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

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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: Goldilocks and the Media – A Tale of Establishing “Just Right”

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“This one’s too big. This one’s too small. THIS one’s JUUUUUUST right!”
What is “just right”? What is the exact weight, the exact measurements of the body which is slim but athletic, curvy but fit, strong but feminine? When is slim TOO slim, and when is curvy TOO curvy? Moreso, why do we think we have the ability to judge this?

When I was transitioning from middle school to high school, my best friend Mary* and I were separated, resulting in us attending two different schools. About three weeks in, I got a tearful call from her. She said that she had fled the guidance counselor’s office after being confronted by two teachers, the guidance counselor, the vice principal and a nutritionist, and told that they were there to “help her become healthy again”. She had been pulled into the guidance counselor’s office before, and been asked questions about her eating habits, but nothing to the degree of what happened that afternoon.
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The Swagger Coach: 10 Reasons Why Fresh Collective Rocks My Socks

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Changing the Future and Influencing the Retail Industry 
There are many things we are not. We are not a big-box store. We are not a heavy-sell store. We are not a fast-fashion store, and we are not a store which carries mass-produced items. We are not a store which follows a scripted greeting or sales model. What we are is a store, no, scratch that, we are a community of people who love the fashionable arts, and love using them to make people’s days just a little bit brighter. Its not unusual to pop into one of our locations and find total strangers chatting like old friends, or to find our store staff dancing around with customers as they celebrate a first date, a big promotion or a new baby. We strive to make relationships, not sales, and we’re committed to having a BLAST each and every day we come to work. We’re not a typical store, and we don’t have typical days. We start off every day with a positive outlook, and a commitment to inspiring joyful living through confidence, self-expression and creativity.



I’m My Own Boss! 

During my interview at Laura-Jean’s outdoor boardroom (aka lovely backyard… but seriously, it was like stepping into Narnia) I was asked some pretty typical questions. The magic came after the “interview” questions subsided, and we began to chat about what she wanted to see in her business. She told me that they were looking for someone to step out of line, suggest the craziest ideas, and dream big – they were looking for those outside-the-box people who could take on the store and run it as though it were their own. Apparently I fit the bill (hoorah!) and ever since I’ve been taking the first of many, many steps to a long and delightful career with FC. Each of our stores has such a different flavour because they are managed, curated and populated by a signature team of individuals who truly understand the clientele and vibe of the neighbourhood. Each and every person who works for FC is given the opportunity to lead their own projects, create their own systems, and establish their own career paths in any direction they choose. FC has been in business for TEN years now, but this is just the beginning for our team and what we’re going to accomplish in the fashion industry!

Relationships Beyond Compare

A few weeks into my position with Fresh Collective, a customer walked in and chatted with myself and Jane for a bit. She worked across the street and was super funny. Wicked! Friendly neighbours! The girl came back the next day, and several more after. You may recognize her from some of our pics, she’s the blonde with the black glasses, and her name is Emily. Over the last few months, Emily has turned from a customer to a neighbour, and from a neighbour to an amazing, hilarious friend. We’re road tripping together next weekend! I’m fortunate enough to know customers like Krista, Robyn, Shawna, Nuria, Melissa, Sandra, Anna, Kayla, Tasha, Tara, and countless others who I look forward to seeing each time they come in! I’ve spent hours with some of our designers, talking about the dating scene, moving, movies and eating grilled cheese from up the block. Fresh Collective encourages amazing, open relationships in AND out of the workplace, and I’ve never been a part of an environment as friendly, welcoming and truly awesome as this!
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Company Culture Allows for Growth

At a typical place of work, an employee is hired, and after three months, their performance is reviewed to decide whether the individual will be kept on as permanent staff. Once or twice a year, their performance is reviewed again, and if they excel, a promotion or raise is offered. Before I was even sent the job offer, I was asked in which area of the company I would like to advance to, and an action plan was discussed to get me there. What? Seriously? There is no such thing as “sales staff” or “shift managers” at FC, but rather the understanding that you’re given as much leadership and authority as you desire, and there’s always support to make your career goals a reality within the company. Some people take on jobs to advance their resume, or gain a skill set, then move on. At FC, there is no need to move on, because there is truly no better way to build a skill set and challenge your abilities than among a group of your supportive, understanding and accommodating peers. Life here is awesome.



Supporting Local Artists, Launching New Ones

When we introduce new artists to the Collective, we know that we have a hand in creating a future for them within the industry. Local designers often shop their products around to various stores before landing a spot in one, only to receive little to no support in marketing, branding, production strategies or progression. This is where many designers and artists falter, and many eventually give up on making their dream a reality. At FC, the process is indeed an interactive one, and our designers receive very active feedback, coaching, and support. We actually care about the success of our designers, which is why we’re in contact almost daily, be it a strategic email regarding marketing and advertising, or simply a string of cat videos. Yeah, we’ve totally all seen the cat riding around on the Roomba in the shark costume, and it’s fabulous. We care, and we’re so, so happy to see our designers flourish as they interact with their fans! Oh, by the way, there’s an amazing trunk show with “Fangirl Chic” artist Mady Bone at the Kensington Market store on Saturday and Sunday, come by and meet her! Her stuff is amazing!
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Allowing customers to contribute 

