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before and after

Workspace | The Sleep Shirt’s Alexandra Suhner Isenberg – Part 1

The Anthology’s Workspace column takes us inside the very creative spaces of some very creative people.

I distinctly remember when Alexandra Suhner Isenberg started her massively popular sleepwear line The Sleep Shirt (which you might have seen on Oprah’s Favorite Things, goop, or in Barney’s). We were in an editorial meeting at Vitamin Daily (now Vita Daily), where she was fashion editor and I was lifestyle editor at the time, and she’d just come back from London. There, at Spitalfield’s, she’d found an 19th century dressing gown not unlike one Karl Lagerfeld reportedly wore.

Her concept? To create a modern version of the classic piece in high-end materials with impeccable made-in-Canada finishes. Now, she’s done all that and more. She’s expanded the line, moved to the South of Sweden and commutes back and forth to Canada, where The Sleep Shirt is still made.

Here, the designer takes us inside her Swedish studio in her own words.

My work day typically starts at 7:15, once my husband has left with the kids (he does the school drops, I do the dog walking) and then I start working right away, in my nightshirt, of course. After getting through emails I go for a run or walk with my husky mutt Wanda, and then shower and get dressed. The rest of the day is work, emails, and meetings, until everyone gets home around 4:30. I usually end up doing another hour or so of work after dinner or when the kids go to bed. That’s the trouble of working in a different time zone… While it is sometimes hard to draw a line between work life and home life when you have an office at home, the fact that I have a dedicated room on the other side of the house means it does feel separate.

It’s taken me two years to figure out what I wanted to do with this space. It’s a fairly big office but the closets on one side and doors and windows on the other make it impractical for uses other than a bedroom. It’s on the ground floor of our house and the door leads out to the backyard which is perfect so I can let Wanda in and out during the day. I decided that the majority of the furniture would lie along the long wall and the rest of the space would be fairly bare.

I know it sounds cliché to say I wanted the office to be good looking and functional, but isn’t that the case for most home design now? It isn’t that hard to make a room look good, but to make it truly functional as well is much more difficult. It’s important, during a busy week, that I have places I can just throw paperwork or fabric swatches that haven’t yet been stored, without making the place look like a mess. I’ve stored things according to how often I use them, and the long countertop area over the cupboards serves as a space to put things when they come in, before they are put away. The desk is adjustable; I usually work standing in the morning and sitting later on.

The furniture is mostly Ikea or vintage auction. Not exactly the most inspiring stuff but when you need functional storage to fit exact measurements, Ikea is usually the best place to go. I’ve also got plans to get some window coverings as the light can be bright during the day. The door leads outside to the yard and also to our garage and storage room, so I keep a pair of clogs handy in case I need to go outside. Everyone in Sweden has clogs, and to be honest, there isn’t a better shoe to slip on if you need to run out to the garage, grab something from the garden, or put the garbage out.

One wall is all closets which stores packaging materials and a few personal things (my coats). The sewing machine is a hand me down from my mother in law. I’ve never had a house where the sewing machine is always out and ready to use, now that I’ve got it, it’s much easier to do quick projects. And if there is someone else working with me in the office, the machine can be moved that the desk can be used for a laptop. The magnetic white board is for storing current collection information and the boxes and cupboards hold stationary, fabric swatches, and other office or packaging supplies.

The board and letter cups are from design letters, it’s a series designed with Arne Jacobsen’s letters and they are so cute. The art wall is the inspiring part of the office, and it’s a work in progress. There’s room for more items and it will grow. There are also a few kids crafts in the room, around the sewing machine and on the magnetic board.

You’ll find the latest collections of The Sleep Shirt here and their just-in-time-for-the-holidays gift boutique here. Up next in The Anthology’s Workspace column: Alexandra’s Vancouver studio.

[Photos by Alexandra Suhner Isenberg, portrait of Alexandra by Nicole Gurney]

P.S. Know someone (like, say…you!) who needs an excuse to tidy up their super stylish desk? Send a note to — we’d love to see your workspace!

What to Watch, Stream and Read Over the Holidays

In her latest post, Katie Burnett fills your holidays with culture.

Films Worth Braving the Weather to See

American Hustle

You had me at Jennifer Lawrence’s hair. But I’ll also go for Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner in this black comedy of con artists and bell bottoms.

The Wolf of Wall Street

I’ll always go when it’s Martin Scorsese and/or Leonardo DiCaprio, but having read the book the film is based on, I am very excited for crazy debauchery and the wild ride it will surely be.

