Céline spring 2017 RTW Image by: Imaxtree
One writer's take on the oft-misunderstood shoe that is “safe but not sensible.”
Fashion watchers say that the kitten heel is ubiquitous this spring, but is it? Since the kitten heel is neither as flat as a crepe nor as high as a flagpole, much gets dumped into its medium-sized category that isn’t kitten, or, really, even feline, at all. In fact, it’s easier to say what a kitten heel isn’t than what it is.
It is certainly not a stiletto. Neither is it square, squat, sturdy or stacked, even if it’s medium height. What makes the Dior slingback with logo strap, Prada sandal, pointy Acne Studios slingback, Loewe moccasin and Céline babushka slipper kitteny is the indentation right at the top of the heel, called the “seat.” It makes the heel look like a comma. Sometimes, it’s so bent in that it looks like a cartoon shoe that has skidded to a screeching halt. And although the heel is shaped like an hourglass, it is imperatively skinny because a fat hourglass-shaped heel is for high kicks and tap dancing. “They give your leg a pretty silhouette,” says my friend Sabine. “And if you have full calves, kitten heels make them taper away and disappear.”
Christian Dior spring 2017 RTW (Imaxtree.com)
Kittens are great in-between shoes. They are safe but not sensible, dressy but not ditzy, stylish but not slavish. Which is why they were the heel of choice for Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy (and still are for Michelle Obama).
But what do we really think about the kitten heel? It isn’t a heel that inspires heated passion. By nature a compromise shoe, the kitten emerged in the 1950s as a “training” heel for younger girls. Designed for one’s first tentative steps in what was then the high-speed foot race for husbands and high heels, kittens are cute, tasteful, elegant and demure. They are the Baby Duck that comes before champagne. They are the quinceañera of footwear.
Givenchy spring 2017 RTW (Imaxtree.com)
That said, cats have their claws and so do kittens. When the heel is spiky and the toe pointy, like last fall’s white Balenciaga bootie, it can be an interesting, aggressive shoe. Diana Rigg wore a black leather bodysuit and kitten booties as she kung-fu-chopped villains in the ’60s TV show The Avengers. Sharp kitten heels, torn fishnets, bird’s-nest pompadours and gobs of black eyeliner was how punk icons Exene Cervenka, Siouxsie Sioux and PJ Harvey rolled in the 1980s and early 1990s. These were not women of moderate taste, as the kitten heel is wont to express. This shows that it’s a shoe with plenty of wiggle room for personality and, possibly, even rebellion—a shoe exactly suited to our times.
The Sid Neigum presentation during RE\SET in Toronto. Image by: George Pimentel
Did RE\SET, Toronto’s new designer showcase, shake up the city’s fashion scene?
For the past few months, Toronto has been settling into a post-Fashion Week era. After global management company IMG (which also oversees New York, Berlin and Sydney fashion weeks) pulled out of staging the twice-annual event July of last year, and the industry let out a collective “what now?” shrug, we’ve begun to rebuild — and hopefully reinvent. Although the city lost its international backer, the pool of designers remained, as did a supportive community ready to attend whatever new iteration of fashion week came next.
The aptly named RE\SET, started by Toronto-based production agency The Collections and the Fashion Design Council of Canada, was the first event to take up the void this season (the newly formed Toronto Women’s Fashion Week and the second instalment of Yorkdale’s FashionCAN event are coming up later this month).
RE\SET was not a traditional fashion week – nor did it set out to be. The two-day event, which took over a West End concert venue, The Great Hall, featured eight shows by names like Sid Neigum, Beaufille and WRKDEPT. In addition to these presentations, up-and-comers like jewellery brand Dolorous, denim brand Triarchy and unisex designer S.P. Badu showed off their wares tradeshow-style, which attendees checked out between shows. Many designers cited their established relationship with The Collection’s founder Dwayne Kennedy as a reason for partaking.
On the first day it became clear that runway shows are no longer the norm – most designers opted for static presentations. “You can see the clothing up close, and I’d like to think you can walk up and touch it,” said Toronto-based womenswear designer Sid Neigum, who used the event as a platform to show his spring 2017 collection, which hits stores now. “It makes sense [for me] to show an in-season concept,” says Neigum, “Toronto Fashion Week was always more of a consumer event because we didn’t have a lot of international press.”