We believe in guerrilla marketing. Yeah, we could take out some massive billboard ads, or create a TTC stop poster for those funky new bus shelters, but we know that the best advertising is word of mouth, and we’re committed to being the type of store which you want to bring your friends to, try on a million dresses and chat with the store staff about your ex boyfriend. We open up our social media channels for input, and we’re always curious to pick your brains about your favourite fabrics, colours, designers, etc, so that we can give our amazing customers EXACTLY what they want! Our designers are creative folks indeed, but they’re always willing to hear what their fans and customers have to say. After all, they’re designing clothes for YOU!
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Real women – celebrating your body 

Have you ever come in to an FC store and seen shots of our models? Like the tall redhead with the sleeve of tattoos in the striped shirt? Or the other redhead in the white pants and the aqua sunglasses? Or the petite girl with the strawberry blonde hair, freckles and a parasol? (Holy cow, we have a lot of redheads.) Yeah, those ladies are Kat (the designer of Curious Oddities) Allison (our fantastic social media manager) and Jane (our regional manager) and they’re real live people who have never taken a single modelling class and did NOT diet for the shoot. We believe in incorporating real people into everything we do. We make clothes for real women, be they petite or fuller figured, and we want that to be expressed in our marketing.



I love dresses. Oh my goodness, how I love dresses. 

Yeah, that’s pretty much it on that topic. I love dresses. Fresh Collective carries lots of dresses, all the time. Therefore, I love FC all the time. DRESSES, OMG. Dresses and jewellery.
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Change… and lots of it! 

There’s no such thing as good enough. There’s no such thing as “the way it is”. There’s no such thing as permanence. When we think we have something figured out, we turn it on it’s head and inspect it from every angle, then dream up something new just for kicks. Its like giving a four-year-old a box. To a normal person, a box is a box, or maybe a low-budget cat bed. Working with a team as creative and fun as this, there is always the possibility of change, growth, new ideas, and fun new ways to reinvent the wheel. Is it more work than just following the retail mold? It sure is, but we have a blast doing it and you bet your bonnet we’re not stopping anytime soon.


Living the dream – it all comes together! 
All these areas indicate that Fresh Collective is the most amazing place in the world to shop, work, hang out or share ideas, but when you roll then into one big ball, you have what I’m proud to call my day-to-day life. I love the quirkiness of the company, I love the enthusiasm of our fans, and I can’t wait to see what’s to come for ALL of us, including you! Thanks so much, guys, for being a part of this experience and making my time with FC inspiring, fun, challenging, motivating and totally, totally different from anything else I’ve experienced. Here’s to ten amazing years of FRESHening up Toronto, and to ten (Twenty? A million bazillion?) more!
xo Jamie

The Swagger Coach: Putting on the Ritz – an Office-friendly Fashion special

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Fashion is fun. Simply put, not only is it a lot of fun, its also one of the easiest ways to make a statement without ever opening your mouth. I’m a lucky, lucky gal to work for a fashion company which embraces all sorts of fashion. Here at Fresh Collective, there is no set-in-stone dress code for our retail staff, and I thank my lucky stars for this every day. You’ll notice, on any given day, that many of our folks are indeed dressed in head-to-toe Fresh gear, but this is because we’re the first to see these clothes, and we often fall in love with them while trying them on… even before they hit the sales floor! Plus, we know and love our designer friends and love giving them our business. We’re customers too! When was the last time your usual chain-retailer offered to have a garment customized for you? When was the last time you were in a big-box store and a designer approached you and thanked you for trying on their garment, and then asked you for feedback? Never, that’s when.

I love a pencil skirt and a blazer as much as the next gal, but I’m not the kind of girl to get gussied up in office wear for sport. Life is good when your wardrobe can be as creative and funky as you like. Its also nice to come home, flop down on the couch and not have to immediately slither out of a suit as though it’s trying to eat me. As much as I enjoy being fashionably free, most of my friends work in corporate environments, which requires modest, straight-laced outfits and that often limits creativity and expression in dressing. Its all-too easy to get caught up in the over-structured, oatmeal-coloured world of crisp lines and classic cuts, and some of us simply fall into this pattern for lack of inspiration, concern over maintaining professionalism, or even inexperience with mixing professional items with more casual ones. A friend of mine suggested writing this week’s blog about dressing for the office, but keeping your sense of self and pushing the bar while still dressing appropriately, with class and style. Janet, this one is for you!


