One of Canada's most prominent fashion advisors is Erica Wark, of Carp, who sat down for a chat at Alice's Restaurant recently to talk clothing trend and tips.
A Blouse Story.
A blouse is on a hook in a shop, feeling it serves no purpose in life. “Sigh.” Then one day the blouse is taken off the hook, tried on, and is put in a bag. The blouse is taken to a permanent home. It is worn for the first time.
It is suddenly made to feel it has purpose. In return, its new master feels confident. It somehow magically brings a winning smile to its master’s face.
The master lands a new job wearing the blouse. The blouse is worn frequently as part of a go-to outfit. The master starts taking better care of herself. She eats better. She goes out with friends more often. Maybe she meets that someone special.
Her life is changed for the better.
“All because of a blouse,” said Erica Wark, a personal stylist and fashion journalist from Carp who appears regularly on national television.
“It’s incredible to see their self-esteem grow each time I see them.”
A Blouse Story is fiction, of course, but not far from the truth in Wark’s world. Along with about 20 appearances as the official fashionista on CBC’s Steven and Chris show, Wark’s home business just outside the Village of Carp sees her lending advice as a personal stylist.
Doctors, politicians, stay-at-home moms: the twenty-something’s clientele is as varied as the clothing and accessory combinations she is puts together. She does it that way deliberately. She says she keeps her prices low to be accessible by people of all income levels.
“Because of discounts I get on clothes, what they pay me is usually covered,” Wark said.
She walks clients through a three-step process. First they sit and chat so she can get a feel for what they are like. Wark is careful not to smother their individuality; she just aims to give it a boost. She goes through the client’s closet, getting rid of some items while reorganizing others. They make a shopping list together.
“People only use about 20 per cent of what’s in their closet,” Wark said. “Think of the money you are spending.”
Fashion faux pas
Step two is shopping. The most common mistake men make is fitting. It doesn’t make much sense to Wark to purchase an expensive suit if it isn’t tailored right. The same holds true for all articles of clothing. The most common mistake for woman is not understanding their body type. It should be about directing attention to the most flattering parts of the body while downplaying other areas. She is quick to add that there are exceptions to every rule.
Step three is mixing and matching. Wark teaches clients how to get better mileage out of individual items. She also specializes in economizing a wardrobe for travel.
“It gives them time to think of other things instead of what to pack in a bag,” she said. “You can wear the same pants five ways. That saves space.”
She doesn’t go so far as to say a wardrobe will change the world. But it can help with confidence and ensure that all-important first impression is a good one.
“How you present yourself is just as important, in the very beginning, as what you do after,” Wark said. A good wardrobe is a good investment, she suggested.
Wark spends a lot of time studying the latest trends and attending fashion shows in New York. She offers a few insights into this spring’s new looks.
“For women it’s metallics,” she said, adding that silvers and golds are typically Christmas colours, but not in 2013. “Metallics in all designs. And Hawaiian prints. And hibiscus prints.”
She also mentioned a 1960’s influence this year, specifically the Twiggy-inspired shift-dress.
Asked if fashion follows the zeitgeist, the current socio-political scene coming from populist roots; or if it comes from top-down; Wark said designers tend to follow the lead of three or four top designers, Karl Lagerfeld and others.
So, how does a girl from a village in the Ottawa Valley land in the spectacular CBC building in downtown Toronto?
“Talent and chemistry, I guess,” said Wark. “That’s the only way someone like me, from little Carp, gets the opportunity to appear on national television.”
Before Steven and Chris, Wark was a regular guest on a similar-type show in Ottawa. The producer of the Roger’s show called the Steven and Chris producer and said she had “it.” She was invited to audition.
Wark hit it off immediately upon meeting Chris. A couple of hours later while passing Brockville on Highway 401, she got the call.
“I was crying in the car,” she said. “They are both so down to earth. They get along just as well off camera as on. And they never forget how lucky they are. They’re really Canadian that way.”
Wark’s website is ericawark.com.
Wark is part of the Revive Your Style, an afternoon of inspirational ideas, seminars, and a sneak peek into what’s springing up for the warmer weather ahead.
For a donation of $35 to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation’s Bust a Move event, participants have the opportunity to talk to experts about reviving your style.
The event is held Sunday, Jan. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m., at Sala San Marco, 215 Preston St., in Ottawa. See goo.gl/Tg6NM for more.