What I Wore: Jardin Majorelle

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After months of dreaming about visiting the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, le bf and I have finally made it! With shocks of saturated blue, yellow, and orange all around us, fountains, birds, and all kinds of cacti on display, the botanical garden was even more beautiful in real life than I’d imagined. Owned by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé since 1980 (memorial erected in his memory can be found at the garden), Jardin Majorelle was teeming with tourists, but even with a line-up to get inside, we still had a lovely time exploring the grounds.

For fans of Yves Saint Laurent, the Love Gallery is a must-visit. The designer created the colourful “LOVE” posters, which he sent every year as New Year’s greetings to his friends and clients of his fashion house. At the gift shop, I was trying not to go crazy, but the “LOVE” postcards were so beautiful…I probably got way too many, intending to one day frame my faves.

After an hour or so at the garden, we jumped into a cab to go back to our riad…we chose a freezing day to visit the garden, and were definitely not dressed appropriately for the chilly weather. But even with my teeth chattering…I had a tough time leaving this enchanting and peaceful place behind. I’ll always have these photos to remind me of its beauty…and hopefully will have a chance to visit again.

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What I Wore: Beautiful Marrakech

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Last month, after the whirlwind Discover CHANEL program in Paris, le bf and I took some time off to travel to Morocco. I’ve always been intrigued by this North African country, hearing stories of delicious food, beautiful crafts, and breathtaking locales, so the excitement factor was high. Since our schedules were pretty tight, we decided to spend our time in Marrakech, Fez, Chefchaouen, and Casablanca. And while I’ll be sure to share my faves from each city later on, today, I wanted to focus on what I ended up wearing.

While planning our trip, I was googling anything and everything I could find about Morocco and the appropriate way to dress there. As a predominantly Muslim country, yet time and time again described as “not so conservative”, Morocco was a mystery to me…as was the “dress code”. I knew that local women mostly covered up head-to-wrist-to-ankle, but that tourists were technically allowed to wear whatever…though wearing things that expose too much could lead to potential harassment.

My goal on this trip was to be respectful of local customs, while looking cute, and staying comfortable. There’s no way I was going to cover up wrist to ankle in 30-degree weather, but shorts and strappy dresses were out too…or were they? To stay true to my style, I ended up packing my fave slip dresses, but brought a few printed caftans to throw on top, creating somewhat modest-looking outfits. I also packed a few midi and maxi dresses, ones I could wear with a leather jacket on cooler days, or with a scarf draped around my shoulders and cleavage. For train rides, I made sure to bring a few pairs of comfy, loose-fitting pants and tees. I also brought my wool fedora, both to cover up my hair, and to shield my face from the sun.

Another thing I was grateful to have read about before my trip is footwear. Word of advice – don’t bring open-toe sandals to Morocco, unless you plan on spending time poolside or on the beach. Don’t bring your fancy shoes either, because if you plan on wearing those in the medina, you may end up ruining both your shoes and your feet. Most streets in old towns of Marrakech and Fez are paved with slippery cobblestones, and with streams of people everywhere, there’s a good chance your feet will be stepped on, and if that’s not reason enough, I have two words for you – donkey droppings. I brought an old pair of comfy ALDO shoes that were pretty worn out, and on our last day in Fez, after they’ve served their purpose, I threw them out. Highly recommended.

In the end, our trip was lovely. I avoided the harassment that I’ve read so much about, and felt comfortable and confident throughout. I did see tourists in short-shorts, strappy camisoles, and skimpy dresses, but was happy that I chose the more modest route. At the end of the day, I think Morocco is progressive enough for you to wear whatever you like, so it really is up to you and what you’re comfortable with. I’ll be posting more looks from my Moroccan adventures throughout the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

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Discover CHANEL: CHANEL Handbag Factory

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On the final day of the Discover CHANEL program, my fellow bloggers and I were whisked away to a super-duper secret location outside of Paris to visit the CHANEL Handbag Workshop…aka the place where the brand produces their timeless bags. It was the very first time that CHANEL had invited bloggers to visit this workshop, and I can’t explain just how lucky and grateful I felt to be able to see and experience the step-by-step process from development to quality control.

