gURLfriends performing for eachother

I was staying on my dear friend Rachel Rabbit White‘s couch for a few days at the end of August. I was intrigued to discover she was working on her first performance art piece while I was there. I’m also currently working on my own first performance art  piece with Rea McNamara for the massive contemporary art event Nuit Blanche on October 5th in Toronto, so I was so enthusiastic to be able to play a role in Rachel’s work, learn more about the form, and of course help my friend take on a challenging project.

The performance was the opening act of gURLs, a female-only art event at Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn. We lived inside of the project for days, and it truly did become a very personal shared meditation on creating with and for other women and the profound power of female friendships. Without any sexual power dynamics or commercial motivations, the event felt very honest, with a remarkable lack of pretension. You can read Rachel’s record of all the performances at Rhizome.

rachel rabbit white 2

This is Rachel writing, as I envision her.

I have my own naive ideas about performance art and art itself – I believe it is important to give your whole self to it, to not hold anything back, to take it seriously. Even when your resources are small, it seems obvious to me you have to use whatever you have in the service of the piece. It bothers me when art is too clever to make up for lack of effort and style. The art I admire does not conceal the investment of time and materials that went into it. I like it when artists emphasize the work in artwork. My career is as a commercial fashion illustrator, so of course I also like to uphold the aesthetic. Above all, I love art that is beautiful.

rachel rabbit white shrine

This is the shrine we built.

Spending time with Rachel working on her performance was especially rewarding for the creative dialogue. We laughed about how “earnestness is our cross to bear” so it is apparent we share the same values of sincerity both in ideas and appearance, although this may seem odd since we might look very different to the casual observer.

Rachel’s concept, of playing the role of a priestess providing absolution for past internet transgressions, could be treated trivially, as if it is a joke – but we know from our own experience and the experiences of our friends that online regrets are not any less real than offline regrets – they are actually far more literally haunting, popping up unwanted in inbox searches and ricocheting back at you with reminders in random comments or seeing your own images appropriated out of context. Part of having an online persona is concurrently carrying with you every previous iteration of that persona. And those previous versions of yourself too often distort, distract, and contradict who you want to be now. Rachel was providing a very true and valuable service to the participants in her piece, and we undertook this task with as much rigour as possible.

rachel rabbit white 1

The other value Rachel and I share is an attraction to the attractive. We spent a lot of time discussing how we could make the piece beautiful, and I was pleased to play the role of the viewer while we rehearsed the gestures of the piece and assembled the costumes. I enjoyed playing the role of the handmaiden to her priestess. On one hand, she was like my living doll as I draped her gown – as someone who adores doll play and was trained as a fashion designer, giving her a gorgeous costume was utter indulgence. I got to wear a similar, but less impressive outfit.

Since her duties as a high priestess were paramount, it fell to me to support the practical parts of the piece – guiding initiates through the steps. I invited them to write down what they wished to release at the shrine, present it to the priestess who would burn and receive the regret, and approach a tub of water where they could make an offering of oil or flower petals. After the audience was seated, the priestess poured the ashes into the water and entered the water herself, to ceremonially bathe herself in it. At the end, it was my responsibility as handmaiden to remove her mantle before she stepped into the water for the finale, and receive a wet priestess, wrapping her in a sheet and making her disappear.

rachel rabbit white 3

When we were preparing her to enter the water in front of the audience, we had to undo her hair from a knot at the top of her head. There was a long, excruciating, quiet moment while I extracted what felt like dozens of pins from her hair and tried to untangle an unruly elastic band. That’s when I felt my role most keenly as a supporter – it was Rachel’s piece, she was deeply invested in it, and as we dealt with an unanticipated jog in the rhythm, eyes locked, I whole-heartedly tried to send her reassurance, to absolve her of the accidental contingencies of performance, giving her my total devotion.

Afterwards, another far more experienced performance artist, Ann Hirsch, told Rachel that it was the best part of the piece. I know it was, for me.

fashion queens

Princesses are ubiquitous. Queens are epic. Here are a few of my favourite fashion queens.

