Monday, February 11, 2013

Fresh to Death

Just the other week, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my favourite old movies, Death Becomes Her, was on TV.  How hot AND hilarious were Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in that flick?  The special effects must have been incredibly modern too because it has been about 20 years since they made that movie and it's seriously quite well done, especially the part where Meryl blows a hole into Goldie's torso.  Classic!

In reality, unfortunately, the potion they drink to give them eternal youth remains to my knowledge undiscovered.  However, I may have invariably found a pretty great runner-up.  The miracle product is called Marula Oil, otherwise known in my world as Liquid Gold.  I first read about beauty oils a few months ago and was dubious.  My inner pimply teen reacted with horror "wait wait wait, you are telling me that I need to put OIL on my face?  Are you TRYING to end what little social life I have?".  However, I never forgot that article and had kept it in the back of my brain for a while until I received a Sephora gift card and was simultaneously sent an email about their featured products, one of them being their selection of beauty oils.

I finally had an opportunity to stop by a Sephora about two weeks ago while walking in LA.  I had only been travelling for about a week, with a stop in Vancouver first before heading to the City of Angels/Compton.  After speaking with one of the staff, I was fully convinced to try it-great timing with my subsequent flight to Chile.  I'm happy to report that just a dime-sized amount of Marula Oil after I wash my face in the morning and at night has already, after a short time, made a huge difference in my skin.  It maintains its moisture without clogging the pores, and despite all the travel, changes in climate and sun exposure, my skin wasn't the blemished, sensitive, flakey disaster it would normally be once I had returned to Canada.  I've had to use less makeup, and feel like I don't look as tired as I had before.

As a previous cynic, I can tell you I'm a total convert and now include a beauty oil as part of my embarrassingly extensive regime.  Just don't push me down the stairs, because I don't have Bruce Willis to help me out.

xo Amber

Monday, June 18, 2012

Post-weekend reflections

Friday night was my launch party for my online store,  The party was held at JunXion Public House in the market, which was the perfect venue to host the event.  The main level, with its exposed brick walls and little tables where people can sit, offered the ideal space for guests to gather and converse.  Music played while a projector showed photos from past collections and events that have led to this point in my adventure.  A huge thank you needs to be given to the JunXion team who opened their doors and provided the runway (built by their own bare hands, no less), took care of so many of the details and put up with my silly last-minute questions and requests.  Anyone looking for somewhere to host an event, I strongly recommend that you give them a call.  To see some photos from the event, taken by Faces Magazine you can check them out here.

It had been a while since I had an event where I wasn't sharing the responsibility of ensuring good attendance.  I had forgotten how nerve wracking it can be and heart wrenching when you start thinking half the people won't show up.  They of course always do, invariably last minute, or "fashionably late" which has led to me vowing to no longer do that to people, however unfashionable that may make me.  It's too devastating when experiencing it on the other end.  I was very happy with the turnout in the end, as it was a great mix of friends, supporters and industry members.  I had wanted exactly that for the private party, and wanted to thank those that have been there from the beginning as well as people who have just recently come into my life as new collaborations and clientele.

We put on a little show downstairs once the place had filled up enough.  I had 5 fantastic models who were so happy to be there, had great attitudes and made my swimwear look fantastic!  I just love working with professional models who can bring the designs to life, and lend personality to the show.  I owe a big thank you to Modmop Hairdressing and Noah who not only did the makeup, but planned the looks and styled the girls to perfection.  Again, thank you to everyone behind the scenes who work so hard and provide life lines to people such as myself.  We couldn't do it without you!

I had planned to give a thank-you speech directly following the show, but it somehow just didn't work once the runway was pulled up and people had hit the dance floor.  I decided personally thanking everyone was a better touch, and there were some individuals that hadn't made it that night that I had planned to mention and changing the wording last minute was fairly impossible, or at least with everything else happening it felt as such.  I'd like to take the opportunity now to put my Thank-You speech in writing, taking the liberty to expand on the much smaller one I had planned originally in person:

Thank you to those who are here tonight to support my latest step on this crazy path I've taken.  June marks one year since I registered Amber Watkins SWIM down at City Hall, and therefore makes it the perfect month to officially launch my online store,  It's been one crazy year, and I have learned so much about the business, about myself and about the people around me.

Two months ago when I sat down with Scott, we were meeting to discuss something entirely different.  I was also juggling a few big life decisions all at once, while still trying to get my swimwear collection out into people's hands.  I had already begun the necessary steps to developing my online store.  What I needed was a focus and motivation to have it complete.  He suggested a launch party, hosted at JunXion, orginally set for sometime in May.  By early May, after hours and hours of work, I had completed the goal, and soft-launched the site to see how things went.  A month later, here we are!  I need to say a special thank you to Scott, Andrew, Duong and the JunXion team for making tonight possible, from the invitations to the the complimentary champagne upstairs, right down to the custom built runway I'm standing on now.  Hammer promised me that it could support a rhinocerous if that was necessary.  I felt confident my 90 lb models would be safe.

