Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Balmain x H&M

Remember many years ago, when I spent the night outside H&M in Montreal to grab some pieces from their collaboration with Versace? After that, it was another night spent waiting for Rodarte x H&M with my poor sister, who tried very hard not to cry as the sun rose to indecently reveal street cleaning cars and the staggering of nearby drunks. And, after that, I promised myself that while I'll endure a little bit of suffering for fashion, I just can't take it that far again. Well, that was before I saw the latest collaboration, hitting select Canadian H&M locations on November 5th: Balmain x H&M. Oh my God.

Photo: h&

Honestly, when I first saw the teasers for the line, I didn't care much for the box cut blazer which, lets face it, can really only be effective when worn with thigh-high boots and pretty much nothing else. And as far as I like to take Casual Fridays at work, I have to stop at my french fry shirt. I just can't find a legitimate use for either of these outfits, so I kinda just shrugged the whole thing off and moved on with my life.

Nope, not for me (photo:

But then, the collection was released, and I felt my stomach drop the way it does when I really, really like something. And that's when I knew I couldn't look away anymore.  And so, with a few weeks to the launch, here are my favourite pieces, if you can handle them.

First of all, there's this show-stopper. I've been waiting for a dress with a plunging neckline for as long as I can remember, and this. is. it. Somebody better invite me to a yacht party soon, otherwise, well no, I don't care, I'll wear it to the food court if I have to.

photo: H&M

Then there's this silk (!!) dress, for when you want to curl your hair and put on the lipstick that's a bit too flashy, and call everyone at the disco Honey, and squeeze your lime slowly into your tonic to the sounds of Abba, and give him a fake number because you're too busy anyway.

photo: H&M

The following two pieces have a stunning structure, impeccable detailing, and just enough punch to be worn with minimal accessories (if any). I love the sinched waist on the dress, and the built-in neck detailing on the top. I would pair both of these with big hair and maybe some solid statement earrings, like the Chanel double pearl studs. Mega-swoon.

photo: H&M

photo: H&M

And if you don't feel like paying $200-$800 for a garment, there are also some really striking accessories that are a little more on the accessible side, guaranteeing your popularity at the next Secret Santa gift exchange. "A mug that says "I AM TIRED"??? Karen, how thoughtful! So, I'm not sure who your Secret Santa is but she left the H&M receipt in the box in case you don't love your BALMAIN scarf, which I know you will."

A velvet scarf! Love love love. 

photo: H&M
And a suede clutch! All jokes aside, I think this might be the piece I end up with. It's so versatile, so simple, and the green can be adorned so easily, yet keeps its place in spotlight by virtue of that shade being just so, so, so cool. It really doesn't care what you think, it just wants to be on your arm.
photo: H&M
And even though I already have a couple of pairs of headphones, how incredible are these? Just perfectly pretentious, and probably more for people who wear fur vests and stuff, but still so exciting to imagine yourself wearing.  Top three songs listened to by people who will buy these: 1.Jamiroquai: Cosmic Girl  2.Dr.Dre: Next Episode 3.The Weeknd: High For This.

I should also mention that Balmain has a really great men's collection this time around as well. If I had a husband who smelled really good, I think he would wear this blazer. I really love how clean the lines are, and that there aren't any garbage buttons or stars or any stupid appliqué or patterns woven into the cuffs as high-end designers seem to love to do. Gentlemen, this is the kind of blazer that tells a woman that yeah, you've done this before. That lapel tho. Damn.

photo: H&M

There are still some pieces that you know are going straight to the Next Day Back of the Store rack, that you'll see someone's great aunt buying for 70% off in a week, but I think that happens with every collection.  Sometimes it's earrings shaped like armadillos. Other times (this time around) it's a one-piece spacesuit and a dress shirt with some sort of communist detailing on the shoulders.

Whatevs, ignore those, because the rest of the line is really, really worth it. Balmain x H&M will be available in select Canadian stores so get that sleeping bag out 'cause it's gonna be another cold night out!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dublin: It's Good Craic (Maybe)

In the last few minutes of his life, Irish poet Seamus Heany’s last words to his wife were “Don’t be afraid”.  I only learned about this while already in Dublin, which is both serendipitous because I’ve been on a real fear-facing kick lately (when I wrote about those things I learned) and unfortunate, because had I known this sooner, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so unbelievably stoned on my flight over.

“Take half a pill, Alisa. Otherwise it’ll be too much and you’ll lose all control,” My doctor likes to joke. “Okay,” I like to joke back, “Half a pill.”  Cue Saturday night and me boarding my first flight and announcing to everyone that “I will take my sedative on the second flight! That way I can pace myself and not fall asleep just yet!”

