Forget the right-hand ring: for most women, the ultimate it's-all-about-me-baby! reward is the statement bag. (That, and killer heels, of course.) Designer bags garnered a lot of play during Sex & The City's heyday, and the effect hasn't worn off. What is it about designer bags that drives some of us to question whether that mortgage payment is really so important this month? And why are they so darn expensive? CanadianLiving.com decided to find out. Here's what we discovered.
You are (and aren't) paying for the name The old yarn that "You're paying for the name" is both true and false. True, that is the bottom line: you're paying more for an Hermès bag because it's an Hermès bag. A designer brand costs more because it's a luxury product. As a consumer, you're most likely wanting the bag for its "ooooh"-appeal, and as one member of a designer purse forum put it, "You gotta pay to play."
Quality goods do cost more to produce But luxury goods aren't luxury goods simply because someone decided "Luella Barton" was a more covetable name than "George." Designer goods earn the patina of "luxury" through their quality. Quality goods cost more to produce, and that's part of the expense that gets passed on to the consumer. Here are some factors that contribute to the high price tags:
• Specialized labour The cheapest bags are mass-manufactured in countries like China where sweatshop conditions are the norm. Designer bags, meanwhile, are apt to be hand-tooled and stitched by well-compensated skilled craftspeople in places like France (Hermès, Louis Vuitton), Italy (Balenciaga, Gucci) and the United Kingdom (Burberry, Mulberry). Upshot: higher labour costs, steeper ticket price. The slower pace of production also means there are fewer of these products on the market, further driving up prices.
• The best materials Top quality leathers (versus pleather or economy leather), expensive jacquard purse linings (versus cheap nylon) and real brass hardware (versus cheaper steel alloy or plastic) all add up.
• Original designs A team of top established and up-and-coming talent from the fashion world work at each designer label, and the best talent gets hired for the highest price. Also, it takes a team of designers working for a renowned creative director/designer (say Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton and his own eponymous Marc Jacobs house) to produce an original collection. Meanwhile, if all you're doing is knocking off someone else's creation, as is often the case with cheaper bags, that requires minimal design talent. (And is, designers would argue, a form of intellectual-property theft.)
• Brand image and upkeep Makers of designer bags often showcase their wares in splashy ad campaigns featuring top models or actresses, shot by in-demand fashion photographers, in ads running in top-tier fashion magazines, all of which costs a lot. This helps establish the brand's gotta-have-it mystique, but also contributes to the overhead. Additionally, given the glut of knockoffs on the market, luxury brands are fighting back with expensive lawsuits designed to keep imposters from capitalizing on their cachet (and, it could be argued, undermining their credibility with shoddy imposters). Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), Louis Vuitton's parent company, for example, has a team of 60 anticounterfeit staff members as well as a cadre of lawyers. In 2005 and 2006 LMVH sued Google and eBay respectively over designer knockoffs being sold on their sites.
So, does all this mean you have to "pay to play" with rich celeb bag lady types like Uma Thurman, Lindsay Lohan and Victoria Beckham? Uh, no. With the array of affordable but non-knock-off bags available at major retailers, you don't. But hey, if your Lotto 6/49 numbers finally come in…
The rich, crisp and flaky crust. The syrupy-sweet filling.
Eating your first butter tart is an experience like none other.
“The reason I like butter tarts is that [they] fly in the face of all political correctness,” says
Marion Kane, food sleuth and former food editor for the Toronto Star.
“It's fattening, it's high in sugar, it's caloric–but it's delicious and I have yet to meet somebody that doesn’t like butter tarts. You’d have to be crazy!”
Canadians are quick to agree that the sticky tarts are by far one of the most iconic Canuck foods out there. But if there’s one topic that gets us otherwise polite Canadians up in arms, it’s the debate over what makes the perfect butter tart.
Gooey or firm? Should it include raisins? What about nuts? And should you use butter or lard in the dough?
To get to the bottom of this patriotic parley, we polled three Canadian butter tart enthusiasts to get their take on what makes the perfect butter tart.
“I believe the pastry needs to be made with lard–at least some of it,” says Marion Kane.
