• Hello! I'm a freelance fashion writer, editor, and digital media consultant. Here, you'll find my portfolio, projects and personal obsessions, as well as a healthy dose of shoes and sparkly things. You can read more about me here.
  • Latest Musings


    BCBG's Lubov Azria and moi

    BCBG’s Lubov Azria and moi

     

    You know that old adage “behind every great is a great woman”?

     

    It’s something I thought about when I had the chance to dine with Lubov Azria last week. For those not in the know, she’s the elegant wife of BCBG’s founder, Max Azria, and as chief creative officer leads the company’s design team and oversees marketing and merchandising efforts. She’s also incredibly gracious (unfailingly polite doesn’t even begin to describe it). And gorgeous (hello, cheekbones). And has arguably the most killer closet you’ve ever seen (see below -swoon!).

     

    Azria's killer closet.

    Azria’s killer closet.

     

    But more than any of those things, she’s the muse and creative force behind the LA-based label, helping to take it from a singular brand known for it’s affordable pieces to a global fashion powerhouse encompassing over twenty lines, dozens of categories and hundreds of stores  (including several new ones in Canada). It may be his name on the label but make no mistake, she’s the artistic determination behind it.

     

    I’ve seen this before, notably with Roberto and Eva Cavalli. But unlike the Cavallis — who, as everyone well knows, lead totally separate lives and have a marriage in name only — the Azrias are the real deal. By all appearances, they seem to have a true partnership and when Lubov speaks of her husband, her voice softens with a sense of real tenderness and profound respect.

     

    At my bff's wedding in my favourite BCBG gown, and the "Inga" on a model for a better look.

    At my bff’s wedding in my favourite BCBG gown, and the “Inga” on a model for a better look.

     

     

    There’s depth to her as well. At our dinner, she recalled a story of how, years ago when she was a still a fashion design student, she went into a store and fell in love with the most exquisite dress that unfortunately turned out to be well beyond her modest means. She said she never forgot how it made her feel, “sad and unworthy,” and swore to herself that when she became a designer, she would never create anything that made a woman feel the same way.

     

    I guess that’s what impressed me most about Lubov. She’s smart and ambitious — anyone who’s watched the company’s growth trajectory or seen how savvy she is with social media can seen this — but she’s also driven by creative integrity and to this day, remains laser-focused on BCBG’s legacy of chic and affordable fashion.  Even their runway and red carpet pieces are not priced out of the realm of possibility. Aspirational, yes. But not insurmountable.

     

    Ultimately, she projects a sense of being BCBG’s quiet visionary who shines a light on its past but bears the torch to lead it into the future.

     
     

    A follow up to my must-have spring beauty buys is a quick run-down of what’s on my summer beauty shopping list.

     

    sunfx-whiteout-self-tanner SUNFX WHITEOUT

    A few people are aware that I started running a few months ago. I’ve completed two 10K races and hope to run a half marathon this fall – yay me. That said, it’s done absolutely jack for my waistline. Possibly because I’m Hungry. All. The. Time. So, in preparation for swimsuit season and a seaside escape to the cottage, I’ve embraced the idea that a sunless tanner is the quickest route to looking slimmer. I read somewhere that the Australian-based company’s formula has only three ingredients (DHA- the active tanning agent- mineral water, and caramelized salt) which purportedly results in a more natural glow (read: no orangey Oompa Loompa-like appearance). That’s the goal of a faux glow. Always.

