All posts by Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Fashion Know-How: Key Tips to Picking the Perfect Accessories

Early into my high school days, I discovered that there is a real talent in picking the perfect accessories.

In my view, I was unceremoniously moved from the local co-ed public school (read: where there were boys) and sent to an all-girls high school. Few people are truly confident entering Grade 9, and even fewer can pull-off a self-assured look wearing a blue tunic, grey knee socks and navy loafers

Certainly, not me!

Picking Perfect Accessories Cindy Goble Scarves

The theory behind a standard school uniform is that it takes the “what am I going to wear” decision making out of early mornings. The standard puts everyone on a level fashion playing field. However, even in those days, the trendy girls could assert their fashion style with accessories (as long they did not push the boundaries too far).

Picking Perfect Accessories Cindy Goble Scarves

Do you have a foundation wardrobe?

Fast forward to the working world realities of the morning rush, business travel and a limited shopping budget. This often translates into a wardrobe that gravitates towards the fundamentals. Weekday essentials might include a white blouse, a stylish black suit (or pants and a blazer) and a sensible pair of black heals. Evenings and weekends might mean dressing-up in that perfect little black dress or chilling out over a latte wearing your favourite pair of jeans.

Picking Perfect Accessories Morija Reeb earrings frost leaves

Fashion tips for picking perfect accessories:

Once you have built the foundation of your wardrobe, it’s time to project your style with the right accessories. Add a flash of colour over a neutral top with a scarf. Catch someone’s eye with the bling of a contemporary designer jewellery piece. Choose a bright handbag to carry the essentials or as a statement piece.

Picking Perfect Accessories Leather handbags Sophie Christine Vonbun

We have created a downloadable e-guide to help you pick the perfect accessories. This booklet will dispel some of the challenges behind selecting the perfect handbag and the “must have” jewellery.

Picking perfect accessories Black-Gold Memory Necklace Anastassia Sel

Is it time for a closet make-over?

Are you starting a new job?

Are you trying to cull an unwieldy wardrobe?

Sign-up for our newsletter here and we will send you the free e-guide for picking the perfect fashion accessories.

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Fashion Tips Picking Perfect Accessories Style Guide

Sterling Silver Designer Necklace Giveaway for Mother’s Day

Can’t afford to take your mother on a trip to Bali this year?

Neither can we, but there is a solution!

Show her how she is special this Mother’s Day with a new sterling silver diffuser necklace. The design inspiration for this understated 18″ chain comes from the sandy shores and turquoise waters of Bali.

Mother's Day Sterling Silver Necklace Giveaway

Katja Presnal the founder and visionary behind the lifestyle brand Skimbaco is offering the necklace (photo above) to one lucky winner. The beautiful ONE DROP teardrop silver necklace with a turquoise lava bead on a cable chain.

Skimbaco is not something you will find in a dictionary, but rather a combination of a Finnish slang word “skimba” for skis and “co” for Colorado (the place she and her young family were living at that time). Read more about the brand here.

A long time believer in natural healing, Presnal discovered the personal benefits of essential oils during labour with her second child. As a sought-after writer and motivational speaker, she has had the opportunity to visit many countries around the globe and had the pleasure of visiting local farms for a better understanding of edibles (herbs and produce) cultivation. During her extensive travels, Presnal discovered that daily use of essential oils contributed to her physical and mental well-being.

Her personal essential oil usage led to the inspiration for a classy jewellery line. Designed with materials that work well to diffuse essential oils, each piece is stunning. Explore the Skimbaco collection.

Suspended on a teardrop of sterling silver the turquoise lava bead, on this exquisite ONE DROP necklace, is intended for your favourite essential oil. Read more about the importance of scents and emotions here.

How do you enter this giveaway?

  1. Sign-up for our newsletter here
  2. Please share with a friend (and don’t forget to let us know)

The lucky winner will be selected via random draw on Mother’s Day (May 14th).

Good luck!

