Student Life

All you need is a Charlotte Hosten design

Photo from Charlotte Hosen

Fashion trends have never been so daring, so rich in colour and texture. Simply looking back on the past five years, there has been a shift from the simple V-neck to a mix and match of loud patterns — a craze that seems to be sticking.

It comes as no surprise that as the garments get louder, so do the accessories. Luxury jewelry is no longer limited to shiny metals and precious stones; the value of a piece is based on its uniqueness rather than its simplicity, making space for creative minds like Charlotte Hosten and her signature fabric necklaces.

“I wouldn’t have fun making jewelry that’s very simple,” said Hosten. “I really enjoy spending time on a piece of jewelry and feeling like I’m hunting, on a quest for something. Working on it and trying to get somewhere.”

The young Belgian-born designer moved to Montreal when she was 10, and although she has travelled back and forth between two countries, she officially planted roots here when she opened up shop in November 2011.

“I always wanted to build a little house around my necklaces,” she said.

After visiting her boutique and dazzling over her collections, there’s no denying Hosten was meant to be an accessories and jewelry designer. She may have a law degree, but her need to express her creativity became a priority.

Hosten began designing jewelry at the age of 15, a hobby that, with time, evolved into a passion. Once she graduated from university, Hosten began working for jewelry designer Renée Lévesque, where she had access to various materials and was given the opportunity to create her own designs. It was only in 2008, by pure serendipity, when Hosten discovered where her talents lay and how a small piece of fabric could bring a personal and distinguishable touch.

“Because I didn’t know what kind of designer I would be, I was still sewing and buying fabrics, as well as buying beads,” said Hosten. “I was looking for a big clasp for a big necklace I made, and then I had the idea of sewing a ribbon of silk. Eventually I started using fabric more as the necklace itself. It just happened naturally.”

Photo from Charlotte Hosen

Hosten explains that she’s never able to pinpoint exactly what inspires her. She keeps her eyes open and embraces everything that comes her way, from art, to fashion, to interior design. Her spring/summer 2013 collection, Bombay Bazar, is a reflection of her voyage to India — a trip that introduced new materials to some of her favourite pieces, such as the Lakshmi necklace.

Her designs are one-of-kind and sometimes custom-made, a feature that seems to attract brides-to-be. With such a demand, Hosten incorporated a bridal collection a year and is currently working on her next collection. Whether it be pearls from decades past or a sentimental trinket, Hosten tries to incorporate a dash of vintage to every design.

Just in the past year, her statement pieces have graced the pages of fashion magazines like Flare, ELLE, FASHION and Chatelaine.

“You never know how it’s going to be featured, but then you see it, and you’re next to these amazing designers and you’re part of it,” said Hosten. “I really love it!”


Atelier Boutique is located on 122 Bernard W. St.


Student Life

Hidden fashion in The Backroom

Photo by writer

The Montreal fashion scene may not be as commercial or reputable as Toronto’s, but what we lack in big name brands we gain in local talent and hidden shops known only to those who look.

The Backroom may not be an obvious hotspot attraction for summer tourists, tucked between H&M and Reuben’s Deli three floors above, but it’s just the kind of place local trendsetters search for.

LaSalle College students Rachel Sendi-Mukasa, 22, and Marie Pike, 29, dove into business together last December after interning at Just Worn, a vintage stop they bought from the original owner.

“It was something we felt like we couldn’t pass up at the time,” said Sendi-Mukasa.

Originally three, the full-time students took over the business and the clientele book and made it their own.

“We knew what was working, we knew what was being done right. We were the ones spending the most time with the clients,” said Sendi-Mukasa. “We knew what people wanted, what they were asking for. We were thinking that if we don’t go forward with this, people might just fall off.”

Their recent move to their Ste-Catherine St. location gave them the opportunity to evolve the style of the store from hipster to more of an urban street vintage fashion. The Backroom showcases a mixed collection of vintage wear and accessories, upcycled clothing and designs by local designers no more than two at time.

“In Montreal, most people don’t usually like to [wear] something if they don’t know who it is or what it is, so it takes time,” said Sendi-Mukasa. “We’re taking our time to promote them, to brand them. We’re trying to create awareness for them because it’ll take time for people to be receptive to their brand.”

Sendi-Mukasa and Pike devote time and effort seeking out young talent, researching and attending fashion events like Mews at the Royal Phoenix Bar where they discovered V-Franz.

Vfranz Bernil is a talented fellow LaSalle student; a young designer The Backroom duo hopes to continue working with and help establish his reputation.

While promoting local talent is a main priority for Sendi-Mukasa and her partner, they do want to cater to their client and offer a balanced range of styles.

“We’ll put something like V-Franz that’s a little more alternative urban street with Jolietta who’s a lot more commercial,” said Sendi-Mukasa. “Not everyone is going to like extremely different from the masses.”

At the moment, The Backroom is focusing on unisex pieces, catering to the tomboy female with the confidence to take on the androgynous look. As for men, expect a more fitted style similar to Off The Hook.

Sendi-Mukasa and Pike have been business partners since December 2011 and have managed to build a successful working relationship in such a short amount of time. While Pike is the creative mind behind their blog and takes on the role as the optimist, Sendi-Mukasa uses her marketing education to her advantage and is responsible for their finances and inventory.

“Honestly I’m really impressed with the awareness that we’ve created about the store and the amount of clientele that we’ve managed to get on board in a short amount of time is really hard for a small business,” said Sendi-Mukasa. “There are a lot of cliques, so you have a lot of people who stick to their genres and if you can’t get into that genres, then you won’t get your clientele.”

