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FASHION MOJO: Vintage Shopping at Vintage Vibes Boutique

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While writing a new piece for UPTOWN Magazine on getting my fashion mojo back (inspired by Kerry Washington’s quote in October’s issue of Glamour“I’m missing a really important tool. If I am the CEO of the Kerry Washington Corporation, my marketing department is really lax.”), I decided to take a work break and put my plans into action. Vintage shopping is something I always wanted to dabble in, and thanks to my homegirl Glenna, my sister and I took a trip down to Toronto’s Leslieville area and visited Vintage Vibes Boutique.

I have a confession to make. In my proud Jamaican family, it was somewhat of a taboo to wear second-hand clothing. There was a lot of pride behind the ability to afford brand new clothes and shoes, and thrift shopping was met with nothing more than a kiss of the teeth. Needless to say, I never invested much interest in the practice. Fast forward a few years later to my current stay in Toronto: I decided to stick my toe in the waters of vintage shopping, and was immediately turned off. I was either referred to places with great finds but exorbitant prices, or spots that redefined the word “cheap.” Lately, I’d been hearing a lot of great things about Vintage Vibes Boutique, so I figured I’d give vintage/thrift shopping one more go.

Located at 717 Queen Street East, Vintage Vibes Boutique is owned and curated by Debbie Parks – the self-proclaimed ‘Chief Treasure Hunter’. Parks was raised by a British mother who trained her up in the ways of vintage shopping, and she leaned on those lessons when she moved to NYC years later. Surviving in style with great vintage finds, Parks eventually settled in Toronto and decided to recreate the same experience here.

Almost immediately after stepping foot inside, I felt at ease. Debbie greeted my sister and I and gave us a quick tour around the store, which houses vintage furniture, clothing, jewelry, and accessories. The jewelry tables immediately caught my eye – big baubles, sparkly earrings, gorgeous detailed necklaces – and I was in heaven. Once I saw the price points (nothing over $15 in the jewelry section), I felt like I had found what I was looking for – a vintage shop with unique, quality items that wouldn’t drain my bank account.

The clothing section, however, would be the real test. There, I found awesome secretary dresses, sequined sweaters, jumpsuits, fly heels, and much more – the majority of which were under $35. “Nothing in the shop is over $100,” stated Debbie. Creating a store where people could find affordable, good quality, and one-of-a-kind pieces was her ambition – and from my eyes, she succeeded. The next 2 hours were spent wading through the racks, trying on clothes, having a mini-fashion show in the middle of the store, chatting with Debbie and the other customers, and generally having fun.

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Debbie Parks (owner of Vintage Vibes Boutique) and I

I ended up leaving with 4 pieces – the yellow & blue silk top and sequined sweatshirt in the photos above, plus a dope black patterned dress and high-waisted midi skirt. The most expensive piece was the dress at $35, so I walked away with a happy (and only slightly less full) wallet. Debbie advised that she finds new pieces on a nearly daily basis, so I’m excited to head back soon and see what else I can snag! Thanks to Vintage Vibes Boutique, I feel like my fashion sense got a much-needed shot in the arm. Being fly and frugal is possible, and I’m glad that I’ve seen the light! If you’re in Toronto, visit Debbie at Vintage Vibes Boutique and tell her Bee sent you! VVB will also be featured at the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show on September 22nd, providing fashions for Hair By Glenna’s hair show – I’m also speaking at the show, so make sure you grab your tickets asaptually!

Follow Vintage Vibes Boutique on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook – and be sure to stop by the store at 717 Queen Street East from Thursday-Sunday, 12pm-6pm! 

ARTSY-FARTSY: For The Love Of Art + The Mystic Effect Giveaway!

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Do y’all remember the episode of Martin called My (Not So) Funny Valentine? Martin and Gina were celebrating Valentine’s Day, and Gina’s thoughtful gift to Martin was a carved statue of an ass. Not a donkey – a butt/posterior/bamsie/doo-doo maker (just not stuffed inside pyjamas – sorry GFK and U-God). Gina was sharing her love of art with Martin, and while he appreciated the gesture, he was NOT feeling it.

I can relate. When I was 9, I was accepted into an arts elementary school. From grades 4-8, Vocal, Dance, Drama, Visual Art, and Orchestra (I played the recorder, piano, and violin) were regular classes alongside French, Math, Gym, and all the others. We did Shakespeare plays, learned Alvin Ailey choreography, studied art history, and played Mozart and Bach. My younger brother and sister both ended up attending the school as well, so my house was always a continuous hum of violin/tuba/flute practice, with playbills stuck on the fridge and art pieces hung on the walls. My love of art in all its forms grew in those years, but I sadly ended up taking it for granted. Once I left and entered high school, I suffered one of the biggest culture shock periods of my life. Save for the few “art nerds”, no one cared about the things I cared about, and I began to see that there wasn’t much room for the beauty of art in my daily life anymore – unless I created those spaces for myself.

Now, I clearly see and understand my privilege at being able to attend this school (which actually didn’t charge tuition, so I don’t know how they did what they did). I know from talking to friends in high school and university that they weren’t exposed to the kinds of things I was, but most would have loved the opportunity. Even now in adulthood, I engage in conversations with people who wish they could have gone to an arts school – who wish they could play an instrument, or dance, or do a play. My response is, “Well, why the f*ck not?” Like pretty much everything else in life, there’s usually no one stopping you but you. Art has meant so much in my life, and I can only imagine what it could do for others who have been under-exposed to its goodness.