Pharoah Hatshepsut

Her story is a dramatic one. She is a woman who crowned herself king – and recorded her image as a man’s. Hatshepsut represents a very calculated, symbolic image-making. This is what fashion queens have in common.

Empress Theodora

Another amazing story of transformation. Theodora remains a thoroughly charismatic enigma, a woman who used acting, style and bravado to win power and awe.

Queen Elizabeth I

Another story of an unlikely candidate seizing and holding power. She used her clothes as literal armour of wealth, covered with pearls and jewels, and a literal halo of a ruff. At a time when both kings and queens liked to power dress, she overpowered.

Marie Antoinette

I have to include her in every survey post I do, because she is the crux of modern femininity, or maybe a warning for what can happen when fashion takes over. Her use of image was amazing, prescient, ill-timed, and indelible. She may be dead, but her style returns to fashion over and over again.

Empress Eugenie

The second empire restored the silhouette of Versailles with generous skirts and nipped in waists and tons of jewels. The romantic and super-feminine look was wielded with expert womanly wiles by Eugenie – another story of intrepid social climbing with style.

Queen Alexandra

Her story is a sadder one, she doesn’t seem as much an agent of her own destiny as the others. But she is notable fashion-wise for bringing big emphasis to a collar of pearls, thus establishing the iconography for 20th century female power.

Jacqueline Kennedy

Though not a queen, she was a modern, mortal queen – she dressed the part as if she had been born for it. In simple, spare strokes she wore the crown and the pearls with perfect modern sense.

Queen Rania

She is the most compelling modern fashion queen, an elemental beauty and aware of how she presents herself. She is a living queen who lives up to her role.

twenty eleven redemption

This has been an incredible year, full of adversity and transcendence.

What follows is a redux, final fashion‘s finest for the year. Thanks so much to everyone who visits, reads, comments, emails and reaches out. Friends and colleagues, you inspire me. You are all wonderful. Thank you.


My favourite blog posts

Paper dolls

  • Vionnet – both back and front views. Braless, just the way Vionnet liked it.
  • Agyness Deyn – the first of a model series, I have a wishlist.
  • Anna Dello Russo – for the Hudson’s Bay Company. She is such a perfect fashion phoenix, delightful to draw.
  • Pink Martini Collection – my first completely hand-rendered, watercolour paper doll.

Incredible encounters

Fashion weeks and events

Extraordinary projects

Print appearances


London life

This was a year that started hard for me and then turned around in the second half. While I didn’t tick every box, I feel like I got the gist if not the gamut of my 2011 goals.

I’m looking forward to 2012. How about you?

best competitors – female friendships in fashion

June, 2007. Fashion friends.

When I was a six years old, I met one of my best, lifelong friends. We were both homeschooled. We both lived on farms with goats and chickens. We were both blonde. We both loved to draw and paint. We both loved to read and write. We both created elaborate, imaginary worlds to play in, both together and on our own.

Later we went to high school together. The transition into school life was a difficult one, and just as much as we were there for each other, we also compared ourselves against each other. We were both bright kids who got high marks – hers were higher, mostly because she tried harder while I tended to drift. Adolescence had not treated us equally – she became petite and feminine and desirable with long blonde hair – and I was skinny and awkward with unflattering glasses and bad haircuts. She had better boyfriends and better clothes than I did. Her artwork was more impressive than mine, and she won more praise. Mostly, those things didn’t matter so much. I loved having an intellectual and creative equal-or-better, someone who was talented and worked hard and encouraged me to do the same, someone who made me feel not so alone in a rural school environment where I very clearly knew I didn’t belong. We always made things together, just like we did when we were kids – constantly drawing, school projects, sharing clothes, she was, and is, someone who is always there for me.

The way I love her has always been mixed up with traces of envy. All the things we had in common just made it seem unfair that I wasn’t more like her.

In a way I didn’t expect, this friendship set the tone for my path in fashion. Fashion school is a unique, almost wholly female environment. It took me a while to develop friendships, and what I discovered is that I was still drawn to the girls at the top of the class. I really responded to the competitive aspect fashion school – somehow the camaraderie that was all mixed up with ambition was, to me, the best kind. I could clearly identify the girls whose talents matched or outmatched my own, and I truly cherished the challenge of beating them, or even being beaten by them, in a creative field that totally fascinates me.

