Back-to-School Must-haves: What I Wish I Had While in School

Back-to-school season is always a long and tiring process. As we grow older, our style evolves, and we right our wrongs when it comes to poor makeup, clothing, and beauty choices. It’s an ongoing evolution and it’s fun! If we drown out that little voice in the back of our heads that tells us there is no ethical form of consumption under capitalism, there is much joy to be found while shopping for back-to-school essentials.

I learned a lot during my four years of University, and I don’t mean in terms of expanding my knowledge of a specific area of study, but I learned a lot about myself and what I could and couldn’t get away with. (Every six months I try to convince myself to get bangs, and every six months I have to have an inner argument. So far I’ve always talked myself out of it.)

As I come freshly into September with my undergrad collecting dust on my wall, I bring a list of things that I would love to share with you that I wish I had while I was attending school. With hopes that these items will bring you some help down the road (like I wish I had), keep scrolling to get the full list.

BEAUTY

Glossier – Boy Brow

I have a love/hate relationship with my eyebrows. As a kid, they were untamed and unruly, and I really didn’t know how to take care of them. Eventually, it became fashion-forward to have thin eyebrows, and in order to fit in with those in my class, I followed suit. It was not a good look. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized the importance of eyebrows and how they shape your face. Boy Brow by Glossier is perfect as it gives great definition to my brows for a standout look while keeping everything in place.

Becca – First Light Filter Face Primer

If you’re like me, you often turn off your alarm clock by hitting snooze every five minutes. When you make this decision you are often making an unconscious decision to give something up in the morning: your make-up routine, breakfast, or your ability to grab some coffee before class without being late. We can’t have it all. On the days I’m especially lazy, I opt out of my full makeup routine and leave the house just wearing Becca’s First Light Filter Face Primer. It gets rid of any puffiness I have, allowing my skin to look more energized and hydrated for the day.

CLOSET

Fenty x Puma – Fall 2017 Ready-to-Wear

Rihanna has always reigned supreme and it was only a matter of time until she blessed us with her very own clothing line. Who wouldn’t want to dress like Rihanna? During my time in school, I was blessed with her albums, her amazing street style, and even saw her in a concert in my first year of University. The Fenty x Puma Fall 2017 Ready-to-Wear collection is the ultimate inspiration for students lounging at the library and getting dressed for a night out with friends.

Dolce & Gabbana – Polar Bear Backpack

In school, you’re always on the go and need a reliable bag to get you from point A to B. The best part about this bag is that you are never going to want to put it down. I mean, look how cute it is. This little guy can hold all your essentials (notebooks, pens, pencils, etc.), and/or be a great source of comfort after spending a long day studying in isolation when you just need a hug.

BEDROOM 

Terrarium

If you have trouble keeping something alive (like a pet or yourself), a terrarium is the perfect household object to liven up your bedroom and show people that there is life under your stacks of books and cobwebs. Seriously, it’s nearly impossible to kill these things (even though I’ve done it), as they hardly require any care to stay alive and add an earthy quality to any bedroom.

Bed Canopy

Have you ever wanted to feel like a princess? I can’t think of anything more Queen-like than accessorizing your bedroom with a bed canopy. It’s a great alternative if you want minimal accessorizing to your bedroom, but want to add a little colour and design to make it pop. Who wouldn’t want to be relaxing under this?

ELECTRONICS

Wireless Speakers

If you take away anything from this list, remember this: wireless speakers are a must. There’s no worse feeling than realizing, the night of your big housewarming party, that your friends have all flaked and forgot their speakers at home. It’s definitely an investment, but it will make all the difference.

Amazon

Fitbit Alta HR

It’s really hard to get to the gym during exam season. Scratch that. It’s really hard to get to the gym, ever. We spend a large part of our days getting from home to work without realizing how much activity we actually do, and the Fitbit Alta is a great way to monitor that. You can set little goals for yourself and follow them through with its easy to use interface.

