High-tech style

From Elon’s and Jeff’s rockets to the latest-and-greatest smartphones, technology is advancing at a blistering pace.

However, few people notice the correlation between our growing scientific know-how and fashion.

But like almost every other industry, what we wear is being dramatically shaped by technological marvels.

How? Check out these examples:


This is probably the most obvious example of wearable tech. It started with fitness trackers like Fitbit and Garmin, and was taken to another level when Apple introduced its smartphone-connected watch.

Currently, there are numerous brands making smartwatches that do everything from monitoring your heart rate and sleeping patterns to answering your phone and paying for purchases.

Apple’s latest watch version even will call 911 for you if it detects you’ve fallen or are in distress.

Don’t like the look of those digital faces?

Fashion designers are now getting into the act. Michael Kors and Fossil are creating stylish timepieces that include smartwatch features.


The divide between natural and synthetic fibres used to be quite clear:

  • natural was good
  • fake was yuck. 

In the 1970s, advances in chemistry and manufacturing led to the creation of new semi-synthetic fibres derived from the cellulose in wood pulp. 

Tencel and modal are softer yet stronger than cotton, resistant to shrinkage, and have moisture-wicking properties.

Lululemon and its more upscale off-shoot Kit and Ace use variants of such fibres to create what they call technical clothing, both comfortable and durable. 

More recently, new shoe makers are crafting footwear from innovative and sustainable materials.

Rothys says they’ve repurposed more than 20 million bottles in the past three years crafting their washable (yes, washable) flats.

Allbirds makes sneakers from wool and tree pulp, and their “sweetfoam” soles come from renewable sugarcane.


Made-to-measure tailored garments sound like a luxury, something only available to yesteryear’s aristocracy. Thanks to today’s computer technology, custom-fit garments are affordable and available to all.

Sene Studio clothing company makes bespoke every-day essentials by taking your measurements and fit preferences online.

Because each piece is made to order, the process results in significantly less waste than fast fashion brands.

Have problems finding comfortable footwear? Wiivv created an app to help customers measure their footbed and arches to craft custom-made sandals and arch supports.

You can also design your own unique baubles at Jewlr.ca. The site allows you to choose from many types of metals, real and synthetic gemstones, and engravings for personalized necklaces, bracelets and rings.


Many of these innovative fashion companies got their starts from crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Knix was one of the first clothing brands to raise more than $1 million on Kickstarter with what it claims is the world’s most comfortable bra.

Since their initial success, Knix has expanded their product offerings to underwear and swim gear.

Ministry of Supply, another made-to-order brand, went to Kickstarter to fund their space-age Mercury Intelligent Heated jacket, which uses artificial intelligence to adjust its temperature and can even change your phone. 

A current Kickstarter campaign from Via Design Lab is promoting a 100% waterproof high-top sneaker made from ocean plastics.

If you want to check out the latest tech advances in style, keep your browser bookmarked to Kickstarter’s fashion category.

What’s next?

We are sure to see more innovations in the fashion industry thanks to technology. 

Just yesterday, I discovered that famed speaker-maker Bose has created audio sunglasses with tiny speakers and a microphone built into the frames.

Now, you can listen to music and take phone calls without those ugly headsets.

Will wonders never cease?


Cross border E-shopping

Let's face it: Kelowna is no fashion shopping mecca.

Yes, there are unique and innovative independent retailers here (who warrant their own column...coming soon) and great chains at local malls.

But there is simply not the population base nor spending demographic to entice high-end luxury designers to set up shop here.

We are more likely to get that fabled IKEA than to see a Nordstrom any time soon. So you have to travel to Vancouver or Calgary or further afield to get your hands on a Louis Vuitton or Louboutin.

Also, some great brands are based in Europe with very little stock available in North American stores. And many new up-and-coming fashion disruptor brands, such as Everlane and Grana, are exclusively only available online as a way to keep costs low.

If you are interested in fashion, it is increasingly likely you are going to be shopping online from international sites.

Here are pros and cons you need to keep in mind.


Most big retailers auto-detect when you are located in Canada and enable prices to be shown in Canadian dollars. For sure, this is handy.