After fashion school I found my friends through blogging. Again I found myself drawn to the friends who were my equals or better. Fashion bloggers are incredibly supportive, generous people, which balances out the weirdly measurable aspect of this arena. Hits, event invites, swag, money, collaborations, seat assignments – you are constantly susceptible to comparing yourselves against one another with these very tangible markers of success. I’m not going to lie – as fiercely as I love my fashion blog friends, at the same time I am racing against them. As we cheer on and support each other’s accomplishments, we are constantly raising the bar on our own efforts.

In fashion, there is no room for those who are not ambitious and competitive. Sometimes people ask me if fashion school is stressful – my answer is that any fashion school that isn’t hard isn’t worth it. This is not finishing school for princesses; this is a highly creative, difficult industry that will challenge you at every step. Everyone brings their own arsenal of advantages and adversities, but the one thing we all have in common is that we want to be here so much we’re willing to sacrifice the easier options we could have chosen. Your fashion friends will inevitably share your obsessions and your ambitions.

The general consensus is that envy is a bad thing, and I’m not going to disagree that it is a painful thing. Rather than assigning it value, I prefer to treat it as an unavoidable aspect of the human condition. Even more so, I think envy is essential to the fashion phenomenon. In the fashionmobile, desire is the internal combustion engine and envy is the fossil fuel. We are not in the business of making clothes; we are in the business of creating desire. Envy is just the other side of the coin. I don’t think we can ever eliminate jealousy; but we can philosophically make peace with it, even use it as a force that drives us to be better. When I think of the most positive, encouraging collegial friendships I’ve been lucky to have, not a single one is untouched by a lingering sense of longing.

Perhaps in male-dominated industries the competition is clearer and there are sharper definitions between colleagues and friends. I think in fashion, the competition is incredibly nuanced because of a natural, feminine empathy, and on the flip side, passive female socialization. Regardless, I enjoy the challenge of complicated, competitive friendships. I love my fashion friends. I want to be like them. I think they are the most amazing girls in the world.

four Canadian girls in London

When you’re a Canadian fashion girl in London, the first people you meet are other Canadian girls. They’re the ones with friends in common, and let’s face it – Canadian girls rock.

Besides our nationality, our fashion focus and our shared awesomeness, we’re all so different! Different dreams, vastly different aesthetics, unique talents. When we get together our conversations cover similar ground, and we offer each other encouragement, but we are all on our own trips. Taking on London on our own, together.

I sent a little email interview to a few of my favourite Canadian girls to give you a state of the union when it comes to landing in London and pursuing fashion freedom. To be fair, I also interviewed myself.

Ashley Godsman is a tailor. She is a reader of the blog and she arrived in London around the same time I did. She reached out to me and I’m glad – she’s one of the hardest workers I know and she is always smiling.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Since October 2010.

What are you seeking in London?

After working in the design industry in Montreal, Canada for the past few years, I was seeking to expand my knowledge and skill set on a global level. I wanted to specialize in (men’s) suiting, and I wanted to learn from the best; leading me to Savile Row in search of an apprenticeship, and hopefully after a few years, a position as a cutter.

Highlights so far?

Being given the opportunity to go in and work with an amazing tailoring house. It took a little bit of courage and a lot of luck! Seeing the amount of people that come into these houses seeking apprenticeships, and work experience on a day-to-day basis is incredible. There is absolutely nothing that sets me apart from the others, so it does make me feel grateful for being able to go in and do what I love.

I cannot say enough about the team of people I get to interact with everyday, they are some of the most patient, and incredibly knowledgeable people I have ever worked with; I wouldn’t be able to find this kind of experience anywhere else.

Lowlights so far?

When you hear about London being one of the most expensive cities to live in, they weren’t lying.