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Lightness of Being: A Conversation with Artist Julia Monson

The first time I went on Julia Monson’s Instagram to look at her work, I laughed out loud. It was a picture of a drone that did it, one that had “send nudes” written on the side. I just about lost in on a streetcar.

Monson’s work is unexpected. It’s light but can easily be deconstructed as commentary on today’s society. Monson’s colour palette is pretty and feminine but the humour is dry and crude. I was so enamoured with her illustrations that I was excited to pick her brain for an afternoon, a task made easier by Monson’s open and lighthearted disposition.

We sat down in her studio, tucked in the back of her Toronto apartment, to talk creativity, Instagram, and fidget spinners.

Julia Monson in her studio.

Natasha Grodzinski: Thank you so much for inviting me into your space! To start off, tell me about your artistic background — did you study it in school? Was it always a passion you had?

Julia Monson: I went to OCAD for criticism and curatorial, which is far form what I’m doing now. I’m not curating and I’m not in criticism [laughs]. But that’s fine, at the time I wasn’t ready to fully commit myself to making or creating. I was more interested in a critical aspect. I minored in painting and drawing in my last two years. It took me six years to get out of OCAD. I took a break for a little bit, and it wasn’t until maybe last year that I thought, “I’m just going to illustrate, I’m just going to do that,” and now that’s what I’m doing.

NG: How did that transition come about, to get to illustrating as a job?

JM: I think I’m just a creative person — I like to make things. It was just a feeling, like I need to make something, to put something out into the world that’s mine. I think a lot of my artwork comes from my comedic voice, so I feel like there’s an urge to get that out. I though, I’m not going to be a standup comedian. I can draw, so I guess I can just do both simultaneously.

NG: I noticed that, looking at your work. There’s a level of humour to it, very tongue-in-cheek.

JM: It’s very observational and very personal too. I think that’s always been a way of coping with those urges. You know, I really want to get this out, but I’m not sure the level of seriousness I want to go with it or have attached to it. I’m not going to start a YouTube channel and just rant, but I will for sure draw some funny drawings that I think convey the same message with how I’m feeling.

NG: Do you do a lot of reflections on current society in your work?

JM: Most of it is attached to technology. I really like the iPhone in a lot of my stuff. A lot of it I liked to be attached to Toronto. I don’t know why, maybe because everything that’s personal to me is also form here. I just draw from what I know.

NG: Did you grow up here?

JM: No, I grew up in Hamilton, but I’ve been here for 10 years now. I moved when I came to OCAD. I found an independence here and I’m attached to it. It’s very dear to me.

NG: When you really began working on your illustrations, did you still consider it a hobby or did you think, “This is something I can do.”

JM: I think I’m in that transitional period now. I do waitress on weekends because rent is ridiculous. Unfortunately I can’t be freelance illustrating full-time. There are months where I definitely could have, but it’s the fear of, what if I don’t make enough one month? Or what if I can’t live up to that standard and it takes the fun out of it? A lot of it is doubt, but the dream is that one day I could. Anything to do with art, I’d like to be working in that field. Right now, it’s still a bit slower.

NG: What’s your freelancing experience been like?

JM: It’s been a big learning curve in terms of pricing my work and understanding the value of my time. There are some companies I absolutely love working with like Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Recently I just did a bunch of drawings for them and that was so fun because they approached me in a way that was, “We already love your work and we love your voice.” I’ve also done logo work where I thought, “This is a nightmare. This is nowhere close to what I want. I’m not going to use any of this in my portfolio.” I’ve also learned how to deal with people. That is not something you typically think of when you sell your work. Choosing a client has been a huge moment and learning experience for me.

NG: What’s that process like?

JM: It’s a lot of emails. It’s a lot of, “Hey, I’m thinking this, now I’m thinking this, now we want that.” There have been moments where I’ve had to take a step back, whereI’ve thought I shouldn’t have taken that client. It’s another reason why I don’t mind bartending on weekends, because it means I get to make the art that I want to make.

NG: Let’s talk more about your illustrations. Do you primarily work in watercolours?