Win a Pair of Designer Silk Earrings in our Mother’s Day Giveaway

To celebrate our mothers with a gift that reflects their beauty, designer Morija Reeb has kindly offered a set of her silk earrings for our Mother’s Day giveaway contest.

Morija Reeb is an Ontario-based weaver with a textile preference for silk. It is a fabric that she describes as versatile and at times surprising in the results that occur on her loom. You can read more about this accomplished designer here and here.

The design inspiration for these lightweight earrings is the natural splendour of butterfly wings. Reeb uses a heat etching process to produce the remarkable depth of blue hues on the “wings” of these earrings. Gold foil accents create sparkle along the edges of these dangling earrings, which hang on brass-coated ear wires. Each pair of these teal and blue silk earrings is one-of-a-kind.

Designer Silk Earrings Mother's Day Giveaway

To enter for your chance to win this giveaway.

  1. Sign-up for our newsletter here
  2. Please share with a friend (and let us know)

Looking for Mother’s Day Gifts Designer Shopping Ideas

You are right! There is no reason to wait for a single Sunday, in May, to tell your mother that you love her. However, you must admit that if you do not send a card, take her for lunch or give her a small gift to acknowledge the day, it looks bad. We thought we would help with a few Mother’s Day gift ideas.

Mother's day Designer Gift Ideas

Zen Mama (or one needs a bit of calm in her life)

Give her a natural beeswax candle handcrafted by Chandler Jill Smith. These custom edition candles are available in three beautiful designs. Made with 100% pure beeswax sourced in Alberta, Smith creates these candles in her sweet-smelling garage on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.

Why buy candles made with beeswax? They are a healthier choice. Slow burning beeswax candles produce a bright light and a non-toxic smoke. Read five (5) reasons to choose beeswax candles over paraffin here.

There are three Bees Wax Works candle designs to choose from (click here), but is “Key to My Heart” might be a good choice for your mother.

Just saying…

Key to my Heart Beeswax Candle

Pro Hostess and Entertainer Mom

Is she a passionate foodie and loves cooking? Get your mother something to brighten up her kitchen. Anouk has a series of alpine inspired European linen aprons and tea towels in five (5) different designs.

Anouk European Linen Aprons

Does your mother feed off the energy of social gatherings surrounded by friends and family?

These hand carved serving boards are long lasting gifts that are perfect for entertaining. West Coast weather permitting, Kathy Clark of Schooner Lane Designs cuts these hardwood boards on her Bowen Island deck. Using her trusty electric saw Clark hand cuts walnut, maple and cherry hardwood into a shape that will eventually become a cheese or charcuterie board. These serving boards are finished with food-safe beeswax and mineral oil paste. Schooner Lane Designs serving and chopping boards are created from rough off-cuts, giving this wood a renewed purpose.

Choose any one of these boards for your mother. Our personal favourite is the heart handle version. Add a special touch by requesting to have the board engraved with your mum’s initials.

Heart Handle Hardwood Boards

Fashionista Mother

Give her a scarf or shawl to add a pop of colour to her spring outfits without any additional bulk. Check out at the designer options here.

How about a little bling to make her eyes sparkle? We have a selection of unique, designer jewellery from earrings to rings, from bracelets to necklaces. Consider buying mum a semi-precious gemstone piece for added strength, clarity or confidence. Shop the jewellery options here.

What lady doesn’t want a new handbag? Our designers use high-quality leather, vintage fabrics, and beautiful silks. Browse the handbag selection here.

Mother's Day Fashion Gift Ideas

What are the Pantone Colours for Spring Fashion in 2017

The Pantone website describes the colours for Spring fashion this year as follows:

“A Mixture of Vitality, Relaxation and the Great Outdoors. From colors that are bright and vivid to those that convey a sense of earthiness, our top 10 colors for spring 2017 are reminiscent of the hues that surround us in nature.” Read the full article and descriptions of these selections here.