Check out your local dance studios and see if they offer drop-in classes for beginners. See if a university music student will give you lessons on that instrument you’ve been dying to learn. Garage sales and music shops often have decent quality instruments on hand, so you don’t necessarily have to spend an arm and a leg. Want to sing? Join your church choir or check Meetup.com for local singing groups. Drama groups are all over the place for improv or beginners looking to take a few classes to learn the craft. The options are out there – you just have to look!

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In just a few weeks, I’ll be co-hosting The Mystic Effect, an incredible event that combines artistic elements of fashion, film, music, poetry, and dance. This will be the kick-off event for Stacy-Ann Buchanan Productions, and it’s going to be an amazing show! The Mystic Effect will expose you to a variety of Toronto’s up-and-coming artists, giving them a platform to display their various creations to the world. It’s also a charitable event, with part proceeds going towards Urban Arts, a non-profit organization that offers art programming to youth in the city. If you’re looking for an event that will scratch your artistic itch (whether you knew you needed it scratched or not), AND leave you feeling good about contributing to the community, The Mystic Effect is where you need to be!

Since you’ve read this far, I’m going to reward a lucky reader with a ticket for the show on April 28th! All you have to do is comment below or tweet me (@BeeSince83) and tell me your favourite piece of art. It could be a Salvador Dali painting. It could be a Wu-Tang album. It could be a piece of clothing, a dance, or a poem. It could be almost anything! Art is everywhere you look, so let me know your favourite expression of art, and you could win a ticket to The Mystic Effect!

If you want to also purchase tickets, please head to The Mystic Effect website for more details! See you on the 28th!

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? Bee’s Event Updates

Hope y’all are doing well! I wanted to drop a quick post off to let you guys know about some of the awesome events I’ll be taking part in this spring/summer! If you’re in the Toronto/NY area and looking for some dope events to hit up, I got you!

TEASE Fridays at Saviari

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Are you single in Toronto? Do you want to meet cool folks in the city without the pomp and circumstance (and screwfacing) that many events here are known for? Starting on March 22nd, I’ll be hosting TEASE Fridays at Saviari Tea & Cocktail Lounge, where you can do just that! TEASE will be a happy hour mixer where you can come in, enjoy some amazing drinks and tea-infused foods, and mix and mingle with some of Toronto’s flyest. I’ll be there to help facilitate conversations and to maintain the flirty atmosphere of TEASE – and to ensure that you aren’t sitting nose-deep in a corner on your phone. This will be the first event in a while where we DON’T want you to tweet, Instagram, or Facebook promote – we want you to *gasp* actually talk to people! If you can handle that, then TEASE is the spot for you!

The Mystic Effect

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Rolling along with the hosting duties, I’ll be the hostess with the mostest at The Mystic Effect – an amazing art show that covers mediums like fashion, film, visual art, music, and dance. The brainchild of Stacy-Ann Buchanan Productions, this show will be on April 28th at Revival Bar, and I can’t wait! If you’re a fan of art in all its various forms, you’ll want to grab your ticket for The Mystic Effect ASAP! Even better? You’ll be contributing to charity. Part proceeds will support Urban Arts, a non-profit charitable youth organization that offers multi-arts based programs that serve to develop youth as artists and leaders. Do some good and whet your artistic appetite at the same damn time!

R Flavour presents Dead Wit Laugh ft. Donnell Rawlings

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All of the events I’m involved with are special to me, but this one is on another level. I’ve talked about the Dead Wit Laugh comedy shows that had been held at Dazzling Lounge in Toronto last year, but this one is bigger and better – and it’s the creation of myself and my husband! Really and truly, it was his idea to put together a major comedy show  - teamwork makes the dream work, so him and I have been toiling (along with the help of some great friends) to make this show a success. The hilarious Donnell Rawlings (of Chappelle’s Show, The Guy Code, and The Wire) will be headlining the show on June 16th, and guest acts include comedians Nick Reynoldson, Dave Merheje, and Trixx, and spoken word artist Dwayne Morgan. Jay Martin will be our wonderful host, so we have the Toronto talent on lock! The NXNE Festival (Canada’s partner to SXSW) is on board as a partner, so our Dead Wit Laugh show will be the headlining comedy show of the festival week! Early bird tickets are available on Ticketmaster, so I’d better see my local (and international, if you’re making the trip up!) folks there to support!

Blogging While Brown Conference 

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Whew. As if I wasn’t feeling excited and anxious about everything I’ve written about so far, I have this news to add: I’ll be a featured speaker at this summer’s Blogging While Brown Conference in NYC! After attending for the first time last year, I took a leap and submitted a speaker’s proposal…and just when I thought I wasn’t going to be selected, I got the celebratory phone call to say I was in! I’ll be doing a talk tentatively called ‘Cross-Border Conundrums’ which will touch on various aspects of being an international Black blogger and how to maximize our connections across borders and overseas. The world of being a blogger of colour is so much wider in the US, and many people I met at BWB gave me the “There’s BLACK people in Canada?!” question – so I want to do my part to add a bit of diversity to the conference. If you’ll be at BWB this year, lemme know! I need a hotel buddy!

Like I said, a ton of things are on the go, and a lot of hard work is going into each and every one of these events!

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So, there you have it. There are a couple of other things in the works, but as you can see from this post, I’ll be keeping REALLY busy over the next few months! If you’ve got any questions about any of the events I mentioned, let a sista know!

SHOP TALK: Why I’m Saying NO To The Malls & YES To Small Businesses

Photo source: Daily Delights

I don’t know how this happened, but it’s almost December, y’all. It feels like I JUST put away my summer clothes in favour of my fall jacket, and soon I’ll be scrounging around for my winter coat.