JM: It’s gouache that I water down and ink. I should probably get into watercolours but I’m so obsessed with my colour palette right now and I’m a slave to it. I don’t really stray away from it, but I would like to work with water colours soon. I also did a screen printing class about a month ago. That blew my mind and I had so much fun doing it. Working in inks and acrylics is really fun.

NG: So you have a piece of the Venus de Milo that I really like.

JM: Thanks!

NG: And I love how you take essentially millennial stereotypes and make fun of them.

JM: Yeah, I enjoy that. I like to make fun of everything. I don’t want to be taken too seriously and I think that’s reflected in the medium. It’s just paper and colour, ink. These are typically cheap materials and I actually like that.

NG: It’s about keeping that lightness, right?

JM: Exactly! Light is a good word. Just easy and casual, but funny.

NG: In your freelancing experiences have you ever come across a client that’s saying, “We want serious art?”

JM: When it gets a bit more stiff, I get these alarms going off in my head. I don’t know if they’ll let me do me. With Her Majesty’s Pleasure it was great because I think they pushed me more than I pushed them in some moments. They understood my aesthetic and the ell of crudeness I was coming from. I would love to keep doing stuff like what I did for them, that’s a bit more edgy and less conservative.

NG: Are you doing a lot of shows lately?

JM: I did a group show at Northern Contemporary which was a lot of fun.They’re an illustrator gallery and that’s awesome. I met the curator at the Artist Project I did back in March. That was interesting. I don’t know if I’d do it again but it was a cool experience, to have so many other people look at your art. I want to do more shows in the future, I think, because it’s so great to be able to talk about your work with other artists and with any type of viewer. That’s why I think I love Instagram so much. Someone in Turkey or someone in Italy can see my stuff. It’s such a great suppository for my work especially given the nature of my work. It’s this daily feed of nonsense and it’s great. As a graduate of curatorial practices, Instagram is the best thing ever. It just makes so much sense. I really try to hone down on that and use it for my artwork.

NG: Looking on your Instagram, it seems like there is a lot of interest and lots of people you can engage with about your work who you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

JM: And it’s going back to the humour thing, too. Is this working or is it not? Is this funny? It’s so instant, you can get that validating right away, like okay, what I was thinking is funny.

NG: Where do you get your inspiration from? Does it happen instantly on the street, where you see something and think it’s funny and know it‘ll work?

JM: Every time it’s happened I’ve been on the street. Laughs. I’ll take these long walks sometimes. It takes me 40 minutes to walk to work and I don’t do it often, but when I do I’m constantly writing notes in my phone and constantly getting ideas. Most of them start off as captions or they start off with, “Okay, today I saw a girl on her phone walking six dogs.” I did this series one about every girl in Toronto, then trends of fashion and what they’re wearing, what they’re doing. A lot of it has to do with technology. Selfies with an iPad. That’s hilarious. I need to draw it. The fidget spinner, I think it hilarious. I have one at my desk now because I’m trying to think of more ways to incorporate it anatomy drawings. I love observing females, not in a judgemental way, but just to observe. I’ve always admired females.

NG: Toronto’s so big and weird that you can see a lot.

JM: Yeah! In a 40-minute walk I have enough material for the week. Some ideas take longer to manifest. It’ll start out as something small and end up getting bigger. I really enjoy drawing and making fun of the LCBO. I thought of doing this merchandise line based on LCBO apparel, but that’s a small idea that can get bigger.

NG: Love that idea!

JM: It’s so intrinsically Ontario, so specific to the area. It’s something we all deal with. Again, it’s super millennial, kind of personal but also more relatable.

NG: But the millennial humour is relatable. It’s dry, it’s sarcastic, it’s pretty dark.

