Around the T-Dot, Caribbean Culture, Music

Black Women’s Freedom Weekend

How are you doing, Dear Reader?

On Twitter I mentioned the combined phenomenons of Beyoncé dropping Renaissance, and this past weekend’s Caribana parade. The blissful timing of it all made me dub the last few days Black Women’s Freedom Weekend. There’s no doubt that if, like me, you’re a Black woman of Caribbean descent, and you love Bey, your mood might’ve gotten a double boost of energy within the past 72 hours.

First, New Beyonce

I’m still gathering my thoughts on Renaissance. It’s a surprise and a delight all at the same time.

If you’re a fan, you probably already know “Break My Soul”. Bey dropped a new visualizer for it the other day.

And every now and then I check the internet for gems like these. It’s fun to read interviews with the people behind the album of the summer.

So many of Beyoncé’s songs are sweet to my ears. If I never write another word on Renaissance, know this: From the first time I listened, my heart burst with pride. And I thought, “YES! THIS is what Black Girl Magic sounds like!”

Caribana, aka Toronto Caribbean Carnival

As already mentioned, my ancestors are from the Caribbean. When I was younger, growing up outside of the GTA, I felt like I was robbed of the chance to immerse myself in my culture. True, I was able to enjoy some experiences, like Caribbean home cooking. But I longed for more.

This weekend, revellers donned costumes and came together for the 55th year of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, aka Caribana.

Here are a few highlights:

Articles like this one serve as a wonderful reminder of the healing that can come through celebrating one’s culture. Everyone out participating in the parade looks so joyful and free—I long to join them!

Photo via sheenalashay on

self care



How open are you to life’s possibilities? I mean really, truly open.

As I write this, I realize I haven’t been. I thought I was earlier this year. A few months ago, I finally convinced myself that it would be in my best interest to accept my circumstances. (Currently, things aren’t quite as they should be…Or is it, as I think they ought to be?) Meanwhile, I realize that deep down I haven’t been willing to let go.

These days I’m trying to cultivate my ability to both accept what is and remain hopeful about the future. And even then, beyond my desires, I know that there is more. There is that which I can’t see–what God has in store for me.

For instance, to this day I think that my ultimate work/life destination is Toronto. Then I saw this in Lilly Singh’s Instagram.

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Her words reminded me of how narrow our vision can become. That’s when I thought

Why Toronto? Why not the world?

A long-lost cousin of mine recently asked me,”Do you travel?”

Those words sparked my imagination. The truth is that I haven’t travelled. Or at least, not as much as I think I should have.

But this is not a post about my adventures. It’s about tasting and seeing what life has to offer.

Possibilities are everywhere, and they’re endless.

Understanding this can be tricky. While I enjoy being specific in my desires, I realize that sometimes in doing so, I risk limiting myself. I need to be ready to embrace what comes, regardless of where it’s from, or where it leads.

What about you?


Photo by Finn Hackshaw

Around the T-Dot, scribble-scrabble

I’ve been working…

On my Tumblr.

Long ago a friend suggested create a writing portfolio. I’m still deciding where it will be.

As for this post, a few weeks ago I started studying copywriting via Skillshare. I’m behind–and I’ll post about why soon. 😉 But as soon as I started, I was inspired to create some fake advertisements.

Check them out!

Stretch Studio - Urban

I can’t take credit for the photos in either of these. I found them on Flickr.

a4gpa took the photo used for the ad above and shared it with an Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license. Just looking at it inspired me. I wonder if a place that’s as funky as Stretch Studio actually exists–even if it’s not in Toronto.

Toronto - 2

In this piece, I used a shot by Pedro Szekely, who presented his work under an Attribution 2.0 license. It’s such a gorgeous shot–it almost broke my heart to crop it.

Around the T-Dot, Music

Indie Fashion Boutique Spotlight: DORLY DESIGNS

In the heart of Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood DORLY DESIGNS is your destination for unique designer jewelry and statement pieces you won’t find anywhere else in the city. Owned and operated by Fashion Designer Dorly J-Louis, her determination to bring you her collections is truly inspiring.

Dorly Designs' WindowDORLY DESIGNS 1173 Queen Street East, Toronto Photo: Staff

I began by asking Dorly about her background.

Have you always been interested in fashion? Did you ever think about making a career out of it?