What are the Colours for Spring Fashion in 2017 Pantone

These top-10 colours were selected in September 2016, at the same time as global supermodels strutted the fashion runways in during New York Fashion Week. In time for May flowers, we thought we would dig through our designers’ collections and see how they aligned with the Pantone hues for this Spring.

Designer Fashion For Spring:

Silk Chiffon Scarf Cindy Goble Pink

Ontario artist Cindy Goble covers the pale pinks, dark blues, hot reds and pumpkin oranges in her line of silk chiffon and square wool scarves.

Oversized 100% wool scarf this wrap is Red Hot

Nancy Newman has the blue tones covered in her “Doris, the day bag” which is available in four different vintage cotton fabrics – bold teal to subdued cream. These purses are just the right size to hold the essentials (keys, lipstick, credit cards, cellphone) while you run your errands.

Doris-fabric-daytime-handbag-in-Green-Kantha

Weaver Morija Reeb created a series of gorgeous dangling earrings. Made with lightweight silk fabric the earrings were heat etched to produce dazzling hues. Available in pale peach, grey, teal and frosty indigo these earrings are certainly evocative of the great outdoors.

Peach-Coloured-Silk-Petal-Earrings

Christine Vonbun’s Mimi cross-body handbag comes in a crystal blue that is almost a perfect match to Pantone’s refreshing “Island Paradise.”

Mimi-ostrich-leather-designer-handbag-in-crystral-blue

From her Morris B Collection, the Adie shoulder bag made with soft Italian leather. It is available in four colours, including a versatile denim blue.

Adie-Italian-Leather-handbag-in-beige-and-denim-blue

Melanie Neves’ Kĕme Jewellery gets its name from a twist on the ancient Egyptian word “khēmia”, meaning transmutation of earth. Handcrafted with metal clay, her creations are inspired by nature, and so are the colours she uses in her wave stud earrings and leaf wrap rings.

Wave Textured Stud Earrings 2 Two Leaf Wrap Around Ring 1

Explore the rest of our designers’ collections here.

Easy to Wear Jewellery for Spring Fashion

It was a long winter in North America. Record snowfalls at Eastern ski resorts competed with the slippery streets of Vancouver and Seattle. After months of the “white stuff,” it’s time to lighten up your look with some new accessories. All it takes is a pop of colour or the sparkle of a semi-precious gemstone to transition and outfit from dull to irresistible.

Atelier - Designer Jewellery for Spring

Unique Designer Jewellery

These Canadian designers handcraft their whimsical jewellery using shiny gold, stainless steel and sterling silver. The eye-catching interest comes with how they have combined metal chains with powerful gemstones and dynamic crystals. Silk and leather create a softer touch when your outfit needs to be less formal.

Crystal Cluster Garden Pendant

Necklaces are versatile accessories

All it takes is adding a glossy chain to turn your daytime ‘at-the-office’ look into ‘time-for cocktails.’ Whether the band is made of a precious metal (gold or silver), a silk ribbon, a leather strand or a string of beads adding one of these necklaces to your jewellery box is the easiest way to transform your look. Explore the designer necklace collection here.

Watermelon Tourmaline Union Necklace

Rings matter!

Whether he gave you the band or it is a gift to yourself – you deserve it. Trust us other women notice what is on your fingers. Melanie’s Keme Jewellery Sage Leaf rings radiate a natural touch. Anastassia chooses a labradorite stone for her enchanting Aurora Ring. This semi-precious stone provides clarity, improved communication and tempers negative feelings (read more here). Colleen Poitras’s Matter Series ring in stainless steel and concrete tells everyone (without you having to) that your weekends are precious.

Aurora Ring with Labradorite stone

Think of your ears as real estate that you can accessorise with a stylish ear crawler or a pair of fashionable ear studs made with metal clay. For the perfect lightweight accessory choose a set of silk earrings by designer Morija Reeb. Using natural silk as the base material and a heat etching process, she adds several layers of natural dye to achieve the desired shades. These delicate earrings look like tiny leaves or butterfly wings (take a look here).