JM: It is dark! It’s getting really dark! I like that. I think we should embrace it. Everything is meme culture or can be explained in emoticons. We’re all mirrors of how we were raised, I guess, and as much as I like to seriously delve into it I also like to make fun of how not serious it is. Anything to do with school debt, or I cant buy a house, you know? These are things we’re all dealing with. It’s the reality of our situation. I think I was also fed this fallacy of, “Do what you want, you can make a career out of it and be happy,” but I don’t think that’s the path everyone was fortunate enough to take. I think I’m feeling that a lot now. I’ve always been creative but I don’t know if it’s something I necessarily need to make money off of — it can be a way of life I stay true to. If money comes along with it, that’s amazing. If I can make a lifestyle of it, that’s another thing. But I don’t think I’m there quite yet.

NG: As you said, you’re transitioning.

JM: I like to think so! I’m still relatively new to it. I’m still learning what works, what doesn’t work. I’m not 100 per-cent on my philosophy for it. It all comes from a personal level right now.

NG: All of your pieces are your babies, but is there one piece you have that really represents your style?

JM: I love the Venus de Milo one with the selfie. I did two still lifes recently and I like the idea that things can describe us. That was really interesting, to juxtapose this still life of my studio. I’m actually more attached to the idea. The way I feel about the drawings is one thing, but the way I think about where they came from and how they transpired is what I’m obsessed with. I wouldn’t say there’s one particular one that makes me say, “That’s me.” They’re all a collection of my thoughts and how I’m feeling.

NG:  Like journalling?

JM: For sure. I like to look at it that way and then I’m not too previous with my ideas. This day is happening now, I can work with this idea, then tomorrow there’s another idea.

NG: A real stream of creativity, then.

JM: When you don’t get so previous with them, you just get them out and it keeps you going. It’s kind of lame but there was this quote on Chef’s Table. There was this dude who as amazing. He was killing it in his restaurant and then he went, “I’m leaving to start my own.” The owner said, “If you leave, the dish you made here is going to be ours.” The chef says, “Don’t worry, I’m going to make more.” I thought that was so cool. We can’t be too previous with these ideas or thesespmrts of brilliance. We need to move on. That’s why I love working with paper. They’re just pieces of paper. I get it out of my mind and I’m done. What’s next? It keeps me in a cool frame of mind when I’m walking down the street. I’m not too tied to one focus. I’m constantly moving. I’ve actually never thought of it that way but that is how I work. I’m building my philosophy now.

You can find Julia Monson’s website here and follow her on Instagram hereContinue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Paris Street Style 101: A Masterclass

One can argue that Paris truly is the birthplace of modern fashion. It’s stars, both in fashion and entertainment, have inspired droves of people around the world to adopt a way of life and a way of dressing that is distinctly Parisian. And with countless style muses to chose from (Bridgitte, Jane, Lea, Carla, Carmen, Soko et al.) one really can’t go wrong when looking to the streets of Paris for style inspiration.

Simplicity

PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIEL PRYCE

One of the most striking things you’ll see on the streets of Paris isn’t the flashing lights or beautiful architecture because Parisian dressing really isn’t about the flash or glitz, or all the bells and whistles that some other cities may require a person to wear to get noticed. Paris is about an organic style that comes from one’s environment, from their childhood, and from what feels right in the here and now. So it isn’t rare to see simple looks that incorporate small details that nod to the wearer’s personality. Whether that be a print or a family heirloom necklace, the French know that keeping the outfit simple and fresh always allows the details to come to life.

Chanel, Chanel, Chanel!

PHOTO: SANDRA SEMBURG

Now Chanel may be out of most people’s price ranges, but nothing says Paris like Chanel. Ever since Gabrielle set out to change the face of women’s fashion in France decades ago, Chanel has been the most recognisable symbol of French fashion. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that wearing Chanel around town could possibly be the most Parisian thing one can do besides visiting Paris itself.

Très Chic, Très Féminine

PHOTO: CHRISTIAN VIERIG

While most of the time Paris can be the land of sharp Mugler suits, and pristine Dior dresses, it’s also the city that brought us candy coloured pastries and Pompadour gowns. The old courts of Versailles can still be felt in Paris to this day in the ultra feminine clothing seen around the city. Ruffles, pastels, and sequins are all fair game on the streets of Paris, just as long as the outfit is tres chic. Because the Parisian fashionista doesn’t dress feminine to look childish, they dress feminine to exude a softness and delicate strength that comes with feminine clothing.

