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    101 Travel Light & Save the Planet

    During my competitive career as a figure skater I was fortunate enough to travel to many different countries around the world. From Nice (southern France) all the way to Brisbane, Australia (and pretty much all the countries in between). I loved traveling, however, living out of a suitcase… not so much. My skates and costumes not only weighed a lot, but they also took up a lot of room, so figuring out what to pack was always a hassle. I usually ended up packing way too much because I couldn’t decide what to bring. I desperately needed a packing magician, or so I thought. 

    When I was asked to interview founder and CEO of Encircled, Kristi Soomer, I was very excited. After browsing her website for about 5 minutes I immediately asked myself… WHY DIDN’T I FIND THIS WOMAN SOONER?!?! Now, instead of introducing her as Kristi Soomer, I’d like for you to meet the packing magician. So here it is: 101 Travel Light & Save the Planet 

    Kristi Soomer, owner and founder of encircled
    Kristi studied business in undergrad and grad school, so her background isn’t fashion per se. She originally started Encircled because she was traveling extensively in her previous career as a management consultant and could not find stylish and versatile travel clothing. 
    Unlike me (who just constantly complained to his parents about there not being enough room in his suitcase), Kristi took matters into her own hands. That is how she created the first design, the Chrysalis Cardi and built the business up from there. Over the years, it’s evolved into more of a fashion line, but it started out with her just feeling driven to solve a problem.

    Encircled makes versatile and stylish wardrobe essentials, as well as clothing that helps you travel lighter and do more with less. But Kristi’s line is about more than just producing versatile clothing. Her products are ethical and locally made in Toronto. They are comfortable, travel well, and they are kind to our planet. What more could you want? Her products truly tell a story - every piece is designed to add value to someone’s life.

    "I’d like people to become more conscious consumers. We want to encourage women to be more mindful about how they purchase and experience fashion. It’s time for fast fashion to stop. The fast fashion retailers are responsible for immense environmental waste, and even human abuse and exploitation in sweatshops globally. I’d like to see slow fashion - the idea of buying things with thought and breaking out of traditional fashion seasons to become top of mind with consumers."~ Kristi Soomer

    Encircled clothing brand, Toronto based fashion

    Kristi’s customers love the versatility and innovativeness of her designs, but increasingly many customers choose Encircled for ethical reasons— for fabrics (sustainable) and their production (ethically, made in Canada). 100% of her designs are sewn in Toronto, Canada. Recently, Encircled started knitting and dying a portion of their fabric in Toronto as well. (Seriously, how amazing is this?)

    When speaking of future plans, Kristi has no shortage of ideas and plans: 
    "We’re launching three new designs this fall which will take Encircled into more everyday work wear. I just hired a full-time designer on staff, so I expect to see new designs coming out faster and a broader vision for the line going forward. Encircled is also going through a rebrand, so stay tuned as we’ll be rolling that out over the next few months."

    "I’d like Encircled to become synonymous with versatile and ethical everyday essentials for women. I have my sights set on big growth and part of that is investigating building our own in-house production facility so that we can fully vertically integrate our business. Doing so would allow us to offer reasonable price points on ethically made apparel as we’ll be able to control quality, quantity and production methods." ~Kristi Soomer

    Clothing is something everyone should enjoy. Whether you’re showing off a new dress at work, or rocking a new look on the beach, clothing is meant to make you feel confident. But if for whatever reason you find yourself struggling with what to wear this season (OR WHAT TO PACK), here is what Kristi thinks you should own:
    "Versatile essentials. I’m all about investing in fun pieces from time to time but I think the bulk of your clothing budget should be allocated to buying better basics that are ethically-made, produced from quality materials and use quality finishings."

    Check out her website at www.encircled.ca and enjoy your future vacations while traveling light and saving the planet. 

    ~Chris Berneck 

    Endless Summer Days

    Is anyone else clinging to the tiny bit of summer left? I can’t help myself but wanting more sun and more heat. As much as I adore autumn, I am just not ready to let go of summer. But perhaps it’s the fact that I just finished course intentions and know that I will soon find myself studying for exams again. 

