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The best (and worst) in fashion and design from 2009 Add to ...

FASHION PICKS

Michelle Obama's inauguration outfit (day)

For her first style statement as first lady, Obama appeared in an inspired and optimistic citron yellow. The brocade dress and coat, designed by Isabel Toledo, may have bordered on furniture upholstery, but it confirmed that the President's message of change applied equally to his wife's wardrobe. Bonus points for the vintage brooch from Canada's Carole Tanenbaum.



Balmain

Christophe Decarnin has been touted ever since he joined Balmain as creative director in 2005. In '09, however, both of the house's collections improved on his already edgy aesthetic while attracting a wider following among celebs. Further proof of his penetration: Fast-fashion knockoffs of his stiff-shouldered rocker jackets, sequined mini dresses, slashed skin-tight jeans and multi-buckle boots.



Fashion-themed docs

While films set in the fashion world were mostly dogs last year (see Pans), 2009 witnessed the release of superb behind-the-seams documentaries. What resonated most about Valentino: The Last Emperor and The September Issue was how their creators disproved the alleged superficiality of the glad rag industry by focusing on people and relationships of substance.



Stella McCartney for Gap Kids

Thanks to this super cute, relatively affordable collaboration, toddlers and tykes had no excuse for looking goofy on the playground. Unsurprisingly, the highest demand came from adults petite enough to fit into the snow leopard sweaters, cashmere leggings and ombré tutus. Even Carla Bruni-Sarkozy donned the très jolie military jacket for a TV appearance.



Lady Gaga's fearless fashion

When Barbara Amiel said in 2002 that her "extravagance knows no bounds," neither she nor we had heard of Lady Gaga, who was still Stephanie Germanotta. Lady Black, however, could take a lesson in excess from the pop sensation, whose futuristic, fetishistic, couture-driven ensembles have become the ne plus ultra in kooky eye candy. And she keeps outdressing herself, no mean feat.



Mark Fast

The story - Canadian designer finds success abroad - isn't new, but what Winnipeg-born, London-based Fast has up his sleeve is a unique and utterly feminine approach to knitwear that is suited to all figures. The 28-year-old caused a mini sensation when his SS10 show featured three plus-sized models in his cobwebby Lycra yarn dresses, turning body-con into body-pro.



The Room

In October, the Bay's crown jewel, the St. Regis Room in Toronto, reopened in larger, swankier digs, giving notice that it was ready to reclaim its position as Canada's foremost fashion stop. The 20,000-square-foot space, designed to the nines by Yabu Pushelberg, is president and CEO Bonnie Brooks' first major step toward rebranding Canada's oldest department store. Her not-so-secret weapon: creative director Nicholas Mellamphy, who homes in on emerging labels such as Prabal Gurung.



Model Lara Stone

The latest issue of Vogue describes her as "Sandra Bernhard crossed with Grace Kelly," she walked just about every designer show last year, W crowned her "Fashion's It Girl" in August and you can now find her starkers on the cover of Love magazine. Best of all, 26-year-old Dutch-born Stone is a curvy size four, which, in a sea of über waifs, marks a high-heeled step in the right direction.



Fashion blogger Tommy Ton

For Canadian fashion junkies, Oakville native Tommy Ton is a bigger celebrity than Shania Twain. Our answer to The Sartorialist, his acutely edited Jak & Jil blog has caught the attention of and garnered him gigs with Flare magazine, Style.com, Linda Latner's Vintage Couture site and Asian retailer Lane Crawford. Cue the book deal, film and museum exhibition.



Bow ties



Spotted on everyone from CP24's Stephen LeDrew to Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass, the bow tie had a breakthrough year, becoming the easiest and most distinctive wardrobe update for men. Reflecting its popularity, the biggest question wasn't how to tie one - many are pre-knotted - but what kind to choose: Options ranged from luxe (Lanvin) to edgy (Christopher Sherman) to hipster prep (American Apparel).



FASHION PANS

Michelle Obama's inauguration outfit (night)

After months of wearing body-skimming shifts in jewel-toned hues, Mrs. O opted for a one-shouldered white chiffon gown (left) that looked like she had been draped in cake fondant. Although she earned points for choosing 26-year-old designer Jason Wu, the style was too prom-like for such an important occasion. The prez didn't fare much better with his black tux and white tie.



Fashion-themed features

Where was last year's Devil Wears Prada? Although the fashion biz is all too easy to spoof, '09 farces such as Brüno or Confessions of a Shopaholic missed the mark badly, offering mirthless flamboyance instead of genuine satire. Even Coco Avant Chanel lacked magic, turning the story of a truly flamboyant figure into a dull costume drama.

Miranda Priestly, we miss you.



Lindsay Lohan for Ungaro

La Lohan was at the centre of another wreck last year, although this one had nothing to do with cars or drugs. When the young actor was taken on as artistic adviser by French fashion house Emanuel Ungaro, observers snickered, but it wasn't at all funny when the results of her efforts, which Style.com called "a bad joke of a fashion show," were revealed. Worse than the heart prints and fuchsia harem pants was the fact that Lohan's appointment (along with Estrella Archs) pushed out the talented Estaban Cortazar.



