

Check out my most recent Fresh Baked Goods buys! These are made from the comfiest bamboo jersey around, and feel like you're wearing yoga pants on your entire body. Look for styles that skim over your trouble spots and accentuate your best assets!

Check out my most recent Fresh Baked Goods buys! These are made from the comfiest bamboo jersey around, and feel like you’re wearing yoga pants on your entire body. Look for styles that skim over your trouble spots and accentuate your best assets!                           (SHOP FRESH BAKED GOODS ONLINE)

So, what do you look for when you start building your wardrobe? Look for pieces which play up your best assets (long legs, narrow waist, great posture) and gently disguise the areas which need a bit of extra TLC (ruching in the mid-section, using a belt to create or emphasize a waist, busy prints to create “visual confusion”). Look for items which have a bit of retro flair to them, which dates them less by skipping over the concept of ‘trendy”. Look for great shoes which are versatile, comfortable, but still fun and feminine. INVEST IN A GOOD HIGH-WAISTED BELT. Or two. Pick out something in a vibrant hue which brightens your complexion and boosts your mood. Try on anything which you think may be intriguing, even if you’re positive it’ll look ridiculous on. Buy a coloured bag, and wear it with shoes in a totally different shade. TAKE RISKS!

Banish the Little Black Dress! Stock up on interesting, figure-flattering pieces in fun prints and vivid colours!

Banish the Little Black Dress! Stock up on interesting, figure-flattering pieces in fun prints and vivid colours!

So, friends, I encourage you to sift through your closets and take a look at what your clothes say about you. Are they the clothes of a fashion-savvy lady who knows her body and brand well, or are they the garments of someone who doesn’t doesn’t really have much to say? Do they reflect a sassy, fun demeanor or do they remind you of items someone twenty years older than you would wear? Do they fit properly? Do they bring out the very best in you? Do they say “Hey world, I’m a fun, bold and fearless woman and YOU are my oyster!”? No? Then buh-bye. Off to their next life, where they can be cherished and loved the way you’ll love your new collection of specially-selected garments and accessories. Your body is a canvas, ladies! Create some artwork!

Need some help discovering your personal style? Want some pointers on how to play up your best features and get creative with fashion? Book a style consultation with our Swagger Coach by emailing Jamie@freshcollective.com  .

The Swagger Coach: Coaches and Gurus

swagger coach

I went, I listened, I cried, I laughed, I argued, I left.

This past weekend was my workshop in self development and transformation. I arrived at the headquarters bright and early on Friday morning, and was apprehensive amongst my fellow participants, but in good spirits. As the day unraveled, I listened and shared actively, and was actually quite impressed at how the direct, blunt and often shocking program was breaking down walls in the subconscious of the participants. I was extremely moved by the stories of those around me, and impressed by their bravery in taking part in this activity which required so much fearlessness. Stories of heartache, jealousy, happiness, fear, tragedy, and survival swirled, each and every one reminding us that while we, as a whole, are great at masking our insecurities, there is always an untold story, an underlying weight and heaviness to each passing body. I spoke with and listened to people of all ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles as they bared their hearts and souls to the strangers around them. Such a diverse crowd, yet its funny how similar everyone’s issues are when it came to parenting their children.
BLOG2All in all, much of it was a great experience, but this was not a program I would continue. Many powerful, genuine things were made possible thanks to the type of communication which was coached, but there were other aspects of it, including the type and style of delivery which I found distracting and circular. I’m a very analytical thinker, and this program is very abstract. I liken this experience to being invited to the place of worship of a religion other than your own (should you identify with one at all); while it was a beautiful experience, it’s not something I identify with. I can appreciate the value and importance of its presence in the lives of those around me. I personally believe in a different portrayal.

But, it did leave me hungry to find what was missing.