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After being greeted by a giant CHANEL bag installation in the lobby, we were ushered into the room where the development phase takes place. With prototype bags lining the walls, sketches and photographs strewn across a table, we were told that this was the first step in creating a bag. Sketches come to life as prototype bags, before it’s decided whether they’ll actually be produced. With 6 collections per year, this is a busy place, where a bag can go from sketch to production in days.

Moving on, we stopped by the raw materials and hardware rooms. One was full of various skins, leather, and signature chains, while the other had trays of iconic CHANEL bag closures that are put through stringent testing, along with chains and leather, to ensure the highest quality and durability. Being in the raw materials room was so tempting…I was dying to create my own bag out of all the components on hand.

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Next, we popped into a room where leathers like lambskin, calfskin, and others are carefully inspected under special lights that mimic daylight. Each piece has to look and feel perfect before it’s allowed to continue on to production. There’s zero tolerance for imperfections, as expected.

After the hardware and the leather have been thoroughly checked and tested, the next stage of production is cutting. There are three different ways that CHANEL bag patterns are cut: by hand, digitally, or using special metal plates. We watched various methods at work, fascinated by the amount of accuracy it takes to cut those patterns. When dealing with hand-cut exotic skins, precision is even more important, to ensure a symmetric end result, and zero imperfections.

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The most fascinating room of all was the assembly/production room, where CHANEL craftspeople split leather (to make it thinner and smoother), assembled bags, stitched and hammered. It takes 4 to 5 years for each specialist on the site to learn how to perfectly master the techniques necessary for the manufacture. Those working with exotic skins wear masks and gloves to ensure that no droplets mark the delicate surface, even going so far as to use plastic wrap on top of skins to protect them further.

What I learned in the assembly room is that CHANEL bags are actually put together using one of two methods: inside-out, and molded techniques. Most iconic bags are made using the inside-out method, where all of the components of the bag are stitched inside-out like a Ready-to-Wear piece, so that the stitches are on the inside when the bag is turned the right side out. The body and base are brought together with the “bag in bag” technique: the interior bag is mounted inside the exterior bag, assembled by hand, and ensuring a luxurious finish inside and out.

When working with more delicate materials like alligator, and turning the bag inside-out is not an option, the moulding method is used. The outer part of a bag is put together around a mould, and hand-stitched, before the inner flap can be dropped in and stitched together with the outer flap.

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All in all, it takes over 180 manufacturing operations to create one iconic bag, with 80% of the total production time spent on the assembly table. Once the bag is finished, it is then sent to the quality control room, where a team of testers painstakingly check each bag by hand. But thanks to the attention paid in all the other parts of the manufacturing process, the success rate is very high, and most bags that reach this phase of production meet the CHANEL standard.

This room was amazing, as we were faced with rows upon rows of finished CHANEL handbags everywhere – what fashion dreams are made of! And just like that, our magical tour was over. Talking to the passionate craftspeople, seeing the extensive step-by-step process, and learning just how much work and intricacy goes into each and every CHANEL bag made me appreciate the few bags that I do own that much more…and fuelled my desire to run to the nearest CHANEL boutique right after our visit. These bags are truly investment pieces that never go out of style, and knowing that they are made with so much love and attention to detail makes them that much more special.

This was the last day of the Discover CHANEL program – three unforgettable days spent with my favourite luxury brand in my favourite city. From the fitting at ave Montaigne, to the breakfast at Brasserie Gabrielle, to Mademoiselle’s apartment, to the CHANEL handbag factory outside of Paris…it’s definitely one experience I will never forget. And I truly hope that my recaps of the program gave you a fun little glimpse into the beautiful world of CHANEL, so that you could discover it along with me. Thanks for reading, and share your thoughts in the comments!

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Foodie: Easter-Inspired High Tea at Shangri-La Hotel Toronto

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Last weekend, I took my mom to the Shangri-La Toronto to try the hotel’s latest Easter-inspired High Tea menu. Having already experienced the regular High Tea at Shangri-La last June, I had high expectations for the revamped menu. As we arrived at the Lobby Lounge, live piano music playing softly in the background, we settled into the comfy couch overlooking a fireplace, and took our time selecting our teas. Once our tea selections were made, we impatiently waited for the delicious tower to arrive. The menu promised a selection of the usual mouthwatering staples like Atlantic lobster brioche roll, honey baked ham with caramelized onion on sourdough bread, Pacific smoked salmon on dark rye, and warm English scones, with Easter-inspired additions of spiced hot cross buns, tropical Easter egg (coconut cream, mango curd and crispy meringue), and the religieuse profiterole (baked choux pastry with white chocolate orange blossom cream and lemon glaze). It all sounded and looked amazing.