Designers Chloe and Parris Gordon of Beaufille pose with their models. Image by: George Pimentel
It’s worth noting that Neigum and Beaufille, arguably the biggest names on RE\SET’s lineup, opted to re-show spring 2017 collections we’ve technically already seen. Neigum showed his collection at LFW last fall and returns there this month for the fall/winter 2017 shows. Beaufille, run by sisters Chloe and Parris Gordon, showcased its spring collection at New York Fashion Week in September 2016 and is there for the fall shows this week. Although the Beaufille duo continues to manufacture in Toronto, showing during NYFW has “helped get a lot of international traction and retailers and press,” says Parris Gordon.
One thing the press and consumers have in common? We look to fashion for the next wave, and up-and-coming brand Markoo is one to watch. Designers Tania Martins and Moona Koochek presented their fall 2017 collection at RE\SET, their first showing since launching the brand in 2013. The look was a high-low mash up of luxe materials like satin and leather and streetwise silhouettes. “We went for an inside-out vibe, employing quilting and things that you would see on the inside of garments on the outside,” says Martins. When asked why they chose to show at RE\SET, they praised the intimate nature of the event and the timing. Crucially and unlike Toronto Fashion Week, RE\SET took place “ahead of schedule,” allowing buyers time to pick up collections to carry in stores for the following season—a hope for fledgling brands like Markoo, who opted to show a fall collection instead of taking a see-now, buy-now approach.
The Markoo presentation at RE\SET. Image by: George Pimentel
For Vancouver denim label Triarchy, who displayed their collection in the showroom, the event allowed the founders tell a story on their own terms. “A lot of people don’t know that our clothes are sustainable and low-water [consuming] and that’s something we were able to tell everyone here,” says co-founder Ania Taubenfligel. Designer Hilary MacMillan, who went against the grain with a runway show for her retro-feminine fall 2017 collection, also pointed out that entry fees are lower compared to the “well-oiled machine” that was Toronto Fashion Week.
For Canadian designers, international success is still very much contingent on leaving the proverbial nest (Tanya Taylor and Kaelen are examples), so time will tell if RE\SET and its ilk are the way of the future, and, perhaps more importantly, if they are what local designers need to grow their presence locally and abroad.
Tinashe Musara of Montreal-based artsy streetwear brand WRKDEPT, the final show of RE\SET, also puts the responsibility on retailers. “Canadian [shoppers] are still obsessed with [foreign] brands,” he says. “In cities like Copenhagen they support their own brands because they are well represented in stores.” “They have a clear point of view and it’s important to push that so that Toronto can be seen as an innovative city that’s moving forward.”
The WORKDEPT presentation during RE\SET. Image by: George Pimentel
But, in an ever-changing fashion landscape where see-now, buy-now is the watchword and L.A. is the promise land (brands from Rachel Comey to Tommy Hilfiger have opted to show there this season) cities need to take an individual approach instead of attempting to play catch-up with the Big Four. Take Sydney, which switched to showing resort collections in 2014, thus aligning local designers to the international buying schedule. Berlin, meanwhile, kicked of its Mode Salon project a few seasons ago, which sees dozens of designers take over a single space, with press, buyers and influencers dropping in at leisure during the city's fashion week. The pop-in concept maintains a more intimate show atmosphere, but alleviates crowding – something that was hard not to notice at RE\SET.
As I waited to get into Beaufille’s presentation, the crowd clad in Vetements long sleeves and furry toppers (it’s February in Toronto, after all) was packed so tight that I heard someone mutter “this better be Bruce Springsteen.” Then I thought of Triarchy’s Ania Taubenfligel, who offered a different take: “the ice storm didn’t keep anyone away. That should tell you something.”
With files from Elaine Jyll Regio
As told to ELLE Canada.
I’ve always known that I don’t want children, even when I was as young as eight or nine. When I played house, I’d pretend I lived downtown with my boyfriend and dog — no babies or kids. My Barbies lived with their friends or had a pet. I was a lifeguard during high school and university, but I never instructed the small children. It was a running joke — everyone knew not to give the babies or the little kids to me to teach. When I got older, conversations about having a family came up in my relationships, but I always told guys I couldn’t see myself having kids.