December for me means snow, family time, food, celebration, and reflection on the year gone by. However with the holiday season, I always seem to get swept up into the madness of gift purchases and exchange. I’ll admit, I love getting gifts – but I adore the feeling I get when I gift someone with an amazing present. It could be something they truly wanted, or it could be an unexpected gift that fits their personality to a tee. Either way, the satisfaction I get from friend’s and family’s happiness will forever keep me in the gift-giving cycle – however, I plan on doing things differently this year.

Unless I know that a friend/family member wants a specific gift that I can find at the mall, I’m avoiding traditional shopping altogether this holiday season. I plan to support as many small businesses as I can – especially Black businesses that are just starting to forge their way to success. Let me explain why.

  1. I cannot STAND the insanity of malls and shopping centres. I have no patience for fighting for parking spaces, plowing through crowds, lining up in ridiculous lines, none of it.
  2. I want to purchase gifts that are as unique as the people I’m giving them to. Like I said earlier – if a cousin wants a specific toy, or a friend wants a specific sweater, I’ll brave the malls to satisfy them. However, I’m leaning more towards giving gifts that are more personalized and one-of-a-kind.
  3. I’m much more comfortable with online shopping now. Many small businesses are online, which speaks to point #1, and allows me to shop from the comfort of my own home. As always, ensure that if you shop online, you do so from reputable and protected sites.
  4. I want to support people who are doing amazing things. My favourite small businesses are people who are offering products of impeccable quality, and do so out of sheer passion for their work. I want to support that. I’m also a major proponent of supporting Black businesses in order to circulate money in our community and to help provide financial stability. Dropping bands to make the owners of Old Navy and Toys R Us dance doesn’t quite fit with those intentions.

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Though I already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada last month, the awareness of the US Thanksgiving – and subsequent Black Friday sales – is apparent. This Saturday is known as Small Business Saturday, and is set up as a day for small businesses to get some shine during this heightened shopping time. This weekend might be a good time to investigate and start making some purchases for the special people in your life, while supporting hard-working entrepreneurs at the same time.

Looking for some awesome small businesses to check out? I got you!

If you know someone who’s into hair and skin care, check out Ixora Botanical Beauty and Whipped Body Goods. I follow both of these amazing entrepreneurs on Twitter, and the incredible handmade products they sell have been getting rave reviews all over the cyber world. Check out some of Ixora’s testimonials, and this Black Enterprise feature on Whipped!

Looking for jewelry and accessories for men and women? Hit up Absynia, who I’ve featured right here on this site. GORGEOUS pieces with incredible prices. For some local Toronto entrepreneurs on the jewelry scene, you’ve got to check out Glass Hearts and The Diana Tracy Collection. Gifting from one of these small businesses will ensure that your recipient will likely never be wearing the same tired accessories as everyone else – and even better, personalized customizations may be available!

Need some unique threads for that special somebody? Why not take a peek at Afrodelik? I also featured this Toronto-based business a while back, and I adore their designs. Two other amazing lines are Mina Danielle and Kaela-Kay Collections. Both of these lines take African-inspired designs and find unique ways to merge them with street style and high fashion. Guaranteed – if you get one of these pieces, you’ll never walk into an event wearing the same thing as someone else.

For hair fanatics, you can support by purchasing products and gift sets from start-up lines like Earthtones Naturals or Shea Radiance. Get your friend a gift certificate to a local salon or barber, or pick up a gift card for a local store like Honey Fig (where you can shop online or in-store in Toronto)!

When it comes to gift-giving, think outside of the box! Books, art, even services – there are small businesses catering to almost any and every need you can think of. Take some time to research and seek out local or online businesses that can give you something of quality that no one else can – and support them!

If you’re in Toronto, Dwayne Morgan of Up From The Roots will be hosting a Pop-up Shop on December 8th! If you’re in the city and looking to support local small businesses, you’ve GOT to come out!

Are you gearing up for holiday shopping this year? Have you considered supporting small businesses? If you have others that you think we should know about, share them in the comments section! And a BIG happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

INSOMNIAC ENTERTAINMENT: What I Found Online At 3am

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Well, that’s exactly what I did last night during the latest episode of Bee vs. Insomnia. Sleeplessness has been my new bedfellow since this past weekend, and while it’s completely torturous to go without my beloved sleep, last night I found a way to entertain myself until the zzz’s finally arrived. Take in this completely random post, and let me hip y’all to some of the cool stuff I found while wide awake at 3am.

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I’ve made it no secret that I LOVE the new wave of Black web series that have been popping up online. I’m late to this one, but last night after I watched the latest episode of Awkward Black Girl (hilarious!), I started watching Issa Rae and Black & Sexy TV’s latest collabo, RoomieLoverFriends. I only planned to watch 2 of the episodes, but I got thoroughly hooked and watched all 6 that are out! Long story short: Tamiko has a sexy-ass, fine-ass tenant named Jayson, who ends up breaking her off with more than just his half of the rent. This leads to confused emotions, displays of denial, and hilarious commentary from Tamiko’s cousins and best friend, who do their best to help her navigate the new wrinkle in her arrangement. Sexy, funny, relateable, and well-produced with a bangin’ theme song – RoomieLoverFriends is one of my new favourite things to watch. Getchu some – and check out the newest web series on the block, Lenox Ave!