First thing’s first: The “office” has been redefined over the last decade. While the word “office” once conveyed greyscale cubicles, navy pantsuits and buttoned-collar tops, it can now refer to a relaxed environment, some welcoming pets, casual clothes and mid-day social activities for staff members. Depending on your field, your place of work could indeed be quite welcoming of jeans, comfy clothes and sensible footwear. Take a look around you, and use your better judgement to establish the “feel” of your environment. Dressing in a way which reflects your surroundings and team is always appropriate, but dressing just a bit more neatly will convey your attention to detail and commitment to presenting yourself in a flattering light. Coming to work looking groomed, collected and neat reflects your ability to look after yourself, and this is a trait which most managers, supervisors and bosses value, as you’ll likely be able to pay due attention to projects, tasks and finishing touches you’re assigned. Regardless of what kind of environment you work in, there are definitely ways to incorporate unexpected elements of fashion and design in your wardrobe, even if you are one of the few who have to abide by strict and modest guidelines.
As far as fashion goes, there are a zillion gurus out there who preach the wonders of certain strategies and themes in dressing and adorning your body. Personally, I take a bit from each of them, and roll it all up into one big fashion advice ball. One of my personal favourite teachings, though, was from the all-knowing, omnipresent Stacy London, who is known for her femme-chic yet powerful and no-nonsense approach to dressing. On one particular episode of What Not to Wear, she scolded a frumpy woman as she stood in front of the wraparound mirror and claimed that no one noticed her. No one noticed her because she never gave them reason to notice her, and it was sad to see the woman (who was lovely, really, but totally unkempt) express such apathy over her appearance. In a cut-away segment, they showed clips of the woman’s boss being interviewed, and he expressed that there had actually been complaints from other workers who would observe the woman coming to work in sweatpants, sports-team t-shirts and rubber shoes, even though her job description involved recruiting, hiring and general HR duties. She didn’t define her work environment as “professional”, as it was a rather relaxed environment. She knew that her appearance probably left the wrong impression on people who came to the agency to find work, and were greeted and processed by a woman who looked as though she had been abducted from her home at 3am, rolled up in blankets, and dropped at her office bleary-eyed and swathed in fleece. Stacy showed the woman an endless combination of outfits the incorporated comfy, dark-wash jeans in a slack-like cut, relaxed, stretch blazers which wore more like cardigans and simple tops with fun necklines to jazz up the most casual of combinations. While she showed off the garments, she taught the woman about 5 key elements of creating a memorable, captivating outfit that communicates confidence and style. I loved these rules, and wanted to share them, with my own fun twist, for you guys to chew on this week.
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FIT

Blouse by Monikova

Blouse by Monikova

YOUR CLOTHES HAVE TO FIT. They have to fit. There are two routes to getting clothes to fit you perfectly. Both start with the essential understanding that, if a garment is not the perfect fit off the rack, it is NOT an issue with your body, and it is NOT an issue with the garment. No one yells at the square peg for not fitting in the round hole. The issue is simply that the garment is not constructed perfectly for your body… yet. Now, your options are either to search for garments which DO fit your body perfectly, or to alter the garments you find and love to fit you. I’d suggest the second option, to save you from passing up on great items which could be showstopping on you, if a few simple tweaks are made. Clothes that fit well create balance and proportion on your frame, and make the difference between looking sharp and looking frumpy. Hem those pants. Nip that too-baggy waistline. Crop those sleeves.
Play it safe: well-tailored jackets, proper-length skirts and pants, dresses which are shaped proportionately
Push the Limits: Architecture-inspired seams, added volume in choice spots (shoulders, hips) retro-influenced waistlines and necklines, bias hems.


SPARKLE
Sugar Rush Summer Romance Collection

Sugar Rush Summer Romance Collection

Unless you work in a mine, your workplace has a light source. It could be those evil fluorescent lights in your office or the natural warm sunlight which comes streaming in your windows (stop pressing your nose against the glass and just go for a walk, people are staring). What catches light better than a little twinkle? Jazzing up simple outfits with a string of glittering beads, wearing a top with a glittering pinstripe, or wearing a flashy, bright ring will update your look and add a bit of glamour while respecting office dress code. One of the guys, my butt.
Play it Safe: Simple necklace, crystal earrings, a hammered brass cuff bracelet, beaded necklines, metallic-toe shoes
Push the Limits: Subtle glitter-woven garments, sparkly embellishments on lapels and pockets, a blinged-out bib-style necklace over a classic oxford shirt, studded details, bejeweled hair fascinators



TEXTURE

Top by Mandala Design

Top by Mandala Design

Fun fur, pleather pants, and fishnet anything have NO place in a professional environment. None. Scrap that idea now. Done? Okay, good, now we can move on to incorporating fun materials and textures into your wardrobe. Keeping shapes classic, you can get a lot of bang for your buck when mixing and matching fabrics. Keep more playful materials office-friendly by balancing textured pieces with simpler ones, and play them up for night-time!

Play it safe: Linen in fun colours, pairing two contrasting fabrics in the same colour family (pale pink chiffon and cotton twill, or ivory lace and satin), items with accents and decals in fun textures and overlays
Push the Limits: A leather blazer paired with simple bottoms, layering sheers, snakeskin shoes, layering two contrasting fabrics in contrasting colours (red leather with royal blue silk, yellow flocked cotton with violet crochet knit) A stiff peplum top, or panels of various textures incorporated into a skirt



COLOUR

Wrap dress from Address Apparel

Wrap dress from Address Apparel

Everyone can wear colour. the brightness, saturation and amount of it worn are up to you. Colour is a BRILLIANT way to add a splash of fun to an otherwise boring outfit. Picking out garments and accessories in fun colours can also breathe new life into what you own already, and can play up your natural features, like your beautiful blue eyes, your chestnut hair, or your porcelain/freckled/gloriously tanned skin.

Play it Safe: Vivid shoes, colourful stacked bracelets, a playful headband, a pop of colour on your earrings, a bright hued top under a classic suit
Push the Limits: Contrasting primary colours (red jacket with a blue skirt and yellow shoes) tone-on-tone layering in slightly different shades, Matching garments to makeup (turquoise blazer with a bold streak of the same colour lining your eyes, or a mandarin orange lipstick which matches your pants) colour-family stacking (all pastels, all brights)



PRINTS

Printed pants from Brenda Beddome

Printed pants from Brenda Beddome

You guys know I love a good print. But how to incorporate a print into office-friendly attire? Simple. Balance. If you work in a creative field, bright, wacky prints can be totally acceptable. If you work in a more conservative environment, subtle prints will be your bff. Prints can add a playful touch, they can draw the eye and shape the body, or they can simply add dimension and interest to solids. Pick your favourite print, pair with matching accessories, and have a blast!

