Collected Fictions

Where culture and communications mingle

Swimsuit edition

i.e. another reason why Jenna Lyons is the best.

The J. Crew ad for the re-issued scoop back tank, as featured recently in New York Magazine.

The J. Crew ad for the re-issued scoop back tank, as featured recently in New York Magazine.

Despite the rainy weather today, Montreal summer is finally here! As a long-time J. Crew fan (blame private high school) and avid swimmer, I am very excited at their recent re-issue of the scoop-back tank. Not only is it a classic style, but the way in which they went about the re-launch was brilliant. Having complained to my sister about the challenges of finding the perfect tank suit (the American Apparel Malibu suit doesn’t leave much to the imagination, whereas the Lands End version I ended up settling on last summer would go nicely with “mom jeans”), I couldn’t have agreed more wholeheartedly with Jenni Avins’ open letter addressed to Ms. Lyons & Co., published in New York Magazine last summer. She writes: “I’m eternally searching for the one J.Crew no longer manufactures. It’s that simple, sexy, and sporty suit with straight, tank-top-style shoulder straps that swoop like the letter U, dipping seductively in the back to the area just above my waist… These swimsuits filled the drawer I shared with my older sister in the nineties, and I took them for granted. Had I known then how difficult it would be to replace these always-lined (but never padded), clean, open-backed one-pieces, I never would have let them go.”

Teaching swimming at Lac Manitou circa 1995

Teaching swimming at Lac Manitou circa 1995 in my first J. Crew tank. Baywatch was also a popular show that year 🙂

Not only did J. Crew re-issue the swimsuit following her letter, but it did so in a way that mirrored the writer’s request, taking out a double-page spread in an April edition of New York Magazine, with a hand-written note from the legendary Creative Director Jenna Lyons herself. The stunt created an immediate reaction, with articles in Adweek and Business Insider, not to mention many blog posts. Just another example of why Jenna Lyons and her team should take full credit for resurrecting J. Crew. Also very pleased that they have finally added customer reviews to their online shop, it was about time! Now if only they would restock the Scoopback tank in Bright Azure in size 6… Jenna, are you there?


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Working style

Drop Shoulder Coat by Emerson Fry

Drop Shoulder Coat by Emerson Fry

As temperatures are finally starting to warm up in Montreal, most working women are thinking about how to transition from being fully bundled up to more open layered options, all the while navigating slush piles and the possibility that it could still snow at a moment’s notice. While my trusty cashmere tunic and parka have held steady over the last six months, I’m looking forward to lightening things up a bit.

Having recently cut my hair to a short pixie style, I’ve also found that many of my former work wardrobe staples are no longer very flattering – namely classic suit jackets and button-down shirts. With this in mind, I’ve made a collection of some new pieces that together form a cohesive look, adaptable from meeting clients to more casual occasions.

Here is a small collection below, (a first experiment with Polyvore), as well as more ideas on my Pinterest Spring basics board. I always like warming us basic black with natural elements like leather and gold. Easy-fitting pieces tend to be my favourites – it’s nice to be able to walk or bike without being hindered by heels or tight clothes. What are you wearing this spring?

Warm black

Spring basics - Warm black

Warm tech – notes on “Her”

Joaquin Phoenix in a still from "Her".

Joaquin Phoenix in a still from “Her”. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

I recently saw the Spike Jonze film Her and was struck by its beautiful set and costume design. The aesthetic seemed perfectly attuned to our current obsessions with vintage warmth and high-tech connectivity. In a New York Times interview with the set designer K. K. Barrett, who also worked on Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are and Being John Malcovich, he explains how he approached designing “the future” – while avoiding the cliches of making everything slick, metallic and silver:

“Among the biggest  challenges was the design of the film’s technology: the device Theodore uses to communicate with his operating system as well as his computer monitor.“With the device, we could have easily gone into the modern realm of a thin sheet of curved glass you could slip into your pocket, or a hologram,” Mr. Barrett said. “But we didn’t want to do something that wasn’t tangible and wasn’t real right now.”


The device the character Theodore uses to communicate with his operating system in “Her.” Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The set is curiously familiar and disorientating at once. Where mid-century wood and minimalistic uniform-like costumes are not so different from today’s styles, in outdoor and crowd scenes one is struck by the lack of cars. Barrett was inspired by shooting in Shanghai, “where they have these elevated walkways so you can go from building to building without ever having to cross an intersection. Already, that gave us a bit of a future slant, feeling like we’re comfortable pedestrians within the urban grid.”

Joaquin Phoenix in a still from "Her". Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Joaquin Phoenix in a still from “Her”. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

In terms of costumes, I always appreciate a cohesive design and a particular attention to detail. Costume Designer Casey Storm’s designs and tones were reminiscent of a Wes Anderson production, but without the heavy emphasis on nostalgia. In a recent interview, Storm describes the look as retro-futurism, i.e. the future as seen from the past and the past as seen from the future. “We really don’t need to show it’s the future by putting people in crazy-shaped hats or epaulets… For people who aren’t sure about how much they want to embrace that technology, the reaction might be to go in the other direction and start finding comfort in things from time periods gone by”. This seems to perfectly describe so many current trends, from prohibition-era beards to hand-painted signs, combined with wearable-tech and constantly connected environments.