As I look around the room, I see the faces of some of my closest friends.  Many of you have been to literally every show and event I have done.  I feel so fortunate to have you in my life, urging me forward, yelling words of encouragement.  In this marathon, you've been the ones handing me water and snack packs from the sidelines and I can honestly say I would have never been able to go on without you.  I would especially like to thank someone who spent years dutifully driving me to Fabricland, picking me up from fittings, accompanying me to Toronto, once even voluntarily pinning white lace fabric to ugly red curtains because I hated them so much.  I could go on with my examples, but I wouldn't want to pump his tires TOO much.  So I will just leave it as this:  Thank you, Tyler.  You were my biggest fan, my sounding board, my shoulder to cry on (many many many times) and my voice of reason even if it wasn't what I wanted to hear.  I appreciate everything and carry it with me in my future endeavours.

There are other friends I have made who have provided me with opportunities and helped me in my moments of desperation and absolute ignorance.  Angie from AMTI and her family have been there since day one and she is still there for me now.  Christopher Massardo from PRESS The Fashion Magazine provides endless advice and inspiration with his amazing work.  Greg Kolz and Paul Trepanier have snapped photos for countless runway shows and events and without them I wouldn't have half the photos I do for my website and facebook pages.  I also see new friends and acquaintances who I have been lucky to have met in the recent past, to collaborate creatively and to learn from one another, from photographers to stylists, makeup artists and public relations representatives.  I also cannot forget to thank the team at Shopify who built the online store I am launching today, who met with me and took hours out of their schedule to design the site when I was at a point of sheer frustration.  It's not something they are mandated to do, and I thank them for their patience and dedication to my cause. 

I also see clients who have bought my swimsuits and tell their friends about Amber Watkins SWIM.  Thank you for purchasing and promoting my first collection. 
Finally, a big thank you to my friend Noah who I was fortunate to meet only 3 months ago, and who I instantly knew would be a person I would work with for hopefully many years to come.  He and I and his friend Maciej who photographed the images for the online store worked so well together for the shoot and I need to mention that Logan from MIM models was such a trooper for that extra long day! 
In conclusion, I can say that I know from experience how important it is to tell the people in your life how much they mean to you and how much you value their part in your projects.  We cannot do everything alone, and we can only be more successful when we allow others in and welcome feedback and collaboration.  I owe what success I have achieved so far to every person in this room and many others who are not here tonight but have supported me in some personal way.

I hope you have enjoyed your night and that you know how much it means to me to have you here.

The rest of the weekend was spent in some alternative state of reality, as I dealt with the sudden realization that I didn't have some hyper-scheduled agenda to stick to, and after over two months of working 7 days a week and having something planned for every day, I honestly didn't know what to do with myself.  I kept willing myself to relax and go with the flow, and Saturday I managed to ward off my initial feelings of loneliness.  However, Sunday evening was a different story.  I think everything I have done and all the changes I have had to adjust to in the last couple of months just came at me with a giant whoosh of white noise and panic.  I can't describe the feelings I was having, because they were tangled up like the top drawer of my jewellery chest. I think it's a sign I need to take some time to work on my heart's taken a back seat lately and also a few hits in the last few weeks.  This weekend it felt like the cinch that had already been around it was suddenly tightened by several notches.  I'm going home this weekend to see my fam jam and then it's off to Toronto to work and catch up with some long lost friends and to celebrate my birthday.  I think it's just what I need.

xo Amber

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fashion Inspirations from The Great Gatsby

Just the other morning I watched the trailer for the new "The Great Gatsby" movie coming out this Christmas season.  It's not surprising that I was immediately blown away by the costuming, as the director is Baz Luhrmann, of Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge.  You can watch it here:

I vow I will re-read the novel once more before the movie just to refresh my mind.

Inspired by the dazzling costumes of The Great Gatsby and the glamour of the Roaring Twenties, I have compiled a few trends that make me want to get all dolled up (yes, that's a 1920's slang term).

Dropped waists
Dress, Zara
Dress, BCBG MaxAzria
Usually I am all about the high waists, and so you would think I wouldn't touch this trend, but I'm actually really into it this season!

I love the texture and the movement that fringe creates on any item.  I recently bought a black leather fringed belt from BCBG and I'm in love with it.  I have worn it with several of my dresses and skirts and it just adds something special to an otherwise ordinary piece.