Inside Llewyn Davis

OK spoiler, I’ve already seen this but I will 100% go again when it is widely released. I assumed this film would have all the answers to life, and it pretty much did. It’s beautiful and wonderful and sad and heartbreaking and the music is phenomenal. You’ll be buying the soundtrack from your smartphone before you’ve left the movie theatre.

To Read

Plan B by Jonathan Tropper

I absolutely LOVED Jonathan Tropper’s book This is Where I Leave You but I wasn’t so hot on One Last Thing Before I Go. But, I’m going back to the beginning and reading his first book, about a group of friends reuniting and debauchery ensues.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Yes it’s a YA book and no I haven’t grown out of them. A lovely story of romance and friendship, and incredibly well written. (And once you’ve finished the book you can check out the film version with Shailene Woodley!)

After Henry by Joan Didion

I should have had you at Joan Didion. That is all you need to know. She’s just beyond. This is a collection of political essays, and they’re all fascinating.

To Stream on Netflix

Smashed with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron “Jesse Pinkman” Paul

They’re married. They’re alcoholics. It’s Jesse Pinkman. Just watch it.

Winter’s Bone with Jennifer Lawrence

I saw this in theatres a few years ago but it was so chilling and masterful it’s stayed with me ever since. I am definitely re-watching it this Christmas.

Spiral, TV Series

There’s four seasons of what can only be described as my absolute favourite French TV series of all time. It’s a detective series but like none you’ve never seen before. The characters, the stories, the hot French men and women – it’s phenomenal and exciting.

And, as a bonus, my favourite holiday movie of all time (nope, not Elf but that’s up there!)…..

Little Women with Winona Ryder

I mean. Look at them. Look at the snow. Look at their smiles. It’s perfect and you know you want to re-watch it.

Thanks, Katie!

After | The upcycled stools

It was a long road from the blah brown stools I found at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore to the stage at the Vancouver Home and Design Show.

But I made it. How? A little paint and a lot of staple gun magic. If you’re into upcycling (so fun! so green!) and you want to reupholster a pair of square stools, you’ll find a step by step (ooooh baby!) guide below. And trust me, if I can do it, you can too.

Unscrew the stool’s top and set it aside.

Prep and paint the wooden part of the stool. And don’t believe your friend Justin when he tells you sanding will take two minutes. It will take much longer, but it’s worth it to ensure the paint won’t scratch off. Prime (if you like) and paint. You may need to do two coats.

Choose your fabric and buy way more than you think you’ll need to allow for accidents and overhang. Fabrics with straight lines and/or symmetrical prints (like the one I chose, which I found at  Spool of Thread) are the most difficult to use because you have to line them up carefully so they don’t get warped. Fabrics with random prints — or none at all — are much easier to work with.

Iron your fabric if it needs it and then lay it face down on a flat surface. Lay the stool top face down on the fabric. Fold the fabric over one edge, paying close attention to make sure lines in the fabric’s print don’t warp. Then, before stapling, tuck in the edge of the fabric to create a kind of hem so it won’t fray.

Pull out that staple gun and start stapling from the centre out to an inch or so from each corner. Don’t worry about completing the corners yet. Repeat this on the opposite side, pulling the fabric taught. Complete the other two sides.

Finish the corners by folding over the triangle of remaining fabric. Pull it tight toward the centre of the stool. You’ll end up with a few pleats, but that’s a-okay. Staple until they’re secure.

Screw the tops onto the legs once the paint has dried.

Et voila! New stools!

[Blouse c/o JNBY, pants by Lifetime Collective, socks from Gap, boots by Matisse, bag by Longchamp.]

P.S. I post photos to Instagram as I go so follow Kelsey Dundon there or on Twitter @TheAnthology.

Style | Sartorial Soul Mates: A Vintage Skirt and a Clashing Vintage Belt

I find fashion rules tedious — so many don’ts! But there’s one I always abide by: replace the belt a piece comes with. Swapping out the waist-cincher that’s included with your dress/coat/shorts/slacks/whatever lends a personal touch. Besides, the belt a piece comes with isn’t always of the highest quality.

So what do you do with the original belt after you’ve unbuckled it? Keep it!

The pink and black belt in the first few shots came with the vintage secretary dress above. When I reworked the dress as part of The Anthology’s Before and Afters, I cinched it with a vintage Yves Saint Laurent belt and stowed the original.

