Style Profile: Grace Lovekin

Owner of popular women's clothing boutique, Mad Monkey Clothing, mother of two boys, and Humber College Fashion program mentor... that is not even the beginning of describing what a lovely and committed woman that Grace Lovekin is! I got the chance to sit down and talk fashion and all about owning a store with her.
Mad Monkey Clothing started out as "Xtreme Clothing" back in September 2005, and was later purchased by current owner, Grace, on February 1st, 2008. Fashion has always been something Grace liked - but never studied , at least professionally. She graduated from Western University for Psychology and Women's studies, and not until working at mad Monkey Clothing for two years, she proposed to buy the store, and was eventually given the approval. With no business or fashion education background, it is such a neat thing that Grace has made herself an ultimate fashion-entrepreneur. 
Grace takes on responsibilities at Mad Monkey such as visual merchandising, taking care of inventory, paperwork, and taking trips to the city for buying. She goes into her store almost every day, and is recently able to get some weekends off! In those times off, and when she is not working hard at her store, Grace says she loves to go longboarding, as well as mentor young girls and give speeches at Humber College, and attend fashion week and events.
Read further for all of the questions I asked Grace, and her interesting and note-taking-worthy answers she gave me!

Mikayla:

Do you have a certain personal style? If so, how would you describe it?

Grace:

My personal style would be described as casual. I love bohemian inspired clothing but I also enjoy the simplicity of classic lines. I suppose I am a fusion of all those things...how? I'm not sure but I pull it off.

Mikayla:

How has your style evolved over the years (if at all) from being a teen, to now?

Grace:

I wish I could go back to being the teen me, I used to wear whatever I wanted without thinking twice! Oh the freedom! But seriously, my style is always evolving! I'm a mom of two and I quiet often think, "I can't wear that" but then I rethink it and make it happen in some other way. As you get older, or as your body changes it's important to adapt and evolve your look to today's style and fashion.

Mikayla:

Would you say that your own personal style reflects what you sell at Mad Monkey?

Grace:

Mad Monkey Clothing is most definitely a reflection of how I dress but also my lifestyle. We sell street wear, surf brands and lifestyle brands which all speak to me or my past in some way. My style is definitely not defined by one brand which is probably why I have so many brands in the shop, they all have elements which I love and couldn't live without.



Mikayla:

What are some of your favourite looks for Fall 2014 so far?

Grace:

Fall is probably most people's favourite season, and I'm excited to see the crop top trend continue with high waisted skinnies. The look I'm most excited about seeing people rock this season is the 90's grunge look. Plaid, ripped jeans, combat boots, oversized crop sweaters and patterned dresses. Welcome back 90's!

Mikayla:

When you took on Mad Monkey Clothing, did you feel pressured at all, or feel overwhelmed?

Grace:

I took over Mad Monkey Clothing in February 2008. February has 28 days in the month and that year we had 12 snow storms. "Freaking out" is an understatement about my first month as a business owner. But I worked hard, spread the word about my little business and made it work. Because I was determined that snow couldn't beat me!



Mikayla:

Being a young, successful woman in a small community, many young individuals look up to people like you. What would be your advice to those who want to pursue a career in the fashion industry?

Grace:

The fashion industry is a huge world with tons of opportunity. However, as glamorous as people believe these jobs to be, they are hard. And you need a good brain and tons of creativity to survive. Some people believe I have the most magical, amazing and fun job in the world, it is that, but it's also tons of work. Work hard, know your stuff, become an expert in your field and people won't be able to refuse you. Be better than anyone else!

Mikayla:

When you were my age (18 or so) who did you look up to? What inspired you?

Grace:

When I was your age (and don't laugh), I loved Britney Spears. And this is not the Britney we know now, but the new, exciting, beautiful girl she started off as being. She wore what she wanted, and always pushed the limits of fashion. She was unique, new and she could dance! I was captivated! It's funny, Britney and I are the same age and still have a lot in common, but if there's anything I've learned from her, it's not to shave your head, surround yourself with positive people and never give up!  She's still going...and so am I!



Mikayla:

What did you learn by taking Philosophy and Women's Studies that you see applying to your day job now?

Grace:

It's funny, I do not have a degree in business, or accounting or math, or even fashion studies for that matter. I have a degree in Philosophy and Women's Studies. But I think it suits me just fine. The philosophy side of me allows me to think critically and helps me to make hard business decisions while the women's studies side gives me ways in which I can relate to the many different women perspectives and personalities.

Mikayla:

Since you are very busy and have a lot of responsibilities, how do you manage it? Any coping strategies you have learned over the years?

Grace:

How do I manage my crazy life? Good question. One day at a time. But I must say, having positive and supportive people in your life and in your business is key. Finding good employees and managing them is quite possibly the hardest thing I've ever done in my job. But I've had the pleasure to have worked with some amazing girls who have helped me grow my business to what it is today.



Mikayla:

Are there any other fashion or beauty related things you have yet to accomplish?

Grace:

I'm really happy working hard at the shop and growing Mad Monkey Clothing into a bigger and better business each year. I do eventually want to teach young people all the things that I've learned by being an entrepreneur. I've started working with Humber College and I hold work shops and give talks on how to get started etc. It's fun and I love sharing!