Play it safe: Pinstripes, small polka dots, subtle stripes, soft florals, pairing a print with a basic, layering under/over solids
Push the Limits: Combining two contrasting prints in similar colours (white and navy stripes paired with white and navy dots), double-exposed prints (large polka dots on top, small dots on the bottom), loud prints, allover printed garments, colour-blocked accessories (pink and green printed dress with bold green shoes, pink bracelets and a pink and green necklace) Pairing a print with ANY of the above mentioned (sparkle, texture, colour)

There you have it folks! Challenge yourself to incorporate one of these fun strategies each and every day next week, and see heads turn!

The Swagger Coach: Show Some Skin

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“Bingo wings””Thunder thighs”

“Pot belly”

“These old saggers”

Isn’t that terrible? If we had friends who described our bodies this way, we’d show them the door and de-friend them on Facebook. Hell, we’d even unfollow them on Instagram. But somehow, I’ve actually overheard these terms coming out of the mouths of my own customers. These are beautiful, funny women who have wicked fashion sense and often report getting oodles of compliments on the items they get during their trips to my store. Yet, despite the endless positive feedback they’re given on their appearance, they still seem to zero in on tiny, subtle and irrelevant issues they see within their bodies, and they allow this impression to totally overtake how they see themselves when they take a look in the mirror.
“how would you describe your body? Now how would your best friend describe it?”
image source: Dove’s Real Women Campaign

Women, young and old, need to love the bodies they’re given. Each unique shape has a unique formula for dressing, which allows the wearer (that’s you!) to play up or down their features and attributes, without swathing themselves in layers of loose-fitting gauzy fabric from head to toe. In grey or black. Because those are the most slimming, right?

First off, let me say this: You know that “trouble part” that you hate? That part that you’re hyper-conscious of throughout the day, and the first area you check/adjust/fuss over in bathroom mirrors? Yeah, that part. NO ONE ELSE NOTICES IT. No one. People, especially women, are too concerned either with their own trouble areas, or with totally unrelated things (like your awesome shoes, or that cute dog across the street, or what time they have to pick up their kids at, or their overdue Rogers bill) to notice your less-than-toned arms. Visual attention is a fun thing to play with, since it’s TOTALLY up to the individual to direct where the eyes of others go. Will you have passersby notice that you keep fiddling with the hem on your skirt? Or will you have them notice the awesome skirt itself, as it blows in the breeze and shows off its fun print and vibrant colours? Will people recognize you as the lady who wears all black, all year, or as the woman who has awesome fashion sense in any season and takes risks with fun shapes and patterns? People notice what you draw attention to. Picking, adjusting, pulling, fiddling, etcetera brings the eye towards the area. The viewer is noticing that you’re wearing garments you’re not comfortable in. So, if you HAVE to pick and fiddle, donate the item. If you truly don’t NEED to adjust, don’t.

SWEATER
“The layered look being taken too literally.”

So now that we’ve covered the fact that NO ONE notices your tiny, ridiculous areas of insecurities, we can move forward boldly and with a spirit of fun, playfulness and liveliness! Rather than donning a floor-length maxi dress with sleeves on a muggy day in July, get familiar with flattering cuts and learning to create effects using colour, shape and texture. For example, a wide, squared neckline will bring the eye towards the face. Tiered, textured skirts with uneven hems can lengthen and slim legs, and a well tailored blouse made from a soft but structured fabric can nip the appearance of love handles. Going sleeveless does not mean going directly to straps. A more wearable and comfortable style is 30’s inspired (Thanks, Gatsby!), and offers a full shoulder sans sleeve. (That means you can wear a real bra with it! No more of those ridiculous plastic straps! Rejoice!)

Ladies, unless you’re legitimately photosensitive, or a vampire who twinkles in the sun like unicorn droppings, realize that it’s okay, no, its expected, that you’ll be showing some skin when the weather gets warm. A little calf or upper arm never killed anyone. Basically, by draping yourself in fabric during the hottest days of the month for the sheer purpose of diverting attention from your ‘problem areas’, you’re working against yourself, by being the lady dressed like a mummy on the beach. Don’t be the mummy lady.

We’ve been waiting for this weather for months, girls. Months of evil, cold, bitter, windy winter, and we’re finally liberated from our parkas and woolen tights. Take it while its here!
PARKA
“What a lovely July afternoon!”

The Swagger Coach: Mating Season

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“Hoo boy, you can really tell its spring. I need to find me a girlfriend”

– My best friend

He’s right. Spring is here, and thus begins strolling-while-holding-hands season, and ice-cream-sundae-for-two season, and lemonade-with-two-straws season and watch-fireworks-with-that-special-someone season. There must be a gene in us somewhere that beat the evolution model and has traveled with us all the way down until it smacks us right in the face here and now, as civilized people of dignity and decorum. But I’ll be darned if spring doesn’t spark something inside of us which puts us on the hunt for a mate.

I’m a big fan of Patti Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker. I’ve had some pretty interesting jobs, but one of my most memorable was a high-end matchmaking agency. It used a simple software to sort clients by location, age, body type and interests among other attributes, making our jobs easier by eliminating anyone who possessed traits which were not desirable to the client being matched du jour. I drove my boss nuts, because I would often deviate from the “typical” matchmaking formula, matching my clients based on sense of humour or first impressions. Boy howdy, you can bet your best hat I had more successful matches than any other matcher there. I’ve got a pretty no-nonsense approach to dating and mating, and although I’m happily claimed by my awesome fiancee Fern, I’m still very well aware that dating truly is a game, and there are some crucial strategic moves that can be executed to level up.

