Deborah Bowness
New Ribbon
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Fur. The mere mention of the word makes many cringe. In western urban culture, it's a contentious topic that divides us into two groups: those who deem fur fashion READ MORE...
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Earlier this week, I was in the comments section of a blog I frequent, and someone had posted a photo of a shirtless, young guy with red hair sticking his tongue out cheekily READ MORE...
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The Sculptured House, also known as the Sleeper House since 1973 when it featured in Woody Allen's sci-fi comedy, Sleeper, is so cool it's painful. An elliptical curiosity in concrete and glass perched on Colorado's READ MORE...
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The BAFTA qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) has teamed up with London College of Fashion to establish a new fashion film strand at this year’s event, showcasing READ MORE...
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Knitwear designers studying in Italy are invited to enter the Knitting for Juliet competition launched by Fashion Ground Academy of Italian Design READ MORE...
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It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. READ MORE...
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The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll READ MORE...
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December 16, 2010

Holiday Help is Here! Natalie MacLean's Top 10 Gift Wines


Admittedly, I have given wine as a last resort for a gift many times. It's a fine gift of course; the desperation comes from not having thought of something more personal for the recipient. Rushing out to the nearest LCBO (when in Toronto) or the local off-license (in England) only to find myself staring at the shelves asking no in one particular 'Do they like dry wine or crappy sweet wine?' I have only a brief moment with which to make assumptions about someone I barely know - if I knew them well I wouldn't be in this situation - and determine whether what I do know lands them in the category of refined palate or White Zinfandel. And then how do you choose from the hundreds of bottles? It's enough to give you make your head spin and not in a fun way. We all know by now that you can't judge a bottle by its price or the fanciness of its label, so what to do if you're not clued in to the fineries of the wineries? (Just let that one go, please).

Natalie MacLean to the rescue. The hugely popular sommelier and wine writer behind NatDecants at comes with accolades so distinguished that my inbox shot off fireworks when her email landed in it. And guess what she had done? Thoughtfully tailored a list of wines for the people you might be looking to gift during the holidays, if you're one of those nice people. She makes it meaningful and she'll make you look good. She even took the time to grant my humble request for a recommendation for the 'impossibly chic fashion-loving friend'!

Natalie’s Top Ten Gift Wines for Your ...

1. Hairdresser: For the person who combines humor and optimism every time she styles your mop. Go for a light, gulpable wine like a dry rosé. It’s versatile and fuss-free—a great quaff for your coif. 

2. Psychiatrist: Of course, he’ll analyze whatever you give him so choose a wine that’s all about balance. Easy-drinking pinot noir is medium-bodied yet packed with flavor. Surprise him with a large-format bottle, like a magnum. Big thinking means big progress for you. This wine also works for psychologists, marriage counselors and bartenders.

3. The Boss: Pick too pricey a wine and your boss will think your last raise was too much; go cheap, and she’ll think you lack judgement. Focus on a label with a lot of white space since that makes the bottle look more expensive. A castle in the distance also works, but avoid fluffy animals.

4. Personal Trainer: Think a muscular, robust red would work? Hold that position. Instead, try riesling: this light white wine pairs well with a health-nut diet of salad and seafood, plus it’s low in alcohol. You can also give it to Pilates instructors, yoga masters and Tai Chi coaches.

5. Financial Planner: You and he both know it’s going to take decades before your portfolio recovers after the crash of 2008. With that long-term view, vintage port makes the perfect gift. This fortified wine from northern Portugal, with its long aging potential, will be around for both of you into your retirements.

6. Travel Agent: She’s been everywhere and seen everything, so go local with your choice of wine. Even better, if you live close to the winery, get the bottle signed by the winemaker.

7. Teacher: If you can’t find a suitably obscure wine with a Latin name, there’s always cream sherry. It’s the tipple of Oxford dons, not to mention the centerpiece of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Case of the Amontillado.

8. Mail Deliverer: Go for a winery that’s consistent year after year in producing a wine that can be enjoyed in snow, rain, sleet or hail. Try an Australian shiraz or Argentine malbec.

9. Mechanic: Yes, there’s a wine called Red Truck, but try to be more imaginative. Why not give a wine made by Mario Andretti in California or Ferrari in Italy?

10. Online Date: So you’re on your second or third rendezvous with the person you met on eHarmony or If you’re not sure yet whether marriage is a possibility, try something middle-of-the-road, like merlot. Yes, it’s the soft jazz of wine, but until you know, play it safe.

And the bonus recommendation for Swelle readers:

2008 Little Black Dress Merlot, California ($14): A juicy, plum-rich red that will please both wine lovers and fashionistas. Generous and stylish, this wine deliver superb good taste.

Top me up!

For Natalie’s favourite wineries, tasting notes and recipe matches for all the wine types mentioned above, visit here. Trust her, she was named the World’s Best Drink Writer at the World Food Media Awards in Australia!

Thank you, Natalie!

August 31, 2010

Calling all Canadians: What IS Canadian?


I'll never forget an old episode of Toronto's Fashion Television (the best produced fashion program in the world, hands down) where host and segment producer Jeanne Beker asks a number of fashion figures "What do you think of when you hear 'Canada'?" Ralph Lauren paused for a moment before answering "Nothing." That's why I'll never forget it. That stung.