I let my mom judge each plate, her enthusiasm growing with each bite. It was her first time experiencing the Shangri-La High Tea, and she was loving every minute of it. With our scones, we were served caramelized white chocolate jam, strawberry preserves and Cornish clotted cream, and I have to tell you that caramelized white chocolate jam was divine. I am not even embarrassed to share that we totally polished off the entire ramekin…with a spoon. Delicious!

By the time we got to the last plate – the prettiest of them all, we were almost hesitant to cut into the exquisite-looking desserts…almost! Of the four desserts, my favourite was the tropical Easter egg, which looked like a fried egg, but was instead a combination of delicate coconut cream, tangy mango curd, and crispy meringue. It was so good! Obviously the milk chocolate and raspberry verrine, Simnel fruit cake, and the religieuse profiterole were delicious as well. With the last dessert finished, we settled back into our comfy couch, chatting, sipping our White Rose tea, and enjoying the rest of our perfect afternoon at Shangri-La.

If you would like to try some of the limited-time offerings served at the Easter-inspired High Tea, it will be available until April 6 and is priced at CAD$42 per person or CAD$25 per child, served daily from 2-5 p.m. in the Lobby Lounge. And if that’s not enough, with the purchase of a chocolate Easter Egg ( the “Golden Egg” or “Toy Egg”) or the Easter-inspired High Tea, guests will receive a complimentary petite milk chocolate egg with the chance of receiving one of five winning ”red tickets” placed among the petite milk chocolate eggs. One winning petite chocolate egg will be revealed every other day throughout the Easter promotion period from 28 March to 6 April, 2015. “Red tickets” will signify that the person who received the petite egg has won the prize. The prize includes a tour of the pastry kitchen at Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto with pastry chef Kate Seigel for one person (the prize winner) and complimentary High Tea for a year in the Lobby Lounge of Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto for the winner and a guest (two people) once a month for twelve months (May 2015 – April 2016). Free High Tea for a year?! May the odds be ever in your favour!

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What I Wore: Something Borrowed, Something CHANEL

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When CHANEL offered to dress me for their Fall 2015 runway show, I couldn’t believe my luck. Feeling like Cinderella for the day, I picked out this stunning tweed and lace blazer, paired with a patent red cross-body bag, matching pearl cuffs, and of course, my recent fave CHANEL ankle booties. There were lots more options at our fitting, but sadly, as someone who’s no longer a size 2, fitting into samples presented a bit of a challenge. Where is the fairy godmother to shrink one a size or three, when you really need her?!

But no matter, I still loved the outfit I ended up choosing, and happily wore it to the show, to visit Coco Chanel’s apartment, at Cafe Marly, and back at the rue Cambon boutique, giddily running around Paris in CHANEL. I paired the blazer with my fave top from the Canadian brand Pink Tartan, because even during Paris Fashion Week, it felt right to #WearCanada.

At the end of the three-day Discover CHANEL program, I had to hand over the borrowed things, feeling a little sad to say good-bye to the beautiful pieces I had a chance to wear. Regardless, I was still so happy that I got to have a bit of a celeb experience…on a much smaller scale, of course, but still…borrowed clothes or not, the memories are forever.

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I Wore: Jacket, Bag, Shoes, Cuffs, Earrings – CHANEL; Top – Pink Tartan; Pants – Zara; Sunglasses – Dior

Discover CHANEL: Breakfast at CHANEL, Brasserie Gabrielle, and Back to THE Apartment

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*If you are catching up, you can read the first Discover CHANEL installment here

Every season, despite dozens of fashion presentations happening from New York to Tokyo, CHANEL runway show remains one of the most highly-anticipated collections and shows to see. Not only to check out the next masterful/curious/intriguing collection, but also to admire the setting that Karl Lagerfeld and his team dream up season after season (icebergs, demonstrations, supermarkets, oh my!). What I’m trying to say is…CHANEL shows are never ever boring, which is why I was so excited to finally be able to attend one in person.