The Backroom duo is welcoming the new season with their Spring Fling event on April 5.


The Backroom is located on 1118 Ste-Catherine W. St. suite 305.



Student Life

Nerdy never looked so chic

Rachel Sin showcases her Fall/Winter 2013 collection at the Arsenal art centre on Feb. 3, 2013, a collection she named “Geek Girl Gone Chic” (Photo Maddy Hajek)

There’s a certain dress code that needs to be respected during Montreal Fashion Week. Heels are a no-brainer essential for women; a quick change from boots to pumps by the coat check line is an easy fix when transitioning from the outdoor blizzard to an indoor cocktail. As for the perfect outfit that can transition from day at the office to front row on the runway, that’s a dilemma Rachel Sin understands all too well.

“As a working girl, you’re running from meeting to meeting and the last thing you need to worry about is your clothing,” said designer Rachel Sin. “At the same time, you want to look good and you don’t have time to change from one outfit to another. I think those are all things I think about and it’s from personal experience.”

It’s no coincidence that after only one season at Fashion Week last September, Sin was given the opportunity to showcase her new collection in the main room this year. Women across Canada have fallen in love with Sin’s designs because they are effortless and flattering. Her eponymous line is functional and chic, allowing women to transition from day at the office to dinner downtown. She designs for the “want-to-do-it-all woman” because she understands “that” woman; she is that woman.

Before plunging into the fashion world, Sin studied architecture and graduated from Carleton University with a Master’s degree. Although Sin has been in fashion since 2009, she cannot help but allow her architectural background influence her designs.

“A building has to be functional and at the same time, for me, clothing just really needs to be wearable in the sense of versatility. It will take you from day to night,” said Sin.

While in the past, Sin sought inspiration from the architectural world, this season she tapped into her quirky side and has given us a collection a little more fun. On Feb. 7, Sin showcased her fall/winter 2013 collection at the Arsenal art centre, a collection she named “Geek Girl Gone Chic”. Through her designs, Sin reaches out to other women like herself; the high school nerd who grows up to be a confident and successful woman.

With hair up in a loose bun, burgundy red lips and eyewear from Georges Laoun Opticians, Sin’s models strutted down the runway with full force and attitude. Along with the classic winter shades of black, white and khaki, Sin adds a pop of colour with a bright aqua, rich emerald and a vibrant poppy. In some of her designs, Sin balances the structured ponti stretch knit (a fabric favourite of the designer) with a “fun, whimsical” sheer, polka dot pattern.

While Sin did incorporate her signature feminine peplum shirts and form-fitting, knee-high dresses in the collection, she also includes beautifully tailored, tuxedo-inspired pant-suits with black or white stripes running along the side of the trousers.

My personal favourite was the trendy and very elegant cape blouse. “I call it the Boardroom Superhero look,” said Sin. “The working woman inspires me. I like to see women that are independent, strong and know what they want.”

What Sin wants is a challenge; to take on the United States in the hopes of acquiring space in department stores. There is no denying that Sin’s success stems from her understanding of what women need and are looking for when they browse through their walk-in.

To purchase Rachel Sin designs visit

Student Life

Madge will add a touch of luxe to your jewelry box

Every now and then, nostalgia finds a way of creeping up on us when we least expect it. It may come from a forgotten photo stuck between the pages of a high school novel, or a friendship bracelet lost in your junk drawer since you were 12. It’s these small, unexpected moments that have the power to plant a seed in your mind, a seed that eventually leads to cancel your afternoon plans and venture through the past.

It’s funny how something so simple, like a stringy friendship bracelet, offers a sense of security to a relationship, a sense of hope that a friendship could last forever. It makes me wonder why we ever stopped wearing them!

“I always made friendship bracelets when I was little,” said Melanie Cheung, designer and owner of Madge jewelry. “I wanted to make sort of a luxury one, more of a high-end one – [it’s] still that fun handmade thing, but it’s not just a string around your wrist.”

Cheung’s Peacehands collection of custom, hand-woven friendship bracelets has attracted some attention from the fashion world. After a year since she began creating the collection, Cheung’s bracelets were featured in LouLou magazine as one the editor’s top trendiest items of summer 2012. From earth tones with skulls to pastel shades with a chic touch of a gold chain, there is a design to suit any friend worthy of a Peacehands.

From earth tones with skulls to pastel shades with a chic touch of a gold chain, there is a design to suit any friend worthy of a Peacehands. (Photo courtesy of Madge)

“I was at a cottage over the summer, making bracelets, and it was kind of when everyone started wearing friendship bracelets again,” said Cheung. “Then I thought, maybe I could start selling these and I had this idea for a fun packaging with the hand and everything. Now I just keep having more and more ideas that I want to add to the line.”

After graduating from Ryerson University in fashion design, Cheung moved to Montreal to snag a spot in the fashion scene. Her day job as a designer for Mark Edwards Apparel Inc. allows her to explore fashion blogs and trend forecasting websites in search for inspiration not only for her garment designs, but her jewelry collection as well.

Although Cheung always had the intention of moving back to Toronto, she can’t seem to leave behind the sense of community and support she feels from Montreal’s fashion scene. Since the launch of Madge in November 2011, Cheung has embraced the various opportunities this city offers to local designers such as Puces Pop and Smart Design Mart.

