City Living: Made You Look celebrates 10 years

Nothing is more inspiring to us than someone who’s followed their dreams and taken the risky plunge into entrepreneurship, especially in the notoriously tough fashion business. We’re especially excited when one of these brave bunch is female, and a client of ours. 


Enter Sarah Hamel. Tomorrow, Hamel’s great jewellery design and retail business, Made You Look, celebrates a decade of open doors. Hamel started her business fresh out of George Brown College’s jewellery arts program. She wanted to create a space where fellow designers could create without having to sacrifice their aesthetic because they no longer had access to the pricey materials and equipment required to work with metals and precious gems.

10 years later, the result is two booming retail locations in hip Parkdale, one of which also functions as the design space where hundreds of Toronto’s best-loved jewellery designers create, and have created, their pieces.

Made You Look offers an awesome array of accessory choices – they can create something custom and amazing from diamonds and gold, or you can pick up a cute, faux bauble to wear out with your friends. 

The very cute Tiny Ties ($30) caused a splash when first launched, and are still available at the south side store (1273 Queen St. W.)


One of our favourite pieces at the store are the Army Man Cufflinks, which feature replicas of the famous green plastic toys, in various poses (lying down with a gun, throwing a grenade, etc.). They are a cheeky gift for the man-boy in your life, and add a little pizazz to a French-cuffed shirt. 

These are awesome. Made by Kathryn Dieroff ($120).

To celebrate her success, Hamel is throwing an anniversary party at both retail locations tomorrow night, including live graffiti art by Qwest, mind tricks from Danny Proctor, food from the El Gastronomo Vagabundo food truck, and for the first time ever, 10% off any purchase made that evening, through Sunday, December 4. Members of the public are welcome, but please RSVP here to get on the guest list.

Yum, Yum: ABSOLUT cocktails

In the spirit of the holiday season (and as a result of our recent education at BYOB), we’re mixing up some cocktails to service at our upcoming holiday fiestas. Will you be hosting a few of your girlfriends or close family members this winter? Here are three recipes that are so simple, but are sure to wow and refresh your mom, dad AND your besties.

White Cranberry Cocktail
Mix one ounce of ABSOLUT Vodka with white cranberry juice, top with fresh lemonade to taste and garnish with cranberries and a black straw. The amount of white cranberry juice and lemonade added will depend on your glass size, and how strongly you like to mix your drinks. The simple, not-too-sweet flavour of this cocktail makes it perfect for a family holiday party. Great to prepare a half hour in advance and hand guests a drink as they come in the door. Classy and festive.

Photo credit: JJ Thompson.

Sparking Pink Grapefruit
Mix one ounce of ABSOLUT vodka with sparkling pink grapefruit juice (of your choice) and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme and fresh raspberries. The combination of the grapefruit with thyme will keep your taste buds guessing, while the fresh raspberries offer a pinch of sweetness. This is a crowd pleaser, especially if you are hosting a girl’s night.

Photo credit: JJ Thompson.
Apple Slice
Mix one ounce of ABSOLUT vodka and soda and garnish with a red apple slice. You can also infuse the apple slices in the soda for about a half hour and let them float in the cocktail. This one goes out to the boys in our life. Served in a short glass, this cocktail reminds us of something Don Draper might sip on at a holiday party. Yummy x2.

Photo credit: JJ Thompson

Meet Our Client: Bill Baker

Bill Baker is the president and founder of Consonant Skincare, a Canadian-based premium line of natural skincare products that recently launched their flagship store at 2479 Yonge St., near Yonge and Eglinton.

After working in advertising and brand management for years, Bill discovered the health benefits of natural skincare, leading him to venture on a new career path. Realizing that there weren’t any brands on the market that delivered the results he was looking for and felt good to use, Bill took matters into his own hands and developed Consonant Skincare five years ago. 



Find Consonant Skincare on Twitter and Facebook.
What do you do?
At Consonant, we set our customers free. We free them from the sensitivities associated with harsh and irritating skincare ingredients, from oppressive skincare regimens and from the outrageous cost of beauty products that over-promise and under-deliver. Most important, we give them the freedom to show their best skin, because Consonant Skincare is award-winning, 100 percent natural, organic and guaranteed to deliver results.

How long have you worked with rock-it promotions?
Not long enough! It has been about two months, but already rock-it has accomplished so much for us. We feel like their fit with Consonant is perfect – they understand our customers, they get what we are trying to accomplish and they’re making it happen. That they are a pleasure to work with is just a bonus.
What do you love most about your job?
I love making products that solve problems our customers have been having for years. I love it when they tell us they’ve been looking for us, and they’re glad they finally found us.



What do you like the least about your profession/industry?
I’m frustrated by the misleading claims being made by some of the big guys. They imply their products are natural when they are actually far from it. At best it’s confusing to customers, at worst it’s dangerous to their health.