[By the way, while I don’t have a picture of myself in a coma on the plane this time around, this is basically how I look every other time the ol’ Ativan kicks in. You may remember this one from that trip I took to LA a year ago.]

i counted to potato then i look like this
“We’ll pace ourselves with you,” an old lady answered, tightening her sound-isolating headphones around her head: an oatmeal-raisin covered shut the fuck up. The first flight went as flights usually go: a ridiculously handsome fella sat behind me but quickly got on my last nerve by repeatedly pressing his knees into my seat (side-note: WHAT do people do when they’re pressing their bodies into the seat you’re in? What are they stretching? What do they need? Are they having a mid-flight growth spurt?). “Excuzes me?” he stuffed his inconsiderate face between my seat and the empty one next to me, “Ow long eez delay? I afraid I miss flight to Paris.” As a flight attendant and part-time pilot, I was able to answer his inquiry, and we were shortly on our way. About halfway through the flight, I felt the familiar jolt of turbulence and as I began picturing my loved ones and whispering goodbye, “Last month, it got so hot in Los Angeles that my cousin’s cat Socks lay on her back with her legs spread open,” was graciously divulged to me by a lady with a mushroom cut. A bag of broken pretzels followed shortly.

I obviously upgraded to sit in the Converse section

At the Toronto airport, I saw pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, basically. People ask me why I didn't take the picture from the front and I always say: "Would YOU take a picture of pro skateboarder Tony Hawk from the front?" Didn't think so. For those interested, he ate a ham and swiss sandwich from Tim's. He's so modest.

Air Canada Red, the flight that would take us over the ocean, took a more direct approach and made an iconic withdrawal from the database of My Nightmares, extracting the retch-inducing vision of a fedora and outfitting each flight attendant with its monstrous structure.

You know how sometimes on the first day of school you don’t make friends, and you’re alone, and suddenly find a group of people like this smiling at you, and you walk past them and crawl into a garbage bin instead?

Also, the following is a list of worst things you can ever hear on a plane:

  1. “We’re about to land. Could you please remove your headphones?” Why? What do you know?

  1. “Seatbelt please! Seatbelt PLEASE!” You seem a liiiiiiiittle too interested in that, ma’am..

  1. “Ladies and gentlemen, as we have reached altitude, the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off and we will shortly be passing through the cabin with a selection of-“   WHERE DID YOU GO. WHY DID YOU STOP TALKING. WHAT IS HAPPENING OVER THERE. WHY ARE YOU KEEPING THIS FROM US. SHOW ME TO THE COCKPIT. WE WANT THE TRUTH.

And this is why I took the whole pill, and why consequently, the flight to Dublin was great. After a blissful seven-hour sleep on a Polish man who, upon landing, announced: “Your head was on my shoulder the whole time. It was painful to watch.” (yes it was one of the most mortifying moments of my life, thanks for asking)  and a banana loaf that I only remember eating in theory,  I finally arrived, to the loveliest sight of Ireland in the morning.

When I tell Irish people about how much I love Dublin, my enthusiasm is generally met with a little smirk and often I’m asked what it is that makes me so excited.  I always wonder if it’s because like us (impervious to the beauty of our parks, the Parliament Building, and even the Beaver Tail) they’ve just stopped noticing the things around them, or if they’re just being extremely modest when they act like it's no big deal.  The last time I went to Dublin I was 20, and though the details have blurred, I remembered my time there the way you remember holding hands with someone you had to say good-bye to before you were ready.  I try to describe the way streets look, the way the sun sets against the bridges running through the Grand Canal, the little red doors, the adorable O’ that finds itself in front of almost every name..and nothing really explains why I love it as much as I do, nothing really justifies the butterflies it gives me. I’ve come to the conclusion that real love isn't tangible, and that’s why, when I try to describe Dublin, I sound like I failed grade two. Instead, I’ll just tell you about some of the stuff I did, in a very cool and collected way.

On one of the days, I was invited to a press preview of a film called Brooklyn. It's a story about an Irish girl moving to (of course) Brooklyn to escape the small town where she grew up, where there were no jobs, and way too much gossip.  As we walked out of the theatre, I volunteered my usual film critique, ragging on the somewhat confused acting in the story, which my host was not happy to hear. “It’s about Ireland, Alisa. It just is.”  *collar tug*

Brooklyn Movie 2015 Images

I also played chess with an opponent who decided to cheat by carving the chess pieces into incomprehensible characters. Here I am holding Jodie Foster (post Panic Room) and Kurt Russell. Huh? Whose move?

And what's in his hand, anyway?