“I’ve had a pretty great response so far, so it’s definitely encouraging me to keep it going,” said Cheung.

With such an appreciation for the sentimental value of a piece of jewelry, it seemed perfectly fitting for Cheung to pick the name Madge for her line. Aside from using the same name for her graduating collection, Cheung added a personal touch to her line with her grandmother’s nickname.

“She was always a fashionable, stylish lady, and she was always my inspiration for going into fashion,” said Cheung. “And I thought it also sounded kind of quirky; a quick, snappy name that went with the aesthetics of the jewelry.”

In an effort to be more hands-on in her designs, Cheung’s ambition to improve on her material led her to broaden her knowledge of jewelry making. Her courses at the Visual Arts Centre in Westmount taught her the fundamentals and sparked an interest in metal.

“I think it’s kind of an art in itself, it’s like sculpture,” said Cheung. “In a way, it’s like fashion. It’s always something that I’ve loved to design, but I kind of feel like I could be a little more creative with metal.”

With her newfound skill, Cheung took on the challenge of designing a ring collection, the Lost Ones. This newest addition to Madge offers a variety of sterling silver and gold plated brass rings. While some are more bold and chunky, others are skinny, classic, and can be worn as a single or layered.

Inspired by the music festival scene, Cheung designs for someone who is fashion forward and appreciates good quality material and design. Her Lost Ones collection is the perfect balance between classic and ultrachic — they are statement pieces and conversation starters without being completely over the top.

“I think I try not to be overly trendy because I want them to be wearing it as their everyday piece, all the time, and not like a seasonal type thing,” said Cheung. “So I think of someone who is aware of fashion trends and very into music and culture, but is more of a classic.”

What’s interesting about Cheung, aside from her humble attitude towards her talent, is her goal to share her success with others. A portion of the profits of every Peacehands bracelet she sells goes to The Shift, a Toronto-based project organized by a friend of hers. The Shift is an organization that helps empower female entrepreneurs across Canada and abroad.

Loving the idea of collaborating with a charity, Cheung is trying to find a way to be more involved rather than simply donating. Inspired by TOMS, Cheung hopes to find a way to have a direct impact, to show consumers where their purchase is going and how it’s influencing change.

“I mean I love fashion, high fashion, but I’ve always had a sort of love/hate relationship with fashion where it’s just so consumer-driven and wasteful,” said Cheung. “So I at least want to somehow feel good about what I’m doing and give back in a certain way.”


Peacehands bracelets are roughly $45, and Lost Ones rings range from $45 to $125. For more information on purchasing Madge jewelry, check out

Student Life

Drool your heart out at Diablos BBQ

Watching the program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network has been torturous, featuring Southern-style restaurants I could only dream of one day trying — that is until I discovered Diablos BBQ.

Diablos BBQ is located at 1693A Saint-Denis St.

Once I walked into what felt like a western movie, I knew this joint was worthy of its smokehouse title. Diablos BBQ welcomes you with swinging saloon doors and lures you in with the most wonderful barbecue aroma that fills your lungs and seduces your gut. The room is warm and inviting, filled with western memorabilia of wagon wheels, red velvet curtains, antique lanterns, recycled church pews, walls decorated with handguns and photos of confederate soldiers plus a lonely wooden armadillo you’ll most likely invite to join you during your meal.

“We just try and make it as authentic as possible, everything that we do, we want it to have a rustic, very authentic and nostalgic feel to it,” said co-owner Richard Escaravage.

Escaravage and his two partners, Jason and Raphaël , have been friends for 20 years before they decided to take a chance and introduce a little Southern love to our cold city. During a road trip two years ago with some friends, Escaravage and Jason headed to Texas where they fell in love with the culture and cuisine. Wondering why such an authentic smoky, spicy, and sweet flavour didn’t exist back home, they decided to take matters into their own hands and bring a taste of Texas back home with them.

Presented with the perfect location in the Latin Quarter and the opportunity to buy equipment, including a smoker all the way from Tennessee, Escaravage and Jason opened Diablos BBQ and invited Raphaël to join in on the fun. With no real culinary background, Jason travelled to New Orleans and Texas to learn from the locals and dived right in.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously, we’re not reinventing the wheel. We’re taking comfort food to a whole new level and putting a twist on traditional barbecue and Southern dishes,” said Raphaël.

Drooling over the thought of anything smoked, sauced and battered, I couldn’t help myself from inviting friends to tag along and try as much as we could from the menu. We began our evening with the bite-size popcorn shrimp, their infamous fried pickles that were sliced, fried like chips and absolutely delicious and, to our humourous regret, the breaded jalapeno poppers stuffed with cream cheese. Although we were warned of their level of spiciness, our egos got the best us and led us to a torturous moment of sweat and tears.

Thankfully, Diablos BBQ offers an impressive cocktail menu to help cool off a heated tongue. From tweaked classic cocktails in mason jars, to margaritas served with an upside-down beer in a monster-size glass, to some of Escaravage’s homemade concoctions inspired by his travels, there is a drink for any taste.

Impressed with the starters, we had high expectations for the main dishes priced between $12.95 and $25.05. We were definitely not let down. The pulled pork sandwich was perfectly smoked and tender, served with a side of traditional coleslaw and the best corn bread I have ever had. The poutine was a combination of white and sweet potato fries and topped with smoked gravy, a signature dish. The star of the joint were the pork ribs, smoked with hickory wood and covered with their homemade barbecue sauce that was a perfect balance between saltiness and sweetness; we just couldn’t resists asking for some on the side for our fries and corn bread.