 

The Higher the Heels, The Closer to Dieu

PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIEL PRYCE

Paris is the city of A. the classic Chanel flat or B. the most daring (and likely uncomfortable) of heels. Apart from Russia, France seems to be a safe haven for heel lovers and nowhere is that more visible than in the city of lights. Every time fashion weeks rolls around, it’d be surprising to see women walk around down with anything but the most pencil-thin stilettos. The beauty of super high heels is the boost in confidence it can give a person and the fashionistas of Paris are never one’s to walk the world on their shoulders.

 Neo-Romanticism

PHOTO: CHRISTIAN VIERIG

Paris is a city built on romance and with that romance comes romantic dressing. Now you don’t have to run around dressed as if a Harlequin novel threw up on way, but a little throwback frill can go a long way. One way to make sure Parisian romanticism works when putting an outfit together. Instead of going full on Edwardian high-neck glamour. One should opt for something vintage yet sexy. Think Moulin Rouge in 2017. One of the greatest pros to dressing with romantic flair is the versatility of it. Victorian and Edwardian can easily be paired with lingerie or athletic wear, which adds a modern flair to any outfit.

Joie De Vivre

PHOTO: MELODIE JENG

The “Joy of Life” is a concept that is distinctly French. It represents living life in a way that allows one to be who they are and live how they want. It’s about striving for self-love and happiness. The colourful Joie De Vivre of native Parisian’s can easily translate into everyday outfits with cheerful and thoughtful pops of colour. Stripes, patterns, polka dots, and florals can all add an effervescence to anyone’s wardrobe. Just be sure to always wear colours in a very chic way. The Parisian fashionista wears colour and pattern as an extension of their own cheerfulness, not for the sake of getting attention or attracting the cameras of photographers.

One Month – One Colour: Purple For The Month Of August

By Matthew Wong & Celia Fernandez:

For the month of August, the colour we chose to feature is purple. Why? It’s a subtle colour that we feel that often gets overlooked by both men and women, even though the colour can easily be integrated into our wardrobes. To help everyone inject a little purple in their lives, here are six distinct pieces of purple in a wide variety of shades that can easily be worn for the month of August.

Purple Mood-board

1. Nike Free Flyknit Purple Polarized Blue

If you’re looking to add a jolt of color through your sneakers, it’s hard to say no to the Nike Free Flyknit. The Nike Flyknit series is universally praised by runners, as well as fans of fashion. The Nike Free sole is one of the most comfortable soles on the market, while the lightweight Flyknit upper makes the sneaker pop with its unique texture. Wearing the polarized purple and blue colourway is sure to be noticed, whether you plan to actually run and exercise in them, or plan to wear them casually.

Where To Buy: Nomad

2. Newman Kaddish Sunglasses

Even with summer winding down, it’s important to have a proper pair of sunglasses to enjoy the last few weeks of summer. If you’re in the market for a pair of sunglasses, but want something different from the masses of ray bans,  you can’t go wrong with Newman. The Newman Kaddish is crafted with Japanese design and pays homage to classic eyewear, so you can be rest assured that you’ll be able to wear these shades for more than one or two seasons. The Kaddish features acetate construction frames, UV protection lenses, two dot rivets on the front and sides, and integrated nosepads.

Where To Buy: Uncle Otis

3. Club Monaco Slim Fit Italian Dress Shirt

Sometimes it’s best to stick to the classics for work, and this purple gingham Club Monaco slim fit Italian dress shirt is a versatile option that can be worn under a multitude of suits. The subtle mini purple gingham makes it easy to pair with almost any tie and suit combination in your wardrobe. Crafted by a fifth generation family owned Italian mill, this shirt is one that focuses on quality. It is made with top notch cotton, and real shell buttons.