I also always remembered to look right when crossing the street, which is basically the most stressful thing you can ever do in Europe.  I think the way traffic works in Dublin is that the light is just  always red for pedestrians and cars don’t have brakes, so everyone just sort of runs, always, everywhere, all the time.  “Amber means you just go” my friend Aaron said. I took his advice a few times and almost got hit by a horse.  Okay so one time, the light turned green briefly, but cars still zoomed wherever they wanted, so whatever.

Of course I hit up Marks & Spencer a few times, not only for their amazing salads but for the donuts I’ve become addicted to through the years.  Fun fact: there is not only a Marks & Spencer in London (from where I dragged two boxes of chocolates and a tin of brandy-soaked fruit cake for my mom) but also in Dublin (where I could’ve bought those things without looking like a traveling gypsy at Stansted Airport).

One of my absolute favourite parts about Dublin is the canal that (I think) divides north from south (I won’t mention my geographically-challenged brain here again). 

Though the majority of Dublin is quiet, there’s an even greater tranquility by the water. It’s like a little blanket in the middle of the city, except don’t sit on it because you will die. I went for a run along the canal one day, and saw palm trees (!!!)…

And a beautifully crafted bridge with sort of Dali-esque curvature…

And at night, the bridges are illuminated in such an enticing way that you feel there’s a party and you hope you’re invited but of course when you get there, it’s just a bridge, but that’s okay because now you’re at a party on a bridge.

 Sometimes, people ask: “Are the streets like in the movies?” And I always answer yes.

Dublin is cozy, inviting, and hard to get lost in, though even if you were to get lost, you’d love every moment of not knowing where you are.  There is a poetry in the way people speak there, and that poetry is extended to the way the sunlight falls between the little houses, the footsteps of ladies running for the bus in the morning, and the way the hands of Irish gentlemen fall on the barrel that serves as a little table for their pints.

You already know how much I love exciting yogurt, and my obsession with scoping out new flavours at the grocery store has recently extended to an anthropological exploration of yogurts across the globe. (What?) Anyway, my all-time favourite yogurt on planet earth is the toffee flavoured kind from either London, or now, Dublin.  Not only does it taste like it should be bad for you (which fine, it is) but they always make it sound so legit.  “Made in West Cork”…I’m practically there with each spoonful! (That’s what she said). Shout-out to the gooseberry variety I thugged out on in London, and also the toasted hazelnut, neither of which I have pictures of on account of eating them faster than the speed of my camera’s shutter. This is mainly while I ate the entire week.

Side-note: why does every city in Europe always have a stand of flowers and this lady looking at me in exactly this way?

Side side-note: About halfway through my trip I made a quick run to London (well I flew there, but you know), well-prepared for the adventure with my friend Jason’s expert cultural knowledge:

When I got there, my hotel room was actually above an old Western salloon which sounds really exciting and adventurous but this was the kind of place where they only had five keys on leather keychains and when I entered the room, the curtains blew violently onto my bed as though they were airing out a recent murder.  The hallway smelled like the inside of an ear, and there was a glistening brown stain on the wall just next to my face. Despite Hotwire promising this was “just like a Hilton”, I checked in with a bartender over the trembling hands of a man working on his eleventh whiskey, brushed my teeth over a public toilet “conveniently located between the third and fourth floor”, and trapped an unidentifiable insect with my passport, before deciding to check out the next day and buy a flight right back to Dublin. London was just as it was last year, except with slightly less sleet and slightly more sad looks on account of a recent rainfall. 

On the flight to Dublin, I met a stunning girl with the most beautiful and beautifully complicated name. Eadaoin (pronounced Aydeen) is doing her second Master’s in London but lives in Dublin, and also does some courses in Belfast.  I noticed her binder said Queen’s University  London, and (okay another reference to my geographical retardation) I thought that maybe she was Canadian.  She told me about all of her commuting (she flies to and from London every week!)  and how much she loves patent law, and that she also works at Chanel on weekends. I asked her if she prefers the caviar grain leather to the saffiano, she said yes because she would get any other leather dirty, and we talked about how boys are creepy in general.  I told her, like I’ve told everyone and their mom, about my terrible crush on Dublin. She told me that it’s meant to be – that I just have to move. I then asked her if she was nervous flying, and she said no, but “I know seven people who died in plane crashes!” at which point I was like:

“So, you feel better because of the statistics, then?” I asked. “Nah, more like cause if it happens, it’ll be so fast, you won’t feel it!” she laughed. And laughed. And laughed.  Thanks Eadaoin.

Meanwhile, this Ryanair hoe..