     

    AMOREPACIFIC COLOR CONTROL CUSHION COMPACT BROAD SPECTRUM SPF 50+

    AMOREPACIFIC COLOR CONTROL CUSHION COMPACT BROAD SPECTRUM SPF 50+

    Asia-based friends of mine first introduced me to BB cream four years ago as the next new thing (totally right, obvs) so I paid rapt attention when clued me into “the next BB Cream”: Air Cushions. They’re basically the next generation of BB and CC alphabet skincare and similarly come loaded with all those nourishing ingredients but packaged in a solid cream compact. The pressed puff it comes with creates more of a shimmery, dewy finish and is designed to make it easier to layer on coverage (less is more, ladies) as well as being ideal for touchups throughout the day (which I absolutely need since I suffer from acute melting-face syndrome). Sephora stocks Dr. Jart+’s BB Bounce Beauty Balm but since it received only so-so reviews and I’ve never been a big fan of their BB cream to begin with I think I’ll go with AmorePacific’s version. I’m also intrigued by their sheet masks (which are the “next-next” BB cream!) but at more than $25 per sheet, the cushion compact seems must more reasonably priced. Either way these are guaranteed to be everywhere – #trust.

     

    Hit me up on Twitter @ayamcmillan to let me know if you’ve tried any of these – I’m dying to hear a real review!

     
     

    Net-A-Porter BLESS business of fashion

     

    Even though it was a sponsored feature, I found this interview with Net-a-Porter’s HR Director in BOF of tremendous interest. In it she articulated the corporate culture and attitude that sets it apart – cleverly synthesized into the acronym “BLESS.”

     

    “BLESS” stands for “Be the Best, Lead not Follow, Exceed Expectations, Smart and Stylish, and Service Starts with You.”

     

    It’s imperative that an organization and its employees are aligned to a single vision and are able to clearly understand what that is but it’s even more important that they actually deliver on it. I’ve worked for companies that printed their brand values on business cards but in reality embodied the complete opposite (I don’t know what was more pathetic, the fact that they didn’t deliver or that they failed to even see their failure) and I’ve worked for companies that had no core brand values to speak of (‘we are whatever our clients want us to be’ was the unspoken mantra), both environments caused unnecessary confusion, time suckage and an overall sense of suckiness.

     

    I think the most successful companies are the ones that best embody their brand. Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, for example, makes his company culture his number one priority. I may not agree with everything he says, or even ever shop with site, but I completely respect and admire how he has managed to deeply ingrain his vision and philosophy at every level, so much so that every single employee can rattle off their 10 brand values by heart – and mean it.

     

    Further, a business ethos shouldn’t simply be something you get behind. Ultimately, it’s a standard of excellence that is best applied to yourself. Your best chance of success is to mind your own brand. And NAP’s values are a brilliant way to start.

     
     

     

    Confession: I’m a bit of a beauty slut.

     

    I’m neither loyal to a specific skincare line, tied to a particular cosmetic product, nor do I play favourites with fragrances. As for haircare, well, that’s where I really whore it up.

     

    I suppose it’s the editor instinct in me – I’m always on the hunt for the next new thing and believe there’s something better if I just dig a little deeper. Of course, there are a few items I tend to come back to over and over again (Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo, Dove clinical protection antiperspirant, and Missha BB Cream, if you must know) and while I certainly stick to a regular beauty routine, colour palette and perfume bouquet, generally speaking, my vanity is always open to new visitors.

     

    Admittedly, it helps that, as an editor, I do get to road-test a lot of new beauty products. And I do. Gladly. But then there are those items that I haven’t been exposed to: the ones that repeatedly get mentioned on social media, or some Asia-based friend has sent (bless them), or the ones that are whispered about within some secret prettifying society.

     

    These are the ones that I’m most intrigued by. I haven’t tried them, seen them or received press releases on them, but I’ve made it my mission to tart it up with them. So, herewith, a compiled list:

     

     

    Bumble and Bumble Dryspun finish and Cityswept FInish

    BUMBLE AND BUMBLE DRYSPUN & CITY SWEPT FINISH

    Hair pro Sam McKnight misted this backstage at Isabel Marant’s fall 2014 show and called it “the key” to achieving that effortless french girl cool coif that we all covet. While I’m at it, I’ll also pick up the Cityswept Finish for comparison. Reportedly, it builds texture and shine and promises a broken-in kinda look (think: the perfect 90s-era flip). Sold!