“Crunchy-crispy at the edges, even semi-burnt,” says Canadian artist and butter tart enthusiast
Charles Pachter. His secret to the best crust: lard cut with a bit of cider vinegar.
Barbara Rowlandson, festival director for
Ontario's Best Butter Tart Festival in Midland, Ont., evaluates more than 3,000 tarts for inclusion in the "Best Butter Tart in Ontario" contest. She's less picky when it comes to her crust.
“You can have sort of a traditional flaky pie pastry, which we are all sort of used to, or you can do a shortbread pastry, which is also acceptable. It’s more like a shortbread cookie and that's a really nice way to have your butter tart.” However, one unique way she enjoys tarts is with a phyllo pastry.
For Rowlandson, the most crucial part of a butter tart is the filling–it has to tread that fine line between being overly runny and being firm and overset.
“I like them to be in what I call the ‘goo zone,’ where they just sort of gently goo out,” she says.
The so-called "goo zone" was a common theme among our pollees.
“It's crucial that the filling be right. In my mind, it should be soft and gooey but not liquidy,” says Kane.
Pachter agrees: “Chewy towards the middle, gooey-runny in the middle."
"Raisins, of course,” says Pachter.
Rowlandson admits to being anti-raisins in her butter tarts, she won’t object to the addition of a few walnuts in the filling.
Why we care so much about butter tarts
“Canadians, and Ontarians especially, do not have middling feelings about butter tarts,” says Rowlandson.
Rowlandson used to sell butter tarts in her store in downtown Midland, where customers would regularly argue over the iconic Canadian pastry.
“Complete strangers would stand there in my store for an hour having discourse on what makes a correct butter tart, and I even had to break up a couple of fights, including one that I swear was going to turn into a fistfight between a couple of ladies over the last butter tart.”
A true Canadian invention, the earliest published butter tart recipe
comes from Mrs. Malcolm MacLeod of Simcoe County, Ont., and can be found in the Royal Victoria Hospital Women’s Auxiliary cookbook, published in Barrie, Ont. in 1900.
“We have something that's dear to us and our invention and we should cherish it and treasure it,” says Kane. “Food is a vehicle for human connection and people feel good when they have a food memory that relates to being together with family, and I think butter tarts were made on an ongoing basis as the standard pastry in many homes.”
This year’s Ontario's Best Butter Tart Festival takes place on June 11 in Midland, Ont. For more information, visit
buttertartfestival.ca or call 705-526-4275.
Craving butter tarts? Here are a few of our favourite butter tart recipes!
Also called: Malaysian grapes Size: Ranging from 24 to 36 inches (60 to 91 cm) high or larger Foliage: Broad deep green leaves with pleats Other attributes: Wonderful grapelike clusters of pink flowers throughout autumn and winter, followed by purple nonedible berries Exposure: South is best; east or west also works Water requirements: Very thirsty Rate of growth: Slow Soil type: Rich, humusy potting soil with compost included Fertilizing: Early spring to late autumn Issues: Drinking habit can be a deal-breaker if you're not home Companions: This is a stand-alone specimen, but begonias, nerve plants, orchids and prayer plants might grow in tandem
Nerve Plant (Fittonia)
Also called: Mosaic plant, rattlesnake plant, silver net plant Size: Creeps along the soil surface Foliage: Bronze with white or red veins Other attributes: Makes a good ground cover below other plants; terrarium-worthy Exposure: East, west or south; might endure north Water requirements: Keep soil moderately moist Rate of growth: Medium Soil type: Rich, humusy, peaty potting soil with compost included Fertilizing: Early spring to late autumn Propagation: Easily rooted by cuttings; runners will have roots and can be detached Issues: Will wilt, but revives readily; if you forget to water often, it might get aphids Companions: Great for underplanting beneath a low-light-loving treelike plant such as ficus, Norfolk Island pines, ponytail palms, prayer plants, scheffleras and tradescantia; good with begonias in a separate container
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Size: Ranging from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 50 cm) high Foliage: Dark green initiating from the base Other attributes: Profuse white jack-in-the-pulpit-like flowers Exposure: East or west Water requirements: Can wilt if you forget to water Rate of growth: Medium Soil type: Humusy potting soil with compost included Fertilizing: Early spring to late autumn Issues: Can be prone to leaf diseases if stressed by continual wilting Companions: Aglaonemas, begonias, crotons, dracaenas, ferns, ficus, ivies, mosses, polka dot plants, nerve plants and peperomias
ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
Size: Ranging from 15 to 36 inches (38 to 91 cm) high Foliage: Fat, juicy stems lined with shiny, rounded leaves; very tidy Other attributes: No flowers, but bulletproof Exposure: East or west Water requirements: Keep soil lightly moist but not soggy Rate of growth: Slow Soil type: Good potting soil with compost included Fertilizing: Early spring to late autumn Issues: Slow to form a good-looking plant Companions: Ferns, ficus, mosses, prayer plants, rhipsalis, sansevierias and tradescantia
Fashion stylist Skye Kelton explains how to take the "less is more" approach to your wardrobe.