The Hillman Bookstore

Now, I’ve known about this site for a minute now, but I revisited it last night and almost pulled out my credit card right then and there. One of my favourite TV shows was A Different World, so I adore all things Hillman. I was dead-set on attending an HBCU thanks to the show, but since that didn’t happen, The Hillman Bookstore gives me the opportunity for the next best thing. If you’ve ever wanted a Hillman College hoodie or T-shirt, this site has what you need! I might just have to pick up a Whitty Hutton (who remembers that episode of Martin?) and a Randy Watson (hello – Coming To America?) tee as well to add to my collection of Black cinematic paraphernalia.

Battle Of The Sexes Deal

Do you remember my post this summer about the 1st Toronto show of Battle of The Sexes put on by my homie Goddess Intellect? Have I mentioned that I’m going to be one of the panelists for the next show, going down this Sunday? Well if you didn’t know, now you know, folks! The main question of the night is: is monogamy a myth? We’ll be covering all aspects of that question by looking at various facets like infidelity, open relationships, polygamy, and more. I’ll be reppin’ for the ladies with my homegirl Elle Seon, and on the other side of the table will be Lincoln Blades and Tosin Bello. The event will be a really cool and well-rounded one, with a pop up shop, audience games, lively discussion, delicious food and drink, and other forms of mischief and merriment at the new House of Moments venue. So, the cool thing to share is that Miss Intellect has extended a last minute deal for all y’all stragglers who haven’t copped tickets yet – bring a friend, and get 2 tickets for $30! So if you’re in Toronto and want to come and holler out your thoughts about monogamy, grab a homie and get your tickets asaptually!

Bonus: Check the hilarious new BOTS promo video that I’m sure will give us some thangs to talk about on Sunday!

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So, there are a few of the random and wonderful things I came across during my recent run as an insomniac. Have you checked out any dope new webseries that I should know about? Are you going to order something from the Hillman Bookstore? And are you coming to Battle of The Sexes? Let a sista know! I won’t be sleeping anytime soon, so…

BE AWARE: Meet Simone Walsh, Designer & Mental Health Advocate

October is a month that marks many different health awareness initiatives – breast cancer, autism, and SIDS, to name a few. However, did you realize that this week is Mental Illness Awareness week here in Canada? To commemorate this special week, I wanted to introduce y’all to a special woman who is on a mission to remove the stigmas that continue to surround mental illness.

Simone Walsh is a Toronto-based fashion designer who has managed her line Mo’knotic Clothing for a number of years now. Being around the Toronto fashion scene, I had heard of Simone and worked with her in the past, but didn’t realize that she would become so much more of a powerful force, known for more than just her designs.

I wasn’t aware until recently that Simone has dealt with mental illness in the most personal of ways. After a diagnosis of depression and anxiety (and subsequent treatment), Simone has become somewhat of a mental health activist. Volunteering with various mental health initiatives and combining her love of fashion with her passion for mental health awareness, Simone has come up with a creative way to spread the word while keeping people looking fly. Check out my quick Q&A with one of the bravest women I know, Simone Walsh:

Introduce yourself to the ’83 To Infinity readers! Tell us 3 interesting things about yourself.

Hey everyone! My name is Simone. And I’m a clothing designer. I currently have a female line out called Mo’knotic Clothing. And I enjoy writing poetry.

You’ve been running your clothing line, Mo’knotic for quite some time now. Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a fashion designer.

The journey was quite a journey. I went through different phases of seeing what worked, what didn’t work, what type of designer I wanted to be, building a network, finding a mentor, etc. Everything I’ve been through really helped me to master my craft and find my niche in this industry.

You’ve also been very vocal and supportive of mental health awareness. What are your thoughts on society’s acceptance and stigma of mental illness?

I feel as if society doesn’t really give mental illness the attention it really needs. Its almost as if a blanket has be draped over our eyes. Because a mental illness is not so much like any other illnesses that can be seen people automatically feel as if nothing is wrong with you because you look fine on the outside. That’s where the stigma comes in. That’s why its so important to educate yourself.

You’ve volunteered with CAMH and the William Osler Mental Health Unit – what have those experiences done for you?

The experiences have been great. I engage one on one personally with the patients. It has allowed me to see them recovery and the process. I have been at CAMH for almost 3 yrs now and I remember how some of the patients started out and now they are doing quite well! It makes me happy to see such positive changes.

To commemorate this year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, you tied your love of fashion with your mental health advocacy to create a special project. Tell us a bit about that.

Yes this is my second year doing this. I have designed a collection of tees from my line geared directly towards this campaign for Mental Illness Awareness Week. These tees all have different uplifting slogan that speaks about living life. Slogans such as “inhale change, exhale failure” “living and no longer existing” and “let’s end the stigma of mental illness”. My hope is that these tees will empower the lady wearing it. Its a bold statement saying that they are fighters. I sell these tees for $20 and proceeds go towards the current foundation I am in support of. This year its the Adult Day Treatment program at the William Osler Hospital.

One of the questions that gets raised often when I have conversations about mental illness is “Where do I go to get help?” What are some good resources people can access for information and help?

I would recommend the Adult Day Treatment program at William Osler, also one on one counseling sessions. Take the advice of your doctor.  I also recommend that you try to get out as much as you can. Be around people who will are positive and can help you focus on your recovery.

If someone wants to get their hands on one of your special shirts, or some of your Mo’Knotic designs, how can they do so?

My website www.moknotic.com has all my designs as well the tees. They can also visit The Fashion District Store at Queen and Spadina. I will be selling my tees at different locations in the community but I will update this information on my site.

Thank you to Simone for sharing her story and for her fashionable awareness initiative! Please hit up Mo’knotic’s site for more details, and support the cause!