What threw me over the edge was their sixth deadly sin burger, a burger that won fourth place during Burger Week. It’s so special and exclusive it’s not even on the menu; it’s the kind of thing you just have to know about. One of Jason’s creations, the burger is an eight ounce triple A beef patty topped with provolone cheese, house-smoked bacon, smoked tomato ketchup and cucumber radish relish (all homemade, of course.) All that is then put into a grilled pretzel bun and flash fried. Are you drooling yet?

Always with the need to satisfy their customers and keep things interesting, Diablos BBQ offers seasonal food and cocktail menus and has recently included a hangover breakfast. I’m talking about waffles with a side of fried chicken.

The best part about Diablos BBQ (aside from its succulent menu) is the party ambiance and diverse clientele. From tattooed rockers, to students, to suits everyone is there to enjoy the food, chug the drinks, hum to the rockabilly music and party with the owners.

“This is a place where you know you could come and relax, eat, fill your gut and be amongst like-minded people,” said Raphaël. “On the weekends it’s a party. So if you scream and yell and have a good time, that’s what it’s about, and we’ll join in with you!”

Diablos BBQ is located at 1693A Saint-Denis St.


Summing up the highlights 2012

The year 2012 is coming to a close my dear friends, and what a year it’s been. From American politics to Montreal soccer, we’ve summed up some of the most interesting events of the past year here.

Image via Flickr.

Robin Della Corte
Assistant news editor

In a province that is so often identified by it’s language issues, having an English mayor elected in office is a very symbolic moment for many people around the Montreal area.

Michael Applebaum’s election not only shows diversity, but a change in the right direction. After Pauline’s Marois’ election, I was terrified to live in a province where language mattered more than economic and social issues and where putting money towards ‘language police’ was a priority. After Applebaum’s victory against a French-speaking candidate I felt as if, politically and socially, things had changed slightly. Applebaum, being both English and Jewish, was elected, and it seemed as though most of the people in power didn’t care so much as to what language he spoke, but actually what he was going to do to improve our city and have the job done right.

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Stephanie La Leggia
Life editor

Image via Flickr.

Even with all the warnings and evacuation calls, Hurricane Sandy came as kind of a shock to me. Many underestimated its power and potential level of deconstruction, destroying homes and diminishing people’s lives and belongings to a suitcase.

Although I may live in Montreal, I’m a New Yorker at heart, travelling down at least three times year. With family and friends to worry about, I constantly checked CNN for updates. Although the video footages and article were quite alarming, it wasn’t until I saw photos of the aftermath that the horror of it really hit me; photos of people line-up to get their fill of gas, giant trees in the middle of the street, the diminished Jersey shore boardwalk, and people’s belonging scattered about like they were insignificant pieces of junk.

While some simply lost power in their skyscraper apartment building, others were not so lucky. When people think of New York, they narrow their focus to Manhattan, forgetting about the other burrows that were so badly hit, like Staten Island. Not to mention the damages the hurricane caused in Haiti. The photos of the aftermath and the personal stories of those without a home and insurance really put things in perspective for me. While my biggest concern may have been an assignment due by the end of the week, these survivors had to worry about basic needs like heating and food, needs that we take for granted on a daily basis.

You ask me what affected me most this year as 2012 comes to an end, it’s Hurricane Sandy, a hurricane so powerful it stood up against the Big Apple.

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Image via Flickr.

Kevin Duarte
Sports editor

The event that affected me the most in 2012 was the Montreal Impact’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer. To start, I am a diehard football fan… the real one, played with a round ball on the floor. Football, or to make it less confusing, soccer, is an integral part of my life. Right up there with breathing and eating, I’d say. The Impact expansion into the MLS finally gave me a chance to watch some decent soccer in my hometown. Prior to this year, Montreal was playing in the second tier of North American Soccer, a league that never really meant much at all. This past year, they just finished their first season in North America’s top flight. Fans got a chance to see some world-class players visit Saputo Stadium. More importantly for me, someone who studies the game as a coach, it was the higher quality of the sport that I enjoyed the most.

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Image via Flickr.

Casandra De Masi
Staff writer

Thousands watched, as did I, as Pauline Marois gave her acceptance speech in September. She had just become the first female premier of Quebec, and in the same night lived through an alleged assassination attempt. It all happened so quickly and it almost overshadowed the election itself. Throughout the election campaign, the wedge between the Francophone and the Anglophone community became larger and sharper. There were arguments and all-around ignorant behavior from both sides. This was the icing on the spoiled cake. As someone who lives and works in a French community, but was raised in a primarily English household, it just puzzled me as to why so much emphasis was being put on language, with so many other issues plaguing our province.

As horrible as the shooter’s actions were, especially because he killed an innocent man, he led people to a realization. People realized that, ‘Hey, maybe we should band together and focus on things that affect all of us, no matter what language we speak.’

That week, people came together, condemning this man’s actions. Just to see people agreeing that we should learn to coexist, that this silly war needs to end, was refreshing. It was hopeful. It didn’t last long, but knowing it is possible is what counts.

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Image via Flickr.

Paula Rivas
Managing editor

An event that kept me on the edge of my seat, as odd as it may sound to many people my age, was Obama’s victory in the American elections. The buildup from the presidential debates left my head spinning and I was looking forward to the elections like a child waiting for Christmas Eve.