Metal Clay Leaf Stud Earrings

As the warmer weather approaches, expose your limbs to some natural Vitamin D and buy a bracelet to celebrate. Colleen Poitras has two bangles with sparkling gemstone charms. Katja’s Skimbaco collection combines practical and beautiful in the essential oil diffuser bracelets. Buy a designer bracelet today.

Where to Eat, Drink and Shop a Local’s Travel Tips for a Toronto Weekend

Christine VonBun is originally from Vienna, Austria, where she earned a degree in Fashion Design and a Certification as a Master-Craftsman in Handbag Design. Christine started this intense apprenticeship program at the age of 14. Her creative passion took her to South Africa to work with Cape Cobra one of the world’s top manufacturers of luxury, exotic-leather handbags.

For some years now, Toronto has been Christine VonBun’s home. She tells us that they enjoy the accessibility of Ontario’s wilderness canoeing the “HMS Edelweiss” in Algonquin Park. Read more about this creator of exotic leather handbags here.

Ontario lakes Toronto night skyline Wine Country Downtown Shopping #DiscoverON @OntarioTravel

When you are working on a Christine VonBun handbag who do you envision will be wearing it?

 

I design for women who appreciate something beautiful and who can recognise and understand the details inherent to fine craftsmanship, they value that something is made specifically for them, by hand, in Canada. My designs and leathers take into account that VonBun bags are intended to be worn for many years, through flash trends, even passed down to the next generation. I will always limit the number of bags so that the wearer can feel unique, a fashion leader, not a follower.

Lola Red Patent Leather Handbag @ChristineVonBun

If a customer just bought an ostrich leather handbag and asked you how they might spend a weekend in Toronto what would you recommend?

 

Coffee:

The Mad Bean is my favourite – run by a father and son team they make the best Americano in Toronto.

The Mad Bean
519 Eglinton Ave W
Toronto, Ontario M5N 1B1
Tel: 647-235-2456

TORONTO, ON_Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre_SUP #DiscoverON @OntarioTravel Photograph by Goh Iromoto

Breakfast:

I love the quick, easy and informal Mars Diner, but there are so many places at in the Beaches it would be unfair to choose only one. After Breakfast take a stroll along the boardwalk.

Mars Beach Diner
1987 Queen Street East
Toronto, Ontario M4l 1J1
Tel: 416-690-6906

#DiscoverON @OntarioTravel

Lunch:

On a beautiful day, the roof patio of Hemingway’s in the heart of Yorkville is unbeatable. A great spot for people watching and their tasty lunch menu.

Hemingway’s
142 Cumberland St,
Toronto, Ontario M5R 1A8
Tel: 416-968-2828

Dinner:

Try one of the cultural pockets in the city. I love spending an evening in little Italy or on the Danforth (Greek Town) to walk around, check out the local delicatessen stores and find the perfect spot for dinner. I find Toronto is unique that way with the cultural, ethnic neighbourhoods.

Lake Ontario #DiscoverON @OntarioTravel

Shopping:

Queen Street West retail is a must. However,  go west of Bathurst Street to find all the independent stores.

Iconic Toronto – Don’t miss this!:

Summer or any season, you have to take the ferry to Toronto Island, not only will you get the best picture of the city line it is just a magical place. Insider tip – go to Ward Island and walk from there!

Toronto Night Skyline Ontario lakes Toronto night skyline Wine Country Downtown Shopping #DiscoverON @OntarioTravel

Where the local’s go to spot: 

Canoe cocktail lounge for the panoramic view of downtown and Lake Ontario.

Canoe Restaurant
66 Wellington St. W,
TD Bank Tower, 54th Floor
Toronto, Ontario, M5K 1H6
(416) 364-0054

Sleep here:

The Drake Hotel and make sure you enjoy a cocktail before you go to bed!

The Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West
Toronto,Ontario
Tel: 416-531-5042

Image credits: All Ontario photos provided by and published with the permission of Travel Ontario.