Necklace, Zara
Dress, Topshop

Clutch, Topshop
Top, BCBG MaxAzria

Again, it's all about the texture that creates decadence and richness to an article of clothing or accessory.  The oxford look was all the rage in the 1920s and still looks good today.

T-strap pump, Town Shoes
Skirt, Zara
The opulence of the Roaring Twenties is impossible to ignore.  It was all about celebrating wealth and wearing it for all to see.  Sequins, jewels and chains galore!  
Heels, Town Shoes

T-Strap pump, Town Shoes

Dress, Zara

Earrings, Aldo

Necklace, Le Chateau

Barette, Le Chateau

Sequined shorts, Topshop

Headband, Topshop

Pump, Town Shoes

Skirt, BCBG MaxAzria

Now, I'm quite aware that I will literally look like I'm on my way to a New Year's Eve party if I go out decked head to toe in all this glitter and glam, so I urge you to break it up and dress down some of these trends if just heading out to the bar on a Saturday night.  See you at the speakeasy ;)

xo Amber

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Look Back, A Step Forward

Hello Friends!

I hope this will be the resurgence of The Bias Cut, because I sure have missed this.  I don't know how many ideas have passed through my mind since my last post, but actually sitting down and typing them out just never seemed to happen.

I was just speaking to a friend on the phone this morning who commented on all that I had accomplished in the last ten months or so.  I said to him that it's sometimes difficult to see what has happened and what you have achieved when the only way you can operate is day by day and looking forward to the next goal.  I think this is a good time as any to pause, reflect and then carry on.

Following the Grunge and Glamour show, I debuted my Spring/Summer 2012 collection at Ottawa Fashion Week.  I am trying to find the right words to describe how fantastic it felt to see it all come together, but I think the best one to sum it up would be satisfying.  I was fortunate to receive a good amount of press, with multimedia coverage and a few front page features!  I couldn't have been more thrilled with the exposure I gained.  I also met so many amazing, talented and creative people through it all who were so supportive and gracious.

Fast forwarding through a few months when I took it a bit easier and refocused on a few other things in my life that needed attention, such as relationships and health, I still worked on the business on the less glamourous end of the spectrum:  Putting in an order with my manufacturer and organizing inventory.  Making small changes to the patterns and learning all sorts of new things about yields and other things that aren't really interesting enough to write about, so I won't keep going.  Done.

This winter I was fortunate to participate once again in the Fashion for Funds charity fashion show that I had also shown in last year.  I was able to donate a swimsuit to the silent auction as well, which felt really great since the year before I didn't have professionally made garments that I felt comfortable donating for someone's use.  The show was another big success, and Kate Reeve proved once again to be a great role model to her peers and adults, despite her young age.

Over the last few months I also officially joined the team at Press the Fashion Magazine as an assistant editor.  It has in itself been such a learning experience and every time I assist on a shoot or am given an assignment, I can feel myself growing creatively.  I just am very fortunate to be given so many amazing opportunities and to work with people who teach me new things and inspire me to do greater.

And so here we are.  I am happy and proud to say I finally launched my online store this past week, which was quite the endeavour in itself.  The final product is exactly what I had in mind, and I have to thank everyone who was involved in getting it up and going, including especially the team at Shopify who supported me above and beyond expectations!  The images were shot by a talented local photographer named Maciej and I gave all creative control over to Noah, who is honestly a mind reader when it comes to knowing what I want and need.  Between makeup, styling and creative directing he just nailed it :)

Without getting into a TMI situation, because that's not exactly where I go with this blog, but just to lend personality in some way, I wanted to end this post with a bit of a personal reflection.  So much has happened in less than a year, and in many ways it's shocking to see the progress one can make when you simply set your eyes on the prize and go for it.  However, I want to say that it has not come without sacrifice.  I am fortunate to have the support of great friends and family, but I never want to feel like I'm taking it for granted...which may or may not have been the case this past summer.  I could only see after the dust had settled that I could not live with myself if I continued on the path I was, even with so much to show for all that hard work.  In recent weeks, I suffered a personal loss with the ending of my long term relationship.  It's interesting how quickly life can turn on a dime, and yet also upon reflection the change has been happening for quite some time.  Even amid my hurt and anger, I do wish him only the best, and hope that for him his successes are worth the sacrifice.