The day of this historic event, I turned off my phone, avoided plans with any of my friends, and watched the CNN coverage like a hawk while Wolf Blitzer and other A-team reporters announced the advancement of the polls. My heart jumped with excitement as the state I spent 10 years of my life in, Maryland, turned blue in support for Obama. The blue wave that followed as the hours passed made me swell with pride to again see a glimpse of the United States that I love — not the ugly, homophobic and closed-minded side, but the side that many Canadians unfortunately don’t get to see. I’m talking about a United States that stands up to defend women’s rights when archaic restrictions were being suggested to govern women’s bodies and also to defend Hispanics when immigration laws were threatening to throw out hard-working citizens.

My own family was once living illegally as Hispanics in the States and we felt the harsh reality of being treated like second-class citizens. But most of all, to defend an America devoted to the idea that coming together as one is stronger than the idea that every man is out there for themselves. Thanks Obama, you made my year.


The Saga finishes with flying colours

Breaking Dawn is the final chapter in Stephenie Meyer’s popular Twilight Saga.

Becoming a vampire has never seemed more appealing before Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.

Beginning just as the last film ended, Bella Swan’s piercing red eyes were filled with a newfound hunger and lust for life. Dying after giving birth to her half vampire, half mortal daughter, Renesmee, Bella was resurrected with such grace, never looking so beautiful, never feeling so strong and never doubting the promise of forever with her beloved.

Since 2005, readers and fans of Meyer’s characters have fallen in love with Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) humility and have become infatuated by the men in her life, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Inspired by a dream, Meyer created a fictional world that has become a pop-culture phenomenon. After seven years of patience and with the help of director Bill Condon, the last chapter finally hit theatres.

With the awakening of a new vampire and the birth of a miracle child of two worlds, Breaking Dawn Part II is the beginning of a new era for the Cullens, the Quileute wolf pack and all vampires.

When the Volturi, the royal vampire elitists, hear false allegations of a child with mystical powers of a vampire they assume she is an immortal infant, bitten by the Cullens who broke the law of creating a child vampire. When Alice (Ashley Greene) foresees the attack of the Volturi the Cullens seek out foreign friends to witness Renesmee’s (Mackenzie Foy) uniqueness of being conceived by a vampire father and a human mother.

As wonderful as it is to watch literary characters come to life as we imagined them, the films can sometimes be a disappointment to devoted readers. Surprisingly, although the first four films of The Twilight Saga were nothing more than ordinary, the cinematographic version of the last 19 chapters of Breaking Dawn was brilliant and thrilling, enhancing the story with warfare. Although the war never occurs in the book, Condon and screenplay writer Melissa Rosenberg went beyond what was expected and featured an extraordinary battle scene as one of Alice’s premonitions, shocking even the most loyal readers. The spilled blood, jaw-dropping dreadful deaths and overwhelming anticipation are exactly what were needed to end the saga with a sense of satisfaction.

While new characters added an element of humour and mystique, the original cast matured with the films, fully embodying their literary characters. Compared to her pitiful performance in Twilight, where lip biting became her signature nervous tick, Stewart finally understood the balance between humility and courage in Bella and played the role exceptionally well.

Aside from the unnecessary shirtless scene of Jacob, added merely for the young ladies in the theatre, the film was a fantastic and well thought-out production of Meyer’s book. Beautifully shot in the wilderness of Vancouver, Canada, the visuals were just as captivating as the infamous love story.

While some may argue that such a film should be critiqued as simply a movie, I believe the books should be taken into consideration. These series, whether it be Twilight or Harry Potter, are brought to life for the readers who follow the story and grow with the characters. For the first time, I can truly say that I enjoyed the film more so than the book. Although I may have entered the theatre with skepticism I left entertained and with a sense of relief of watching a film worthy of its literary form.

Student Life

Tour like a local, shop like a stylist

Just a little less than a year ago, Janna Zittrer was walking along Ste-Catherine St. when two young women stopped her and asked for shopping recommendations.

Janna Zitter is the founder of Montreal Shopping Tours.  Photo courtesy of Montreal Shopping Tours

As the Montreal correspondent for Flare magazine, it comes as no surprise why Zittrer was chosen to give fashion advice. It is was in that moment, only a mere three steps later, that Zittrer had an epiphany that led her to the creation of Montreal Shopping Tours.

Zittrer is the founder and shopper-in-chief of Montreal Shopping Tours, the only guided fashion experience of its kind in the city. As someone with fashion credentials and the right contacts, Zittrer knew she had to be the one to do it.

“In Montreal, if you’re looking for something specific, you’ve got a particular style or a particular set of needs, you really do need to know where to go, and that’s where we come in,” said Zittrer.

The Shopping Tours cater to locals, tourists, trend-setters and fashion-intolerants alike. Zittrer has ripped out the “shop like an editor” page and brought it to life; designing half-day and whole day VIP excursions through Montreal’s fashion scene. Along with helpful styling tips and personalized store recommendations from an editor in the industry, the tours include great swag with products from local businesses like Davids Tea, and a personal driver.

One of the most alluring aspects of the tour is the door-to-door transportation. Born and bred in Montreal, Zittrer knows all too well the stress of traffic chaos, street construction and puzzling parking signs. She meets her shopping group (of no more than six) at their hotel or designated meeting spot. Along with a Shopping Tours map Zittrer ensures her clients get a feel of the city’s diverse cultures, stopping along the swanky streets of Westmount and working her way up to the Mile End.