GET TO KNOW: Absynia Jewelry & Vintage Line

When I was younger, I used to be so uncomfortable with the things that made me unique. As shy as I was, I hated the fact that I could never just blend in and move with the crowd. If it wasn’t my height, it was my skin colour. If it wasn’t my skin colour, it was my hairstyle. Something always made me stand out, and I didn’t appreciate it. Now? You wouldn’t know I ever had a problem with standing out. I think I’ve fully grown into accepting the things that make me me, and I love my uniqueness.

Uniqueness and originality are things that I now seek out in the way that I present myself to the world. From my hair to my clothes, I love creating original looks that represent me in all my fresh flyness. As a big fan of accessories, I know that the right bauble can set an outfit off just right, so I keep my eyes open for cool lines that don’t kill my wallet. One of these such lines is Absynia, created by Elle Lewis.

I introduced y’all to Absynia earlier this year when I purchased a pair of earrings for myself (and a ton of one-of-a-kind items for my girlfriends). I quickly fell in love with the beautifully-crafted pieces (for men and women), and was extremely appreciative of the fact that I was able to obtain high-quality, original jewelry at amazing prices. To boot, Abysnia’s customer service was top notch! Clear, quick, and kind – just the way I likes it. Y’all know I love to spread the word of amazing companies and lines, so allow me to formally introduce you to Absynia! I reached out to creator Elle Lewis to ask her some quick questions about the line – check out our mini-interview, and stay tuned for the special deal she gives ’83 To Infinity readers! Once you finish reading, head on over to Absynia’s online home, launching today!

Source: Absynia.com

Introduce yourself to the ’83 To Infinity readers! Tell us 3 interesting things about yourself.

Hi there readers! My name is Elle and I’m the brains (so to speak) behind Absynia!  Some interesting things about me:  I’ve always been an artist and an entrepreneur. When I was 7, I would draw stories and sell them around the neighborhood for .5 cents. My mother used to tell me that story all the time, whenever I moved on to the next thing. I was always trying to make and sell something, dreaming of creating something great.  I was voted class dreamer in a graduating class of 200+ students.

What inspired you to get into the art of jewelry design? 

I really just did it. I was buying a ton of cheap jewelry that would break all the time and hated to throw it away.  Sometimes I couldn’t fix it so I’d make it into something else. It wasn’t long before people started to notice  and when someone tried to buy my earrings from my ears, I figured I had something here.

The Kahina necklace ($32)

I’ll admit – the first thing that drew me to your line was the name. How did you come up with the name Absynia?  

I’m the daughter of a Rasta and so growing up I learned a lot about Africa. When I was thinking of what to name my line, I thought it should be something to represent me. I mulled over names of African empires and chose Nubia, the empire that I have a strong religious and cultural connection to because of my father. Abyssinia is the Biblical name for the region once known as Nubia, Absynia is just a shortening of that.

You also carry select vintage items, which I love. Why was this important for you to include in the Absynia brand?

I expanded to vintage because I love vintage items. The quality, the style and the idea of preserving something for the next generation, all appeals to me.  So much of our current economy is about making things as quickly and cheaply as possible and that is a shame, I think. Absynia is all about standing against the “buy-it, toss-it” idea so it was fitting that Absynia includes quality, vintage items as well.

To me, the Absynia brand represents being unique, presenting quality, and maintaining personal connection with its customers. How do you accomplish these things so successfully? Is there anything else that Absynia represents?

Maybe this is ambitious but I think and hope Absynia as a brand, represents the growing handmade community. I’ve observed that people now want to return to knowing where their items come from and who made  it. They want to be responsible with their money and invest in responsible companies who treat them well, provide quality and are ethical in their practices. I run my company as a customer. I LOVE fashion, I LOVE to shop and I use my experiences as a customer to make my company work. I made jewelry I wanted to buy and I treat customers the way I wish I was treated, for me it’s that simple.

The Idalia bracelet ($12.50)

How has your knowledge of worker abuse, child labour, and other cruelties in the global marketplace framed the way you run your line? 

Definitely. I’m not comfortable participating in an economy that disenfranchises and even enslaves people. When I first learned about what really happens in the fashion industry I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do, where to buy or if I should buy. Discovering an artisan community like Etsy really helped me. When I started creating I had a network of people to reach out to, to find out where to buy supplies. I support other artists, local suppliers and this year I did my most exhausting sourcing of materials, tapping into Native-run businesses and local artisans

What advice do you have for others who want to take the plunge into entrepreneurship? 

The best advice I can give is really consider who you are and what you stand for, then take your company in the direction that reflects that. I know a lot of people who want to jump on trends because they think they can make money but if it isn’t authentic then it won’t last. When your company is a reflection of who you are, people respect and connect to that. It also makes it very easy to be your own brand ambassador when you aren’t hiding who you are. I’m a Pro-Black, Pan-Africanist. It shows up in my jewelry, in my aesthetic and people- whether or not they’re from the Diaspora or not-respect that. And they support it- which gives me such joy I can’t even describe it.

The Zy earrings ($15)

What’s next for Absynia? When you look 5 years into the future, where do you see the line? 

When I look five years down the road, I see continuous growth-Growth of me as an artist and of my company. There are things I want to try with resin, with metal and with butane torches.  I see myself fully immersed in my craft and my customers benefit from that.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes! www.absynia.com is opening on Sept. 24th and I’d love to share a deal with your readers! When they go to www.absynia.com or www.absynia.etsy.com there is an option to leave a note for the seller when checking out. All they have to do is mention where they heard of  Absynia and I will refund their shipping charges, no matter how much they order. It’s just a small thank you for stopping by.