With the recent launching of my online store and several magazine features, I know I have a lot to be happy and thankful for, and I am.  I am focusing on the day to day and look to the future with hope and optimism, because, well, nobody likes a cry baby.  On that note, check out my swimwear design featured on the front of Press the Fashion Magazine:

Also, if you read this right to the very end, you're pretty awesome.

xo Amber

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Summer 2011: Epilogue

I'm not going to comment on how long it's been since my last post.  It's extremely evident.  Moving forward, what an amazing summer that was!  Yes it went by quickly and yes I spent a lot of time indoors, hunched over my desk/my friend's dining room table working on what needed to be done, but wow...I seriously have a lot to show for it!

In the perfect culmination of everything I have been working toward, I had organized an amazing creative collaboration:  Grunge & Glamour at the Gladstone, held in Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel.  The event started with hip hop DJ Marko, followed by TO rock band The One-Look Donnybrook and ended with my swimwear runway show (accompanied by The OLD).  Visual artist Nick Sweetman covered the walls of the venue in his artwork.  It was so satisfying to see it finally come together...often we make plans or think of great ideas and they don't always materialize.  This is one of those ideas that not only came to be, but turned out even better than the original seed of thought.  The venue was perfect for the feel we were going for and the Gladstone staff were unbelievably amazing to work with the entire time.  We sold out the tickets and received so much positive feedback.  In the process, I was able to work with old friends, make new ones, and close a chapter on a part of my fashion design.  Also, the collection that I showed for the G & G event will be my last one that I made on my old sewing machine and likely will not be shown again.  The morning before the show, I drove to Newmarket to pick up my fresh new collection, which will be debuted at Ottawa Fashion Week at the end of this month!  So begins the next chapter...

Here's a shot of me with my models after the show.  I was lucky again to work with an amazing team.  The girls were so fun and had such great attitudes...the Green Room was a total party.  Hair was styled by the talented Kyle Hannaford from Head Candy Salon in Toronto.

Photo credit:  Santiago Ortega
For more photos from the runway show, click here or here.

Cheers to a new season!

xo Amber

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grunge and Glamour at the Gladstone

Consider this your official invite to the latest and greatest event I am very happy to be a part of!

A bit of history:

A few months ago I was speaking with my friend who lives in Toronto on Facebook chat (we were both slacking at our desk jobs, what can I say?).  We were both talking about our side projects-my fashion design, his rock band called The One-Look Donnybrook.  I mentioned I wanted to do another show in Toronto this summer, and he suggested I have The O.L.D. play for the show.  Over the course of several weeks, we had put together a pretty solid vision and had also included his friend Nick Sweetman, a Toronto visual artist, to the lineup.  Finally, as of a few weeks ago, Nick brought in his friend Marko Orlic to DJ as well.  And so the event was incredible collaboration that will showcase each of our talents with absolutely no room for boredom and only the opportunity for one amazing time!

So...come!  I can't wait to see it all come together :)

xo Amber

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Expecting the unexpected

Taking a mini-break for some brain babble in the form of a blog post:

Starting this fashion line is the closest I have ever been to having a child, or I suppose what I imagine it to be like:  In the first stages, it's just so exciting!  I announce the news to everyone who will listen and want to shout it from the rooftops how happy I am and how great I feel about it!  Then, the full weight of the situation starts to sink in.  My entire life needs to change to fit this into my plans: My apartment isn't big enough, I don't have enough time, I have to prioritize everything, not least my finances.  Meanwhile, back hurts, I'm constantly wearing "comfy pants", and using my situation as an excuse to eat junk food.  I can't sleep and I'm always anxious about how it will all turn out.  What should be the name be?  Will I be good at this?  When will I see my friends?  So many open-ended questions with no absolute answers.   But....all those scary points aside, it doesn't dispel how freaking excited I am about it all, and somewhere deep down I know it will all turn out OK.  At least this is where I am at in this entire process.  Sitting here, surrounded in patterns, with a path to the fridge and one out the front door.  An empty bag of chocolate covered raisins somewhere in there too.  (I wanted to buy Crispers, but the crumbs would have been everywhere and somehow I doubt my manufacturer wants to receive these patterns with salt and vinegar finger smudges everywhere.  Gross.)

Embarrassed to admit this was not just my night snack while tracing patterns, but also (looking down in shame) my breakfast the next day.  Judge away. 
My new pet!

Do not be fooled, this is actually a sofa.
***Allow me to take a pregnant pause to mention in passing that I am not, in this stage of my life, interested in having a child, nor do I think I actually know what it would be like.  So much respect to the mamas reading this, because I know it's probably 100 times harder than what I'm trying to do right now.

I leave for Toronto Tuesday morning and can't wait to get out of Ottawa for a couple of days and once and for all hand over this work to the professional who will then somehow turn a pile of paper cutouts and fabric into a complete sample swimwear line.  INcredible.

Until then, I still have a lot to do if I want this kid to be healthy.

xo Amber