I took a Fashion Arts class in high school. It was my favourite class in grade 12. For my final project I made a strapless dress with a burgundy taffeta skirt and black velveteen bodice. I vividly remember struggling to understand some of the technical instructions from my first pattern: making adjustments and resizing it to fit my measurements. What the teacher explained made sense for two minutes, then I spent hours at home trying to figure out how to apply what I had learned.

So I tweaked [my project] and by trial and error I made it work. And better yet, I had the exact dress I wanted and otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to wear to the prom. It wasn’t ‘perfect’ but my teacher singled it out and used it as an example to show the new students what they could accomplish in the course.

At the end of the semester we organized a fashion show for the school. It was such a success that my interest in fashion flourished even more. As a child, I used to sew clothes by hand for my dolls from scraps of fabric. And I could spend hours flipping through pages of magazines looking at clothes, jewelry, shoes and purses. Once I graduated from high school, I really wanted to go to Collège LaSalle in Montreal but the registration fee for their fashion program including living on campus was more than I could afford and I didn’t have any financial support. My father refused to sign my OSAP loan application to discourage me. So instead I applied to the Fashion Design program at the Richard Robinson Fashion Design Academy in my hometown, Ottawa. With only my mom’s blessing I worked two jobs that summer at minimum wage 7 days a week to save $7000 to pay for the 1st semester. The second semester and second year of the program would take care of themselves. I remember one day my mom looked at me and said: “You fear nothing.” And I didn’t because my plan had been to go to school. So I did.

What inspired you to open Dorly Designs?

Once I had graduated from the Academy I worked briefly as a Sales Associate for Fairweather. Ottawa is not a fashion Mecca like Montreal or Toronto, and the resources, government support, funding, jobs or opportunities in the industry were virtually nil so many graduates found work in the retail sector but not as designers. Setting up an internship placement in the field had already been challenging enough for many of the graduates. So to be able to compete in the workforce and make myself more marketable I went to university.

I got my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication and instead of taking time off to travel the world like some of my friends or become a public servant, I came to Toronto to complete a post-grad in Journalism to make sure I was educated enough to never set foot in a classroom again. From there I worked in the banking industry, and other office-type jobs, but my love of fashion and media arts was always there. After years of working in Toronto at customer service jobs I loathed, I decided to change that.

Tell us more of the Dorly Designs story.  How did you get started?

I resigned from a CIBC Call Centre job but not before I secured an agency to represent me for modeling and acting. Looking back, this was one of the gutsiest moves I made to date. My last day at work was a Friday. Monday came and it hit me – I had no job to go to. I went from working at a full-time ‘secure’ job with benefits, to not having any guaranteed source of income. I still had rent to pay, and was in need of gas to put in my vehicle, and food to put on the table. However, I finally had the free time to plan and research how to get my jewelry into retail stores. Money ran out faster than it came in. And at first, I went at auditions with no success. But the first gig I landed was a US National Commercial. I paid off my credit card and my student loans in full. Through various modeling and acting gigs after that, I saved and invested money because I knew too well what it was like not to have any to make ends meet. Without a ‘real’ job I also saved for a down payment to purchase my first condo to live downtown.

Still an unknown in the Toronto fashion scene, I approached independent boutiques like Fresh Collective, Fashion District, Purple Thumb (now closed) and Black Daffodil who carried products by local fashion designers. I was still modeling regularly for the Shopping Channel and acting to make a living. I stayed the longest at Fresh Collective; two years at their Kensington Market location working every other Saturday in the store to promote my line and try and build a clientele. I inhaled everything I learned and realized quickly that it wasn’t impossible or unattainable to own or run my own boutique. The first three stores had similar arrangements; I was paying over $800 in rent monthly to showcase my products – on top of my mortgage. It came to a point where the math didn’t add up against my sales and I decided I might as well open my own store instead of paying such a high overhead.

An opportunity came with the recession of 2008. A slew of businesses had left a trail of empty locales and by 2010 there was a lot of inventory to choose from. I had set aside $15,000 for the project which included finding a lawyer to review the lease, registering the business, paying 1st and last month’s rent, hiring tradespeople to retrofit the space, buying all the fixtures, supplies, mannequins and store furnishings, setting up all merchant banking, as well as services including utilities such as hydro and a security monitoring station. And thanks to my obsession with watching interior design shows on HGTV, and my experience as a frugalista, I did it within budget! No one will give you a manual that caters specifically to your needs or a step-by-step flow chart for how to get any of this done. Use your logic and make use of every good recommendation you receive. I embarked on this project without anyone knowing about it. So if it had crashed before its completion, that failure would have been mine to bear alone.

