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How to Pull Off Leather at the Office

Here, 10 of the new wearable leather silhouettes showcased on the runways you’ll want to add to your wardrobe workwear now. We’re talking strictly business

NOVEMBER 27, 2014

As soon as fall merchandise started rolling into stores, leather shot to the top of my shopping list. But not the teen-pop legging look I saw on racks everywhere. I was more drawn to its grown-up sisters: lean sheath dresses, beautifully cut skirts and refined fitted jackets.

I’ve flirted with leather over the years: A favourite pair of leather jeans, long since sold on consignment, a well-loved collection of bomber jackets, biker jackets and a knee-length coat all had their places at some point in my closet. But leather for daytime just seemed too much. To ease myself in, I stuck to my cardinal uniform of black and found a few key leather pieces to gussy up my wardrobe of basics.

But first, some important reconnaissance. Susie Sheffman, fashion creative director and consultant, has sage advice for making leather look professional: Wear one piece at a time, and mix it with tailored pieces, like a well-cut blouse or tweed blazer. This, she points out, “takes the toughness down.” She advises me to remove anything too clubby or vampy from my outfits, and when wearing leather pants, to keep the stomach, waistline and bum covered up. She also recommends keeping shoes simple—skip the sky-high heels in favour of a flat, a mid-heel or an oxford to keep the sexiness in check.

Fortunately, on the day I wanted to brave leather pants, the weather was perfect. I wore skinny black leather pants from Ann Taylor with a crisp white collared shirt, a favourite black J.Crew “schoolboy” blazer and nude flats. I felt completely comfortable, as the outfit was a small upgrade from my usual black wool skinny trousers. I got a few compliments on the pants (they fit really nicely), and it felt office appropriate but with a little something extra. This outfit will indeed be in the rotation on the regular.

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Ann Taylor pants, $116, anntaylor.com

On Fridays, without fail, I wear some variation of the skinny jeans and blazer combination. I subbed out one of my go-to blazers in favour of a moto-style jacket from Banana Republic with an ink-blue body and black fabric sleeves. Marissa Webb, Banana Republic’s new creative director (and J.Crew alumna), has already put her mark on the fall and winter line, with a ton of leather and mixed-medium pieces.

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Banana Republic jacket, $310, bananarepublic.ca

One week, I wore it with a white collared shirt (yup, again), black skinny jeans and ankle boots. It felt like a cooler, fresher version of my casual Friday uniform. Another week, I paired it with a knit black pencil skirt, black tank and simple black pumps. Both times, I received lots of compliments (especially from the young ones around the office).

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Here’s the thing: When you introduce a beautiful leather garment into your outfit, it instantly makes it more special or interesting, even in a subtle way. So as someone with an admittedly basic wardrobe, I felt good wearing leather to the office.

 Danier skirt, $250, danier.com

(Published originally for The Kit, November 2014)

Seven Ontario Wines to Fall For

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A good bottle of wine makes staying in pleasurable as the weather turns chilly. We’ve rounded up the seven best bottles from our favorite local vineyards

The shift in seasonal wines isn’t unlike the change in our wardrobes. Just as we start to crave cozy knits and sumptuous leather when the weather cools, so our palettes turn to full-bodied wines to suit the chilly temperatures.

Save the grassy, fresh white wines for a summer patio and embrace the season for rich, bold bottles with intense flavours and higher alcohol content (hello, warming effect). And where better to find them than our own backyard? Here are seven fall picks, all sourced from Niagara’s wine region, a hop, skip and jump from Toronto.

1. Stratus Petit Verdot 2011
$38.00
The Winery: Stratus is a real stunner, settled on 62 acres near the southeastern border of the Niagara Lakeshore sub-appellation. Its glass and stone slickness feels a bit more Napa Valley than Niagara and the view from its back patio is simply perfect.
The Wine: Just released, this 2011 vintage is a great bottle to drink now, or save for a few years. Petit Verdot is typically used in small percentages for classic Bordeaux blends and is rarely bottled as a single varietal. This darkly-hued wine is full of juicy dark berry fruits and a touch of warm spice with a silky finish.
stratuswines.com