One cute costume detail featured a safety pin in Theodore’s shirt pocket. I didn’t quite get the use of it at the time, but later realized that this enabled his OS Samantha to see everything he was seeing through the lens of his phone.

The safety pin in Theodore's shirt is not just for looks. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The safety pin in Theodore’s shirt is not just for looks. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

In a more oddball initiative, avant-garde Opening Ceremony designer Humberto Leon has created a unisex fashion line based on the film. While the button-down shirts and high-waisted pants seem nice enough, I’m not sure what they were thinking with the prison-garb-esque striped sweatsuits. As with many unisex things, they all seem better suited to men.


A future metro map of L.A. designed by Geoff Mcfetridge. Image: Gizmodo.

Another creative talent and frequent Jonze collaborator is artist and designer Geoff Mcfetridge. He created artworks featured in Theodore’s office and this futurist map of LA. Never having been there, I can’t speak to it’s functionality, but some are saying its quite enviable. Originally from Calgary, he has gained acclaim since going to art school and basing his life in California. His spectacles / moustache style also seems very reminiscent of Theodore’s… coincidence?

Geoff McFetridge. Image: Dissident Industries.

Artist and designer Geoff McFetridge. Photo: Dissident Industries.

For a few more design ideas inspired by “Her” check out my Pinterest collection and prepare to want to redesign your office. Enjoy.

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Reflecting from here

What's on in Wolfville, NS.

What’s on in Wolfville, NS.

Pausing after a relaxing week spent with friends and family in the countryside makes me realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much love and support. People often ask me how I am able to survive as a freelancer, and the short answer is, with a lot of determination… and help from collaborators, mentors, friends and family.

Visiting Celines Celines in Brooklyn last spring.

Visiting Celines Celines in Brooklyn last spring. Image by

This year has allowed me to experiment with many different types of projects, from exploring interior design with Annika Krausz, to rekindling my interest in journalism through my Creative Mornings speaker interviews series. In broadening my scope however, my strengths only seem to become clearer. I have always enjoyed the research and strategy aspects of marketing, and this proved to still be the case, such as in working with Immersive Design Studios on an extensive Canada Media Fund Experimental stream application, which proved to be successful.

Urbanism - my first Creative Mornings talk at the CCA, September 2013.

Urbanism – my first Creative Mornings talk at the CCA, September 2013.

Friends warm up our new house, summer 2013.

Friends warm up our new house, summer 2013.

On a personal level, 2013 was also a big year. Much of my time was consumed by looking for, moving into, and now renovating a home with my significant other Bob. We didn’t quite know what we were in for, but the work has been rewarding. As a product of an instant gratification generation, and someone with many design ideas, I have to constantly remind myself to be patient – that a home is always a work in progress.

Getting a new look this fall, with Evelyn at Salon Helmet.

Getting a new look this fall, with Evelyn at Salon Helmet.

Sagmeister & Walsh exhibit at the Jewish Museum, April 2013.

Sagmeister & Walsh exhibit at the Jewish Museum, April 2013.

On a very personal level, I took new steps in 2013 to manage my depression and anxiety. Although I have been seeing various therapists for years, it is only in the last two years, in working with a talented music therapist, that I have noticed improvements in being able to connect on an emotional level, understand my feelings, and discover my true voice. I believe that my emotional state is deeply related to my professional life. In previous job situations, I struggled with authority figures and didn’t know how to deal with volatile personalities. Through therapy, I am learning how to remain grounded in challenging environments, better communicate my intentions, and stay true to myself, come what may. I intend to continue developing and nurturing my professional and personal paths, hopefully not at the expense of one or the other.

I questioned whether or not to write about this here, in such a public space, but feel that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I suspect that some of you reading this have your own struggles, many of which are still taboo to discuss openly, whether at work or at home. In an era when so many of us have had to recreate our careers in an unstable economy, make do without pensions or job benefits, and adjust our lifestyle expectations from those of our freewheeling baby-boomer parents, we need all the help and support we can get. If this is something that resonates with you, I would encourage you to check out and support Partners for Mental Health – a national organization dedicated to improving the way we think about, act towards and treat mental health. They have a smart website and engaging campaigns, encouraging Canadians to learn more about this important issue that affects so many of us. The book When the Body Says No by Dr. Gabor Maté also has some keen insights into the relationship between personality, stress and illness – I highly recommend it.

Cross-country ski trails near my Mom's house in St-Adolphe d'Howard, QC.

Cross-country ski trails near my Mom’s house in St-Adolphe d’Howard, QC.

Looking ahead at the year to come, I’m reminded of my recent cross-country ski trips in the Laurentians as a means of inspiration. Bundling up to face the elements, heading out onto the trails, sometimes slipping a little bit backwards, then lunging forwards, always looking ahead around the bend. I hope this year brings you health, a little closer to your goals, and open to finding beauty in unexpected places.