I’ve googled “inspirational quotes” and “motivation” and “gurus” and “empowerment” and “french bulldog puppy can’t get up” (okay, that last one was just because I know that, no matter how void your life is of happiness and joy, that video will make your heart grow like the Grinch’s. Youtube it right after you’re done reading this). I’ve come across some pretty interesting, engaging and intriguing statements and concepts tossed freely around. I found a video of a 14 year old girl with One Direction posters smattered across her bedroom wall having a one-woman self-cam sit-in discussion regarding the fact that life means nothing once you’ve been cheated on (?!) as though she understood something that no one else did. I found a series of videos which I actually really like, hosted by a spastic, high-energy guy who’s like human helium. He has over a hundred videos on his site and Youtube which are evocative, energizing and really fun to engage in, but I’m still curious to find out what separates one “guru” from another to us as individuals? Does what attracts us to one style of teaching reveal aspects of our own personality? Do I, who have found much satisfaction thus far with one “leader” but have been frustrated and annoyed by another who was less similar in communication style to me (reciprocal, acknowledging, conversational) make me less able to communicate effectively with people of other styles? Going deeper, when our values, or the things we value are questioned, are people who engage in it and rethink themselves less authentic than people who rock the boat but follow their own path? Is compromise a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to yourself?
blog1So I turn to you! I’d like to know what you guys think on this topic. If this weekend has taught me one thing, its that another perspective of the same object can be radically different, yet somehow boil down to the same reality. I invite you to share ideas, images, videos, concepts, chants, theories, drawings, quotes, mantras, songs, poems or home videos of interpretive dance. All in the name of expanding our knowledge and acceptance of realities which exist all around us, and contributing to an ever-evolving, ever-learning community. Many of you who have visited the Kensington Market location of Fresh Collective are familiar with the large chalkboard which greets the neighbours and customers each day, always boasting a bright and colourful message. In the upcoming weeks, I’m dedicating this board as a space for us to share inspiration, motivation, and positivity. The stuff you guys share will be posted on the board so our community members can be high-fived with a bright and empowering message every single day! Send send send!! Comment comment comment!! Lets get some radical, rational, nonsensical, whimsical thinking going on!

-Jamie xo

PS – Oh, and here’s that video of the bulldog puppy. Its Friday, and you deserve a Youtube break. I dare you to watch it without a single “awwww” escaping. Go on, I dare you.

The Swagger Coach: On Crying in a Circle

swagger coach

On this grey (yet thankfully mild) morning, I’m commuting via big red-and-white limo (TTC) to sit in a circle with a bunch of strangers and cry. Well, that’s kind of what I’m expecting. After hearing rave reviews of this forum from everyone I work with, I’m anticipating that this weekend will be an emotional one indeed. How emotional, you ask? More emotional than Les Mis times Steel Magnolias, to the power of the Notebook. So I’m bringing tissues.

As mentioned last week, I’ll be hauling myself and all of my emotional baggage to a weekend workshop on self-development, positivity and harnessing your abilities. I’m in good company, though, as my favourite colleagues have all completed their own weekends of coaching. Each of them has come out the other side with a sunny disposition, more self-awareness than you can shake a stick at, and smiles that have lasted for the last two months. Its terrifying, actually.

Terrifying in a good way, of course. To me, the renowned control freak, terrifying is the complete loss of control over your surroundings, or learning things about yourself which have been lying just under the surface. Think of it as you fooling… yourself? Is that possible? We’ll find out.

So what baggage am I bringing? I had a really difficult time establishing an area of ‘focus’ for the forum, since most aspects of my life are going pretty well. I have a great relationship with my fiancee, work is going swimmingly, my friendships are consistent and strong, and my finances and health are more or less in order. 2012 was a big year for me, I got engaged in January, and had a whirlwind spring with my workplace. Most importantly, it was the very best few months for my relationship with my mum, who I’d had a rocky relationship with in my teens. Being an only (gifted, mouthy, rebellious) child raised with a very new-wave no-rules parenting style, we butted heads through high school, until I turned 21 and moved away from home. The space was exactly what we needed and we began to be civilized with each other, turning to friendly and even close. The less time we spent with each other, the better we got along. I’ve realized that its because we were two of the exact same person.

