Editor-in-Chief, Canadian House & Home.
At the helm of the country's leading décor publication, Suzanne is style personified. The former HGTV host (The Style Department), has an illustrious professional background with a turn as the Home Design Director for St. Joseph Media (Wish, Canadian Family and Gardening Life), Creative Director for House & Home's product line at Hudson's Bay and in-demand stylist. And while she says that her style goes off-duty, we've seen her cottage – and suspect that her idea of schlepping is still beyond chic. Today, the style maven shares her thoughts on her all-encompassing personal style.
Do you prefer to dress for an occasion or for everyday?
Definitely everyday. Everyday dressing is always more comfortable than dressing for an occasion. There's also more room for variety in everyday dressing.
Would you rather be overdressed or underdressed?
That depends a lot on the specifics of the occasion and what you are wearing but, if I had to pick, I would say overdressed – probably better to overwhelm than underwhelm.
Do you have a signature style or do you prefer to keep 'em guessing?
I've been told that I have a signature style. I guess it's fairly classic , sometimes with a bit of a twist. I tend to lean toward crisp, clean looks. That said, my wardrobe is frequently influenced by travel to more exotic locations. So about twice a year, for a month or so, you might find me adding in a few exotic layers. Every year when I come back from San Miguel de Allende in Mexico I adopt a passion for traditional Mexican attire. Things like the Huipil tops and all the gorgeous colours. I do the same with décor by the way. I do like to change it up now and then to keep it interesting... For me.
Your all-time favourite outfits:
1. I was going to the LG event with my good friend Mark Challen and wore this full-length black, silk halter dress by Denis Gagnon. It was such a loose and easy dress to wear but the cut and the halter neckline were so flattering.
2. My wedding dress by Carolina Herrera from White in Toronto was a high note. We were getting married at our cottage and I wanted something that would complement and work with the rugged, natural setting. It had to be pretty, not sexy, quiet not flashy and not pure white. And I had to wear flats with it in order to walk down a rocky hill to get to my husband-to-be without breaking my neck.
Your top three three celeb style moments:
1. Katie Holmes when she cut her hair short, right after she married Tom Cruise, and she was being professionally styled everyday. I loved watching her transform from girl next door to super chic. She wore Hermès a lot and I am a big fan of th errand.
2. Olivia Palermo every day. I hated her on The City but she has amazing style.
3. Chalize Theron in Christian Dior at the Oscars, 2013. Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars in Tom Ford, 2012. Georgina Chapman at the Oscars, 2013 – pregnant in Marchesa.
Can you tell that I love the freshness of white?!
Heels or flats?
Flats as much as possible. I like to be able to run if I need to. I even wore flats at my wedding. I think they can look super chic.
Will you suffer for fashion or should it be comfortable? Is there an occasion that you will break this rule?
I definitely don't like to suffer for fashion. Even basic stockings can be difficult for me. I quite literally want to rip them off at the end of the day. But, yes, I will trot it out when I need to. A great formal event or momentous celebrations are great occasions for pushing the limits.
Always stylish or does even fashion need to take a break? Any exceptions?
Oh I take lots of breaks. If you drop in on me at my cottage one weekend you will see what I mean.
On an average day, how long does it take you to get out of the door?
I would say about a half an hour every day to get dressed but an hour when you factor in packing all the stuff I need for the day, loading it into the car, grabbing a cup of coffee and something to eat not to mention firing off a batch of emails.
On a special occasion, I need at least a dedicated hour and a half to enjoy the process. I hate feeling rushed more than anything – probably because I always am.
Do you compartmentalize decor fashion as separate entities?
Yes, kind of. After all you don't buy your coat at the same place as your sofa. But I think, if you love style, you love it across the board; in fashion, food, architecture and design. You name it. And they definitely influence each other – always have, always will. But there seems to be a first and a second priority doesn't there? For me, design and decorating have always taken the top spot. From an early age I felt strongly that our physical surroundings directly influence our overall happiness. everyone has their things and this is what drives me.
Team Anna (Wintour) or Team Carine (Roitfeld)?
Team Anna for sure. I admire her dedication and tenacity as well as her continued relevance in an environment that is changing at break-neck speed. Plus, after seeing The September Issue, how could you not be a fan?
