You Ask, We Answer

Ask The Backseat Stylers: Fashionable and Functional Work Bags for a $1,000 Budget

Our lovely reader Amy K. tweeted us a while back asking for recommendations for a work bag for a $1,000 budget, and we promised her an entire blog post of answers. Though it took us a little while to get our act together (sorry for the delay, Amy!), we think she’ll forgive us, because not only did we search high and low for our own best recommendation, we also consulted 5 fashion industry insiders for their picks as well.

The most fashionable and functional work bags from an editor, a PR maven, a fashion blogger, a lawyer, an on-air television style expert, oh and little old us? It doesn’t get much better than that. Read on for to-die-for handbags from Louis Vuitton, Jil Sander, Mackage and more.

P.S. Consider this the launch of a brand new blog series. Got a style dilemma? Email or tweet us with your question, and we and a fresh new band of industry insiders, a.k.a. honourary Backseat Stylers, will tackle it in a blog post just for you!

AYA MCMILLAN, Fashion Writer, Editor & Digital Media Consultant

Her pick: Sophie Hulme’s signature leather tote, $1,050 at SSENSE

Why she’s loving this bag: ”I fell for Sophie Hulme’s designs when I saw them in London a few years ago. They’re beautifully crafted and offer just the right amount of gold hardware. It’s ideal for work because it’s essentially a feminine take on the briefcase – it’s roomy enough to carry all your office essentials (i.e.files, a laptop, ipad and a pochette), it holds its structure, is surprisingly lightweight, and comes with a strap in case you want to go handsfree. All in all it’s the perfect balance of brains and beauty.”

Follow Aya on Twitter: @AyaMcMillan

AMY BURSTYN-FRITZ, Managing Partner, Knot PR

Her pick: Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM Damier (Ebene), $1,060 at

Why she’s loving this bag: “I’m almost always on the go and need to have a bag that can accommodate my nomadic lifestyle. This Louis is so versatile, a great neutral for pairing, and, true to name, it really is like the Mary Poppins bag. If you dared to dig inside (mine), you would find a wide variety of items; from flats to heels, Aveda makeup and Dannijo costume jewellery to transition from the office straight to client events; my laptop and/or iPad for working anytime, anywhere; my workout gear and a Nola Bar to keep me energized!”

Follow Amy on Twitter: @AmyBurstynFritz

ANITA CLARKE, Software QA Lead and Fashion Blogger

Her pick: m0851 City Tote, $400 at

Why she’s loving this bag: “I’ve been a huge fan of Montreal based m0851 for a very long time. Their bags are made in Montreal and are very affordable. The City Tote has everything I’m looking for in a good functional and fashionable bag. It has to be a cross body body style as they are the easiest to manage. The City Tote comes in neutral colours but they aren’t too boring. The Heath Grey is my favourite option. Size is important too, this bag is big enough to carry a laptop and the essentials. Finally the price is great for the value. You get a great Made in Canada handbag using luxury leather.”

Follow Anita on Twitter: @geekigirl


Her pick: Jil Sander Navy drawstring duffle shopper, USD$901 at Feathers Fashion

Why she’s loving this bag: ”If you thought the lawyer was going to suggest a rolling suitcase, think again. Neither structured nor staid, this tote pleasantly defies convention as a work bag. The unique drawstring closure gives you the option of fully or partially cinching the opening, depending on the weather and what you are carrying, and also hints that you know your way around a boutique as well as a boardroom.”

Follow Anjli on Twitter: @bluechipfashion

AFIYA FRANCISCO, Style Expert – Global, CBC and Creative Director, The Style House

Her pick: Coach Classic Duffle in British Tan, USD$398

Why she’s loving this bag: ”I adore the simplicity of this duffle – no logos, no embellishment – just understated chic. A zippered top is handy when travelling about and, while British Tan is my fave, you can’t go wrong with any of the classic shades. An iconic design, this piece only gets better with age. For under $400, as a functional work bag, I don’t think that you can do better.”

Follow Afiya on Twitter: @TheStyleHouse

Our pick: Mackage ‘Raffie’ tote, $450 at

Why we’re loving this bag: When we first heard word that one of our favourite outerwear brands was venturing into handbags, we were stoked. We knew only highly covetable and very well made bags could come of it, and we were right. The Raffie tote is the perfect size for everyday, and can be held, worn on the shoulder or across the body. It doesn’t miss a beat on the style front either; we love the unique silhouette and buckle details. It also comes in 3 equally desirable colours, black, white and sand.

Image Credits: Amy Burstyn-Fritz by Jenna Marie Wakani; Anita Clarke by Brittany Lucas.  

Retail Therapy

Holiday Gift Guide: 35 All-Canadian Items For The Fashion Lover In Your Life

Christmas is so close we can taste the turkey, but if you’re anything like us, you’ve barely made a dent in your holiday shopping. Three days is plenty of time, right? No need to panic (yet), because we’ve gone ahead and done you a solid: we’ve rounded up 35 of the very best made-in-Canada gift ideas for the fashion addicts in your life. Your mom/sister/friend/boss is guaranteed to love what you got them, and you’ll also have supported a local or national brand. It’s a win-win, really.