My parents, James and Maria, on a sticky August day in 1987 with their newborn daughter, yours truly. They met in high school, and got married right after graduation. Cooler parents have never existed.

My parents, James and Maria, on a sticky August day in 1987 with their newborn daughter, yours truly. They met in high school, and got married right after graduation. Cooler parents have never existed.

My mum had been sick for years. Between a very severe case of edema affecting her legs and hips and ongoing issues with her heart, her mobility was limited from the time I was around 12. For the first few years she maintained her lifestyle using canes, walking aids and eventually a wheelchair, but by the time I hit 16 she was mostly unable to walk without assistance. Now, as a 25 year old adult I can sympathize with how frustrating that must be, for a woman who used to be the reigning disco champion of every Toronto disco and dance club to be reduced to limited mobility and confined to her home. But, as a 15 year old rebel whose friends all had working parents and the freedom of independence, I hated that every day she was there.

In my business.

Listening to my phone calls through the walls.

She lived vicariously through me, but I couldn’t understand that at the time and resented the fact that I had no privacy. Our arguments were always over the same issues, and eventually I felt so oppressed by her constant involvement in my affairs that I moved away from home. For the next three years our contact was limited, a phone call once or twice a week. I began to enjoy sharing things with her, and letting her into my life. We talked as adults did, and I offered my ear to her when she needed it, motivated her to keep on reaching for her goal of re-claiming her mobility and meeting new friends, and consoling her when she felt powerless or frustrated.

In May of last year I visited my old home with my fiancee, and saw a pack of her cigarettes lying on the table beside her chair. I was so disappointed, she had smoked a pack and a half every single day of my life, and she’d recently promised was to stop smoking in an effort to start rehabilitating herself. I called her out on it, and instead of getting defensive, self-righteous or guarded (things we’re both very good at) she simply stated that she deserved the treat, and to let her have the simple pleasures she was still able to enjoy. Who ‘deserved’ to be ruining their chances of recovery? Who wanted to poison themselves, knowing that these tiny cigarettes were a huge part of her illness and heart issues? We continued to argue about the smokes. I was emotional by this point, both because I felt lied to, and because it seemed as though she had given up on her recovery. She’d suffered heart attacks before, both minor and severe and was told by doctor upon doctor that her smoking was tragically affecting her heart and lungs. She needed to stop in order to have a chance at becoming healthy once again. Not to mention the fact that I had never, ever before asked my mother to promise to do/not do something before, and she had sworn to every God and deity that she’d smoked her last cigarette months earlier. As we argued, I started to pick up my things to leave.

“Jamie, I have lung cancer. I don’t have much time left.”

I stopped. I didn’t believe it. Not for a second. My mother was a warrior, and had beat a handful of “death sentence” health issues, including having lumps in her ovaries miraculously disappear, confusing the heck out of every doctor who was looking over her at the time. She had broken every rule, bested every opponent, and tackled every don’t-go-there issue with bravery and fearlessness I’ll only hope to replicate in my lifetime. There was no way, after first being told she would die of a heart attack, then that she would die of ovarian cancer, that NOW was her time. I took it in stride, comforted her, and joked that she would outlive all of us. You know, like Joan Rivers or Betty White.

The next visit was difficult, she was in a daze and was wheezing, as she typically did when she was sick. Being a heavy smoker for decades plus a chest cold can create a pretty alarming noise when breathing. She was there with us in body, but she called me by the wrong name a couple of times and seemed to forget the topic of conversation halfway through. She was sicker that I’d seen before. Her eyes were half-closed and her speech was slurred, like someone who had been deprived of sleep for a week. As it turns out, she hadn’t slept for almost a week, due to her coughing and pain in her legs. My dad and I joked around and made the time enjoyable for her, and a few hours later I bid her adieu, squeezing her hand and knowing I’d see her again soon. Work became very busy, and with my trust in her recovery, it was only a couple of days until her birthday. She begged me not to come over, as she was still quite sick, but we made plans to see each other in a week or so once she was feeling well enough for company.