If you’ve come to the point where your closets are bursting with clothes, but you still have no idea what to wear, a minimalist overhaul might be for you. Minimalism helps weed out the unwanted and unflattering items you’ve been hanging on to so you’re left with a chic, satisfying wardrobe. Plutino Group fashion stylist and minimalist expert Skye Kelton breaks down how to attain an easy, modern style that you’ll feel great in.
Shop with purpose
Before you hit “add to cart” on an online store or visit the plentiful racks at the mall, make sure you’re shopping with focus and not buying haphazardly. Your minimalist attitude should start at the point of purchase. Try to visualize your current wardrobe as you browse and mentally create outfits. “Choose fewer pieces of higher quality,” says Kelton. “If you’re building a new wardrobe, start with seasonless items. The same cream culottes can be worn in spring with sling-back pumps or flats, and in fall, with an ankle- or knee-high boot.”
Make it fit
A common quality among minimalists is fit; their entire outfit is perfectly structured, almost as if the clothing was customized. Never compromise on fit. “Tailoring can drastically elevate an outfit,” says Kelton. “Alter your trousers to hit at the perfect spot on your ankle to better complement your pump.” Think of Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) from House of Cards as minimalist inspiration for fit and tailoring.
Choose natural fibres
Because this look hinges on simplicity, any item, whether a jacket or a blouse, needs to exude excellence. “Opt for natural fibres, such as 100 percent cotton, silk, linen, wool, cashmere and leather,” says Kelton. “A simple item in these fabrics automatically feels more luxurious and intentional.” With fewer pieces in your wardrobe, you’ll be able to spend a little extra on essentials. A classic white cotton button-down is a necessity for the less-is-more approach.
In order to really perfect this style, it’s important to exercise restraint when it comes to accessorizing and wearing prints. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a good pattern, just don’t overdo it—and definitely don’t mix motifs. “Large graphic prints work better than minuscule prints, so try geometric patterns or stripes,” says Kelton. As for jewellery, she recommends wearing one standout piece, such as a cuff or a statement ring. “Experiment with proportion and form rather than pattern and colour.”
Add interest to your outfit
The last thing you want is for your outfits to appear boring. The goal should be to look sleek, which is effortless if your items have interesting elements. Kelton suggests choosing clothes with cutouts or asymmetrical lines to add modern flair to your minimalist ensemble. Another way to step it up is by layering with various textures and fabrics. “If you layer a crisp cotton shirt under a cashmere sweater under a sharp blazer, then top it off with a wool duster coat—all in white and cream—the effect is still minimal,” says Kelton. This helps create depth, and it expresses that your selections are mindful.
Assess your current wardrobe
Before you run out and purchase a whole new wardrobe, raid your closets to see what you have in your current inventory—you’ll be able to achieve your minimalist goals even faster and do a spring cleaning at the same time. You might be surprised at what you find. Remove any clothing you haven’t worn in ages or that don’t suit your needs. Consider getting some alterations on what you do have before purchasing anything new. What you thought was just a plain jacket might turn out to be a key item for your less-is-more style. Oh, and if you come across a trench, definitely hang on to it.