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Arriving at the Grand Palais early in my “something borrowed” CHANEL outfit, I saw street style photographers milling about, stylish (and not-so-stylish) peacocks walking back and forth, hoping to catch photogs’ eyes, security vans patrolling the perimeter, people handing out promotional breakfast packs to the hungry attendees (Macarons for breakfast? Don’t mind if I do!). Sensory overload, even before I set foot inside the grand venue.

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As part of the Discover CHANEL program, my fellow bloggers and I got to go inside at the same time as the photographers, and before anyone else, so that we could check out the interior as it was intended. Welcoming us into the Brasserie Gabrielle, were impeccably-dressed “waiters”, and as I stepped into Coco Chanel-inspired French brasserie set at the Grand Palais, my jaw practically dropped to the floor – it was overwhelming. Attention to detail was immaculate – Parisian bar stands stocked with all of the usual breakfast accouterments from boiled eggs to Viennoiserie, fully-functioning coffee machines, where I totally ordered a cuppa since I didn’t have time for one before the show, reserved tables for the VIPs (of course, the first thing I did was find Anna Wintour’s table), mosaic-tiled floors…it was all perfect!

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I resisted going to my assigned seat, hanging out around the bar area to people-watch, as one would at an actual brasserie. I spotted Grace Coddington’s red mane, Patrick Demarchelier settling into his booth, Giovanna Battaglia talking to friends excitedly, Carine Roitfeld posing for photographers, Hamish Bowles snapping photos of the bar with his cell phone, I even saw Karl Lagerfeld surrounded by a sea of black suits before the show.

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I also snuck a photo of Anna Wintour mid-interview, hiding behind her signature shades; I felt like a naughty child or a stalker, but if Anna minded, her face didn’t show it. Before I knew it, the ushers were gently, yet firmly asking us to take our seats, and so I did, ready for the main event.

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I found my seat just in time, as models began walking through the revolving doors, entering the brasserie, but after doing the obligatory runway walk around the room, some models would settle in at the bar to grab some OJ, while others would pile into the comfy booths for a chat or a selfie session. It felt fresh and unexpected to see models laugh together, order food, and basically show off the collection in action. As the show came to an end, models did not leave their various perches, but stayed behind for a sort of an installation presentation, where attendees could grab photos of the models up-close, as well as sit down next to them for a minute of make-believe – breakfast with supermodels at Brasserie Gabrielle, anyone?

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As for the collection itself, this was one of my favourite CHANEL collections in a while. Dubbed the “French Collection”, it had all the staples that are expected from CHANEL – emblematic tweed, exquisite little black dresses, to-die-for bags, spectacular coats, but in line with the setting, there were also cheeky plate minaudieres, fork and spoon bags, pencil skirts in a fabric reminiscent of those brasserie mosaic floors, bomber jackets adorned with bows, skirts that looked like they were made out of folded white napkins (surprisingly cool!). While some pieces were very tongue-in-cheek, others were simply chic. Even the kookiest of pieces were still wearable and covetable, and very much in line with the spirit of CHANEL.

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Being able to see many of those pieces up close after the show was a pleasant (and a very welcome) surprise. While Karl jumped behind the bar to serve orange juice and answer questions, many of the attendees (myself included) jumped at the chance to snap close-ups of the stunning collection, admiring both the models and the clothes in front of us. Most of the photos in this post were snapped by me, so you can probably see just how close we got to the models and to the sublime clothes.

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After the show, our chic crew piled into a van to be whisked away to Coco Chanel’s rue Cambon apartment. Having visited the apartment in the past, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be able to go there for the second time! You can read my post about the first visit here. Once again, I could almost feel Coco Chanel’s spirit in the lavish surroundings. The place felt more familiar the second time around, but the visit was just as special as the first time. This time, I took some videos of the apartment, which I’ll be sharing in the original post soon.