When I’m not at the tailors, I’m working a part time job, and a day off is few and far between. This city is constantly on the go and doesn’t wait for anyone. I don’t have time to feel tired, and knowing how quickly I could be replaced makes me work that much harder. In my spare time I’ll be going over how to draft a trouser pattern for a specific client, or practicing buttonholes.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Perseverance, eventually it will pay off. You’ll push yourself harder than you ever thought, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Anything is possible; it just depends on how much you’re willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it.

Sarah Joynt is a writer. I first met her when she was working as a PR assistant extraordinaire for Knot PR in Toronto. Her PR employers love her, and rightly so – she’s incredibly detail oriented, a conscientious observer with a keen sense of what really matters in the fashion business. In London, she’s using these talents towards a freelance writing career.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Just over a year and a half.

What are you seeking in London?

Opportunity. I am ambitious, almost to a fault, and always looking for bigger and better opportunities. Whilst in Toronto I was working in PR and writing a bit on the side and I came here looking to become a magazine slave or work as someone’s assistant but have ended up writing on my own and am really enjoying it. Having the freedom choose who and what I write about, and get paid for it, has been a real career booster because my writing is always better when I’m passionate about the subject.

Highlight so far?

Receiving a handwritten note from a *big* designer thanking me for my review was definitely an unexpected highlight. This past fashion week was a big turning point for me because I finally felt like I was a player in the game rather than someone peeking in from the sidelines.

Lowlight so far?

In terms of my career, being in an environment without a solid network is always hard but even more so when you’re a freelancer. It’s been a bit of a struggle to make a name for myself and I think I’m only just starting to remind people that I live here. Working for international publications has been fantastic for my career but it means that people aren’t sure of my home base. Also, I was mugged a few months after I arrived which was a major low.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Be prepared for it to be a very different market than Toronto or New York (or wherever you’re coming from outside the UK). There are a still a lot of old school people running things here and it takes some getting used to. My best advice is to be strategic about where you live. As a freelancer I need a strong home base and London is huge so finding somewhere you feel comfortable can really help with the settling in process.

Cristina Sabaiduc is a designer. She is also an artist who loves exploring unconventional materials. I first discovered her when I saw her grad collection in Toronto – it featured gowns that transformed magnetically, embellished with flowers of iron filings, textiles made from hardware supplies like caulking and mesh. Besides being inventive, she is a true adventuress – a global gallivanter, all guts and glory.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Six months.

What are you seeking in London?

An exploration of myself as a person and a designer. This city is so big and has so much to offer across so many disciplines; I feel like I’ve just had to open my eyes and take a second to see the vast possibilities. I hope to develop my career as a designer, in regards to my own line, and collaborating ventures.

Highlight so far?

Meeting everyone I have thus far has been an amazing experience; it’s really showed the many facets of the art and fashion world in London. The two most memorable highlights would be getting to assist with show production on on-site and off-site shows during my first fashion week here and the upcoming debut of my work at Debut Contemporary in Notting Hill.

Lowlight so far?

Probably every other day when you may feel even a nanosecond of self doubt. Moving to a new city and aspiring to work in this really tough industry can get to you at times, and I find I create my own lows as I’m my toughest critic. I can’t say I’ve had an extremely low experience or maybe I’ve just blocked it out of my memory.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Research. I had planned to move to London for awhile but had barely anytime to pack my life up before leaving, let alone research. What I did the first three months here, I could have easily done before I moved (and started paying ridiculous rent). From little things like what’s the equivalent of Future Shop or Shopper’s Drug Mart to what studios and pr agencies are based in London. Getting a bible to the city (London A to Z) would be beneficial for anyone hoping to call this city their home.

And as for the industry, it’s small (surprisingly), so study it and be open to what you may encounter, London has a way of leading you down a path you didn’t think was possible.

Danielle Meder is me. I’m a fashion illustrator and blogger.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Since November 2010.

What are you seeking in London?

I’m looking to develop contacts and clients, both here and around Europe. As a freelance fashion illustrator, I’ve built a decent level of visibility online and a strong personal network in Toronto where I lived for eight years, but the end goal is to be an illustrator with an international reputation and the clients to match. London is a great base because of its proximity to so many other international fashion capitals.

Highlights so far?

