What force out there has the power to draw nine women from across a vast Canadian province and one visitor from the opposite coast to a single mall in Toronto? What could possibly compel those 10 ladies to adopt an animal theme and turn said mall into their very own urban jungle? What could prompt the group to tackle all topics from handbag shape to Moroccan cultural norms and go from virtual strangers to fast friends in a matter of hours? This mysterious, potent force, whatever it is, recently resulted in one very special day!!
It really began weeks before when Sveta, inspired by international YouLookFab conventions around the globe, suggested the Canadian contingent get in gear and make something happen. What began as a forum post with few responses began to snowball when Seattle fashion star Kari floated the idea of spending her midwinter vacation in Toronto, home to some fab shopping and a handful of YLF stalwarts. A little peer pressure later and Kari’s plane ticket was booked, while those closer to home began plotting ways to show her a good time. The impetus to deliver a special day only grew as other Canadians living two, three and even five hours away, began rearranging schedules and forking over train fair in order to get in on the action.
And so, with a little help from train, plane and automobile, 10 lovely ladies gathered at Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall on a surprisingly glorious November day. The busy brunch staff probably wondered what hit them as, one by one, we trooped in garbed in our chosen theme of the day. In an effort to showcase our up-to-date style and adherence to YLF wisdom, we’d all opted to don an animal-inspired item as part of our outfit. Leopard scarves were the order of the day for Sveta, HelloKitty and Angela, while Erin carried the print over to her shopping bag and paired it with snakeskin shoes. A faux fur vest and a butterfly pin were Celia’s contribution to the menagerie, while Patty tapped into her wild side with an abstract animal print top. The outfits from Suz and Krishnidoux took flight with help from bird pins and owl earrings, respectively, while Kari and your humble blog writer went all out in animal print dresses (mine in zebra, hers in leopard). My darling guide dog Reva wanted in on the action, of course, and fit so well into our theme that she didn’t change a thing!
We all exchanged the sort of hugs usually reserved for long-lost friends and swapped rapturous exclamations about the differences between our online pictures and ourselves in the flesh, but from that moment on fashion became a footnote to the rest of our wide-ranging conversation. Keen questions, wise insight and witty banter were all on display at our table as we set about getting to know each other, a process that felt surprisingly easy after our months of interaction on the forum. I’d always read that YLF gatherings had the feel of a party where only your favourite people take time to show up, and I can now categorically say this is true.
Two hours flew by in the restaurant, and we likely could have spent twice as long in this way, but we decided to hit the stores and see what kind of headway we’d make on our winter shopping lists. The complications of group travel kept us moving at a sedate pace and prevented us from covering more than a tiny fraction of the stores on offer, but your Canuck animals gave it a game try! Angela, Suz and Krishnidoux tried to find jeans at Seven for All Mankind and Lucky Brand, and Krishnidoux showed her metal as she resisted our enabling influence and bypassed a pair of jeans that fit like a glove but that gave her heart palpitations with its dizzying price tag.
Zara proved a fruitful stop for Erin, who came away with a flowy blouse with exposed back zipper. Angela hit pay dirt at Holt Renfrew, where she acquired two Obi belts in black and brown. And after witnessing first hand the joys of shopping with discerning eyes and style mavens who encourage me to push my envelope, I came away with a handkerchief hem tunic in red, black, white and grey.
Some of our party had to say goodbye at this point to start making their way back to their far-flung homes, but five of us remained and decided to revel in coffee and conversation. Before we knew it, another two hours had flown by and we reluctantly dragged ourselves to the parking lot, taking scenic routes and chattering all the while. Every departure was heralded with multiple hugs from everyone and promises to reunite the gang very soon, a promise I have no doubt we’ll keep. Because our pleasure in the day came not from the clothes we purchased, but from the people our mutual interest in fashion has connected us with. It’s rare at any time to find a large group of intelligent peers who share a common interest. This group has so much more. The diversity that opens the door to cultural learning experiences, the humour that kept 10 people laughing throughout the day, the kindness that prompted people who had never met before to open their homes to one another, and the wisdom to harness the power of that mysterious force out there.
What is that power? YouLookFab, of course. Heartfelt thanks to Angie, Greg, Rosie and Jasmine for creating an online community unlike any I’ve ever seen, for freeing 10 animals from their fashion cages and opening the door to new social and style pastures in which to run wild.