So, there you have it, folks! If you’re looking for unique, conscientious, gorgeous, and exceptionally-crafted jewelry and vintage pieces at incredible prices, Absynia is where you need to be. Take advantage of Elle’s awesome deal, and treat yourself or someone else! Now, let me get on and snatch up a few pieces that have been calling my name…happy shopping!

Thanks so much to Elle for her time, and make sure you follow @AbsyniaShop on Twitter! Don’t forget to vote for ’83TI in the Black Weblog Awards (Best New/Personal/Int’l/Writing In A Blog) – 1 more week to go in the semi-finals!

WEEKEND RECAP: Wedding Hair & The Three Naturals Curly Cookout

My weekends have been poppin’ this summer, and even though I sometimes long for a Saturday morning of sleeping in and eating cereal while watching TeleToon Retro, I really can’t complain. This past weekend, I celebrated the weddings of some great friends, and hit up the Three Naturals Curly Cookout!

If you recall from my last post, my hair and I were on the outs for a while. I’m happy to report that we’ve steadily gotten stronger and more in love, and I think we’re back on track. No professional help was needed this time around – I just needed to devote some time and TLC to her!

To prep for the weddings I had to attend, I cowashed (with Eden BodyWorks Jojoba Monoi conditioner) on Thursday night, and set about 15 Bantu knots (with Shea Radiance’s Maximum Curl Defining Cream). My hair takes more than a day a fully dry now, and that time increases with a style like Bantu knots – but thanks to Toronto’s heat wave, my hair was 90% dry overnight! I uncoiled the Bantu knots in the morning and hit my roots with the cool air setting on my blow dryer. Once my hair was 100% dry, I unraveled the style and picked the curls out a bit.

I wasn’t a fan of how my hair looked in the back, and with the heat, I figured an updo would be preferable. I slicked the back and sides of my hair up with water and Shea Radiance cream, pulled out some bobby pins, and pinned my hair into a bouffant style – let some of the curls fall to the side, and BOOM! I was ready for wedding #1!

Cascading curlies!

Usually hate bathroom shots - but had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction when I was told my dress was see-through...YIKES! Lol!

After eating and dancing my life away at the Jamaican bashment wedding of the summer, Saturday saw me getting prepped for my old University of Western Ontario homie’s nuptials. I ran with the updo look again, but this time I picked my curls out a bit more and created a bit of a hair explosion on the top of my head (that’s the best way to describe the look). After a continuation of the weekend’s wardrobe malfunction trend (bra issues and shoe straps breaking right before we left), I grabbed my favourite bright blue Henkaa dress, wrapped it into a quick one-shoulder style, and headed out the door. Funny how a few years ago, I automatically assumed that I had to straighten my hair for formal events! I’ve been loving the natural fancy styles I’ve been coming up with – it’s all about options!

HomieLoverFriend and I (with the hair explosion)

My favourite Henkaa dress! Search "Henkaa" on the blog and you'll see all the posts I've written about it :)

By the time Sunday rolled around, I wondered how much energy I had left. My feet were danced out. My belly was full of jerk chicken, rice and peas, calalloo soup, basmati rice, butter chicken, naan and more. But there was still one more event of the weekend that I could NOT miss – the Three Naturals Curly Cookout at Harlem Underground!

My homegirl Gillian and I made the trek from uptown to Queen Street West in some torrential rains, but we were determined. We were on our way to meet some awesome new folks and eat some delicious food! If you’ve never been, Harlem is one of Toronto’s best soul food joints. I hear they have the best chicken and waffles in Toronto, so if you’re a fan, hit them up!

Harlem's awesome vinyl menus

Three Naturals "I'm A Natural" button - cute, huh?

Best meatloaf ever (aside from my mama's)

Curry chicken and coconut rice and peas

Sooo....I was too busy eating and talking, and forgot to take some better pics of the crowd...I'll link y'all when the Three Naturals ladies post the professional ones!

The meetup was wonderful! After writing for Three Naturals for some time now, it was great to finally meet Noni, Juli-Anne, and Winnie – the ladies behind the natural hair care blog. Even better, we got to meet a ton of ladies who were natural, transitioning, or contemplating the jump into natural hair land. We talked, laughed, shared stories and advice all while munching on the type of food that makes you yearn for a nap afterwards. Shout out to all the lovelies that were in attendance – I loved hanging with y’all!

How was your weekend? What did you think of my wedding styles? Were you at the Curly Cookout? If so, make sure you say hey in the comments section!

Artsy Fartsy: Natural Hair Overload

When I started this blog, the impetus was to have a medium of discussion on natural hair, especially for my Canadian ladies. My second thought was that I would get bored of talking solely about hair all day, every day (I have a tragically short attention span), and therefore the entire vision of ’83 To Infinity was fleshed out. However, I spent pretty much this entire past weekend talking about/being about natural hair, and I had way too much fun!

First up was my radio interview with Emily, a Masters of Journalism student at Ryerson University here in Toronto. Emily had reached out to an online group that I am a member of, seeking to speak with Black women for her Radio Documentary class project. The topic? Discussing our hair history, hair choices, and how those choices have affected or been influenced by current beauty standards. Inspired by a friend of hers who admitted to wanting to wear her hair naturally, but having no idea how to go about it, Emily wanted to both help her friend and educate herself on a world she didn’t even know about. Unfortunately, after a vetting process that I personally didn’t understand or agree with, it was determined that the group would not be taking part in Emily’s project. I decided to reach out to her on my own, and we scheduled a taping date for Saturday afternoon.