    *whatever happened to THE ENDLESS SUMMER DAYS?*

    high waisted chiffon skirt, maxi skirt, festival fashion

    I’ve always adored summer. The days are long, the evenings warm, and even the city breeze in Toronto carries a little bit of the smell of the sea (I know, some may call this wishful thinking… perhaps it is). But it’s a great feeling, waking up early and realizing that the sun is already up, even though it's only six in the morning. And who doesn’t enjoy their first morning coffee while sitting outside on the patio?

                    fit and flare green dress, summer fashion coral sheer back, green fit and flare dress handmade in Toronto

    Summer has so much to offer and you’re constantly spoiled with amazing options. Whether it’s weddings and summer fairs, open-air theatres and concerts, or festivals and street parties. Summer seems to have it all. Always. The markets overflow with fresh fruit and seafood stalls. The sales are on and the tourist crowds take over the city streets (you know the ones I’m talking about) and if you can’t beat them, join them (or so they say). With so much to do, I also get to see more of my family and friends. We always spend hours on end playing games, cooking, eating, catching up, gossiping and (occasionally) arguing. Face to face and FaceTime to FaceTime.

    With all this fun madness going on during summer, it’s even more exciting that one can finally wear all of their colourful shirts and shorts, flip-flops and sandals and (of course) sunglasses. And if your boyfriend (husband, dad, granddad, uncle, brother or whoever) still keeps that Hawaiian shirt in the back of his closet (you know the one I mean, right?) now is the time to encourage him to wear it.
                        
                    black and white striped fabric, handmade in Toronto cobalt blue slip dress handmade in Toronto

    And because I’m simply not willing to face the end of summer (yet), I wanted to share with you some more amazing summer dresses Carissa designed this year. Let’s try to make summer last a little bit longer. Time is so precious and your most valued memories of those hot Summer months will be from the times you spent with those you love most… AND IN the clothes you LOVE MOST ;)
    Happy Sunday!

    ~Chris Berneck

    Buy less, choose well, make it last!

    I always loved fashion… Or what I THOUGHT fashion was all about. Which is the clothes, right? I loved the idea of getting dressed up and wearing something different every day. New clothes could make me feel like a brand new person. It wasn’t until I started studying at Ryerson University that I realized that fashion was so much more than just CLOTHES. During my first semester I had the amazing opportunity to meet and talk to Kate Black, the author of Magnifeco- your head-to-toe guide to ethical fashion and non-toxic beauty.

    head to toe guide to ethical fashion and non toxic beauty

    Kate Black is the founder and editor-in-chief of www.magnifeco.com (the online source for eco-fashion and sustainable living). Kate worked for some of the biggest fashion centres in the world and has written countless articles on ethical fashion. Now, I know that I have talked a lot about ethical fashion in the last few weeks. It’s a subject that is very important to me and hopefully will be (maybe it already is) to you. How many of us walk through life not knowing that something we do regularly is actually harming us and our environment? I’d like to think that most of us would give up those habits in a heartbeat if only we KNEW how harmful they really were. This is why I’m bringing it up again (and most likely will AGAIN in the future). Think of me as your friendly fashion mentor. 

    “Buy less, choose well, make it last!” ~Vivienne Westwood
    With this quote, Kate Black opens ‘Chapter 2- Clothing’ in her book Magnifeco. This quote by British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood sums up what all of us should strive for — Quality over quantity. Fashion is the third-largest industry in the world. Amazing, right? I mean everyone needs clothes, but fashion is also the second largest polluter of clean water.

    “The ills of this industry are becoming commonplace as headlines in the news. Whether it’s factory worker deaths in Bangladesh, suicides of organic cotton farmers in India, toxic chemicals making rivers in China run the “it” colour of the season, nylon production contributing to global warming or toxic chemicals on clothes in the store, you must have gotten a sense that something’s not quite right.” ~Kate Black, Magnifeco, Chapter 2

    Something’s definitely not quite right! That’s scary news, isn’t it? But there’s no point in blaming one company or brand, because there isn’t one troublemaker. It’s the system. It’s the system that needs to change.

    That is one of the many reasons for why I love working for Carissa. She not only cares about her customers, but also about our planet. The place our kids and grandkids will grow up in. 
    People like Carissa and Kate contribute to a change in the fashion industry, which is what I hope to do as well. We might not have the power to change it all right away, but we have to start somewhere. So let’s start together, TODAY. Read the labels when you buy your clothes. Make sure you know what you’re wearing and where it’s coming from. It’s never too late to start training healthier habits. Your planet and the people living in it will thank you. Happy Sunday!

    ~Chris Berneck 

    Show Off Your (H)attitude

    Being someone who loves jewellery and dreams of owning all of the Tiffany and Co. collections, I was thrilled when I got to interview jewellery designer Hattie Dunstan. Now, don’t get me wrong, wearing Tiffany and Co. feels absolutely amazing, but imagine wearing a piece of jewellery that no one else in the world owns BUT YOU? You don’t think that’s possible without spending a fortune? Well, let me introduce you to the world of Hattitude Jewellery

    Hattie Dunstan, owner of Funstans

    Hattie Dunstan is the owner and designer of Hattitude Jewellery. She redesigns, restyles and recycles vintage brooches, earrings and other pieces from all over the world. Everything is handmade by her and reworked in her studio just north of Toronto. Hattie’s collection is all one-of-a-kind. Every single piece has a story and holds history for future generations to enjoy. Some pieces are over 100 years old.