What’s your next big goal?
We want to roll out the Consonant retail concept across Canada and beyond. Having our own stores is a great way for us to get closer to our customers so we can have meaningful conversations with them. We love hearing what they want and what they think of our products. And on the flipside, we love educating them on the differences between Consonant Skincare and conventional skincare.

Why is PR important to you (and what you do professionally)?
Strategic publicity helps build bridges between Consonant and key influencers in the marketplace: traditional media, new media, and everyday lovers of fashion, beauty and style.

A little more from the fourth floor:

Book? 
I’m currently reading Damaged by Pamela Callow. It’s a page-turner by a Canadian writer living in Halifax who also happens to be the sister of a good friend.

Season? 
Definitely fall. For the colours, the crisp air and the Canadian apples. 

Sexy? 
Confidence.

Inspiration? 
Brilliantly executed global brands.

Drink? 
Strong, black coffee. Ideally French Roast.

Motto in two words? 
Passion (and) persistence.

Idea of perfect happiness? 
Breakfast on a patio beside a beach in Hawaii.

Indulgence? 
Used to be Blackberry’s, now it’s iPhone’s. (Sorry RIM.) 

Greatest achievement? 
Yet to be realized. 

Fave Five: Natalie Portman

In this new feature, we will profile five of our favourite things in a given category. What we feature will vary according to our whim, but we’re always open to suggestions.

Our inaugural post centres on the filmography of Ms. Natalie Portman. Around this time last year, you couldn’t open a magazine, turn on a TV or read a blog without hearing about Portman’s astounding performance in Black Swan. It’s been nearly a year since her Oscar win and the new mother has practically disappeared from view. As we don’t like to put anyone in a corner, we decided to honour her award-winning year with our five favourite Natalie Portman movies:

1. Black Swan

Directed by Darren Aronofksy, Black Swan is a psychological thriller set in the world of New York City ballet. The film co-stars Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel, and was the site of Portman’s introduction to her baby-daddy, Benjamin Millepied. Portman underwent a year of rigorous ballet training to transform her body into that of a prima ballerina, though many people may best remember the film for her sapphic love scene with Kunis.  

2. Leon: The Professional

A mere 13 years old at the time of shooting, Portman’s debut performance is arguably one of her most badass to date. Leon: The Professional tells the tale of Mathilda, a young girl whose entire family is massacred while she’s out shopping. She takes refuge in her strange neighbour, Leon’s apartment, where she learns he’s an assassin and begs to be taught his trade. The film tracks their quest for revenge and the birth of their unlikely friendship. Their relationship verges a little into Lolita territory, but it’s Gary Oldman as a two-faced cop that will really creep you out.  

3. Closer

Closer is a dangerous love story about four strangers and how their lives become complicated when their relationships begin to intersect. Portman plays Alice, a tough-yet-vulnerable stripper, alongside heavy-hitters Jude Law, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. This role has been touted as Portman’s first foray into more “adult” roles, due to the sexual nature of her performance.

4. V for Vendetta

We take back what we said earlier, THIS is Portman’s most badass role of all-time. V for Vendetta is a dystopian film set in a futuristic Britain, where a fascist government controls its powerless population. Early in the film, Portman’s Evey Hammond is saved by a masked anarchist named V (Hugo Weaving) and becomes his unlikely ally. Most people will remember this film for two things: “Remember, remember the fifth of November” and Portman’s shaved head.

5. Saturday Night Live

Okay, so this might not be a movie, but this SNL Digital Short is the funniest thing Portman has ever done (we are trying to forget No Strings Attached ever happened). Basically, this is all you need to know: Natalie Portman + rap = magic. Enjoy!

Media, Darling: Gabrielle Johnson

Gabrielle Johnson graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins with a Master’s degree in fashion journalism. Her dreams of becoming a muse to fellow alum Alexander McQueen never came true, sadly, but she did sit next to Stella McCartney at a café once, and that was pretty exciting.
She began her career as the associate editor of FQ and SIR magazines, where she worked with a fantastic team and was given a surprising amount of creative freedom. She spent a year as the beauty editor of Rouge Magazine before joining the Sweetspot.ca family, where she now very happily works as the editor of SweetLife, overseeing fashion, beauty and more restaurant/boutique/spa openings than you can shake a stick at.
Gabrielle lives in Toronto with her husband, their two cats and a small army of shoes. 