I had many potential locations to choose from; Queen Street West or Kensington Market? The Danforth or St-Clair Avenue? Mount Pleasant or the Beaches? It honestly came down to price. Queen Street East in Leslieville is where I found an ideal space which needed some love, but was perfect for a start-up. I will always remember the face of my electrician when he saw the original bare bones of the space. A month later he was in awe of the final results and said to me “I had no faith. You will do well here”.

How long have you been in business?

May 25, 2010, is when DORLY DESIGNS first opened its doors to the public. I never take this small success for granted. And I thank God for having been able to set it in motion.

What sort of items do you sell?

Bel Moun Collection is the house label jewelry line, which I create and manage. ‘Bel Moun’ means ‘beautiful person’ in Creole. It is inspired by a mix of mediums: semi-precious stones like turquoise, coral, agate, amethyst, jade, jasper, carnelian, black onyx, amazonite, labradorite and other quartz crystals. I love to incorporate freshwater pearls, brass, copper, gunmetal, or sterling silver in our work to create unique pieces—earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

I also retail an upcycled line of accessories: shrugs, vests, totes, and arm-warmers, made in-house from 100% wool sweater scraps which have also been well received by our customers. I find the public responds well to the ingenuity of repurposing goods into something ‘new’ again. A favourite of our Beaches clientele is our soybean hand-poured candle collection, which is exclusive to the house label. Our penny cuff links and penny lockets were a huge hit this year ever since the one cent coin has been discontinued. We were sold out of the entire collection before the Christmas shopping season ended.

Purple ShrugA Shrug of Many Sweaters – Upcycled sleeveless, above the waist, zip-up shrug. Made from 100% wool sweater scraps, felted, patched & sewn. Photo: Houman Photography

Cobalt-2-(2)-11-inchesRhythm & Blues Necklace – Blue Agate Lace round and angular semi-precious stones, plated silver & pewter duo chain links, crystals, stone powder clay floral, pewter leaf base. Bel Moun Collection. Photo: DORLY DESIGNS

Who is your ideal customer?

My ideal customer is, above all, a confident woman – whether she is 18 or 65. She is feminine and loves to accessorize. She is not shy. She can adorn herself with a statement piece and wear it. She doesn’t cower behind her imperfections. She is aware of them but also knows how to camouflage what others conceive as insecurities. She understands which colours looks best on her in order to accentuate her best assets. She knows she has a figure – not flaws. She is stylish, someone who loves and appreciates designer artistry not readily found anywhere else in the city. My ideal customer is a trendsetter who is fashion-savvy and is open to suggestions and advice to create and achieve a look that is unique to her—not the masses. I own an independent boutique. My ideal customer is also an independent shopper.

TriumphbBLOGGERTriumph Necklace – Jasper stone medallion, freshwater pearls, crystals, copper bead caps and chain. Bel Moun Collection. Photo: Jineen Matar

Where do you see Dorly Designs in the next ten years?

The immediate need for DORLY DESIGNS is staffing. I have been fortunate to have had a rotating team of Fashion Interns to assist me and it’s a mutually beneficial program that I plan to continue. Right now I am looking for Fashion Interns for both Winter and Spring semesters. I am also keen on business growth in the form of collaborations or partnerships in the beauty or service industry. I am also committed to staffing the jewelry and clothing production aspects so that I can dedicate more time to the creative and management side of the business. An online store presence this year has helped us gain a new following beyond city boundaries. Where will we be in the next ten years? You and I will have to sit down again and recap what I’ve accomplished then.

For further information on Dorly Designs, visit their web site.  If you are in Toronto, the boutique is located at 1173 Queen Street East. Feel free to drop by.


Podcast – Welcome: Wunderstrands

Hello Everyone,

I hope you enjoy my latest podcast episode. It features music by the fantastic new Canadian band–Wunderstrands.

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To hear more, visit their web site. And stay tuned to their Twitter page.