    Hattie’s love for jewellery stems from her grandmother and mother.
    “My grandmother is a stylish woman and so is my mom. You will NEVER see my mom leave the house without wearing jewellery. Even when she goes hiking through Newfoundland you can bet she will wear her 'hiking' earrings and 'hiking' necklace. My love for accessories stems from her. My passion for fashion and clothing came from both my grandmother and my mother. It all started with using fishing line and seed beads from my brothers tackle box as a little girl at the cottage, and from there my passion grew!”

    Hattie turned her passion for fashion and jewellery into a profession, and made it her goal to create jewellery that is meant to make her customers feel and look amazing.
    “Everyone is unique and I want that uniqueness to shine through with my accessories. I think we all should be confident in what we wear, and having a one of a kind piece of jewellery makes everyone feel a little bit more confident.” 

    Hattitude Jewellery is completely eco-friendly, which I personally love. There are so many people creating massive amounts of waste, and sadly fashion is one of the leading waste contributors. I love that her jewellery collections are not only stunningly beautiful, but also long lasting and kind to our planet.

    Hattie is always full of ideas. Her passion goes beyond jewellery, and she constantly has new projects on the go. Although she went to school for marketing and is currently focusing on her jewellery career, she would love to one day help creative entrepreneurs and small business owners market their amazing products. She would also love to open up an event venue in an old church and make it a pintrest worthy venue to run weddings, wedding showers, and parties.

    Jewellery is something for everyone to enjoy. It not only makes you look and feel fabulous when you get to wear that statement necklace, but you’re also giving everyone else some eye candy to look at. If you find yourself struggling with what to wear this season, here is what Hattie thinks you should show off:
    “This season I can't get enough of statement earrings! The bigger, the bolder, the brighter the better!”

    Check out her website at www.hattitudejewels.com and don’t be afraid to show off some (h)attitude this season! Happy Sparkling!

    ~Chris Berneck

    Cheap Clothes and Expensive Problems

    During my first semester at Ryerson University I was introduced to a documentary called The True Cost. This movie was directed by Andrew Morgan and talks about the safety concerns of garment factories, the insanely low wages of the workers, as well as the tremendous environmental impact of the fast fashion industry. It’s fairly easy to make me cry, but somehow I managed to keep my composure throughout the entire lecture and most of the film. On my way home I felt incredibly sad and helpless.

    the true cost documentary, netflix doc, cheap fashion documentary
    Fast fashion is a term used by fashion retailers. It refers to the quick movement of designs from catwalk to storefront. This process makes current fashion trends available at a very low price. Zara, Forever 21 and H&M are some of the most famous (and most common) fast fashion retailers. They put out massive amounts of clothing with new designs almost weekly. Now, most of us don’t even know what fast fashion means, or why it might be a bad thing. I have to admit that a very large percentage of my own closet is currently from H&M. It was convenient to shop there and (most importantly) within my budget, but having watched The True Cost has really changed my perspective on fast fashion retailers.

    I know that seeing a shirt for $6 may not seem like a horrible thing, but it actually really is. The only way a fast fashion retailer can offer a shirt for $6 is if the people making it don’t get paid the amount they deserve. Of course, nobody would ever want to spend $30 for the same shirt. But if a shirt only costs $6, it’s also very disposable. This means that fast fashion contributes to the rapidly growing amount of clothes that are thrown out every year. You may be buying items for cheaper prices, but you’re also buying a larger quantity of them. And let’s be honest, most of the time we’re not even buying the item, we’re buying the instant gratification it gives us and the feeling of excitement of having something new.

    abstract floral print, sewing machine,                                  Fashion Designer Carissa McCaig sewing a new garment that is meant to last. 

    Fast fashion has us convinced that we need more, and that what’s cool this summer won’t be cool again next summer. This just isn’t true. With styles and trends changing so quickly, the quality and lifespan of our clothing has also decreased. I’m not writing any of this to make you feel guilty, because I myself have fallen into the arms of fast fashion. I simply want to make you aware of the issue, and hopefully you’ll want to contribute to its change. I don’t know about you, but I’m currently wearing an outfit from 3 summers ago and feel incredibly fashionable. Don’t let fast fashion tell you what to wear. Happy Sunday!
    ~Chris Berneck