Her birthday was July 8th, and I called her in the morning to wish her a happy birthday. Asleep. So I called back later in the evening. Asleep again. I asked my dad to let the phone ring out, so I could leave her a voicemail. I recorded a happy message, told her I was looking forward to her getting better so we could come and see her, and told her that I loved her. The following day, the 9th, was a normal busy workday. On the 10th, I woke up at 5:30 am to my phone ringing, plus 5 missed calls from my dad.

“Jamie, are you at home?”

“Yeah, Dad. What’s wrong? Is Mom okay?”

“Jamie, your mother is gone.”

“What?? Where the hell could she have gone?!?”

Looking back on the moment, among the immense panic and sadness I was feeling, I know my mother would have found the humour in me envisioning her, bundled up in blankets, making a break from the house, running away. In a way I do believe that she ran away. Two days after her 56th birthday, my mum escaped the body which failed her for years and kept her captive inside a home which had turned into her prison.

I went into productive mode. I arranged financing for the service, organized people and flowers and suits and memorial cards and candles. I dashed around in “manager mode” consoling those around me and making sure that all the paperwork was completed. Its been exactly six months and one day since my mum passed. I’ve kept a grounded, realistic perspective on her passing, and although I miss her greatly, I’ve not yet really grieved. If someone told me 10 years ago that I’d ever miss her, I’d have called them a dirty liar and told them that she’d never give me the CHANCE to miss her.

Last Friday, Fern and I went to see Without You, which is the staged personal memoir of Anthony Rapp, one of the original cast members of RENT. The show used RENT music to narrate the brief period of his life from the beginning of casting, throughout the passing of his mom of a similar type of cancer, and then the death of Jonathan Larson, the creator of the show itself. Reading online, I knew that this show was an emotional one, and many of the reviewers said that they were in tears as they left the theater. Knowing that the topic was a sensitive one for me, I recognized my own emotions in the songs and monologues offered by Anthony. I had promised myself that I would hold it together during the show, but could feel the tears welling up as the second half began and he recalled a series of events so similar to mine, it was jarring. I knew then, that this was something I’d like to focus on, as I was surprised at my own reaction to the show, both during and after. So this, among other aspects of my life are what I’m really hoping to gain some clarity on during my sessions. I’d like to learn how to be more forgiving with myself, and allow myself to fall, grieve, be needy, be supported, and be weak. I’ve done a pretty good job of creating an emotional fortress which keeps me strong, but over the last year I’ve begun to see myself as a real adult, which means that THIS is the time for me to work through my emotional baggage and sort out my kinks. I’d like to focus on how to make my great relationship with Fern even better, and how to be a selfless partner. I’d like to strengthen my money management skills and learn discipline when it comes to savings. I’d like to know how to be even more productive at work, and how to take this amazing little store and community to a whole new level of success. There are endless areas of my life which are going well, and often better than well, but I’m anticipating a very monumental change in the way I see the world, and the way I see myself, after this weekend.

Fern, my amazing fiancee, best friend and #1 supporter. I'm doing the forum for both of us!

So, as you read this on your work computer, tablet or phone, just know that I’m likely sitting among a group of people like myself who are coming together at the suggestion of friends or family, and together we’re learning to be better to ourselves. We’re doctors, mothers, rebels, cheaters, friends, brothers. We know that self-help sessions like the one I’m sitting in at this moment in time won’t give us the solutions to our issues, but we’re coming together in an effort to achieve clarity in our own minds and souls, and I think that’s a pretty powerful thing. Wish me and my fellow forum-goers luck this weekend, friends!