Thousands of entries from across the nation flooded ET Canada, vying for the ultimate prize: a guest co-host spot on a live episode of ET Canada alongside Cheryl, Sangita, Rick and Roz. After a series of challenges, the competition was whittled down to two finalists: Cassie Stokes and Mozhdah Jamalzadah. Thinking that they were headed to their final challenge, once they arrived at the secret location, Salonière by Jason Lee – the chic uptown hair salon, it was revealed that they would receive a full head to toe makeover from head to toe – hair, makeup (by lovely Suzanne McKay) and wardrobe. Our very own Afiya was on set to give the girls a total style over haul.
Afiya Says: Both Cassie & Mozhdah are super talented, and absolutely stunning, so my job was to bring that forward even more. They can each wear colour well, so I really wanted to have fun with a bold palette and interesting prints. For Cassie, I chose a saturated dress from Zara – the colour reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet. I went monochromatic with her shoes. Mozhdah's dress was an awesome Clover Canyon number that I found at Mendocino. I reinforced the neon yellow from the dress with shoes that I found at Aldo and earrings from Anthropologie. Cassie was ultimately the victor – hmm, she does have a lot in common with JLaw.
See below for behind the scene pics of the shoot and visit here to watch the segment.
This charming illustrated phrasebook & lifestyle guide skips right over traditional expressions ("merci beaucoup") and instead arms the chic traveller with relevant colloquialisms to navigate the social scenes of the city of lights ("Hé, chest la nouvelle son de Daft Punk!" = "Yo, that's the new jam from Daft Punk!"). I had a chance to ask author, & adopted New Yorker, Rhianna, a few questions about her appreciation of Parisienne style; here's what she had to say, along with a few pictures from her book.
Under the helm of Marie Holman Rao, Senior Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Hudson's Bay Private Brand division, comes 424 Fifth (that's four-two-four), an exciting new private label by Lord & Taylor and Hudson's Bay. Marie has an impeccable reputation built on an illustrious carrier that includes a turn as chief design officer at New York & Co., creating & developing Body by Victoria's Secret and PINK for Victoria's Secret, leading the branding and design for Bigelow stores for Bath and Body Works and is also the former President of, a little shop you may have head of, Banana Republic... it goes on.
Named for the iconic Lord & Taylor Manhattan address, I fell in love with 424 Fifth after showing an exclusive segment on Steven & Chris (you can catch the episode here). We were all giddy in the backstage fashion room touching and ogling the full midi skirts (with pockets!), digital palm prints, and perfectly draped blouses. Imagine our excitement when we learned that the entire collection ranges between $29-$300! The week following taping, I was fortunate to meet Marie and her design team – a group of ultra chic ladies – at the Trump hotel and had the opportunity to get an inside scoop on the collection, business strategy and what's to come.
Why launch this brand?
The whole reason was for Lord & Taylor and The Hudson’s Bay to have an to have an exclusive, private label brand. And the thought process was to elevate that brand, not make it a commodity – we are also the group that does Lord & Taylor cashmere and commodity products – but elevate it just above commodity products into a whole well-thought out line that was fashion forward but accessible in terms of price point. It would be an umbrella fashion idea for both brands, Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor.
How is it differentiated from Lord & Taylor?
The aesthetic is different from anything that is out there because it is a combination of a lot of things that we all love: beautiful fabric, the idea of silhouette – what is the silhouette of the season and how can we take that silhouette and make it different. This season was very architectural, so we found this fabulous silk pile and said ‘wouldn’t this make a great skirt, it just stands by itself’; it’s very architectural but at the same time very pretty. An architectural idea that anyone can wear because it’s so pretty. So when you mix the two of them you get a winner and that’s what we try to do in terms of thinking about the customer; what is it that she doesn’t have in her closet and what is it that she doesn’t [even] know that she wants. Every piece that we do, we try to make it emotional.
Let’s talk about the fabric...
We really thought about fabric. Every single one of us is so into it and we have a fabric researcher who is so into it. She gets so excited, she so believes in it, we want to give the best value for the best price. She travels the world, she’s just coming back from overseas, she’s been searching high and low for next spring. She’s a girl on a mission.