My homegirl Mariah joined us, and I think we ended up giving Emily WAY more material than she needed! Emily engaged us with very insightful questions – she was intrigued to learn that my HomieLoverFriend was not a fan of my natural look when I debuted it, and she drew a lot of truth out of Mariah when she discussed the message of self-love that she was sending to her young daughter. We were lucky in that Emily didn’t fire question after question at us – she would put a topic out there, or frame a loose question, and then we’d go to town on it! She’ll have the difficult task now of mincing all of her material down into a 10 minute project, but I got the feeling that she learned a LOT more than she expected to, and we all had a great time sharing our personal stories. Sounds cliché to say, but if this helps even one person (Emily’s friend who’s thinking of going natural – I’m lookin’ at you!), then it was time well spent.

Once Emily and Mariah headed home, I focused on my hair in another arena – getting prepped for a photo shoot! I had been invited to the iHeartmyhair photo shoot with Sean Anthony Photography, and had to finally do something about this tired-ass bun I’d been dragging around all week. I shampooed, conditioned, and twisted my hair into approx. 15 twists (using Earthtones Naturals products), then decided to step it up a notch by curling the twists around some flexi-rods. Sat under my hooded dryer for about 30 minutes, then hit the sack in order to be ready for the early morning call time.

Sunday morning, bright and early, I headed out to Dundas West and got ready for some photo-shoot fun. My twist/curl-out came out fabulously (sorry – was too rushed to take a pic), so I was looking forward to what would be next. Añya, the super-sweet and super-focused lady of iHeartmyhair hooked my hair up into a fly side-swept look. Rita of Salon Beauty Mark did the damn thing with the makeup, then I was sent off to Sean to put the vision together.

It was my first time working with Sean, and he was AMAZING. He wanted me to be the “crazy one” – so he had me growling and scowling and silent screaming like nobody’s business! Every once in a while, he’d look at the camera shots and let out a “Wooooooo!!” At first, I thought he was just gassing me up and trying to boost my confidence, but when he showed me a few of the raw shots, I was like, “Damn! Who’s that girl?” I was giving some fierce Grace Jones, y’all. Didn’t think I had it in me, but the camera said otherwise.

The best part of the shoot was connecting with new and not-so-new faces (big up Kim, Marsha, and Shereen!), and talking about all things hair and beyond. It was awesome seeing so much beautiful hair in one spot – and in great contrast to my previous guest post about natural hair and fashion, I was so happy to be in a zone that not only was embracing natural hair, but – ahem – actually knew how to style it. Lol. Accessory queens Toni Daley and Ashley Alexis McFarlane came through with some awesome pieces, and so far, the shots I’ve seen have been GORGEOUS! Here’s a sneak peek courtesy of Sean Anthony Photography:

 Aren’t these pictures EVERYTHING? Añya and her team caught some other great shots from the day as well:

Me and the man with the master plan - the size of my mouth shows you how geeked I was!

I was in some DEEP convo here...LOL!

The lovely Añya and I...after I tried to make myself a bit more "normal looking" for the drive home!

All in all, I had a great weekend full of natural hair love. Emily ended up catching up with a few models at the shoot as well – that girl is a hustla! I’m hoping to get a copy of her project and share it with y’all, so keep an eye out for that! I guess there are ways to talk one subject to death in a way that’s enlightening and entertaining – this weekend taught me that!

Today is the perfect day for this post – still reminiscing about the weekend past, but looking forward to the weekend to come! What do you guys think of the photo shoot shots? Major thanks to Emily, Añya, Sean, Rita, and all the lovely ladies at the shoot! 

Artsy Fartsy: VAWK/VAWKKIN Show At Toronto Fashion Week

The tents - and a big screen that flashed fashion world sexiness on King St. West

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 will go down in history as one of my favourite days of life. We all have goals, dreams, things we woulda/coulda/shoulda done, and aspirations that hold value for us even if they mean nothing to anyone else. This past Wednesday, I was able to fulfill one of those aspirations when I hit the runway for the VAWKKIN show at Toronto Fashion Week!

I’ll give y’all a little background. When I was young, I was obsessed with all things beautiful, glamorous, and luxurious (a typical Taurus). While my classmates were spending weeknights at Girl Guides and weekends at gymnastics tournaments, I watched Jeanne Beker every Sunday on Fashion Television and spent afternoons perfecting my model walk. First, my mom got me involved in weekend acting classes, then she started researching modeling schools and agencies on our hometown. I can’t even begin to tell you how many Saturdays we spent at mass casting calls and sitting in agency waiting rooms…my parents paid a lot of money, we learned a wealth of information, and I was fed a ton of empty promises. Getting caught up in scams and dead ends discouraged me from my dream of modeling, and while I didn’t give up, I set it aside for a bit.

With a move to Toronto, I figured I’d have a much easier time breaking into the industry. I met a few agencies, did a few photo shoots and shows, then life got in the way and modeling took another backseat. So, how did I go from that to strutting my stuff for the movers and shakers at Toronto Fashion Week? Well, check here for my initial post. And now I’ll tell you how the day went! Consider this your backstage pass!

Call time was 1pm – I headed out of work and down to King St. West to David Pecault Square, where the Fashion Week tent was erected. The fashionista in me was drooling at the runway show happening outside the tent – everyone came dressed to impress, and I realized this wasn’t a damn game.