But be aware that these numbers typically do not include international shipping, duties and taxes. And remember that all costs will be charged in the host company’s currency; factor in that most credit cards add an additional 2.5% to charges in foreign currencies.

If you do a lot of international transactions, it can be worth getting a credit card that offers a more favourable currency conversion rate. 

If you use Paypal, they also tack 2.5% on to the bank rate for currency conversion. You can always check your Paypal balance in foreign currencies by using their “manage currency” page.

In certain instances, currency can work in a Canadian’s favour. For example, something that is offered through the U.S.-based company Net-a-Porter might also be available through the UK-based Harrods.

Depending on the price and how the Canadian dollar is doing against the U.S. or the British pound, you can end up getting a better deal.

A great site to help you cost compare across international retailers is shopstyle.com. Another site, farfetch.com, pulls stock from various smaller retailers throughout Europe to show you price and product comparisons.


Many retailers advertise free shipping and returns for purchases over a certain amount. However, always double-check this offer includes shipping to Canada.

What if you want to buy from a store that doesn’t offer shipping to Canada? The website Parcl.com is a shipping community that connects you to people in the country you want to buy from; they buy the product and send it your way for an agreed-upon fee.

Duties and taxes:

Argh! Those dreaded extra fees. Again, many retailers now calculate and include duties and taxes at checkout so you don’t end up with a surprise bill when your package arrives.

However if your e-store doesn’t offer this service, be prepared for shipping delays and to pay more at delivery.

Canada Border Services’ website has a duty and taxes estimator to help give you an idea of what these charges could be.

I considered buying $500 worth of clothing from an Australian designer until the estimator figured it would be an additional $182 to import the goods to Canada.

And don’t ask the retailer to lie about the purchase amount in an effort to evade duties; doing so is illegal.

For other general tips about getting your fashion fix via the Internet, check out my previous column Safe, stylish online shopping  

Logo or No Go?

It would seem that high-end fashion has gone logo-manic in the past few years.

I’m not talking about a subtle little pony on the chest of a Ralph Lauren polo shirt, or even a hoodie with Gap on it.

I’m talking full-on, in-your-face, loud, expensive brand names smothering a piece of clothing or accessory.

It all began innocently enough.

In the early part of the past decade, sales of Louis Vuitton’s classic monogram print handbags started to slow.

Coach brand decided to focus on promoting its legacy leather products with minimal embellishments instead of its ubiquitous “C” print.

Some fashion pundits pondered if the logo was dead.

Well, as with many trends, when the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it returns with ferocity.

In 2016 and 2017, as Vuitton’s monogram sales suddenly jumped, other European couture houses such as Dior, Gucci and Fendi revived their heritage logo prints.

Then contemporary designers got into the market with Coach and Michael Kors putting out more and more products emblazoned with their signatures.

Last year, the whole trend reached fever pitch with brands simply putting their names all over utterly uninspired street wear.

Why have just a plain black turtleneck when you can have one with Balenciaga written all over it? It only costs $1,690!

If that seems a bit pricey, you can get a white t-shirt with Michael Kors written all down the long sleeves for a mere $98.

I can cope with subtle maker’s marks, but should a shirt visually shout its label?

If you absolutely adore Louis Vuitton’s logo, you can now buy a bag from the new Monogram Giant collection. This way no one can possibly miss what brand you are toting.

Sigh.... I am really looking forward to this trend going away. As a life long lover of fashion, I admire the creativity of professional designers and appreciate the craftsmanship of premier-quality couture.

However, simply putting a name on a piece of plain clothing and thus deeming it superior is the antithesis of style.

I understand the psychology of logos. When purchasing luxury goods, one isn’t simply buying garments but buying an image. It’s aspirational, it’s a status symbol.

Is this really any different that someone wanting a BMW or Mercedes?

But what fashion is doing right now is like Rolls Royce producing a Hyundai with RR plastered all over it. It verges on fraudulence.

Interestingly, a logo-void, minimalist counter-movement is gaining traction in fashion at the same time.

Brands such as Mansur Gavriel, Khaite and Everlane are distinguishing themselves by producing high-quality and simply elegant designs free of visible labels.

What do you think when you see someone wearing obviously branded attire? Do you covet, or do you think they are trying too hard?