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
When I was four, I wanted to be a cocktail waitress; I thought it sounded like an incredibly glamorous career choice.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
Still working in fashion, but I’d eventually like to spend a little less time at my computer and a little more time playing with clothes (preferably in exotic locales).
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Show people that you’re a hard worker. Say yes to everything. Stay late once in a while. It absolutely sucks that we don’t pay our interns in this industry, but giving off an I’m-too-good-for-this attitude won’t impress anyone. We all have to start somewhere.  
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
I don’t think I’ll ever stop hoarding magazines, and I never miss an issue of British Vogue, American Vogue, Lula, The Gentlewoman, Living Etc. and Elle Decoration UK.
Online, I get my news from the Globe and Mail, New York Times and The Guardian, my celebrity gossip from DListed, and my fashion and design updates and inspiration from too many websites and blogs to list here. I’m also obsessed with the Tumblrs of angsty teenage girls who like to post photos of Parisian cafés and crumbling castles and Sofia Coppola and macaroons.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
The best was probably Paul Smith, who was lovely and charming and made it seem like we were two old friends having a nice chat. I also enjoyed interviewing Andy Samberg when I had a huge crush on him about five years ago. Nothing wrong with mixing business with pleasure, right?  
Worst?
I once drove out to the middle of nowhere to interview a flaky socialite at her faux-Georgian mansion. It was 30 degrees outside and she answered the door dressed in head-to-toe riding gear (including boots and a heavy tweed jacket) despite the fact that she didn’t own a horse and had no plans to ride that day – so of course I included that detail in the opening paragraph of my story.
She was friends with my editor-in-chief at the time, and for reasons I can’t explain, this editor broke one of the most basic rules of journalism and sent her a draft of the story before it went to print. The socialite threw a giant hissy fit and demanded we take out basically everything that made the story interesting.  
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
 
Don’t get too caught up in what other people are saying about you — even the good things. Other people’s opinions are usually more about them than they are about you, so don’t give them the power to make or break your day.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Also: you can’t make friends with salad.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Please, please, please read my website before contacting me so that I don’t spend half my day responding to irrelevant pitches. Please don’t call me 10 times in one day without leaving a single message; I have call display and you’re being kinda creepy. Please update your media lists on a regular basis so that you’re pitching to the right people (it helps if they’re people who actually still work at the company you’re pitching).
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I’ve had a lot of fantastic experiences with PR people who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, but honestly, as long as you’re friendly, helpful and get back to me quickly with the info I’ve requested, I’ll think you’re pretty awesome.
I hate?
Noisy neighbours, slow walkers, endless winters, confined spaces, Gwyneth Paltrow.
I love? 
Carbs, napping, fancy tea and freshly baked scones, Saturday morning quiet time with my kitties and a stack of books, new nail polish colours, being in London, laughter that leads to snorting, my husband’s mad breakfast-making skillz, taking pictures of trees, looking at pictures of trees, packages from Miu Miu waiting to be unwrapped, moody British period dramas and very long walks.
Reading? 
I’ve been reading The Beautiful Fall since 2006 and I’m determined to finish the damn thing this month; I’ll throw a party once I finally reach the last page. I’m also working my way through The Marriage Plot and Sophie Dahl’s new cookbook From Season to Season. I don’t cook, but I enjoy reading about food and imagining myself cooking someday.
Best place on earth? 
It’s a tie between the Four Seasons Maui and the swan pond at Kensington Gardens in London.
Dinner guest? 
Tilda Swinton.
Hero? 
Daisy from the 1980 Judith Krantz classic, Princess Daisy.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I’m an online editor with Luddite tendencies. Pass.
Pool or ocean?
Either, as long as there are no sharks around (yes, I believe in swimming pool sharks).
Voicemail or email? 
Unless we’re actually real-life friends, email.



Rave: Best wax in the city

Few things incite the type of fierce loyalty that an incredible esthetician does. We may be divided in opinion, but we’re equally passionate about the importance of a good wax. Here, in no particular order, are some of our favourite places to get your bird plucked in Toronto.

Just Me Esthetics
Owner Susie of Just Me is super quick and effective, which is exactly what women on-the-go need. There is a cult-like following for her Brazilian waxes. Susie isn’t just a waxing goddess though, she also works her magic through facials, mani/pedis and massages. P.S. If you suffer from ingrown nails, her pedicures are the best, and safest, in the city to cure the pain. And in the summer, you can sit outside on the rooftop patio. Awesome.

Standout: Susie offers a VIP card for $30 dollars. Once purchased, prices for all services are significantly less. To find out VIP cost for a service, check out the website; VIP prices are highlighted in green.


Just Me Esthetics is located at 784 College St.

The Ten Spot
With two locations, one at either end of Queen Street (Queen West and Queen East in Leslieville), as well as extended hours, The Ten Spot has your waxing needs covered. Their website also offers a handy FAQ page for the uninitiated. We’ve tried various waxing professionals at the location on Queen West and all were good, but Natalie is the best.

Standout: Each appointment room is outfitted with a TV and DVD player, which allows you to catch up on reruns of How I Met Your Mother while your waxer goes to work.

The Ten Spot is located at both 749 Queen St. W. and 1402 Queen St. E.