Keep those toes nice and warm this winter with this super simple knit.
Keep your tootsies toasty with a cozy pair of hand-knitted socks that are sure to be the favourite pair in your drawer. This easy (and free!) pattern is knit in Fine Tweed Yarn, which is made up of a mix of superfine alpaca, soft merino wool and viscose for warm and soft sock.
Knitting Tips: The Anthony Socks are an intermediate level pattern, and a great first foray into knitting socks. You'll have lots of practice picking up stitches, purling and knitting in the round on double pointed needles. Don't be intimidated by the heel, it isn't as hard as you think. By the time you finish the first sock, you'll be tackling the second with confidence and excitement.
Materials: - 1 skein (Women's size S, M, L), 2 skeins ( Men's S, M, L) of Americo Fine Tweed (25% Superfine alpaca / 55% Merino Wool/ 20% Viscose) 100g / 465 yards (425 m) - 2.5 mm (US 1) set of 4 or 5 Double-pointed NeedlesNOTE: if you prefer a denser fabric, you can use 2.25 mm needles. Socks will be slightly smaller, but not significantly - Yarn needle or crochet hook - Stitch holder
Note about the yarn:Americo Fine Tweed is available through Americo Original online and at select yarn stores. You can substitute for other fingering weight yarns in your stash. Remember that you will need 1 skein for women's size S, M, L and 2 skeins for men's S, M, L.
Gauge: 36 stitches and 44 rows = 4 inches (10 cm) in stocking stitch using 2.5 mm (US 1) size needles or size needed to achieve gauge.
Abbreviations and Terminology: K, k: knit P, p: purl Rib: Rib (bed), ribbing – a pattern stitch – has vertical columns of knit and purl stitches, side by side, with elastic properties. Examples: (K1, P1) aka 1 x 1 ribbing; (K2, P2) aka 2 x 2 ribbing etc. k2t (slant to R): Knit 2 together - Insert the needle into the front of the 2 knit stitches from left to right. Draw the yarn through to the front knitwise, and drop both stitches from the needle. p2t (slant to R):Purl 2 together - Insert the R needle into the front of the next 2 stitches, from R to L. Draw yarn through both stitches purlwise and drop these stitches from the needle. ssk (slant to L): Slip-Slip-Knit - Slip 2 stitches knit wise onto the R needle. Insert L needle into the front of both slipped stitches and draw yarn through to the front. Drop both stitches from the needle. DPN(s): double pointed needle(s) - A needle with points at both ends; used in sets of used singly or in sets or 4 or 5, for knitting in the round; also used for working narrow pieces of knitting, or for cable patterns Grafting: Hold the needles parallel with the purl sides facing each other and the needle tips pointing in the same direction. Thread a tapestry needle with a tail of yarn long enough to get across the entire row of stitches that are being grafted. Before you begin grafting you need to do two actions to set up for the technique one time only. First: Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the needle closest to you as if to purl it and pull the yarn through leaving the stitch on the needle. Second: Insert the needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit the stitch. Leave the stitch on the needle and pull your yarn through. Now you are ready to follow the 4-step technique called grafting: Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the front needle knitwise, and slip the stitch off the needle. Step 2: Insert the needle into the next stitch on the front needle purlwise and leave it on the needle. Pull the length of yarn through gently. Step 3: Insert needle into the first stitch on the back needle purlwise, and slip it off the end of the needle. Step 4: Insert the tapestry needle into the next stitch on the back needle knitwise and leave it on the needle. Pull the length of yarn through gently. Repeat these four steps for a few inches / cm. End at the end of your steps so you know where to start up again. Use a crochet hook to adjust the tension of the yarn you have been weaving through the stitches to match your gauge. Continue to end. Tip: I find an easy way to remember what I am doing after the initial set up row is to say over and over: Knit 1 slip it off, purl 1 leave it on, purl 1-slip it off, knit 1 leave it on. Eventually you just remember what you are doing.