“I’m 32 now. A lot of my good friends have babies; they’re cute, but I don’t necessarily want to hold them or interact with them. I just don’t feel that connection. And I like my freedom — I like being able to go out after work and have drinks with friends or splurge on that Gucci purse. Luckily, my parents have never pressured me. They’re fine if they have no grandkids; they’ve always told me to live my own life.
“I started thinking about getting my tubes tied when I was in my early 20s. I went on the pill when I was 18 — mostly to help with severe period cramps. Then, two and a half years in, I started to spot. It was like having another period: I was always wearing tampons or panty liners. Not fun. So I tried going off and then back on the pill and switching brands. It just didn’t agree with my body. That was when the doctor suggested permanently going off. Once I did, it took a few months to have a normal period and cycle.
“I approached my gynecologist shortly after. It was one of those times when you’re sitting in the waiting room forever and when you finally get called, it feels like the doctor is ready to run out the door as soon as you start talking. ‘We’ll figure this out,’ she said, although she was shaking her head no as she spoke, her short curly hair bouncing. ‘Use condoms for now.’ So I did, most of the time. (There were a few times when things got out of control and I had to take the morning-after pill.) I suspect my gynecologist thought I would grow out of wanting my tubes tied. She suggested trying the pill again or even an IUD with a low dose of hormones, but I didn’t want to go through that for three or four months and have it not work. I’d also read that hormones can make you moody or bloat or get acne, and I’d heard so many urban legends about IUDs hurting or popping out. Neither option seemed worth it to me.
“When I moved to Toronto in my mid-20s, I got a new doctor and told her that I wanted the procedure. Again, I got the same response: ‘It’s not something we really recommend’ or ‘Why do you want to do this? It’s permanent.’ Last spring, when I went for my physical, she reluctantly referred me to a gynecologist. He was polite but blunt when I explained my situation. ‘Whoa, let’s chat about this,’ he said. ‘I get where you’re coming from, but I’m not doing this. It’s risky, and I don’t feel the need.’ The argument? He didn’t want me to have unnecessary surgery if I had no health issues. He also reminded me that tubal ligation is permanent and suggested that my partner get a vasectomy because it’s less invasive.
“I’ve been with my partner for six years, and we’re still using condoms. The thing is, my boyfriend has always wanted kids. In the early days of our relationship, I told him that I didn’t want to be a mother; we agreed that we would see where the relationship went regardless. We’re still together, but what if he’d had a vasectomy because he thought he was meant to be with me and then we broke up and he couldn’t have kids with someone else? I don’t think it’s fair to ask him to have one.
“After that appointment, I followed up with my doctor and asked for a referral to another gynecologist, just to get another opinion. It was the same story. ‘Why don’t you freeze your eggs before you get your tubes tied?’ this doctor suggested in the nondescript examining room, peering at me over his glasses. I was annoyed, but I calmly outlined my concerns: The process is costly and, more important, an unnecessary backup for me.
“What bothers me most is that both gynecologists were listening but they weren’t actually taking me seriously. I’ve gone through all the proper channels—first my doctor and then referrals—and I’ve never felt that what I wanted was a priority. I feel defeated, like even if I were to push and say ‘I want to do this now,’ they’ve already made up their minds and won’t do it.
“It’s not like I need them to agree with what I want; I just need someone to perform the surgery. So I’m in limbo. I’m hesitant to even ask my doctor to refer me to someone else because the gynecologists were so adamant. The experience has also made me wonder if a man my age would ever be treated so dismissively if he wanted permanent birth control. Yes, I know the procedure is less invasive and potentially reversible, but both sexes should be able to make this call themselves. It’s old-fashioned to think otherwise. It’s 2017. Not every woman dreams of being a mom. And it’s time doctors caught up with that reality.”
A doctor pledges to “first do no harm,” so you can imagine the conundrum tubal ligation (the technical term for tying your tubes) presents. “Every gynecologist has probably had somebody in tears in his or her office saying she wished she’d never had a tubal, and I think that can affect the way you feel when you’re counselling the next patient,” says Dr. Ashley Waddington, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Queen’s University. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of women under the age of 30 who have had the surgery say they regret it. That figure falls to 6 percent in older age brackets.