Grace was not afraid to wear whatever she liked, and does not necessarily like to follow trends, she says. Check out a style story of her's on Mad Monkey's website

What Grace Wore:

Top, Pants - Free People via Mad Monkey //
Jacket - BB Dakota via Faun //
Shoes - Nine West via Goulds Footwear //

Photos taken by Mikayla Kuehn

Style Profile: Jahlina Akleh

Meet Jahlina. She is a graduated student of the Fashion Marketing and Merchandising program at the Academy of Design in Toronto, a full time Visual Merchandiser at Urban Planet in Cobourg, and a part time Runway Teacher at Mode Elle in Belleville. Jahlina sure knows how to put together the latest looks on the mannequins, and how to put herself together as well. She not only follows Urban Planet's head office book and suggestions, but she also puts her own personal touch into her work. She is even trusted to head up to the Whitby Urban Planet on a regular basis, to help with their visual merchandising as well. 
Jahlina has been a staff member at Mode Elle for two years now, at the Canadian Model and Talent Convention. She has also been teaching lately; She instructs aspiring models about runway posing, posture, and poise. Jahlina is highly looked up to in this industry, especially by her students. With her sweet personality and years of experience, whoever enters her class is sure to be inspired and taught things they will surely remember.
Being a model on the side, Jahlina sure knew how to strike a pose for me while I was photographing her! Read about her experiences in her lovely interview below.

Mikayla: 

What are some of your favourite pieces in your closet?

Jahlina:

I'd definitely have to start off by saying my shoe collection! (Because you can't just have one favourite heel, the more the better!) My Micheal Kors watch is my favourite accessory, and I do love my oversized t-shirts - they are perfect to pair with a nice pair of jeans and an accent jewelry piece.

Mikayla:

How does your style reflect who you are as a person?

Jahlina:

I love mixing pieces and wearing things that express how I'm feeling that day, I don't necessarily follow trends, I just like being comfortable and would consider myself to be an outgoing person, and like trying new things! I believe that my style matches that exactly.



Mikayla:

What was your favourite thing about the program you took at the Academy of Design?

Jahlina:

At the Academy of Design, I had teachers that were very well known and in the fashion industry. They knew what they were talking about and I learned so much from them and their first hand knowledge.

Mikayla:

Do you think that it prepared you enough for the work force in that area?

Jahlina:

I think so; It was a very hands on program and I had a lot of material/work to do in a short period of time, which helped me cope with the pressure of time management. One class I took was strictly visual merchandising, and that's how I found out what I wanted to do with my career. I have always loved fashion but never knew where to go with it! The school definitely opened up a lot of avenues for me.



Mikayla:

Do you ever feel pressured as a fashion merchandiser? Or are you ever stuck and unsure of what to put together? 

Jahlina:

Very much so, there are always time limits and rules to be followed like every job. I'm a bit of a perfectionist so when something doesn't work out, or I don't have the products to create the beautiful walls head office wants, I get a little frustrated. I simply just walk away and take a break from what I'm doing in order to refresh myself. You can never get anywhere with a frazzled mind!

Mikayla:

When creating an outfit combination for mannequins at work, what do you look for? Colour? Symmetry? Accents? 

Jahlina:

Every wall display I do is always by colour, I then use prints/patterns and bust forms to to create symmetry in the wall so everything is clean and makes sense! (I can be pretty picky.) On the other hand, mannequin displays can go any which way, so it's all depending on what feel I'm going for, I normally choose by what product is in the store and use trendy pieces to create looks I hope will catch the customer's eye.

Mikayla:

Describe the last display you put together. What were the mannequins dressed like? What trends, styles, colours, etc? 

Jahlina:

The most recent visual project I did was a big one...! In 3 days I switched a whole Urban Planet store around to get ready with our fall/back to school products. It consisted of a 6 panel wall of jeans, a sweat pant wall, hoodie wall, yoga pant wall and the list goes on and on. Each of the walls had their own marketing poster/mannequins and stickers to go on the walls and shelves, and specific folds for the pants needed to be followed. The colours in the walls always go from lightest to darkest and by style when dealing with bottoms. 

Mikayla:

What are your future plans? Are you leaning more towards a modeling industry, or visual merchandiser?

Jahlina:

At this point in my life I'm really enjoying both, and multi-tasking between the two. I would like to see within the next year or two where they take me, and decide then!




Mikayla:

What kind of advice would you give to a young, aspiring model?

Jahlina:

BE CONFIDENT. The modeling industry is a tough industry. It may look very glamorous, and can be, but it takes work to get to that stage. You have to be able to take criticism and turn it into something to work on. You are going to hear a lot of "no's" before you hear that one yes, but you need to believe in yourself!

Mikayla:

Being a teacher to young individuals, what do you think is most important that they learn from you and about walking on the runway? (I know that appearance is very strict in the modeling industry, and some younger girls may find it hard to find self confidence. Do you try to help them with that as well?)

Jahlina:

Definitely the number one thing is confidence!! I am very clear with my students that you have to love yourself and be confident in who you are and what you do, in order to succeed. Not only in the modeling industry, but life as well. I teach my students (both male and female) the proper poise and posture for the runway, then I teach them various turns and poses to use on the runway. I always remind them to be confident and not to be scared in my class. They are there to learn and can ask me any questions they like. I'm there to guide them and critique them to help them get to where they need to be, and get them ready for what's to come in the modeling industry.

What Jahlina Wore:

Pants, Bracelet - Garage //
Shoes (wedges) - Spring //
Earrings - Urban Planet //