Finished Foot Circumference: Woman's S, Woman's M, Women's L, Man's S, Man's M, Man's L 7.5 8* 8.5 9 9.5 10 inches 19 20.5 21.5 23 24 25.5 cm
Instructions: Leg: Using a 2.5 mm (US 1) size needles, cast on 68(72, 76, 80, 84, 88). For a stretchy cast on, we used the Twisted German Cast on for our sample. Instructions for it can be found here. Alternatively, you can use a long tail cast on using a needle one size larger for the cast on only. Arrange stitches as evenly as possible on 3 DPN's. Place marker and join, being careful not to twist the stitches.
Work k2, p2 ribbing until piece measures 3 inches (7.5 cm). Now work in stocking stitch, until piece measures 8 inches (20.5 cm), or desired length, from the beginning.
Heel: Knit across 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) stitches. Turn work, and purl across 34(36, 38, 40, 42, 44) stitches. These are the heel stitches.
Place the remaining 34(36, 38, 40, 42, 44) stitches on a spare needle or stitch holder to be worked later (called Instep stitches ).
Heel Flap (using the Eye of Partridge stitch pattern) Work back and forth on the heel stitches as follows: Row1: (RS) *Slip 1 purlwise with yarn in back (wyib), k1: rep from *. Row 2:(WS) Slip 1 purlwise with yarn in front (wyif), purl to end. Rep Rows 1 and 2 until the following number of rows have been worked 34(36, 38, 40, 42, 44)
There will be 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) chain selvedge stitches on both edges of your work.
Turn Heel: Row 1 (RS): Knit across, 19(20, 21, 22, 23, 24) stitches, ssk, k1, turn work. Row 2 (WS): Slip 1 purlwise, purl 5, p2t, p1, turn. Row 3 (RS): Slip 1 purlwise, knit to 1 stitch before gap, ssk (1 stitch from each side of gap), k1, turn. Row 4(WS): Slip 1 purlwise, purl to 1 stitch before gap, p2tog (1 stitch from each side of gap), p1, turn.
Repeat Rows 3 and 4 until all heel stitches have been worked, ending with a WS row.
There will remain 20(20, 22, 22, 24, 24) stitches.
Heel Gusset: Knit across all heel stitches and, with same dpn (needle 1), pick up and knit: 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) stitches, along the selvedge edge of heel flap: with another dpn, (needle 2) work across the held instep stitches; with another dpn (needle 3), pick up and knit: 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) stitches along the other side of the heel, and knit across half of the heel stitches. Total stitches: 88(92, 98, 102, 108, 112) stitches.
The round now begins at the Centre Back Heel:
Round 1: Knit to the last 3 stitches on needle 1, K2tog, k1; knit across all instep stitches on needle 2; at beginning of needle 3, k1, ssk, knit to end - 2 gusset stitches have been decreased.
Round 2: Knit.
Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until there remain: 68(72, 76, 80, 84, 88) stitches.
Foot: Work even in stocking stitch until piece measures from the back of heel: 6.5(7.5, 8, 8, 8.5, 9) inches [ 16.5, (19, 20.5, 20.5, 21.5, 23) cm ]OR about 1.75(2, 2, 2.25, 2.25, 2.5) inches [4.5(5, 5, 5.5, 5,5) cm ] less than desired total foot length.
Toe: Round 1: Needle 1- knit to last 3 stitches, k2t, k1; Needle 2- k1, ssk, knit to last 3 stitches, k2t, k1; Needle 3- k1, ssk, knit to end (4 toe stitches decreased). Round 2: Knit.
Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until there remain: 32(36, 40, 40, 44, 44) stitches.
Repeat Round 1 only until there remain 12 stitches for all sizes.
Knit the stitches from Needle 1 onto Needle 3. There will now be 6 stitches on each of the two needles. Cut yarn leaving an 18 inch (46cm) tail. Graft the two sides of the toe together.
Finishing: Sew in all loose ends.
Americo Original is a Canadian yarn company and online knitting shop with its own line of quality yarns, knitwear patterns and accessories. Americo’s yarns are made exclusively in the Andean highlands of South America, using only natural fibres, including luxurious wool, llama, alpaca, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere. Americo and its in-house design lab are based in Toronto, offering international shipping from its online store: americo.ca/shop.