“Some doctors have interpreted that [stat] as ‘We won’t even offer this to people under 30,’” says Waddington, who argues that young women who haven’t had children should have the same access as anyone else to the surgery. “If somebody really wants their tubes tied and I think they are adequately informed, I will provide the surgery.” The key word is “informed.“ Here’s what gynecologists want you to know:
Tubal ligation is permanent. In most procedures, two small incisions are made in the abdomen and the fallopian tubes are clipped or cauterized to prevent eggs from entering. While technically this can be reversed, it’s not covered and can cost you up to $6,000, and there is no guarantee it will work because scarring can permanently damage the tubes.
There are risks. Getting your tubes tied is quick surgery — about 30 minutes — but it’s still surgery. You’ll be under general anaesthetic, and the surgeon is operating near your organs. (Note: With the newer hysteroscopic tubal—in which the fallopian tubes are accessed through the vagina—typically only local freezing is required, but it’s not available in every hospital.) “In my experience, you’ll never find a surgeon who would choose surgery if there is an equally effective alternative method,” says Waddington.
You have contraception options. The experts we spoke to all recommend the IUD; statistically, it is slightly more effective at preventing pregnancy than tubal ligation. (Not to mention it can also make your periods lighter, and, while it doesn’t last a lifetime, you’ll get at least five years.) The vasectomy, meanwhile, was touted as the top form of permanent contraception. It’s an outpatient procedure (read “super-fast and not dangerous”) that requires only local freezing, and the failure rate is very low (one in 2,000).
The takeaway? It’s your call and yours alone. “Once a doctor has explained all the risks and benefits, it’s a woman’s decision,” says Dr. Amanda Black, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Ottawa and chair of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada’s Contraception Awareness Program. Getting your tubes tied doesn’t require spousal consent, but a doctor has to refer you to a gynecologist. If your gynecologist refuses, Waddington recommends requesting a referral to a family-planning specialist, who may be more open to doing the procedure.
"I’m going to keep it pretty casual this year."
Victoria's Secret angel Taylor Hill has a low-key Valentine's Day planned this year. "I’m going to keep it pretty casual with some great NY pizza and a movie," she says.
Casual it may be, the supermodel will obviously still look fab (naturally). "I’ll probably go for a topknot," she says when asked how she will style her hair for the occasion. "It’s simple but still really cute and looks sophisticated without trying." Below, Hill tells us her beauty look and lingerie picks for V-Day, and reveals what she does to feel her sexiest before a date–even if she does just find herself at the back of a movie theatre, 'za in hand.
Are you hoping to receive anything special this year?
"I don’t really like getting material gifts from people! I would much rather receive a hand-written note or flowers."
Are you buying a gift for your BF?
"I think a nice cologne or a stylish tie."
Any tips for feeling sexy before a date?
"Pick an outfit you feel confident in and make yourself feel glam. I like to take my time getting ready so I’m not rushed or nervous. I also love listening to music beforehand, anything by Rihanna or Beyoncé puts me in such a good mood."
How are you going to do your makeup?
"I keep my look pretty simple, but will probably add a cat eye for a bit of drama. I usually like to keep my look natural and wear minimal makeup, so I can let my skin breathe a bit. I’m definitely going to wear my Tease fragrance too, because it’s so warm and sexy and makes me feel confident."
Lipstick or no lipstick on V-day?
"I say no lipstick, because touching up throughout the night can be hard."
Do you have any outfit ideas yet?
"I always feel sexy in bodysuits or teddies. Lately I think it’s really sexy and cool to wear lingerie as outerwear. I’ll wear something like the new Very Sexy Cross Back Lace Plunge Teddy tucked into black jeans with a blazer and feel really chic."
Crossback Lace Plunge Teddy ($58), at victoriassecret.com.
"I love wearing pink lingerie, because it makes me feel super flirty, without being too bold and in your face."
For the girls celebrating Galentine's Day this year–what would you suggest to wear for a night on the town with your best friends?
"Spending Valentine’s Day with your girls can be so much fun! It’s all about appreciating the people in your life and your friends are always there for you, so make sure you make them feel special too! I’ll usually wear black jeans with a crop top or t-shirt and probably a heeled bootie to dress it up a bit."