I’ve met a number people who I’ve admired and been inspired by from afar. In particular, David Downton (who I consider the world’s best living fashion illustrator), and Colin McDowell (a brilliant writer, well known collector of fashion illustration, and vivid connection to fashion’s fading memory) both complimented my work in person, which gave me the sense of validation and encouragement I truly needed – an irrefutable confirmation that I do in fact have the talent as well as the ambition.

Lowlights so far?

The sheer level of rejection you face as a newcomer in a competitive environment is truly difficult to learn how to handle. Emails disappear into the ether, faces turn away from you at parties, and questions get ignored. There is tremendous pressure to work for free, which is something I’m not prepared to do at this stage in my career or life. The feeling of being somewhat behind as I’m very much in the same boat as a lot of 20-24 year olds. I’m not going to lie, it is impossible not to succumb to discouragement every once in a while.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Develop a thicker skin – be prepared to weather the very British “yes that means no”. Take a philosophical approach to the ups and downs, and a practical approach to living your life – be frugal, find a side gig. Be incredibly tenacious, because the girl who gets the gig is the one who refuses to give up.

Most of all, always remember to be grateful that you are able to pursue your dream, in a city that is so full of history and knowledge and creativity.


visit to the Dr. Martens factory

Ever since I won the Dr. Martens design competition in 2009, I’ve been so pleased to stay in touch with the fine folks I met who work for my favourite brand of boots. Stephen Griggs, one of the owners, is a twitter friend and noticed I was moving to London. He invited me to come visit the factory, and of course I jumped in my bouncing soles at the chance.

Wellingborough is a factory town north of London, known for being a boot-making district. Stephen’s family has been in the boot making business for generations, buying the Dr. Martens brand and bringing the boot to Britain in 1960. Since then Dr. Martens has gradually developed from being a manufacturer of serviceable work boots to becoming a major player in the business of culture – producing a rare, iconic item that connects the dots between youth, music, politics, and fashion.

Something tangential and interesting I learned on this trip: Dr. Martens’ fortunes tend to rise in hard times. The business peaked in the 1990s and is now experiencing something of a renaissance. Makes sense – they do offer the ultimate recession-proof footwear.

It was amazing to see my favourite boot get born – but don’t take my word for it, here’s some pictures.

A lot of machining is involved in making a boot – the moulds for the soles are made on a CNC machine – separate moulds have to be made for every size and every style.

The soles are made from rubber pellets like this, fed into the top of a machine that melts them…

and pours them into the moulds. Very hot!

Afterwards the soles are checked on a light table to make sure there’s no stray bubbles. The cavities inside the soles are what gives Dr. Martens their bounce.

The pattern pieces for the shoes are also metal. A skilled technician punches out each pattern piece one at a time, placing them on the hide according to the qualities required for the different parts of the boot, while at the same time trying to keep waste to a minimum. I didn’t get a good picture of how he does this, but its a remarkable skill to see in action – both very careful and very quick. (Update: Neil took a little video of this process).

The sewing line comes next – here stitching on the heel tab.

The triple needle machine connects the toe to the rest of the boot.

Eyelets are fed into the top of a machine that punches the hole and sets the eyelet all at the same time.

This type of boot is called the “Capper”, a reissue of a popular 1980s style with a distinctive white band around the top, leather heel tab, and chunky details… like oversized eyelets.

All of the Dr. Martens that are made in England have gold foil stamps inside the soles. The made in China ones are stamped in black.

The tops of the boots are heated to make the leather supple and then the toe cap is moulded on this machine. I should have taken a video of this – it looks very neat, suddenly a flat piece of leather takes the shape of a foot. (Update: Neil took a video of this).

Here are a bunch of Cappers in various states of completion.

The signature gold stitching connects the insole to the upper.

This machine heat seals the sole to the boot, you can see the flame.

And here they are, the finished Cappers all ready for lacing and packing. It is really incredible to see each step performed all under one roof, and just how much attention and care goes into each and every boot. Now every time I lace up my beloved Made In England Cherry Reds, I’ll be remembering all the skilled hands that put them together.