This is me and Fern on our first date, fresh out of high school. Weren't we (almost as) cute (as we are now)?

This is me and Fern on our first date, fresh out of high school. Weren’t we (almost as) cute (as we are now)?

 Exhibit A, a tall, athletic and handsome guy named Mark*. Mark worked in finances, was pretty well-off and had a beautiful home in the west end of Toronto. Mark, although 32 years old at the time, had never been in a serious relationship. He had submersed himself in work, fitness and “building his empire” so much so, that he had forgotten that yeah, sometimes having someone to curl up and watch Scrubs DVDs with, is nice. When Mark and I met, he said he would only date females from twenty to twenty five, they MUST be petite and either blonde or red-headed and (brace yourself) they must ALSO have never been in a long-term or serious relationship. He genuinely believed that anyone who had been in previous relationships would judge him, discount him as inexperienced, and that his time would be wasted. Needless to say, matching him was rather difficult. Eventually we had to sit down again and discuss expectations and being open to amazing possibilities and people. We attempted to match him many times, and despite the women having a good time, he refused to pursue any girls who had either maintained previous relationships, or were taller/darker/less athletic than himself. After more than a year, Mark left the agency, and I was so sad to see a great guy like this left empty-handed. I knew he would have found the gal of his dreams if he had been a little more open-minded about love.
"Standing alone with a bag full of requirements often results in simply standing alone."

“Standing alone with a bag full of requirements often results in simply standing alone.”

Flipside, Exhibit B. An older gent named Bryan*. Bryan was from a small town in North Ontario, and although he travelled down to the city often, he had a hard time meeting ladies who shared his love for small-city living, fishing, and dogs. Bryan had been married for over 30 years and had a son in his late thirties, but lost his wife to cancer a few years before he came to the agency. He was looking for a Heather Locklear type without “all the glitter and face crap”. When we first met, the first thing I noticed was his uproarious laugh. He was hilarious, if not bordering on inappropriate at times, but he had a great sense of humour and positivity and joy oozed out of every pore he had. He was like that awesome, crazy uncle everyone has. Bryan was a favourite of mine. He called the office on my birthday to wish me a happy one, and when matched with his first two ladies, both reported having an amazing time and said he was a true gentleman, but no romantic connection. Oh no, the dreaded friend zone! A few months after meeting Bryan, I met a woman named Claire*. Claire was short, in her 60s, fuller figured with dark auburn hair and had a penchant for mustaches (seriously). She had a high-pitched laugh that made me think of Bryan, but physically, she was looking for a Burt Reynolds type, and Bryan was more of a Danny DeVito. She herself was closer to a Melissa McCarthy, definitely not a Heather Locklear. I met with each of them several more times to review past dates and tailor preferences, and although both of them were popular in the system, neither one of them had found love. During a check-in with Claire, she mentioned that one of her boys lived in the town where Bryan was from, and then I discovered that she was actually from the same town!

Each time we matched a client, they were charged. I had a great idea. I called Claire and told her about Bryan. She was hesitant, but once I told her that the match was on the house, she agreed. I called Bryan and told him the same, and was pleasantly surprised to find that he was really excited! It was rare for him to meet someone from his area who knew the lifestyle, and she could very well work out to be a great friend, if not a love match. The day after their date, I got an email from Claire to tell me that they had met, and not only had they had a wonderful time, it turns out that they went to the same high school! After graduation, Claire’s family had moved to the Toronto area and they had never seen or heard from each other again. To my delight, they both pulled their profiles from the system a couple of weeks later, after becoming monogamous and deciding that they were no longer on the hunt. SQUEEEEAAAAAL!

"Love is the truest form of friendship. Sometimes Mr. or Mrs. Right is actually the person right across from you!"

“Love is the truest form of friendship. Sometimes Mr. or Mrs. Right is actually the person right across from you!”

Knowing what you’re looking for in a partner is crucial. Knowing what you DON’T want in a partner is just as crucial, and being able to confidently communicate this is often perceived as being narrow minded or superficial. I disagree. I know that I would have a very difficult time forming a relationship with someone who’s lifestyle is radically different from my own, and I’m okay with people having physical preferences. For example, I understand that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I are a perfect, perfect match and am relatively confident that our lifestyles would be an identical match. You know, because I love him and all. But in all seriousness, I have a type, and I’m someone’s type, and I understand that everyone is different in this respect. I will say, however, that during my single days I’ve been pleasantly surprised when I don’t let that type rule my decisions, and I leave myself open to possibilities of new people and experiences. Physical attraction is definitely important, but I’ve found super-hot guys who seem to be totally void of a brain, and other guys who may not be my type at first, but their cute smile or quirky sense of humour has grown on me, increasing their dateability.

Dateability is totally a word.

So friends, my advice to you during this beautiful season is as follows. Make an effort to meet people. I mean REALLY meet people, don’t just meet eyes in a bar. Involve yourself in activities you are truly interested in, and you’ll find a swarm of folks who share common interests. Don’t bash yourself during social situations. If you tell a potential partner that you’re not _____ or are too _____, chances are, they’ll believe you. Think of meeting new people as you would a job interview. Present the best parts of yourself, sell your strengths and be genuine, warm and authentic. Laugh at pickup lines, and strike up a conversation with the geek who’s brave enough to use them on you. Its probably the bravest thing they’ve done all week. Drop two of the things on your “dating must-have” list. Really, your dating candidate may not sleep in a bathtub full of money and speak four languages, but they may be a sweet, caring and truly compatible person. Be tolerant of set-ups. Your friends may set you up with the perfect someone… or you’ll have a hilarious story to tell and are one date closer to finding the perfect one. Before a date, remind yourself that you’re simply meeting someone new, and that there is NO way to tell if they are THE ONE at this point, so the goal is to have fun, share an amazing conversation, and maybe a drink or two.