As the shopper-in-chief, Zittrer has fashioned six distinctive themes to help her potential clients portray their style, and to communicate what they’re looking for along with what they expect from the tour. She includes a questionnaire for her clients to fill out before their tour date to help her customize an itinerary suited for any combination of style: Shop Like an Editor, 9-to-5 and Beyond, Montreal Designer Marathon, Sweat-Worthy Style, Vintage Treasures and Teen Dream.

“I work really hard at making people feel comfortable, letting them know that there’s no pressure,” said Zittrer. “If you come and buy nothing at all, that’s fine. If you just want to look and try stuff on that’s absolutely okay.”

Through extensive research and personal connections Zittrer has created a fashion community among local boutiques and designers, offering clients the opportunity to discover Montreal’s unique fashion scene. Before launching Montreal Shopping Tours this past April, Zittrer sat down with designers and managers to pitch a business idea that would benefit them and her clients.

“I knew off the bat that they would have to be stores that I would recommend,” said Zittrer. “The other criterion was that they are Montreal boutiques, like either independent boutiques or local-based chains. Stores and brands you can’t find anywhere.”

Aware of how difficult retail could be for independent boutiques in Montreal, Zittrer offers them the opportunity to participate in her tours without a service fee or sales credit. In exchange, however, she does ask for a discount for her clients; a discount that averages to about 15 percent. Not only is this great publicity for local boutiques, but it’s a great way to add value to her tours as well.

Zittrer is a big advocate for functional fashion and takes a pragmatic approach to style. While keeping up with trends is part of her job as a fashion freelance writer and working for Flare, she does evaluate the cost per wear. Your level of style shouldn’t depend on your credit limit; it’s about how a garment makes you feel, how it’s going to serve you and how functional it will be with your lifestyle.

“I always say that all these best dressed lists drive me insane because it’s always like royalty or A-list stars,” said Zittrer. “If you shop only in designer, of course you’re going be a ‘best dressed.’”

Zittrer goes beyond the tasks of a personal shopper, teaching you how to shop on trend without sacrificing your credit card. She provides that extra nudge some of us need to push our boundaries and try styles and colours we never imagined we would; at the same time acting as that shopping buddy you wish you had to tell you the truth in the changing room. She comes with no preconceived notion, looks at you, grabs something and tells you to try it on.

“The biggest thing for me is, when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you can accomplish things,” said Zittrer. “It’s really hard to project the image of yourself that you want to portray, and I feel like I can come and help with that.”


Montreal Shopping Tours run Wednesday through Sunday, and range from $160 to $180.











Student Life

A garden of fish

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

One of the main benefits of Concordia University’s Sir George Williams campus is its prime location in downtown Montreal. While the urban setting and fast-paced lifestyle of the city centre can be alluring to young university students, there is no denying that the carbon monoxide from street traffic can be hard on the lungs.

Above the urban chaos, on the 13th floor of the Hall building, is a space where students can breathe easy, drink tea and meditate alongside plants and fish. While it may be difficult to find on your first visit to the rooftop, the Concordia Greenhouse offers more than just a tranquil space to recharge. Part of Sustainable Concordia, the Greenhouse Project includes various projects pertaining to community building, urban sustainability, and food security such as the aquaponic system.

Since January 2010, coordinators Stefanie Dimitrovas and Jonathan Douaire have spent countless hours building, maintaining and nurturing their aquaponic system, a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture, also known as fish farming. Set up like an ecosystem with various forms of plants and animal protein, the aquaponic system has no need for soil. The plants are placed in bins filled with expanded clay and mounted on an aquarium filled with fish – definitely not your typical garden.

The life and growth of the system depends on the chemical relationship between three elements: plants, fish, and bacteria. Fish waste, which is mostly ammonia, at a high level can be harmful and toxic to the fish, but can often be used as fertilizer for plants. An aquaponic system is able to filter through the fish waste by nitrifying the bacteria, converting the ammonia into nitrite, and then into nitrate.

Nitrate is a great source for fertilizers because it is a biodegradable and soluble substance. While the fish provide a great resource for the plants, they in return clean the water for the fish with the excess nitrogen.

The key to the aquaponic system is the expanded clay, a neutral soilless medium that does not clog or rot. It contains a diversity of microbes, aiding in the system’s chemical filtration process.

“They are the ones converting the ammonia first into nitrite, and then nitrate,” says Dimitrovas. “It sort of oxidizes the nitrogen in a way to make it more available for the plants to take out.”

Fish is the preferable choice for urban aquaculture systems. Because of their tolerance for crowding and murky water, Dimitrovas and Douaire use goldfish. There are currently 24 fish in the tank, a population that depends on the volume ratio between the grow bed and the fish tank.

In order to keep a suited balance for such a system that will ensure enough filtration and benefit the plants, fish and microorganisms, the respected ratio should be one to two liters of grow bed to one liter of water in the fish tank. Once the system has ‘matured,’ the number animal of protein can be decreased.

While the number of fish is stable at the moment, Dimitrovas admits there have been three to four deaths over this past summer. According to their veterinarian, this lapse in the system was related to the lack of nutrients in their homemade fish food. They now feed their goldfish a combination of commercial food and their homemade concoction consisting of ingredients such as gelatin, greens, soy flour, multivitamins, cumin, carrots, seaweed and other fish like sardines.