2. Château des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
$14.95
The Winery: Founded in the late 1970’s, Château des Charmes has been family owned and operated for more than 30 years, culminating in five generations of winemaking expertise from the Bosc family.
The Wine: This delicious bargain drinks like a much dearer classic old world cab sauv. It is heavy on black cherry, dark chocolate and a bit of warm toasted vanilla. This classic cozy wine also has just the right amount of tannins.
fromtheboscfamily.com/

3. Pondview Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
$34.95
The Winery: One of Niagara on the Lake’s most charming wineries, Pondview brings a bit of la dolce vita to the area. The Puglisi family grew grapes and produced wines in Sicily, bringing their passion and expertise to Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1965.
The Wine: This is an outstanding red that is full-bodied but beautifully smooth. Aged for 16 months in French and American oak barrels, it boasts mocha, dark chocolate and vanilla flavors, with rich cedar and coffee nuances. Truly delicious.
pondviewwinery.com/

4. Cattail Creek Estate Winery Creek Series Cabernet Merlot 2012
$14.95
The Winery: On a farming plot that was used to grow peaches, Cattail Creek Estate Winery has some of the oldest Riesling vines in the province.
The Wine: An excellent value, this medium-bodied dry wine is strong on cassis, berries and plum. A blend of Merlot (42%), Cabernet (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (28%), the finish is fantastic: it’s almost dessert-like. Refined tannins and lingering taste of toasted vanilla and cherry.
cattailcreek.ca

5. Jackson-Triggs Delaine Syrah 2010
$32.95
The Winery: Canada’s most awarded winery, Jackson Triggs is a pillar of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Wine: This Syrah is rich and spicy, with black pepper, cardamom and clove paired with dark fruit. It’s juicy and balanced, mellowed by notes of coffee. Enjoy it now, or put it away for a winter in years to come.
jacksontriggswinery.com

6. Mike Weir Pinot Noir 2013
$16.95
The Winery: Canada’s most famous golfer entered the wine business in 2005 and has since gone on to produce some of the top selling VQA wines in the LCBO. Winemaker Jeff Hundertmark is one of the area’s most affable talents.
The Wine: Famously fickle grapes to grow, pinot noir is a labor of love. And this is a bottle to love. As well-priced as it is easy drinking, the beautifully balanced pinot noir tastes of jam (heavy on the cherry) with just a hint of smoke.
mikeweirwine.com

7. Stoney Ridge Cabernet Franc 2013
$13.95
The Winery: For more than 25 years, Niagara’s “garden winery” has charmed customers with its exceptional wines and friendly atmosphere. The onsite artisan cheese shop doesn’t hurt, either.
The Wine: A steal at this price, stock up on a case of this Cab Franc. A gorgeous deep ruby color, this wine is peppery and heady. Full bodied, with a pinch of green pepper, and enough tannins to pack a punch.
stoneyridgewinery.com

—Written by Karen Cleveland

 

(Originally published for Soho House, November 2014)

You really, truly shouldn’t go to work when you’ve got a cold

Your martyrdom just spreads germs

Woman sneezing on the couch while home sick from work.

(Tom Merton/Getty)

What variety of martyrdom compels us to soldier into work, when we’re sick as dogs? The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology makes the case that there is a traditional understanding that attendance used to equate to performance in the workplace, a notion that should have been tossed out with the fax machine.

“I suspect that many people come into work when they’re sick because they’re scared of falling behind, or worry things will fall apart without them,” says Sheri Langer, an HR professional in Toronto. “For some, it is a demonstration of just how committed they are, when in reality, staying home for a day or two is better for your team as it keeps the virus from spreading.”

While we might feel like the honourable thing to do is to show our commitment by dragging our sick selves into the office, the more responsible thing to do for the greater good is to spare your coworkers from your gnarly germs and stay home for a day or two.

Here are five things to know about calling in sick like a grown up:

1. You’re doing the right thing

If you’re really sick, take solace in knowing that staying home is the best thing for your health and your colleagues. You’re heroically preventing others from getting sick and helping yourself recover sooner.

2. Pick up the phone and call

Call or email your boss explaining that you are staying home sick for the day. Millennials take note: a text message is too casual of a medium to convey this and isn’t conducive to providing context. Plus, if you sound like hell on the phone, it bodes well for lots of sympathy when you’re back in the office.

3. Give just enough information

While there is no need to go into the gory symptomatic details (save those your doctor), you should provide a cursory descriptor of what ails you. Mentioning that you have a migraine and are out of commission for the day is one thing: going into explicit detail to describe a gastrointestinal issue is quite another.