Queen Street West location.

Be Fabulous Spa Studio
Never taking longer than 30 minutes for a well-executed Brazilian, Laura of Be Fabulous also offers manscaping, vajazzling and detailed explanations of the different types of Brazilians available (have you heard of the Moicana? Didn’t think so. Visit her for an explanation).


Standout: Be Fabulous only offers Brazilians and eyelash extensions. Why? She only does what she’s really, really good at. And we love her that much more for it.

Be Fabulous is located at 2 College St.

Effetto Donna
One of our fashion editor friends let us in on an industry secret: when it comes to waxing in Yorkville, ignore the fancy spas and head to Effetto Donna instead. Along with waxing, Donna also offers threading, bleaching, cosmetic application and laser hair removal. 
 
Standout: Discreet environment and very non-Yorkville prices ($35 for a Brazilian) make Effetto Donna a winner. 
 
Effetto Donna is located at 1240 Bay St., ground level.

We hate to dish on a secret spot, lest it get too popular, but we can’t have a post about waxing without mentioning another favourite go-to for a Brazilian. Princess Spa is owned by the very cool and down-to-earth Telma, who just gets right in there and gets the job done, without making you feel the least bit uncomfortable. 

Standout: The price. A “bikini” is about $20 for your first, which is basically a Brazilian without the….rear part. A full Brazilian is about $35 your first time, then prices drop for return visits. Telma also has a great referral program, which is why there is a vast network of ladies that know each other and get waxed at Princess. 

Princess Spa is located at 870 College St.

 
We’d love to hear who you think is the best waxer in the city. Leave a comment below or tweet us @rockitpromo.

City Living: Mixology 101 at BYOB Cocktail Emporium

We love a good cocktail. We’re not talking Cosmopolitan’s either – we mean real, get-that-cranberry-juice-away-from-me cocktails. So when we heard that BYOB Cocktail Emporium (972 Queen St. W.) would be hosting a Mixology 101 class featuring the four standards – The Old Fashioned, The Manhattan, The Martini and The Daiquiri – we eagerly signed up.


Led by master mixologist Trevor Burnett, we learned the ins and outs of the cocktail, from its inception, to prohibition, to its many (often inferior) modern-day imitations (we’re looking at you, Appletini).


Mixology 101 is not the place to be shy. Burnett called on participants, awarding each helper with a piece of cocktail paraphernalia. You’d think putting a bunch of things in a glass and stirring would be easy, but there really is an art to the construction of a cocktail. Read on to learn how you can become your own favourite bartender.


Making a good Old Fashioned requires patience and orange Angostura bitters.

The Old Fashioned
  • Fill glass with ice.
  • Soak one sugar cube in 12 drops of orange bitters.
  • Muddle cube.
  • Squeeze orange zest (from the peel – not the white stuff) into the glass and let drop.
  • Add 1.5 oz. of bourbon.
  • Add 1.5 oz. of soda water.
  • Give the drink a slow stir. Don’t “bruise the spirits”.
  • Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

The original Manhattan was made with bourbon, but was switched to rye during Prohibition when Canadian Club was smuggled into the US (seen Boardwalk Empire yet?).

The Manhattan
  • Chill glass until cold to the touch.
  • Fill a Yarai glass (or something similar) with ice.
  • Add a 1 oz. of both sweet and dry vermouth and stir.
  • Add 2 oz. of bourbon and stir.
  • Add cherry juice or liqueur and stir.
  • Strain into chilled glass and garnish with a cherry.

The secret to a perfect martini is in the stirring – don’t shake so hard! Be gentle. And if you like your martini dry, try coating your ice in vermouth and then straining before adding vodka or gin.



The Martini
  • Pack your shaker ¾ full with ice.
  • Pour dry vermouth into the ice and stir.
  • Drain vermouth and keep the ice in the shaker.
  • Add 2 oz. vodka and stir.
  • Strain into martini glass and add lemon zest or olive.



The daiquiri was a hit with the class, thanks to Burnett’s homemade strawberry syrup. We’ll never be satisfied with the slushy version again.

The Daiquiri
  • Fill shaker with ice.
  • Add 2 oz. white Rum.
  • Add ¾ oz. fresh lime juice.
  • Add ¼ oz. simple or flavoured syrup.
  • Shake and strain into glass.
Of course, it’s always important to use proper glassware when serving cocktails – presentation counts. BYOB has a great selection of curated vintage glassware along with everything you need to create these cocktails at home.



Owner Kristen Voisey said the next Mixology class will take place early in the new year with plans for some specialized classes as well (Tiki drinks, please!). Participants pay $45 and can expect to get hands-on training and samples of each drink.  For more information about BYOB (including hours) and updates on Mixology classes, check out their Facebook page

Happy gnome.

Bottoms up!