Though the fish should be bigger in such a system of almost three years in age, the plants are growing quite well nonetheless. Dimitrovas and Douaire have experimented with various aquatic plants such as duckweed, arrowhead, lotus and milfoil. Over time, the system has matured enough to grow cucumbers, green peppers, and to Dimitrovas’ surprise, a papaya tree.

“We read that [papaya trees] don’t like too much moisture and they don’t like their roots sitting in water,” says Dimitrovas. “But it seems to be doing quite well and it’s been sitting here for months.”

Every week, Dimitrovas and Douaire test the water for nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, and pH levels. They keep a log and monitor the natural changes that occur and the necessary alterations that take place.

Keeping a log has allowed them to experiment, learn from their mistakes, study the limitations of such a system, and most importantly, and share their findings with students.

Although the project has been quite successful during the past few months, Dimitrovas and Douaire hope to expand and improve their aquaponic system. Their main goal is to develop a fish food recipe that will substitute ocean-fish animals with other sources of protein such as insects and earthworms; a protein source that that can take advantage of all of the organic waste produced in an urban environment.

“Aquaponic systems have the potential for urban agricultural uses because they’re compact and you can produce animal protein and vegetables,” says Dimitrovas. “Also, if you’re in a situation that you don’t have a lot of water, the water in here recirculates. So you could be watering your plants quite well, and you can really reduce the amount of evaporation if you’re in a dry area.”

In order to keep the project alive, Dimitrovas applied for grants from the Concordia Council on Student Life, and has agreed upon a trade with the Greenhouse. In exchange for being part of the overall Greenhouse budget, Dimitrovas and Douaire are growing seedlings to add to the plant sale and are giving workshops on the aquaponic system. They have currently set a date for their first workshop on November 7 at 4 p.m.


The Concordia Greenhouse is located on 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.




Student Life

There’s nothing like Fashion Week in New York

Photo by writer.

For the second year in a row, I have been privileged with the opportunity to work backstage during New York Fashion Week, my most favourite time of year!

It is a biannual event where designers, models, celebrities, photographers, fashion reporters and bloggers travel from all over the world to share their love for fashion in the Big Apple. While Lincoln Center may be the mecca for Fashion Week, there are runways dispersed all over the city, giving me the opportunity to run around from one show to another from Midtown to the Meatpacking District.

Although the subway may have been the wisest way to travel, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on the architecture, the people, and the zealous vibe.

Here are a few of my favourites sights of the week!

Photo by writer


For anyone who is a celebrity-sighting fanatic, Fashion Week is the best time to head to New York. From Hollywood celebs like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, to Canadian fashionistas like Coco Rocha and Jay Manuel, the hotels are filled with international stars invited to view designers’ upcoming collections.

While getting on the list for fashion shows may not be such an easy task, the streets of New York can guarantee you front row seats on a bench with a view of the most inspiring outfits.

Fashion Week has this amazing influence to awaken your inner glam gal and strut on the sidewalk in your most painful Louboutin shoes. For seven days people put aside their inhibitions and whip out their wildest outfits they had reserved for this particular occasion. Whether you decide to pay homage to a designer or create your own Avatar outfit, anything goes during Fashion Week!



No matter how busy people may be during Fashion Week attending shows, snapping photos, and putting in orders and making deadlines, locals and tourists always find the time to eat, drink, mingle, and enjoy the skyline.

Although I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there were no shows to attend on the Sunday morning, I was glad to have the time to enjoy the city view from the Brooklyn Flea. As much as I love boisterous Manhattan, there’s nothing like a few hours in Williamsburg to keep you grounded. Every Sunday, local vendors set themselves along the water, offering passersby delicious food, vintage wear, handmade accessories, antiques, books, music albums, and anything else you had in mind. While shuffling through old memorabilia can be amusing,  I usually head straight for the Pueblan cemitas and Japanese tacos.

Once I’ve had my fill of Brooklyn and feel the desperate need for air conditioning, I hop on the subway and head straight to Bloomingdales, a place where credit cards are used and abused.  Summer sales were quickly replaced by collections of leather, fur and melancholic tones. Thankfully I had a couple of shows to head to and didn’t give VISA a chance to call me!

Although I may not have had time to fill my closet with the new fall collections, I did, however, manage to visit Mario Batali’s Eataly, a restaurant/supermarket stocked with Italian-only products and the best mozzarella I’ve had in America. The best way to keep the bill in the double digits is to grab some cheese, prosciutto, a fresh loaf of bread and head to Madison Park across the street for a picnic.

Student Life

When fashion and architecture collide

Photo by Sophia Loffreda

Fashion Week in September always seems to hold an unsettling feeling that comes with the change in season. Just as we are about ready to embrace our felted fedoras and wool ponchos, fashion designers tease us with next year’s spring/summer collection of bright colours and fresh fabrics.

With this seasonal change in fashion trends comes the wardrobe revamp — a process that could be both time-consuming and dizzying. Thankfully, there are designers who believe practicality does not have to suffer at the hands of style.

Toronto-based designer Rachel Sin understands this need for comfort and versatility all too well. Her eponymous clothing line is designed for the “want-to-do-it-all woman” — a woman in need of key pieces that will not only help her transition from one season to another, but more importantly, from work to cocktail hour.

Devoted to the vision of a confident and feminine woman, Sin’s spring/summer 2013 collection is flirty, sophisticated and tailored to a woman’s curves. She showcased her collection on Sept. 7 at the new home of Montreal Fashion Week, the industrial-chic Arsenal art centre.