Dating is fun, folks! Kick back, unwind, and get to know the cool, unique and fun person sitting right in front of you!

-Jamie xo

* individual’s name has been changed

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The Swagger Coach: Folklore – The Tale of the Floral Pants

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We know the rules. Black is slimming. Choose looser, skimming styles to hide a belly. Keep skirt hems around the knee, and avoid volume. Pick pants with a straight leg to minimize hips.

This leaves me, and other fuller-figured gals, with a rather rectangular wardrobe. Doesn’t that sound like fun? So at the end of the day, if we follow all of these fashion rules, we’ll end up looking five pounds lighter, but we’ll also have the most boring, lackluster wardrobe in the world. Sign me up!

This weekend I was shopping around Toronto, looking to fluff up my spring wardrobe (after stocking up at Fresh Collective, of course. Its hard NOT to shop while you work when you work here), but was not looking for anything in particular. One of the trends I’ve been shamelessly attracted to for the season is those beautiful, lush floral prints. I recently picked up a pastel floral jacket, and even a funky floral pair of wedge heels, but have stayed away from the floral pants for a while, keeping those “fashion rules” in mind.

You may have read in earlier posts, I’ve kind of got a crush on my legs. After hiding them in bootcut jeans for years, I’ve realized that they’re very curvy, but well-suiting, and highlighting them makes me feel sexy, shapely and feminine. I’ve rocked skinny jeans to accentuate my curves rather than hiding them for some time now, but have stuck to mostly dark or mid-rinse denims. So you can imagine that, once I saw those brightly-toned floral jeans, thrown over a rack at a fitting room, I felt a mix of contempt and interest, with an air of challenge. Okay, jeans, lets try this. One leg on. The other one on. Button. Fly. Wiggle.

Pants1They did exactly what I expected them to. They totally brought attention to my legs and butt. And as I looked at myself in the mirror, I wondered how I had gone without them for this long. Yes, they definitely attracted attention to the parts they covered, but what’s so bad about that? I mean, I’ve never been one to think that a well-draped dress can make me look like a size 6, but I’m very aware that dressing for your size is the most flattering strategy of all, rather than trying to fool people into thinking you’re (at most) a size or two smaller than you actually are. So, if the goal is to flatter the body you have, why the heck was I so intimidated by these pants? They were good pants, and fulfilled their job nicely; They covered my butt and made me look like a rock star.

So I’ve been thinking about the concept of “fashion rules” and exactly what they achieve. It must take a lot of effort, time and control to make oneself look so very ordinary, and I wonder what the pull is behind the action. So here’s what I have to say on these so-called “fashion rules”, and ways to observe but challenge them. After all, rules are meant to be broken.

BLACK IS SLIMMING – Yes, black is slimming, and can be a powerful tool in not just drawing attention away from one area, but to highlight a different one! It absolutely breaks my heart to see people dressing in all-dark colours solely for the purpose of appearing thinner. How much more of an impact would they make with, say, a tailored black pant, topped with a vibrant structured top which brings the attention upward? Or a cool black leather jacket to offset textured jeans or a printed skirt? Black, like fudge cupcakes, should be something used (eaten?) in moderation. It’s striking, dramatic, and a great canvas for your brights to pop and take the spotlight, so make sure you’re adding some light to your dark!

Spring colours and prints from Mandala Design!

Spring colours and prints from Mandala Design!

LOOSE CLOTHES HIDE AN IMPERFECT FIGURE – Again, this can be true at times. For example, I have a pair of cropped pants (polka dotted!) which I absolutely HAD to own. They’re very retro, super-slim fitting, but low rise, which I’m not usually a fan of, since they can create an off muffin-top effect. With those pants, I choose longer flowwy tops to create a flattering silhouette. What I do NOT do is pair a wide-leg trouser with a loose-fitting top, and then throw a chunky cardigan over top. Some gals look as though they’re drowning in their clothes, and it ends up attracting more attention (the bad kind) and hides any shape you have under layers upon layers of clothes. Come on, ladies, I’m all for the bohemian tunic trend, but remember to offset a breezy piece with a well-fitted garment to create balance and flow.

PRINTS ATTRACT ATTENTION – True at times, but people seem to forget that prints also camouflage a whole lot too. Panty-lines, that tiny stain from your egg salad sandwich which should have ended up in your mouth but ended up in your lap, baby drool, and all the good stuff life throws at you. All of those can be ancient history if you’re wearing a well-printed garment. Prints also create (what we have lovingly dubbed here at Fresh Collective) “visual confusion” as the eye is attracted to the print itself, rather than the shape of the person underneath. Large, bright prints create interest and drama, while smaller prints in more neutral colours simply add dimension to your look. Many professional stylists advise clients to incorporate SOME kind of print into EVERY outfit to create a focus point, so get comfy, because prints are making appearances everywhere. Pick a printed shoe, jacket, or bag for a “pop of print” or get sassy with an exceptionally flattering allover printed dress to highlight your rockin’ silhouette. Get on with your bad self, girl.