     

     

    RMS Beauty Living Luminizer

    RMS BEAUTY LIVING LUMINIZER

    You know those  dewy cheekbones that you see in just about every J. Crew catalogue? This little pot is the gleaming force behind them. Highlighter hussy? Thy name is moi.

     

    Bareminerals Bareskin foundation

    BAREMINERALS BARESKIN SERUM FOUNDATION

    Fact: I was obsessed with bareMineral’s makeup when it first hit shelves two decades ago (er, not to age myself). It was totally unlike anything else on the market – like a powder foundation, but not actually powder, but rather crushed miracles – and completely changed the way the average woman viewed her makeup. So, leave it to the genius peeps at Bare Escentuals to revolutionize cosmetics again with their new liquid foundation. Instead of introducing your average liquid makeup, they’ve done one with a serum form derived from coconut (the ingredient du jour), so it’s designed to be healthy for the skin.

     

    And, along with the Bareskin foundation, they’ve also introduced this specially designed brush (did I mention I’m a brush buff, too?) It has this kind of “reservoir” (like a little indent within the bristles) where you add just two drops of the liquid and then buff it on to your skin. I’m digging the less-is-more approach to makeup (especially in the warmer temps) and the video tutorials, I’m not going to lie, make skin look ah-may-zing. I definitely want to pick this up, if only to give all my tireless BB & CC creams a break.

     

     

    Restorsea skincare

    RESTORSEA

    This super luxe skincare brand (her Goop-yness, Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan) uses an enzyme found in the waters of salmon hatcheries in Norway. I’m not exactly clear what makes that’s supposed to offer but seeing all the buzz on Twitter about how soft and clear your skin is with use has me convinced I need to give it a whirl.

     

     

     

    John Frieda colour refreshing gloss

    JOHN FRIEDA COLOUR REFRESHING GLOSS

     I only just started colouring my hair again after a five-year long hiatus but quickly remembered why I took such a long break: maintenance is a bitch. I heard these restorative glosses boost intensity and prevent fading. And for a under $10 bucks, it seems entirely worth a try.

     

     

    Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

    BIOLOGIQUE RECHERCHE LOTION P50

    I read about P50 in a NYTimes profile on writer Jill Kargman’s beauty routine where she revealed this lotion makes skin look like a fetus. Enough said, sign me up.

     

    How much I’m going to end up spending on all of these goodies is an entirely different matter, so if anyone has any views on some I should pass on, please let me know!

     

     
     

    Nicolas Ghesquière’s debut for Louis Vuitton was, by all accounts, a rousing success but it’s only on closer inspection can you fully appreciate how much he culled from the luxury giant’s archives. WWD’s recent interview with the designer rounds up the key pieces from the collection and contrasts them with LV’s legacy items. Here are a few of my favourites:

     

    The Petite Malle box clutch is a modern update to the trunk.

    The Petite Malle box clutch is a modern update to the trunk.

     

    Louis Vuitton Alma bag Fall 2014

    A vintage trunk’s quilted lining inspired a mini Alma bag on the runway.

     

    Ghesquiere's leather belts were inspired by the cloth strapanchoring books in this library trunk.

    Ghesquiere’s leather belts were inspired by the cloth strapanchoring books in this library trunk.

     

    If Ghesquière’s brief is to build on the brand’s 160-year long history, then it his inaugural collection was a clear win – and in clear contrast to his predecessor, Marc Jacobs, who focused on the shock of the new by reinvented the LV look every season.

     

    Legacy. Codes. Heritage. Craftsmanship. These are the defining characteristics of a luxury powerhouse, and inevitably, are what differentiates themselves from the drivel. In a world that’s full of stuff, I as a consumer want to surround myself with things that stand for something. That have meaning. That convey exactly the kind of person I am or at least the person I aspire to be.

     

    Positive brand equity, I believe, is the clearest strategic advantage an organization can have, and by hiring a visionary like Ghesquière, the executives at LVMH clearly recognize this as well. But beyond that, wearing clothes that signify something authentic, something beyond just function or necessity: well, isn’t that the bloody point of fashion anyway?