I brought along company for the trip, Neil, a blog buddy who runs a neat, newish site called Good Clobber that focuses on menswear. Check out his take on the day trip here.

Thanks so much to Stephen and Daniel and everyone at Dr. Martens for making another wish come true. It was a wonderful visit!

adoring – Toronto’s fashion scene

Everything is so intense right now. Sometimes I feel empty, in limbo, free and careless and a bit reckless. Unsentimental. Sometimes I feel so full, all lists and logistics, heartfelt poignant moments. Bittersweet. Everything seems to be falling in two categories: what I can’t wait to do without, and what I’m really going to miss a lot. Even though transitions in life can be tricky, I love all of this. Fall has always been my favourite season, both for fashion reasons and personal reasons. But the best part to me has always been the acceleration of change. You can viscerally feel things are happening, and this year is exceptional for that.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to attend fashion week in Toronto before I went. The reasons are mostly collegial – it sort of felt like the last week of school in senior year. The past five years as a fashion illustrator and blogger in Toronto are so full of good memories, all because of all the wonderful people I’ve met, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, clients, mentors, readers, everyone has been so kind to me. Without these people who have touched my life, I wouldn’t have a career doing something I love so much. Thank you, all of you.

Starting out as a freelancer in a glamour industry is touch and go. You start from zero, with no reputation, no clients, no experience, and somehow with your will you begin to build all of that, one project at a time. I still feel very new – I’ve only been doing this full time for three years, and only recently have I felt this sense of acceptance among all the fashion careerists out there as a novice initiate into this thing called the fashion industry.

Going through this early phase of my career in Toronto is something I am incredibly grateful for. Sometimes people say that Toronto can be a cold city, in attitudes as well as weather. I have never found that to be true. From the moment I started TFBB, I discovered that this city is full of interesting, passionate, creative, fun people who love making connections. I learned so much about the social functions of fashion. As someone who was an extremely withdrawn and socially anxious student, this was the greatest lesson I’ve learned in my life so far – to be able to open up to a city. Now my goal is to do that on a worldwide level.

To everyone who has followed the blog, especially if you are also in the early stages of your fashion career in Toronto, or anywhere, I hope Final Fashion has offered you a sense of the possibilities. This is the essence what I want Final Fashion to do as I move into the next stage of my life. I feel this site is about exploring every facet of building an independent, creative career in the fashion industry. Expect more of that.

adoring – avatars by Caitlin Cronenberg

Seems weird to write adoring over a photo of myself -unless it’s Caitlin Cronenberg‘s version. I wanted something simple but expressive and ideally suited to a twitter avatar. The thing with avatars, is that they are the first thing people will often see of you. It is interesting to think of the facial expressions, and really, the intentions behind them, you’d want to send out there to everyone who doesn’t know you?

Caitlin was so successful at capturing me both as I am and as I want to be. Thanks so much Caitlin.

She also caught a great image of my friendship with my roommate Kat. Kat just moved out a month ago and I miss her already – she’s a smart fun easygoing and generous. Thanks Kat for being there and being a cool girl.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone.

adoring – goodbye, studio

Today I am going though the last stages of preparing to move my studio furniture to store at my parent’s place. I am very lucky to have my brother helping me, however his hunting schedule means I have to move my furniture over a month before I actually move myself out of the studio. So I am facing the prospect of staying in a nearly-empty 900 square foot studio for over a month, and it means that this is the end of my working studio as I’ve known it for the past four years.

I owe so much of this studio to my ex – it was really his vision and his skills that made it happen. The 6×4 cutting table with the shelving underneath, the refinished steel desk, the light box, the hardwood veneer floor, were all his contributions. I was incredibly lucky to have such a versatile, well-appointed space in the earliest stages of my career. So much gratitude, Ray, thank you.

Everything else I acquired gradually as I slowly built my career and made enough to invest in the business – the serger, the iMac, the chair, the iron, the file cabinet. Having the tools and the space readily available made it so much easier to be creative, to show a sense of commitment and professionalism to clients, and really, to feel like a real working fashion illustrator. Having a great space to do work in makes doing work fun, makes it even easier to love what I do.

Goodbye, studio. I will miss this.