Our friend, Adaline embracing prints at Fresh Collective, then rocking them onstage at Canadian Music Week!

Our friend, Adaline embracing prints at Fresh Collective, then rocking the popular printed pants from Brenda Beddome onstage at Canadian Music Week!

KEEP SKIRTS LONG TO CONCEAL LEGS – Have you ever seen a curvier gal in a below-the-knee-length, loose-fitting skirt? Have you noticed just how much volume that ADDS to the silhouette? Skirts are often a tricky area for many body types including mine. I’m only 5’4″, and I have a long torso, so finding skirts which are flattering on short legs is a bit of a challenge. I’ve found that leaner styles are most flattering on curvier gals, and love my collection of Bionic pencil skirts which channel a bit of Christina Hendricks’ Mad Men style. Alternatively, shorter skirts can flatter just as well, but should be kept flouncy and flirty to make them look sweet and feminine, not as though I’m heading to the club to fist pump until 4am. Snookie happened for a reason, ladies, and we should learn from her. This is a great way to play up the print trend too, pair a fun skirt with a classic oxford for an office-friendly look, or toss on a cute tank and some sandals and hit the downtown core for an afternoon of patios and shopping!

PANTS SHOULD FALL STRAIGHT DOWN FROM THE HIP –  Not always. What kind of look are you trying to create? I’m a fan of playing up my curves, and I’m relatively obsessed with the 50’s, so I typically choose a skinnier pant which accentuates the shape of my legs. That being said, there are plenty of opportunities to rock a wider-leg pant. There’s a big difference between wearing a wide leg pant because you want to create an effect, and wearing a wide leg pant because you think its your only option and the sole shape which will flatter your body. Wider bottoms create a column affect. This can be desirable in menswear inspired pieces, and is also super prominent in the upcoming global fashion wave, but it also eliminates any curves you’ve got throughout your bottom half. I love being a girl, and being shaped like a girl, and I simply can’t imagine hunting down items which negate my curves and make me look blocky, for fear of looking TOO curvy.

Here’s the secret: Your body has already decided what shape it is, and now it’s given you full control over dressing it accordingly and with love and pride!  Take a good long look at yourself in the mirror today, and pick out your best features and parts, and think of ways to play up these wonderful, wonderful attributes. Cutie booty? Shapely legs? Perfectly flat tummy? Be proud of the features which make you look like a rock star/pinup/Superwoman and give them center stage to shine. Having trouble seeing this for yourself? Drop me a line at Jamie@freshcollective.com and I’ll reply. We can chat about ways to create a great sense of balance and self-love through your wardrobe, and discover what sorts of new fashion territory you can cover confidently!

Happy spring, folks! See you next week!

The Swagger Coach: The Good, The Bad and the Apathetic

swagger coach

If you’ve read even a single one of my blogs before this one, you’ll know I’m an avid shopper. If you haven’t, nice to meet you, and I hope you enjoy these from here on out. But if you have you’ll know that I adore fashion. Loving fashion often results in being in retail spaces for an extended amount of time, and having interacted with many, many salespeople.

Many, many salespeople. My God, the salespeople.

I also have just under a decade in working in retail management, most recently in the training and development arenas. I’ve worked in social media and corporate branding too, and if there is one thing that absolutely tears my heart from my chest, volleyball spikes it to the ground and then tells it it’s sister is the prettier one, it’s (get ready for this)…

(are you ready for this?)

Poor customer service. Bum bum buuuummmmmmm.

Every industry has it’s versions. There are aspects of customer service in every business, be they super noticeable or not, and there are always those shining examples of people who’s ethics are a terrifying reminder that being a customer is not as luxurious of an experience as businesses often suggest they are. I could re-write the Iliad with names of stores, businesses or service I received less than satisfactory service from, but the few which I’ve chosen to highlight now have truly made their mark, be it in a positive or negative way.
HappyshopAround three or four years ago, I was shopping in Sherway Gardens (for those who don’t know, its a mostly upper-middle class mall in the West end of Etobicoke, and it’s most loyal customers are teens of well-to-do professionals) with my friend, a gothy art major who wore corsets as shirts. We passed a tiny boutique with bizarrely coloured faceless mannequins, one of whom was wearing a side-slung evening purse, plastered with peacock feathers. My eccentric friend paused at the window, remarking about the purse being the only thing which had caught her eye since we got inside the mall. Hmm. Her birthday was coming up, and it was an absolutely fabulous bag, and the only time I’d seen her express willingness to wear colour since two summers ago.

I went back to the store a few days later, alone, and was hoping to price the bag. The salesgirl was at the counter, on her Blackberry. She looked away from her phone for a moment, then back down, then back up to me.

“Hi, um, I’m sorry, but we don’t really carry anything in plus sizes here. But there’s an Addition Elle across the parking lot, though.”

…..?

No greeting. No asking if there was anything I needed help with. Nothing but an insult, and indirect direction to leave her place of work immediately. Surely there was nothing anyone over a size 10 could want from the store.

I might also take a moment to mention that Mean Girls was shot at Sherway Gardens, and at the neighbouring high school Etobicoke Collegiate. The movie was released years before this incident, including the “Sorry, but we only sell sizes one, three and five. But maybe you could try Sears?” scene. It was like I had entered into a Plastics alternate universe.
onethreefiveI told the girl that I was in to price check the bag. Her face lit up.