In Canada, when people hear my name, they don’t hear a word. They hear forks dropping, or the chirping of a locust, or a foghorn. I will forever wonder why Lisa makes sense, but put an A in front of it and it is no longer a word pronounceable by the Canadian mouth.  When I order my coffees here, I spell it out for them.  What I get is Alyssa, Amanda, A, Alicia, or a picture of a swastika.  In London, however, I ordered my usual Americano and when asked for my name, I said it in a half-whisper, too tired to care for what was on my cup as long as coffee was in it.  Imagine my astonishment when I was given this:

It's ALISA bitches

I love that it’s even underlined, like take that
And guess what happened when I ordered a coffee in Dublin? Yep. Same thing.  I didn’t have to spell it out for them. I said it in passing, and it found its way perfectly onto my cup. I’m not sure how else to express a feeling of belonging, but there are very few times in life where I’ve felt truly at home, and this is one of them.

Back in Ireland, I was also privy to these hip n’ happenin’ teenage bedroom signs, which couldn’t be a more literal depiction of how hip n’ happenin’ teens speak. On the one side, you have a perfect depiction of the average Sarah’s nonchalance. On the other, a somber cry for help. Don’t have a cow, man.

 During the second part of my trip, I saw the Spire:

Which is equally cool day and night (and okay I saw it like every day cause it’s so tall):

And ate a pear and chocolate tart at the Queen of Tarts, as per Tyler’s recommendation:

That morning I also had an English breakfast there, and yes, the waitress looked at me with slight repulsion as I later ordered the tart. YOLO BETCH.

I saw a tree that I can’t really explain..

And had the pleasure of meeting a terrible tour guide, who did not believe me that Dublin has a castle (the Dublin Castle):

Who invited me to check out Windmill Lane Recording Studios where he works, where really important people like 50 Cent and Ellie Goulding come to record stuff, and really cool people like me try desperately not to freak out over this wall signed by Ed Sheeran:

The Guinness Storehouse was also something I would recommend everyone sees, if you like learning about how beer is made, and like the history of water and stuff. If you’ve never seen a concept piece of a pint glass carved out of wood, you should absolutely go:

And if you’re still unsure about how a pint glass fits into a person’s hand, this will help:

And have you ever woken up in a cold sweat? If not, this fish on a bicycle (another Guinness campaign staple) will also help:

Carol, I'm comin' home and I want a divorce. (What?)
 And your tour also includes a pint of Guinness which we got to learn how to pour:

Feel free to take a quick gander at the face of the person behind me
Oh, and I also discovered my absolute favourite burger of all time (okay okay after the Burger Lounge burger in LA). I’m not a huge fan of burgers because I find them to be very basic, in general. I mean, I get it: you’ve got two buns and a patty. Maybe some filling. But what you really are, usually, is a predictable combination of these things. Relax, bud, right? Wrong. This burger…the jalapeño popper…has changed my life. First of all, it’s so beefy.  The patty has this rich, velvety depth to it, only perfectly reinforced by the cheddar that oozes between each bite. Did you think that was it? Wrong again. Here come the slices of perfect jalapeño, but don’t worry, if you’re worried you can’t take it, there’s a soft bun to wrap it all up for you and take things down a notch.  I’m man enough to admit that I teared up with my first sixteen bites. It takes a lot for me to care about food, to think something is truly delicious. This is delicious. The place is called Eddie Rocket’s and is not Irish at all (“American fare with exciting new menu additions” they say.) Doesn’t matter. It’s worth it. You know how much it’s worth it? It’s worth it so much that I dragged Terrible Tour Guide there twice in one day.  “I LOVE THIS PLACE” I told the cashier. He handed me a deck of cards hoping that I would leave. Win-win.

you know it!
Feel free to personally message me for locations of this establishment across Dublin. I have memorized them all.

Of all the things I saw, the place I will remember most is not a cliff or stone. It’s a perfectly quirky, seedy little bar called Lanigan’s, where horrifying dolls and monsters decorate each wall and corner.  There is a cage with stuffed birds, bones, and ridiculous signs everywhere you look.

great food, okay?

There are clowns, and puppets, and I think an actual corpse. There are old men with canes and ladies in glitter hot-pants, and couples holding hands having difficult conversations, and people named Mark with teeth falling out of their skull, and there are Irish football matches on TV, and everybody yells when someone scores a goal and then they play a song that makes you feel patriotic for a country you don’t even know.

It’s the sort of place you want to fall into after losing your way in the city. The kind of place you want to discover by chance, or tell secrets in, or where you want to spill beer on yourself and crawl out of in a daze. In a way, it’s what Dublin has come to mean to me: it’s fun, and funny, and unpredictable in the loveliest way, and when you look around at its silly little faces, you want to stay forever.