Canada has never been on the fashion map, and it has no illusions about its influence on the global industry, though that is beginning to change in small yet signficant ways. I could go into that right now but I'm saving it for when New York fashion week begins so I can push off with Jeremy Laing. More on that in a week or so.

But this post isn't about fashion. Ralph Lauren couldn't have ever crossed the border into Canada to ski in Banff or party in Montreal if the name itself conjures nothing but tumbleweed rolling across his brain. (Though interestingly, his company Polo Ralph Lauren would go on to, or had already, acquired Club Monaco, the retail fashion chain founded by Canadians Joe Mimran and Alfred Sung, its original store still in operation on Queen St. West in Toronto).

Toronto, Ontario (before they approved all of the condos that ruined the skyline - you wouldn't be able to Sky Dome or the first half of the CN Tower now)

I've been thinking a lot about my home country lately, especially having just returned from a month in Toronto and Niagara visiting family. I'm an expat who's been living in England with my husband and daughter for the past five years, and I've become aware that being away from the place that shaped who you are and how you see yourself does wonders for one's sense of patriotism. My accent is actually stronger here. People love it. I don't want to blend and pretend I'm something I'm not, I want to be the Canadian living by the sea in the north east of England.

Almost daily I'm asked by someone 'Where in America are you from?" to which I respond "I'm Canadian." Invariably, grovelling apologies follow. I mean, they beg me for forgiveness, every time. I tell them it's ok, it's fine, you can stop now. I'm never offended that people assume I'm American but I do like to make it known where I'm from, because I am Canadian after all and it's not the same and I'm proud to be Canadian. And people from other countries really like us. (Why it is that they assume Canadians and Americans hate each other eludes me, but it does point to the fact that we are perceived as unique and not lumped together as one culture.)

Welovecanada_v2_001a_15 Welovecanada_v3_001b_16 Welovecanada_v2_001c_17

But I have to admit that I have trouble with Canadian iconography. Geese, beavers, furry winter apparel. Really? Is that what we're about? We're the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass yet one of the least populated countries so that does leave a lot of room for natural life to flourish, but we have brutally hot and humid summers in Ontario and most other provinces and do not live in parkas. But does the essence of Canada really boil down to wildlife and weather? And the legacy of Hudson Bay Company selling beaver pelts to Europe (nearly wiping them out)?

What got me started on this post was colette's We Love Canada collection. That's nice, eh? But as you can see above, this capsule collection collaboration between Canadian artist and writer Douglas Coupland and Roots is all about that stuff. (What is going on with that jacket? Who's going to wear that, especially in Paris? Which one am I talking about? Either one. Note: Ok, those images are supposed to be gifs but they're not rotating. There's a varsity-type jacket with all kinds of stuff all over it, like 'flair', as in Office Space?) A colette podcast accompanies the promo which includes an interview with Coupland, interspersed with Canadian music, some known to me, most not. But I don't have a clue about music at the moment so that means nothing. It was all good, we're good at music. (Just don't hold Celine Dion against us and let's not talk about her husband.)

Coupland talks about how he grew up thinking that nature and things like the birch bark trees at summer camp were what is 'Canadian', and now he thinks these notions should stay in the past, that technology is the way to look forward for Canadians. I didn't quite get how that distinguishes us from anyone else but he's nice to listen to, his voice is like the crispy sugar crust of a creme brulee.

(It's funny to me that Michael Budman and Don Green, the creators of the Roots brand in 1973 - so quintessentially 'Canadian' because, well, the logo is a beaver and leaves - are American.)


I couldn't end this post without asking my husband what he thinks of our Canadian iconography, not only to gain another opinion before I put it to you but because he's published several works exploring cultural and national identity. His response was that Canada is one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the world, Toronto now being the world's most multicultural city with 49% of its residents born outside of Canada. Canadian culture has always been diverse, yet we've stuck with this Victorian vision of what Canada is, inspired by a particular conception of nature, the rural, the pastoral. Antiquated and more of a reflection of how outsiders see us than how we really are. It goes deeper but you get the gist.

So, I invite all Canadians reading this, or anyone who has spent time there, or maybe you live in Vermont and your backyard actually crosses the border into Canada, to submit a photo that represents a Canadian ideal, feeling, sensibility, whatever - email link is in the top left sidebar. It should be what you think, not how you think the world sees it, and us. Tell us why you chose to capture what you did. If you can't take a photo, you can just tell us what you think of when you hear 'Canada' and what being Canadian means to you. I'm interested to hear what people outside of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have to say but all will be enlightening.

When I collect enough submissions I'll post them and hopefully we'll be able to tell the world more about Canada than beavers (this had everything to do with fashion!), bulky snow boots and maple syrup can. Maple syrup sure is good though, eh?



PORTER Magazine issue 5 now available at NET-A-PORTER.COM

Cupcake Monday!

Interiors & Exteriors

Floral Friday

London Fashion Week

Fashion Illustrator Series

Artist Series

Paris & Cities

Painted Houses Project

Colour Colour 



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