Where To Buy: Club Monaco

4. Fine Art Print & Throw Pillow

Every place needs to be updated once in a while and summer feels just like the perfect time to try different and fun looks. The Phantom Streak Nebula fine art print by Mila Tovar and Triangles throw pillow by Katarina Roccella will turn your home into an art gallery. Either for your living room or bedroom, these two pieces seem to be made for those who don’t get along with the common and repetitive decorations that big furniture and interior design stores offers.

Where To Buy: Nuvango

5. Necklace With Purple Crystal

Add a small yet statement touch to your summer looks by adding this baroque-inspiration necklace. Throw on a basic plain t-shirt, and the purple crystals over the golden wide chain on this piece will do the rest to make you look stunning!

Where To Buy: Tristan

6. ‘Salsa Air’ Multiwheel Ultraviolet Suitcase

August is all about traveling. Some people go on vacation and the ones who are living abroad take some time to go back to their countries to visit friends and family. No matter what is the reason of taking some days off, we all need a suitcase to fit all our stuff that we need to enjoy – and survive – our holidays. ‘Salsa Air’ is a multi-wheel suitcase that is, probably, the lightest luggage you’ll ever have. Made out of polycarbonate, ‘Salsa Air’ suitcase by RIMOWA isn’t only extremely lightweight but also offers maximum durability and high-quality features.

Where To Buy: RIMOWA

One Month – One Colour: Olive Green For The Month of June (Women’s Edition)

Olive Green Moodboard

This past Monday, our contributing fashion editor Matthew Wong published the men’s version for our “One Month — One Colour” articles and he picked olive green for the month of June. After reading his introduction where he highlighted some reasons that supported why this colour totally makes sense for June, I felt I couldn’t agree more about the choice he made so I immediately started my research for the women’s version.

It is just so true that in June all the trees, plants and parks are in full bloom and, of course, the entire array of shades of green makes our city look as the perfect scenario to enjoy the patio season.

As I’ve mentioned in several articles, for me one of the best ways to express our mood is through fashion. We don’t wear the same type of dress to attend a wedding as the one that we throw on when we are running errands, right? Even though we don’t have to renew our entire closet every season, I do recommend to add a couple of pieces once in a while in order to keep our options updated. Therefore, for June I wanted to suggest making a smart purchase not only for this month, but also to complete our list of staple pieces.

The military jacket from Smythe available at Holt Renfrew (1) is an essential wardrobe piece that you can pair either with black lace top and black waxed jeans for an evening look, or with a white shirt and camel shorts if you are planning to have lunch with friends.

For the days when we have to deal with high temperatures and humidity, the Kat Nip shoe from Sanuk (2) could be the best option to walk around the city. Their pointed toe silhouette and the soft canvas-lining make this them being the perfect example to show that functionality and design could come together.

If you have a wall in your place where you’ve been trying to find the right piece of art to hang, you might consider getting this naïve yet stylish illustration by fine artist and illustrator Alanna Cavanagh (3). The colors aren’t only very versatile but will also brighten up your home. On the other hand, if you are looking for a bigger piece for your outdoor space, then you’d better stop by CB2 store at 651 Queen St. West and check out this wire coffee table by Berlin-based design studio, Hettler.Tüllmann (4). Its modern design modern with a retro vibe will add a fun and fresh touch from the ‘50s.

Finally, I want to make possibly the best suggestion in this article. As Matthew mentioned in his story, “June is actually warm, unlike the unpredictable temperatures of May.” In Toronto the weather is always extreme, including the high temperatures — so we’d better make sure that our body is fully hydrated. The problem here is that we might get bored of drinking water and we all know that having a soda isn’t the healthiest option. Therefore, I really encourage you to try ‘Oz’ cold-pressed juice from Greenhouse Co. (5) made out of natural ingredients such as pineapple, cucumber, carrot and lemon.

I hope you found these suggestions interesting and I wish you a happy month of June!