About that phrase ["And the Glamour Continues..."
It’s my catchphrase. When I leave work every day, and we had a killer days, there’s stuff all around, fabric, we’re sweating; I’ll leave the office, I put my purse on my arm, and I walk out and say ‘and the glamour continues’... Everyone laughed and the team put it on a sweater, I said ‘well, no one's going to know what that means other than us’ but as it turns out everyone loves the phrase.
What’s to come?
A 424 shoe line in September. The same kind of quality, attention to detail, modern colour and colour mixes at really great prices. Once again, so affordable. There’s a great range: from flats and boots, to pumps and heel booties. And we’re just getting started, the next line will be even better & bigger.
There’s a lot of different product extensions that we can do. For fall, for example, we’re doing cold weather accessories; so hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, the whole bit. So you can have your whole 424 look. And if that goes well, great, we’ll just keep adding. We're trying to focus on the most important things of the season; so we won’t just say 'we’re doing jewellery', it’s more about supporting the clothes; what enhances the clothing. Rather just buying a random selection of bracelets, if we’re doing a bracelet then it’s got to be a key piece that we are really going to use and go back to the clothing. It should be statement but it should be meaningful.
A few words to describe the brand...
I’m going to use Barney’s old statement, because I love it; they don’t use it anymore, so I’m going to co-op it [laughs] ‘taste, luxury, humour’. I’ve always loved that phrase. There are no better words to describe what we want to do. Modern, pretty, whimsical.
How will your previous experience come into play with 424 Fifth?
A general learning and knowledge, first of all, building a brand and what it takes and being true to what a brand needs. Having a mission statement, having visuals that everyone can follow so that everyone is on the same page. Not veering from what those visuals are, and what that brand stands for, communicating that to everybody and then communicating that to the world – the world meaning the department store: this is appropriate, that’s not appropriate; we don’t want to see 25 things on the rack, we want to see 12, that kind of education. But, I think more than anything, it’s the big lesson I’ve learned: that you can have the biggest idea in the world but you need the best team to execute it. So it’s never being afraid to hire the best people and hire people who have qualities that you don’t have. I want to hire people who are smarter than I am, why wouldn’t I! There are certain things that I’m good at and there are certain things people excel at that I’m just okay at. So I want that person. Every single person has to bring something to the table and the team’s got to gel. My job is not so much about teaching people, it’s to mentor people to be able to do what I do and if that could be my legacy, I’d be so happy with that.
After a five year hiatus from Toronto fashion week, the Dutch-bred retailer made a welcome return to the runway. The GSUS Sindustries show began with one of its founding members, and emerging musical artist, Cylenz taking the stage. The collection, named Tour Des Alpes, represents a coming together of two worlds: nature and cultural heritage, including Alpine Folklore and The Swiss Cross. I was lucky enough to catch up with the GSUS crew for an exclusive backstage interview for The Style House. – Santanae
Welcome back to Toronto fashion week, how does it feel to be back?
Amazing....exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point.
How did you guys come up with the playlist for the show?
As you know, Cylenz opened up the show and all tracks played throughout the show were by Cylenz [new to the music scene, Cylenz splits his time between Los Angeles, Toronto and Trinidad].
What was the inspiration for this collection?
The inspiration for the collection was Boy Scouts meet The Alps. We were really inspired particularly by The Boy Scouts and their gear, elements like robes and carabineers, were added to shape the collection's feminine dresses. As for colour, the collection's palette was lifted from classic vintage ski imagery, such as retro red.
How do you manage to stay true to your brand's integrity while still remaining relevant?
We always try to create a collection that makes sense. We don't want to become complacent in the marketplace so we are always striving to create interesting pieces that are true to our identity but are still wearable.
How does the Canadian market differ from the European market?
That's a really interesting question. I [Cylenz] do a lot of travelling and with border lines opening up we find that across the board consumers are very much the same in terms of what they want. At the end of the day GSUS clothing is all about making those pieces your own.
What can we expect from the GSUS crew this year?
Always something new and interesting with the GSUS brand and 2014 is no different.... you will just have to stay tuned and see!