Aside from seasonal body-hugging dresses that are naturally alluring, Sin has taken the pantsuit and pencil skirt and added a touch of flare that will surely make heads turn.

With the leading ladies of Mad Men in mind, Sin had her models dressed in ’50s-inspired style, strutting on the catwalk to Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking.”

While looking to trends from past decades is common among designers, Sin goes beyond fashion and taps into her architectural training, giving her a unique edge in the fashion world. With a Master’s degree in architecture from Carleton University, Sin searches for inspiration from eye-catching and elegantly designed architectural spaces.

“Careful attention to detail and precise tailoring comes from the natural tendency in architecture to make all things better with good design,” said Sin. “If architecture must always be functional, then fashion should be wearable.”

Sin spent her university years studying and interning as an architect by day and taking sewing classes by night. While fashion design was always a career she wanted to pursue, she did not think studying fashion was necessary. Sin gives credit to her architectural training and keen eye to detail for her success in fashion design.

“As an architect, you learn to open your eyes and pay attention to everyday details,” she said.

Photo by Sophia Loffreda

For her spring/summer collection, Sin was inspired by the iconic Farnsworth House designed by one of her favourite architects, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Built in the late ’40s, the house was ahead of its time, uncluttered and framed with glass and industrial steel. The idea was to allow the viewer to experience self-exposure to the outside natural world all the while feeling a sense of comfort and protection from the glass structure.

Sin translates the translucence and simplicity of the Farnsworth House with the use of soft and transparent fabric such as lace and jersey. Imagining what a woman would wear in such a modern space, Sin uses clean lines and neutral shades to complement the minimalist expression of the house.

While the colour palette of the collection may be simple with beige, black, grey and the occasional pop of coral, Sin’s attention to detail comes through the lace cropped tops, the ladder-back dresses and the Peter Pan collars.

Though balancing architecture by day and fashion by night can be time-consuming and hard work, Sin is a “want-to-do-it-all woman.”

“As a designer, you definitely have to be passionate about what you do because it is one of the toughest jobs,” said Sin. “I made the decision to become a designer, to create beautiful and well-designed objects, whether it be a building or clothing.”

Student Life

The one stop vintage shop

On the corner of Notre Dame W. St. and St-Martin St. is a quaint vintage shop with window mannequins so stylish and chic, you can’t help but be lured in. The high ceiling and bright natural light flatter the colour-coordinated racks of garments hanging from beams. Owner Elaine Léveillé says the system goes beyond colour, it’s about texture, patterns and rhythm.

“I copied it from my closet,” said Léveillé. “Always by colour, so that when I look for something, it’s there. If I want to do different combinations because trends have changed, then I know where to look and what to put together.”

Léveillé is the sassy and fashionable owner of ERA Vintage Wear, a shop that is as inviting and vibrant as its proprietor. In the midst of the garment racks are pristine white couches and an end table with fashion magazines; a lounge area Léveillé insists on having.

“I meet different kinds of women all the time,” says Léveillé of her clientele of trendy bloggers and quirky older ladies. “That why we have the couches here. There’s a lot of chatting.”

Her welcoming atmosphere and high fashion reputation have travelled beyond Montreal and created intrigue among stylish celebrities such as Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore and Jean-Paul Gauthier. As flattered as she is, Léveillé has a very modest attitude towards her high-profile clients. Rather than cater solely to the rich and famous and stock her store with labels, Léveillé is concerned with quality and appreciates customers who just “get it.”

“If I wanted my shop to be all about labels, it would be very easy for me to do,” she said. “But I would be so bored you’d find me asleep in the corner of my changing room.”

Aside from her motherly duties, Léveillé’s business and fashion schedule keeps her too busy to even think of napping in her store. She dry-cleans, disinfects, alters and repairs every piece of garment and accessory she hand-picks from parties-passed. Though the store may be filled with vintage-wear of every decade from the ‘20s to the mid-‘80s (Léveillé hates the cheap fabrication since), she remodels pieces to compliment current trends.

“I’ll take something and make it completely different,” said Léveillé. “When I look at a piece and I know it has potential, I can undo it because it’s sewn well. Sometimes I make something crappy look good, but it’s a question of quality.”

Léveillé has had a keen eye for vintage wear since the age of eight. As a child, Léveillé would join her mother antique furniture shopping. While she waited for her mother to pick out the pieces with restoration potential, Léveillé would venture about and come back with puffy dresses and lace gloves. She quickly learned that if she simply asked for these clothes no one else wanted, they would be hers to keep.

“By the time I was 14, my room was literally a closet,” she said. “I had racks and dressers full of clothes.”

Though Léveillé was not always a shop owner, she always surrounded herself with art and fashion. With a master’s degree from Concordia in painting and drawing, Léveillé spent many years in public relations for Montreal designers like Eve Gravel, Denis Gagnon and Tavan & Mitto.

She soon grew tired of chasing after her money and “hustling and bustling” for others. In November 2004, over a glass of cognac with a friend, Léveillé had an epiphany that led her to ERA.

“I remember saying that it would just be so much easier if I had a vintage shop where I would do things and move on, and if people needed me, they knew where to find me,” said Léveillé. “As soon as I voiced it, I knew exactly what I was about to do.”

Since then, Léveillé spent seven years building and beautifying her shop. Her very own installation where she can dress to her mood, be creative, play dress-up, and share her love for fashion and vintage wisdom.

“For me, getting dressed is not about trend, it’s about style,” said Léveillé. “It’s timeless. You could have style and just readapt it, retune it.

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