Do it Yourself Handcrafted Designer Leather Handbag

We asked Toronto designer Christine Vonbun to explain what it takes to make one of her luxury handbags. She is clear that top-quality leather and access to the right tools and machinery are essential to the production of her purses.

Handcrafting Leather Bags

Vonbun uses a walking-foot sewing machine designed for leather. Each stage of production requires a selection of hand tools; including traditional double-facetted knives for cutting and specialised skiving knives for thinning the leather at the ends. Vonbun uses a fishbone knife for turning the leather edges, along with a variety of pliers, hammers, small screwdrivers and chisels.

Each handbag requires some glueing, which means different adhesives for separate parts of the process.

The most important piece for hand working is a large soft flat stone, according to Vonbun it must be a fine sandstone – her’s came from her Master in Vienna.

So, what are the steps to handcraft a designer handbag?

1. Leather selection

Red Ostrich Leather used for designer handbags

2. Cutting the leather

Cutting the template for a red ostrich leather handbag

3. Thinning the edges
4. Gluing sections

Gluing straps for red ostrich leather handbag Gluing pieces for red ostrich leather handbag

5. Stitching pieces

Hand stitching red ostrich leather handbag

6. Joining parts together

Red ostrich leather bag is starting to take shape

7. Creating the liner and adding fasteners

Preparing the interior details for a deigner ostrich leather bag

8. Inserting the liner and top stitching the two pieces together

Inserting the suede liner into ostrich leather bag

9. Adding straps

Adding the shoulder strap to red ostrich leather handbag

10. Final Product

Finished product Adele red ostrich leather handbag

And, if you work on one ostrich leather bag at a time that process might take 12 hours. Are you still considering a DIY project of making your own handbag? Maybe you should shop designer fashion instead!

Take a look at Christine’s full collection here.

Adie Collection Leather shoulder handbag designed by @ChristineVonBun

 

Exclusive, Luxury Italian Leather Handbags the Morris B Collection

Christine Vonbun handbags designs are timeless, fabricated in striking leather colours these bags are intended to be accessories you will enjoy every day and continue to wear for a long time.

Bella Italian leather handbag in black @ChristineVonBun

Vonbun has this to say about her Morris B Collection, “I want to create user-friendly on-trend bags which work for the wearer from day to night. Uncomplicated, stylish with a twist of fun.”

Based in Toronto, Ontario designer Christine Vonbun only sources leather for her handbag creations from reputable merchants; Klein Karoo Leather (for ostrich) and an importer who sources directly from a selection of reputable Italian tanneries. Working with the same suppliers for years and she refuses to compromise on quality.

Adie Italian Leather handbag in taupe and denim blue

After attaining her Master Craftsman certification from Modeschule Hetzendorf, a dedicated fashion school in Vienna, Austria, Vonbun moved to South Africa. While in Cape Town, she worked at Cape Cobra Leathercraft a premium manufacturer of luxury leather handbags, where quality control is essential. You can read her full backstory here.

Soft ostrich leather remains her preferred handbag material for its durability, interesting texture. “It is also the only exotic leather that gets more beautiful the more you wear it, the leather absorbs the oil from your skin and the textured quill areas get shiny and wonderfully soft.”

Bella Italian leather handbag in taupe @ChristineVonBun

However, Vonbun readily admits that fine Italian leather also produces beautiful results at a more approachable price point, which is why she has launched her Morris B Collection. To handcraft a purse using high-quality Italian leather requires significantly less production time (< 50%), as compared to an ostrich leather bag; where cutting, and matching the quill pattern requires patience and extraordinary skill.

Adie Red Leather shoulder handbag designed by @ChristineVonBun

The Christine Vonbun Morris B Collection is an Atelier Boutiques exclusive. Handcrafted with the same attention to detail Vonbun has created these gorgeous designer handbags at affordable prices.

The Adie purse is exactly like the ostrich leather version (Adele). This shoulder bag is large enough to carry all you need, without being bulky. Lined in gold fabric this purse has two interior pockets and a magnet closure for security. Available in four Italian leather colours: red, taupe, denim blue and black.