World MasterCard Fashion Week Toronto

I headed inside, checked in, and found my other VAWKKIN ladies ready and waiting for hair and makeup. As Fashion Week staff dashed left and right, I was constantly stopped and asked, “Are you a real model or a real woman?” I didn’t even know how to answer that. Turns out that for the sake of clarity, the staff had designated the VAWK show models (who were the agency pros) as the “real models”, and us VAWKKIN show models as the “real women.”  A million thoughts went through my head. First: They think I’m a real model! Then: Are real models not also real women? Followed by: Sheeeit. I may not be with an agency, but today I’m a real model, dammit! Anyways, I obliged and told them I was a “real woman” and was carted off to my designated area to prep for hair. Here’s where it got funny.

We were instructed to show up with blowdried hair sans product, and zero makeup. When the head stylist (hair was sponsored by Redken) asked me to take my hair out of its loose bun, it pretty much exploded off my head. His facial expression pretty much said, “Yeeeeeah. Not sure what we’re doing with YOU.” The look for the hair was pretty simple – side part and slicked back into a low bun, but I could tell my lioness mane was a bit overwhelming. I saw a few of the other Black models getting done up with varying success, and I just hoped and prayed I’d get someone who could handle my ‘do without damaging it. Enter Kiki from Koi Salon in Brampton.

Bee: before the glam squad

Kiki took my hair and handled it like a pro! She said to me “Girl, I’ve gotta make the curly girls look just as good as everyone else!” and that she did. Kiki and her hubby brushed and sprayed and gelled and pinned my hair into the required style, and I thanked all possible deities that she was my hair stylist.

While I was getting my hurr did, I heard a voice to my left say “Hello, pretty lady!” I turned and saw a CTV microphone, cameraman, and Andria Case right in my face! I was a bit star struck, then had to pull it together for an impromptu interview. I love Andria Case – it’s a good feeling to see representation of someone who looks like me on the nightly news, so it was an honour to have her pick me of all people to interview!

Kiki and her hubby working their magic

Andria Case from CTV and I - this woman is a TRUE professional

Once hair was done, it was time for makeup – Vanessa from Maybelline (who reminded me of a darker haired Taylor Swift) beat my face to the GAWDS, hunty! She had me slaying effortlessly with my smoky eye, flushed cheek, and nude lip. We had a laugh when she came at my eye with the eyelash curler, and I was like – “whatchu gon’ do with that?” I loves the makeups but I keep my tools to a minimum…like, I use my fingers to apply eyeshadow. That’s how minimum. Lol.

Hair snatched. Face beat. Slaying heaux.

Hair was finished, makeup was done. I had gotten a manicure from a sweet girl who was running around backstage with bottles of polish in a fanny pack, and I took a minute to take it all in while the paint dried. I felt exhilarated to be a part of all the madness! So many creative people in one area gave me an energy jolt, and yet so many contrived people reminded me to always walk with sincerity. Luckily, I have to say that most folk I encountered were friendly and funny, which made me enjoy the day even more. A big part of me felt totally in my element, and I could just imagine the younger me being thoroughly in love with the entire moment.

Backstage madness

Next thing I know, it was almost show time! We met the show producers, had a quick run through of our walk, then met with our stylists to get dressed. Let me just say I loved ALL of the pieces in the VAWWKIN collection – clean cuts, smooth fabrics, and accomplishes Sunny Fong’s goal of creating a line that can go from the office to the happy hour spot. Getting dressed was the first time I laid my eyes on my outfit – a sexy fitted black trench and pencil skirt, with black tights, heels, and hot teal leather gloves to finish the look. I was ready for the runway!

As I mentioned before, Sunny Fong showed two lines: VAWK, which is a high-end, super sexy line, and VAWKKIN, the more accessible and versatile line. For the VAWK line, Sunny hired professional models who did the damn thing. We all watched backstage on a flat screen as they went out and started the show…and realized this was really real. The house was PACKED. And we were up next. In the blink of an eye, the VAWK session was over, and we were treated to a short video that showed Sunny introducing the VAWKKIN line. Next thing I know, Liz the backstage producer said, “Ok Bee…GO!”

Rockin' VAWKKIN

And go I did! I remembered all of the key runway tips: stay centred, shoulders back, don’t swing arms too much, look dead straight, smile with the eyes, give a lil sexiness with the hips, don’t be too posy, stay at the end long enough for a good shot but not too long, don’t slide, don’t trip, don’t fall…then it was over. Next thing I know, I was backstage getting ready for the finale walk. I wanted to go again! I wanted another outfit! I wanted more of the limelight! I don’t know what happened while I was out on that stage, but I felt GREAT. Not one person could tell me a damn thing – in that moment, I was the ultimate sh*t. No room for discussion or contradiction. Lol! It was such a rush, and I loved it.

It felt amazing to put myself out there and live my modeling dream for a day. I loved adding to the diversity of the event, and shaking things up a bit by being a “regular woman” (even though I never feel regular) out on the runway! Many, many, many thanks to Sunny Fong, Jentzen and the whole VAWK/VAWKKIN crew – Ben Barry and Liis Windischmann of Ben Barry Agency - stylist extraordinaire Tricia Campbell Hall - Kiki, Vanessa, Jen (the best dresser ever), Liz, the 2 photog sistas backstage, and all of the other VAWKKIN models. I was a happy girl :)

Before I end this hella-long post (thanks for making it this far!), I’ll leave y’all with the video clip of my chat with Andria Case – you’ll get to see me with absolutely no makeup, me on the catwalk, and a couple of the other awesome VAWKKIN models!

And here is the full show!

YouTube Preview Image

 

So, that was my experience! Have any of you been to Fashion Week (Toronto or elsewhere) or modeled before? I’m keeping my fingers crossed and phone close waiting for the call to be shipped off to Europe for a Maison Martin Margiela show or something…I’m about to blowuptuate (word to Jamie Foxx)!

 

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