Okanagan office wear

Our Valley is blessedly casual even when it comes to corporate wear. That said, you can distinguish yourself among the company crowd with some simple tips.
Revisiting balance:

The same big/small, fitted/loose, long/short, and bright/dark principles work for business attire, although they can be interpreted slightly differently when it comes to suiting.
Jackets that are fitted at the waist should be treated as a “small” and will pair best with wide- or boot-leg pants or A-line skirts.

Menswear-inspired jackets that are boxy look better with cropped, fitted bottoms or shorter skirts. Cropped collarless jackets, a look created and made famous by Chanel, pair great with almost anything.

Fit matters:
Absolutely nothing matters more for your work-wear wardrobe than proper fit. Baggy pants dragging on the floor or tight clothes showing every curve do not project a professional image.

Buy the best-fitting suiting you can, take care of it, and get it altered if you gain or lose weight.

Mix and match suiting:
Good quality suiting can be an investment. Instead of buying multiple suits in various colours and brands, apply the capsule wardrobe mantra of picking an all-season palette for your work wardrobe.

You could get various silhouettes of jackets, pants and skirts in the same colour, or choose complimentary tones to mix and match. Another approach is to get bottoms all in one colour with a variety of coordinating jackets.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune:
Though suits are typically one of the bigger investments in your work wardrobe, there are ways to save. While everyone’s definition of “affordable” is different, certain brands specialize in business basics at lower price points, such as RW & Co and Banana Republic. 

One great benefit of buying all your suiting from one brand is consistency of fit, colour and fabric. 
Just starting out? Don’t overlook second-hand boutiques. LC Fashions on Spall and Rosebuds on Kirschner are filled with excellent-quality, minimally-used suit ensembles.

Even if the fit and style is a bit off for you, it can be worth it to get items tailored for a custom fit and updated silhouette.

Watch for sales. Even suiting basics go on seasonal sale at most retailers when they sell off darks at the end of winter and lighter clothes at the end of summer. Stock up on classic pieces at these times.

If you think capsule suiting will look like a uniform, think again. Jewelry, scarves, coloured tights, belts, and under-layer tees add pattern and variety to even the most basic suits.

Jeans Friday:
Ah, those blessed casual days when you get to wear comfy clothes to the office. Just don’t treat it as a “get-out-of-professionalism-free” card.

If you are going to wear jeans, keep it classy. Skin tight, ripped, patched, baggy low-rise, and overalls are all no-no’s. Classic dark boot-cut is the go, or cropped for summer. Other options are nice khakis or linen pants.

Shoes you can wear all day:
Blessedly, the tyranny of the heel is over. Today, women have more stylish choices than ever for office footwear that won’t hurt feet after a few hours.

I’m a big believer in buying the best quality shoes you can afford. Leather uppers allow your feet to breath and will become form-fitting over time, whereas cheap synthetic uppers have no give and are more likely to wear out quickly.

Though not cheap, they will last if you take care of them and give you better cost-per-wear over time than plastic shoes.

Flat heeled loafers, wingtips and ballet flats have all become accepted office attire.
If you must wear heels, try to keep them below three inches Thankfully, two-inch kitten- and block-heels have become uber-fashionable again.

Some of my favourite makes for attractive and comfortable office shoes are Cole Haan, Coach, and Everlane. Strut shoe store in Mission Park Mall also carries many great options.

Work totes:
Nothing can ruin the look of a professional outfit worse than a casual or inappropriate handbag. If you carry a laptop or tablet with you, invest in go-with-everything sturdy tote.

Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull has become the gold standard of the designer work tote. Though I carried one 10 years ago when they were first introduced, I just cannot justify their current prices for what is essentially a coated canvas bucket.

For something in that shape at lower cost, most contemporary brands such as Tory Burtch, Kate Spade and Michael Kors create similar carryalls. Or stand out in the crowd with at tote from Liberty of London, an established European brand famous for their fantastical prints.

If you’ve reached the corner office and budget is no worry, there is nothing more down-to-business than a Prada Galleria Saffiano leather tote. Maybe a good purchase with your promotion raise.

More Fashion File articles

About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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