Adie Collection Leather shoulder handbag designed by @ChristineVonBun

“Sophie” is available in black and red Italian leather. This pouch-style handbag is both playful and practical with its roomy interior. The drawstring closure also acts as the carry handles, and the shoulder strap is detachable. The Sophie bag might just become your best girlfriend.

 

Sophie handbag in black leather by designer @ChristineVonBunSophie handbag in red leather by designer @ChristineVonBun

Soft and curvy Bella is a stylish bag with a top zip closure. This tiny purse is the perfect companion for running errands and for keeping the essentials (keys, smartphone, credit cards, lipstick) safe. Bella is the accessory that you need for that lunch out with friends or an after-work cocktail. Available in four colours deep red , taupe, tan and black.

Bella Italian leather handbag in red and taupe @ChristineVonBun

Explore the full Christine Vonbun Collection.

Country Weekend in Uxbridge Ontario with Nancy Newman Textiles

Nancy Newman lives in rural Ontario, near the town of Uxbridge, which she describes as a wonderful place to live. Removed from Toronto’s big city hassles Nancy enjoys a view of a farmer’s field from her workshop. Her studio is full of light with a vaulted ceiling and a wood burning stove takes the chill off during the winter – “A lovely space.”

Nancy Newman Textiles work in the studio

However, to the untrained eye, one might describe Nancy’s studio as chaotic (her word), cluttered with leather and fabric samples during the design phase of a vintage handbag. This seemingly messy environment is what allows Nancy to mix and match the traditional fabrics with the perfect leather and accessory combinations.

sewing-machine Nancy Newman Textiles work in the studio

Nancy practices slow, sustainable fashion.

nancy-newman-studio-shot-1

The mission behind Nancy Newman Textiles is to “Save the planet one purse at a time.” She is accomplishing this goal by mindfully using textiles that were destined for the landfill and by honouring and continuing old textile traditions. Nancy explains her choice is to use leather, and not ‘vegan leather’ in her handbags. “This is a conscious choice for me because once the leather finally ends up in the landfill, it will decompose in a matter of months, where the polyurethane will be there for over 100 years.”

Cross body handbag with cotton and leather

If a customer just purchased a vintage fabric handbag, and asked  how they might spend a weekend in rural Ontario what would you recommend:

“Uxbridge, Ontario has a vibrant arts community, and it is a place where you always meet someone you know when you are out.”

Go for coffee at Nexus a newer cafe in town, with excellent hot drinks and friendly owners.

Designer Bucket bag with a Vintage Bohemian Flair

Have breakfast at Scrambles connected to the Foxbridge Golf Club, this restaurant is a great place to get a home-cooked – simple breakfast at a terrific price.

The Tin Cup Caffe is the best place in town for lunch with their tasty soups, perfect coffees and the friendliest staff around.

For dinner, there are several choices, but my two favourites are the Urban Pantry, which has a more upscale menu and vibe, and Frankies Ristorante, a family-run gluten-free restaurant and bakery.

The Fly Cotton Shoulder Bag in Natural Cotton

Shopping in the downtown core is charming.  We have Blue Heron Books, voted one of Canada’s 10 best-loved bookstores by CBC. If you need a new outfit, Woods and Woods Clothing has served the community for 26-years with everyday fashions at reasonable prices.

Don’t miss this “iconic” spot in Ontario’s countryside: The Foster Memorial resembles the Taj Mahal it was built as a mausoleum by Thomas Foster for himself and his family. Concerts are held there frequently because the acoustics are amazing.

Where do the local’s go? The Second Wedge Brewery Co. serves their artisanal beer in a relaxed environment, with occasional live music.

Sleep here: There are several B&Bs in the Uxbridge area.

Read more about sustainable fashion and how Nancy Newman is turning textile traditions into handbags.

Handbag tote mali mud cloth and leather @NancyNewmanTextiles