And we shall :)
If, as they say, three makes a trend – roll top bags are on the cusp of a moment. Last week I attended the One of a Kind Show media breakfast and was able to do a quick walk through of, what is, unquestionably one of the best groupings of independent artisans in the city. My first visit was to menswear accessory line, Madrad, designed by Malcolm Halley. While the collection is geared toward men, I fell in love with a waxed canvas rolled top bag with genuine leather straps ($295).
For the second time, I was drawn to a handsome rolled top number, this one by Etsy seller Jihan Victoria ($220). Her use of cork leather from Portugal and Horween leather was another interesting design with a rolled top. Then I stumbled on the Rachel F booth, and there was a nicely edited collection of, you guessed it, rolled top bags ($240) in chic understated recycled leather and cotton.
I love the simplicity and subtle detail of this style and each designers unique spin on the roll top. Now the difficult part: which to choose?
Officially a week into spring and the temperature seems finally willing to cooperate. Most exciting? Time to dust off the memories of S/S 2014 and start working in the pieces that have been so patiently waiting to see the light of day. Here is a look at a few of the shows that tickled my fancy both at home and abroad:
And then there was the Burberry finale with rose petals falling on models donning Kane's creations in pastel colours that were good enough to eat.
Afiya says: The takeaway at this show is all about the palette. So beautiful, it makes me want to add pastels to my wardrobe in a major way!
Picture Karl Lagerfeld strutting down the runway to Janelle Monae's Q.U.E.E.N, well that was the scene at Chanel. Did I mention I am totally coveting that graffiti back pack!
Afiya says: One of the strongest examples of the artsy trend that dominates this season, I've seen a few really great interpretations, at Zara and Le Chateau, at an affordable price point – should, say Chanel, be a little outside of your wallet's wheelhouse.
Always a crowd favourite, the Joe fresh collection was right on point with the sporty utility trend seen all over the runways for SS14.
Afiya says: Yes to all of it.
All black everything created a somber tone throughout Marc's last show for the luxury label.
Afiya says: Legend – wait for it – ary. Certain to be in the conversation of legendary shows.
Designer Kim Newport-Mimran sent models down the runway in Edie Sedgwick inspired ensembles that still stayed true to Pink Tartan's lady like aesthetic.
Afiya says: Always a great show, I especially love the neckerchief; seems so Pink Tartan and right on trend.
Then there was the scene in a New York City post office where Gurung chose to present his futuristic collection.
Afiya says: So good –sheer lower hemline is amazing.
Tai's collection was simply breath of air. The London based designer achieved a softer take on the sportswear trend with painterly prints and graduated hues reminiscent of the sky at dusk.
Afiya says: There isn't a better way than an all white ensemble to usher in the new season.
I have been coveting all things Sport Utility for years now. In reality I secretly wish that I could wear my joggers all day, everyday, and with the resurgence of sportswear we all can now wear these comfortable pieces day or night. Unlike past seasons this year's version of sport utility has been glammed up in luxurious fabrics and blinged out detailing as seen at Prada, Marc Jacobs and Mary Katrantzou.
The key to pulling off this trend without looking like you just left the yoga studio is all about balance and proportion. No need to go head to toe, simply embrace the trend by replacing your jeans with track pants or your blouse with a colourful jersey. Lose the ponytail, add strappy sandals and a bold lip to take your look to the next level. Not into track pants or jerseys? Just throw on a pair of brightly coloured sneakers with your weekend shopping ensemble. I mean every girl knows shopping is the best cardio.
Afiya Says: I agree! I've made no secret about my love of tomboy chic and this sporty vibe is my favourite recent interpretation. Like Santanae advises, no need to go full tilt: a little perforation (extra points for leather), a cool varsity/bomber jacket, athletic-inspired shoes or visor will do quite nicely.
As the eldest of four girls, the way that siblings interpret style is something that fascinates me. My sisters and I, for example, often gravitate toward the same pieces – and will borrow from one another's closets – yet we each take a unique spin that differentiates our style from one another. And even with siblings who seemingly have dissimilar taste, there often seems to be a natural cohesion. From twins, to blogging duos, and street style stars – today, a look at some of the most intriguing sister style acts.