4. Be helpful

Touch on who-can-cover-off-what in your absence, and if you hazard a guess, say when you expect to be back in the office. If team members or anyone that reports to you needs to know you’re taking the day off, fill them in too. Set your auto reply on your email inbox so people know to expect a delay in your reply.

5. Get back to bed

Arm yourself with orange juice, cold meds, tea, whatever your weapon of choice is and rest up. If you use your sick day to truly recuperate, you will be better poised to nip your sickness in its early stages—and avoid wiping out your colleagues in the process.

Karen Cleveland is a Toronto-based etiquette writer and advisor. Follow her on Twitter or visit her site.

(Originally published for Canadian Business, October 2014)

Taking the Coloured Eyeliner Trend Out For a Spin

Coloured eyeliner: Etiquette expert and fabulous business lady Karen Cleveland tests out wearing bright hued eyeliner in a corporate atmosphere

AUGUST 29, 2014

The notion of coloured eyeliner conjured up the worst of the ’80s for me: Remember Joan Cusack in Working Girlher lids lacquered with a garish swipe of shimmery cobalt? But on the fall 2014 runways, we saw electric blue cat eyes at Kenzo, orange and green flicks at Chanel and winged-out iridescent turquoise lids at Dior. Cue Duran Duran! I was curious: Could I pull off this look as a grown woman in 2014, working in a corporate environment?

RELATED READ: Trend to try: Matte red lips

With a routine that’s equal parts lazy and minimalist (touch of concealer, bit of bronzer and well-curled, mascara’d lashes), I was skeptical. So much so that I sneakily popped a makeup remover wipe into my bag before heading to meet Stila Cosmetics’ national trainer, Melissa Ortins, for some coloured liner education. My assignment: an evening liner look in bold blue (her work) and a daytime look in rich green (my work).

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I met Ortins on the hottest, rainiest day of the summer—challenging conditions for testing a bold makeup look. She expertly swiped Stila’s Stay All Day Liner (the brand’s best-selling product) in Indigo across my upper lash line in a perfect cat eye. Pro tip: Start from the outside and angle the tip toward the outer edge of your eyebrow for precise symmetry. The more pressure you apply, the more dramatic the line will be.

RELATED READ: Jeanne Beker talks bold summer makeup

While working her magic, Ortins explained that coloured eyeliner has come a long way. Rather than adding pigment for pop (as we did so gratuitously in the ’80s), the goal now is to shape the eye, using a complementary shade. People should notice your irises, not the colour of your makeup. The result was a pretty, interesting swoop that was less harsh than black.

I bounded out into the rain and headed straight to a rum-tasting party. I expected my fella and my friends to notice my makeup (quite bold, by my standards) but had to prompt them for feedback. The consensus was that it looked nice, if heavier than I normally wear. Nary a mention of the colour, but one friend, who wields a liner like no one’s business, thought it made my baby blues appear darker.

The next morning before work, I attempted to replicate the look using Olive, a greyish green. To keep things office-appropriate, I didn’t extend the line past the end of my eyes. Throughout the morning, I was nervously aware that I was sporting more makeup than usual, and in a bolder shade. But when I checked the mirror in the ladies’, I instantly chilled out—the line defined the shape of my eyes and made them look a little more grey, without screaming, “This is green liner!”

Surprisingly, at no point from my 9 a.m. meeting to the end of my marathon workday (hair in a bun held with a pencil, pounding on the laptop at 10 p.m.) did my coloured eyeliner and I feel the least bit Working Girl. Though the ’80s were pretty fabulous, weren’t they?

Would you wear an electric blue cat-eye?

 

LAURA MERCIER CRÈME EYE LINER IN ENVY, $28, AT HOLT RENFREW; ESSENCE GEL EYE PENCIL WATERPROOF IN BLUE LAGOON,
$3, AT SHOPPERS DRUG MART; MAKE UP
 FOR EVER AQUA LINER IN IRIDESCENT FUCHSIA, $27, AT SEPHORA.CAVASANTI LIQUID EYELINER IN CALM, $18, AT SHOPPERS DRUG MART & REXALL; STILA STAY ALL DAY WATERPROOF LIQUID EYE LINER IN INDIGO, $26, AT MURALE

(Originally published for The Kit, in the Toronto Star, August 2014)