Until now. With its wonky graphic print, this black-and-white skirt called out for a zig-zag print belt in a bright hue. Just because they weren’t made for each other doesn’t mean they weren’t meant to be together!

[T-shirt c/o Simons. Braided sandals by Elizabeth and James. Coach briefcase. Vintage skirt, belt and necklace.]

Before | The Purple Colour-blocked Shirt

Hilary Banks would have loved this shirt. She probably would have worn it with pearls, a long-strap bag, pleated pants and some sort of sassy hat. It would have been one of her more conservative looks, but she would have rocked it.

I am not Hilary Banks.

Though I do find it interesting to see how different decades interpret the colour-blocked trend. I’m not convinced the ’90s did it very well.

I’m going to get this blouse altered in the hopes that I can actually wear it in this millenium. Stay tuned for the “after” shots!

P.S. Like The Anthology on Facebook and you’ll be the first to see the transformation.

P.P.S. Take a trip down The Anthology’s memory lane with these Before and Afters.

After | The Striped Floral Dress

This vintage dress was quite the find. Especially after giving it a few nips and tucks. Now instead of looking like your mom’s kitchen table cloth, it looks like your mom’s dish towel. There’s less of it, see?

I shortened it, belted it, climbed a tree in it and chased my dog in it. Soon enough I’ll be having seaside picnics in it.

When photographer Sherry Lu shot these photos in Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park, I wore this dress with Converse Chuck Taylor Daintys (thank you, Converse) because walking my dog often turns into chasing my dog, so I needed to wear sensible footwear.

Another thing I need: a better-trained dog.

[Photos by Sherry Lu.]

P.S. You know what you need? To follow @TheAnthology on Twitter.

P.P.S. You’ll find the rest of The Anthology’s Before and Afters right here.

Before | The Striped Floral Dress

As far as The Anthology’s Before and After column goes, this “before” shot is far from the worst. In fact, this dress would be kind of cute as a costume. But it’s just that there’s so much of it, especially with those graphic stripes underneath the bold floral print. I couldn’t wear it without feeling like I was wearing an apron as a dress, so I’m tweaking this vintage piece to make it wearable.

I’ll share the “after” shots shortly.

P.S. Like The Anthology on Facebook and you’ll be the first to see them.

After | The Flowy Floral Dress

See how happy I look, sitting there on a rock in the middle of Queen Elizabeth Park? That’s a) because I was doing a shoot with Vancouver-based portrait photographer Sherry Lu and b) because my dress no longer looks like it does in the photo below.

You’d be smiling too. So how did this vintage Little House on the Prairie-style dress go from looking like this

…to this? I hemmed it! Oldest trick in the book. And belted it with a vintage YSL belt instead of its original sash. I almost always swap out the belt that’s comes with a dress or jacket, regardless of whether it’s vintage or brand new. Makes a piece your own, ya know?

I left the sleeves long because they’re fun, they’re see-through and they’re quite flowy so I feel like a true flower child (though in this photo I look much more like a tree child). Oh, and that ring? It’s by Social Experiment. And speaking of things that are social, we have quite a few giveaways coming up  so socialize with The Anthology on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll be the first to hear about them!

[Vintage dress, bag and belt, Prada sandals.]

First, third and fourth photos by Sherry Lu.

P.S. Thank you, Countdown Events, for this feature on yours truly!

Before | The Little House on the Prairie Dress

I know what you’re thinking: Hot damn! She looks good!

I don’t know what to tell you — some of us just have it.

For real, though, this dress is one of my favourite vintage store finds. A few nips and tucks and it’ll turn into a flowy masterpiece. (Just not quite as flowy as it is in these pictures.)

Stay tuned for the “After” shots!

P.S. Go with the flow. Add The Anthology on Facebook.

Style | An “After” Shot by Sherry Lu

Ah…photographers. I LOVE them! I wish I could be of them, but I most definitely am not (I haven’t even taken my new DSLR out of the box because it terrifies me).

Instead, I collaborate with them every chance I get. In this case, with Vancouver-based wedding and portrait photographer — and all-round sweetheart — Sherry Lu. She’s a superstar, no?

We shot a garden party-themed series in Queen Elizabeth Park this past weekend. The sun was out (hence the flare!) and you’d never guess this was taken in the parking lot, would ya? You’d also never guess my vintage blouse used to look like this, would ya?

I’ll share more photos as soon as I get them. Thanks a million, Sherry!

P.S. You know what else I love? Your face on Facebook! So like The Anthology!