“Oh, its two-seventy…”

I cut her off. I was not paying two-seventy-anything for the bag, first off, but I was also absolutely uninterested in anything she had to say. I was not hurt, personally, but I was irritated and SHOCKED that a person with so little tact was left alone to operate a business. I would be mortified if I had found out that one of my sales staff had spoken to a customer in that way, and had also thrown any attempt to create a warm, inviting atmosphere out the window. I was appalled, and I asked for the manager’s name and hours, informing the girl that I’d be calling to speak with them the very next day. She babbled an apology and said she was just trying to save me time, and looked genuinely confused when I asked whether they had sold purses, shoes, jewelry, accessories, or gifts to other plus size women, and whether that was a possibility today. Apparently there was a force field around the entrance to the store which repelled anyone over a size 10, but I had magic powers which allowed me to enter, so she had never been forced to interact with my type before. Poor girl. Must have been terrified.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. The next day, I called back and got the manager. I introduced myself and shared the incident with her, mentioning that I felt that this information would help with some training opportunities and courtesy refreshers, as I knew her business was an esteemed one and did quite well. SHE SIDED WITH THE SALESGIRL. She sided with the freaking salesgirl. She said that she understood how my feelings could be hurt “because some people are just a bit more sensitive, right darling?” and completely refused to acknowledge that there was no greeting, uncovering of needs, gestures of acknowledgement that I was even in the store except to dismiss me, or even thought to whether the purchase was for me or as a gift. Frustrating, and concerning.

I remember interviewing candidates for positions within my stores or teams and wondering, is this person a reflection of myself? Is this person one I would trust to act as an ambassador for my brand, and what my team represents? I was constantly on the lookout for feedback from my customers, and found that customers truly are the eyes and ears of your business. I’m usually a good judge of character and have always believed that while some may not have as much experience, or the highest qualifications, the right attitude and work ethic can go leaps and bounds in making an impression. I once fought my two supervisors to hire a young man who spoke with a heavy Spanish accent and had minimal retail experience, while the company wondered if he would have communication barriers with the customers. He was taken on for a seasonal position, and three years later, he has won endless incentives and has hit the “top sellers” list every single month. He’s a lively and exuberant fellow, who would share stories of his childhood abroad with his customers, and had a fantastically genuine sense of humour. He’s the most authentic, warm person to be around and his customers know him by nickname and offer to bring him coffees and lunches when he’s manning the store alone. He’s received many letters of praise, including from a regional manager from Montreal who mystery shopped the store while dressed down, who exemplified him by describing his experience as the “most memorable experience I’ve had in retail in many, many years and (the regional manager from our area) should be proud to call (him) a member of her team.” This dude is an awesome example of someone who loves their job, brings amazing energy to the business and creates relationships, not customers.

Just this weekend I was driving through a rather industrial area with my family, when I asked them to pull over to the nearest convenience store so I could buy some Advil. My head was pounding. What we thought was a dollar store was actually a very strangely placed accessory boutique. When I went inside I noticed that they had a small fridge of drinks, and a few assorted items for sale behind the counter as well as the heaps of accessories, wallets, phone cases, hair accessories and scarves which were draped across doors and tables. I asked the shopkeeper if she carried Advil at the store, and she replied stating that they did not, but asked me to follow her. She got her purse from under the counter and popped open the cap of her own Advil bottle, offering me two, and instructing me to take a bottle of water from the fridge for free. “I know how much a headache can ruin your day, just take it and feel better.” Accepting over-the-counter drugs from a total stranger? I believed wholeheartedly that she was well intentioned, as I could see myself doing something similar, and the pills were clearly labelled. And, while I know it may not have been the most cautious move, I had no reason to think that this almost 60-year old woman had any reason to carry tiny immaculately recreated poisoned Advil with her. I just could’t see that being a reality. So I took the Advil (bless her soul, they were so appreciated) and wandered around her store while explaining how thankful I was, and how rare it is to see such a cool offer. when was the last time my local grocery store offered me a cool drink gratis on a hot summer’s day? Never, that’s when. Not only had I not made a purchase, she offered me a FREE bottle of water. She just said that she hoped that if she was good to people they would be good to her, or that the favour would come back around somehow. Long story short, I bought another leather wallet. It was lovely, and I was happy to give her the sale. I’ll definitely be back, too. I bought it in purple, but they also had it in teal, and I’m not so good with self-restraint.
bottlewaterI’m such a strong believer of making your business, service, store, office, whatever, as warm and true to yourself as possible. If you don’t truly like people, you’re likely not in one of these industries. Well, hopefully you’re not in one of these industries. That would be rather counterproductive. Anyways, If you’ve aligned yourself with, jumped on board with, or created a business, its likely grown from a passion of yours as opposed to something you thought there was maybe some money in and you decided to, you know, give it a whirl. Please folks, be accountable to your customers, clients, and fans to ensure that your space is reflected through your people. As a customer, I truly value the folks who go above and beyond to make my experience a great one, not those who are only interested in closing the sale. Without passion or enthusiasm there is no honesty behind service, and the experience flat-lines.  But when you stumble across those folks who love their jobs, are truly invested in their industry and are excited about their product or service, the quality flows naturally and the impression we’re left with is an awesome one.

What are some of your best and worst experiences in retail? What are some of your most memorable interactions? Email me and have your say, I’ll write right back, plus I’ll feature your input in a future posting!  Jamie@freshcollective.com

Talk to you soon, friends, and have an awesome weekend!

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!