Prada waders

Placing Prada among the pans is as painful as giving an A-plus student a detention. But seriously, what was Miuccia thinking when she made haute waders the statement boot of her FW09 collection? Some were attached to a garter-style belt that held up high-cut bloomers, while others hit mid-calf and were secured by a leather strap around the knee. Who exactly was her muse: Swamp Thing?



Louis Vuitton rabbit ears

When Madonna arrived at the Costume Institute's annual gala in May, she was derided for her weird fabric horns, an exaggerated bow that had been the most controversial part of Marc Jacobs' FW09 collection for LV. Even if they were cute for the runway in a Brer Rabbit-meets-Tim Burton kind of way, there are only two words to describe any woman spotted wearing them on the street: fashion victim.



DESIGN PICKS

Olympic medals

Created over 18 months by B.C. aboriginal artist Corrine Hunt and Vancouver-based boy wonder Omer Arbel, the medallions for this year's Winter Olympics offer true innovation, from their first-nations motifs to their wavy surfaces. Both features are firsts for Olympic prizes, which have tended toward the staid in previous years. Whatever they are made of, these medals get the gold.



Wally-Hermès yacht

Leave it to Hermès to create the most beautiful (and luxurious) water craft in the world. Boasting a sleek triangular hull, cutting-edge computerized controls and even a seawater pool on the bow, the yacht, a collaboration between French-based Hermès and the Monaco yacht maker Wally, is known simply and cleverly as WHY. If you can afford it, why not?



Curtis Stone kitchenware

Released across Canada last year, the Australian TV chef's new line of kitchen supplies isn't just as good-looking as he is; it's also ingeniously designed. The workbench, for instance, includes a built-in slop drawer and mise-en-place bowls, while the cutting boards are sloped so that meat juices run into a metal trough. Best of all, it's attractively priced, from $5 to $600 at the Bay ( www.hbc.com).



Brave New World lamp

Suggestive of both a Tinker Toy sculpture and Far Eastern bamboo scaffolding, Fresh West's Brave New World lamp for Moooi is a brave new lamp design of the handsomest order. Unveiled during the Milan Design Fair, the 1.8-metre fixture is composed of notched and pegged oak strips and a pair of cast-iron counterweights. That whoosh you hear is the rush of design buffs lining up to snag one.



Pixel prints

The pixel has been called the icon of the modern age, so it was only a matter of time before designers seized on it. One of the best applications of the past year was the wonderfully dotty upholstery that London-based Cristian Zuzunga created for Christophe Delcourt's latest sofas and chairs. Break out those Star Trek DVDs.



Recessionary chic

Yes, an Hermès yacht would be nice, but the real design story of '09 was the proliferation of pop-up stores offering high-style furnishings at recession-friendly rates. One of the liveliest was Toronto-based Thout's red-walled pop-up. Who knew club chairs made of hollowed-out construction-grade spruce could be so swank?



Studio Job for Viktor & Rolf

It isn't easy to upstage Viktor & Rolf, but the runway design that Dutch-based Studio Job created for V&R's SS10 show in October came mighty close. Featuring a giant rotating globe on one side of the stage and a massive speaker-pedestal for singer Roisin Murphy on the other, SJ's flight of minimalist fancy was one of several memorable catwalk designs. Another was the farm-chic set employed by Chanel.



Miele's chocolate washer/dryer

Appliances have come in a rainbow of colours (aqua, tangerine) over the past few years, but Miele's new washer and dryer set in a rich shade of chocolate took the, um, cake. It would almost be a shame to hide them away in the laundry room.



The Simpsons stamps

It was no "D'oh!" moment when the U.S. mail service unveiled its Simpsons series of postage stamps, a colourful and wildly popular homage to TV's favourite animated family. We're waiting for Canada's equally vibrant salute to Casey and Finnegan.



Microsoft's arc mouse

Is it possible that something so sinuous and sexy could also be so functional? With its ergonomically advanced, appropriately named Arc mouse, Microsoft once again demonstrated that it really has no equals when it comes to desktop design.



DESIGN PANS

Oasis of the seas

When did cruise ships go from being ultra elegant black-hulled palaces to resembling over-iced wedding cakes? Yes, the newly launched MS Oasis of the Seas offers the latest in high seas amenities, but it's also one of the most conspicuous symbols of our overly garish times.



The Olympic torch

Designed to evoke the "undulating beauty of the snowy Canadian landscape," the 2010 Olympic torch has also been compared by many to "a big fat spliff." Wait, maybe it is the perfect symbol for the B.C. Games.



Buggy design

Bearing images of spiders, beetles and other creepy crawlies, Vermont designer Laura Zindel's ceramic bowls and platters do have an odd entomological charm. But do you really want to eat out of vessels swarming with bugs? Warn guests before serving.



Swarovski overload

The Austrian crystal company has become the good-time girl of the style world, lending its sparkly favours to any designer who winks at it. If some of the lighting sporting its gewgaws were on the wacky side, we absolutely draw the line at crystal-studded headphones and vacuum cleaners. One word, Swarovski: Discriminate.



Ignoble excess

Sure, Dubai's rise to gaudy extremes took place well before last year, but all those manmade islands and restaurant fish tanks struck a particularly off-key note in recessionary '09. By the end of it, even the sheikhs had had enough.

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