Giddy from our visit, the bloggers and I headed back to rue Cambon to do some shopping after lunch, excited for next day’s visit to the CHANEL handbag factory! (to be continued)

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Discover CHANEL: 51 avenue Montaigne

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It’s hard to describe the feeling of a dream coming true, but I will do my best. As I was getting ready for my long-awaited trip to Morocco, I received the most amazing news – not only was I invited to attend the CHANEL Fall-Winter 2015/16 show, but I was also among the 5 bloggers selected to participate in the Discover CHANEL program that was to be held over three days in Paris. I think after the initial shock wore off, doubt set in, and I spent the next couple of weeks in a state of disbelief, sure that somehow I was dreaming this entire scenario up, and that I would soon wake up to realize that it was all the result of my fevered imagination. Spoiler alert…it was not a dream, but it was certainly a dream come true.

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On Day 1 of Discover CHANEL, I arrived at 51 avenue Montaigne, ready for the tour of the beautiful boutique and a private fitting (!!!!!!!). At the boutique, I met Alvin and Columbine, bloggers from Singapore and Sweden, and got to hang out with fellow Canadians – the Beckerman sisters Cailli and Sam. We were a rowdy bunch, and after checking out the impressive avenue Montaigne boutique (opened in 2012, inspired by Coco Chanel’s apartment, and designed by Peter Marino), we rushed into the VIP room to rummage through racks and tables of clothing, accessories, and jewelry prepared for us by the amazing CHANEL team.

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Not being a sample size girl, I still managed to find several things that fit me, and in the end, selected a timeless chevron-print tweed blazer, red patent leather crossbody bag, and two pearl cuffs to wear to the next day’s show, as well as a cashmere cardigan and a tweed chainlink necklace to wear on the last day of the tour. With a shopping bag full of CHANEL goodies, I went back to our Airbnb and just stared at it all for a bit…trying to soak up the feeling of having so many CHANEL pieces at my disposal. Not going to lie…it felt pretty amazing. Almost as amazing as knowing that next day, CHANEL’s Fall 2015 show awaited… (to be continued)

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Shopping: Packing for a Sunny Resort Getaway

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If you’re sick of winter, raise your hand. I am now sitting in front of my laptop with both my arms high up in the air like I just don’t care. But in actuality, I do care…a lot! I care about spring, which is about a month away, and I care about those blistery mornings when I drag myself to the subway station, resigned to my fate of bulky coats and salt-stained boots, and I care about a little dream getaway that le bf and I will be going on soon, but not soon enough. If you’re lucky enough to get away from winter this month or next, even if for a week or two, I put together some of my current resortwear faves – cute swimsuits, lovely cover-ups, cool shades, and even a piñata bag! Add a piece or two to your luggage, and start counting down the days (like I’m doing) until you’re away from this neverending winter.

And if you’re not going to find yourself poolside or near a beach until summer, it’s never too early to start shopping for those beach essentials. All the best selection is available now, so snag your fave pieces and be ready for summer when it eventually arrives. It always makes me feel better to shop for those seasonal items early…as if summer may arrive sooner if I buy a new bikini. Perhaps not, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Happy Shopping!

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What I Wore: Miami Ice

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I don’t know about you, but I am officially sick and tired of winter. This past weekend (Valentine’s Day and Family Day long weekend) was so frigid (felt like -40!!!), that going outside felt like an act of bravery. Le bf and I did manage to go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, and I did make it to the gym one morning, but the rest of my long weekend was spent on the couch, wrapped in a fluffy blanket, drinking hot tea, and watching movies. Hybernation is the only way to survive, y’all. Which is why we haven’t shot any new outfit posts lately…and also why I am trotting out my last What I Wore post from our long-ago trip to Miami.

I didn’t post it originally because we didn’t take a lot of photos that day, but beggars can’t be choosers, so here it is now…a couple of months later…all sunshine and pretty colours. Makes me want to get away again! Luckily, our next trip is coming soon, but not soon enough!

So tell me, how are you surviving winter? Wherever you are…

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What I Wore: South Beach

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It feels like -27 outside, and I am questioning all of my life choices that brought me here, to Toronto where the air hurts my face on a daily basis. So if you need me, I’ll be here, daydreaming about Miami, and the South Beach, and sunshine, and warm sand, and anything but snow and extreme cold alerts. Stay warm out there, Toronto.

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