Take a gander at the gallery below for jewelry from the likes of Jenny Bird, Biko and Niki & Lola, handbags from WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie, ela and Mackage, accessories from Quill & Tine, Danier and ALDO, and much, much more. Good luck and happy shopping, fellow procrastinators! See you on the other side.

Retail Therapy

Shop Like A Style Blogger: 25 Coloured Coats to Brighten Your Winter Wardrobe

When temperatures get bitterly cold, it’s so tempting to retreat into an abyss of black-on-black-on-black outfits, but Kristin of Doll Parade reminded us in a recent edition of The Canadian Street Style Lookbook how much more fun donning some bright pops of colour can be. The Frederictonian’s lovely canary yellow coat sent us on a search for fun coloured coats of our own, and chic options we found aplenty.

The front-runners? J.Crew‘s pale pink topcoat with black contrast collar (US$490), Wilfred‘s cranberry red tweed boyfriend coat ($225), and Nanette Lepore‘s army green fit-and-flare ‘Skyscape’ coat ($448). We’re thinking we can make a case for snagging all three. What do you think of these and our 22 other coat picks in all the colours of the rainbow – will you be embracing coloured outerwear this winter?


THE BIG HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY: Mackage $500 Gift Card!

With over $4,000 in prizes handed out to lovely readers, it’s been an absolutely epic THE BIG HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY this year, if we may say so ourselves. We bet we’ve had you in a contest-entering tizzy over the past 11 days, but don’t stop now, because today’s the last day and we’re going out with a fashionable bang: up for grabs in our final giveaway is a $500 gift card for Canadian outerwear favourite Mackage!

Jaws dropping all around? We don’t blame you, because we love our Mackage as much as you do and have been longtime fans. So much so that even though we can’t get our hands on it (we’ve yet to find a loophole in the rules), we’ve gathered quite a wish list just thinking about that gift card. In fact, here’s a handy list of what we’ve been daydreaming about using that $500 towards if we were the lucky winner, to inspire you to get your entry in, stat (clockwise from top left):

1. Cynthia down parka ($1,150) – Fur-trimmed hood, contrast leather sleeves, and a cool army green colour – what more could you ask for in a parka?

2. Shanty wool biker jacket ($650) – This fierce buffalo check biker jacket was one of our favourites from the runway show. It comes in white and red, both highly covetable.

3. Samantha double-breasted coat ($675) – The peacoat is taken to the next level with contrast buttons, leather epaulets, exposed zippers on the sides, and a fiery coral colour. Hashtag want.

4. Novaki small cross-body bag ($225) – Part of Mackage’s first (and amazing) handbag collection, this small pebbled-leather cross body bag with nickel tone hardware comes in a range of to-die-for colours.

Daydream with us: what would you spend your $500 gift card on – a handbag or two, or towards one fabulous coat? Decisions, decisions. Head on over to to do some window-shopping and come back and tell us your wish list for a chance to win! Contest rules are below. Good luck everyone!

P.S. Don’t forget to enter all the other epic contests in THE BIG HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY before time runs out!

Contest Rules:

1. Leave us a comment telling us how you would spend the $500 shopping spree, including links to the specific items on Also, ‘like’ The Backseat Stylers and Mackage’s Facebook pages here and here.

2. For a bonus entry (you must complete step #1 first), follow @backseatstylers and @Mackage on Twitter and tweet the following: “HO HO HO! The @backseatstylers are giving away a @Mackage $500 shopping spree and I want it! #BSSholiday #giveaway” Leave us a comment telling us you’ve tweeted this contest some love.

3. For a bonus entry (you must complete step #1 first) follow The Backseat Stylers and Mackage on Instagram and instagram the contest image above with the caption: “The @backseatstylers are giving away a @houseofmackage $500 shopping spree and I want it! #BSSholiday”

3. The contest closes at 11:59 PST on December 12, 2013. The winner will be selected randomly and will be notified by e-mail.

4. Contest open to readers in Canada only.

5. There are no prize substitutions and no cash value.

Runways and Showrooms

Toronto Fashion Week: Mackage Spring 2014

Mackage has been a mainstay in our outerwear rotation for years now, so their runway presentations at Toronto Fashion Week are always can’t-miss for us, especially of late. The Montreal-based brand has been on a roll, presenting a very covetable Fall 2013 collection currently in stores now and introducing a to-die-for new handbag line. So how do creative directors Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan follow that up? With an equally strong Spring 2014 collection.

The talented design duo are very good at what they do, churning out chic coats and jackets season after season that Mackage devotees like us just can’t get enough of. We came away from the show with grand plans to overhaul our spring outerwear wardrobe with their white leather moto, trompe l’oeil layered trench, and canvas jacket with mirror leather sleeves, the pièce de résistance of the line-up. If anyone can convince us we need leather in spring, it’s definitely the Mackage folks. And we’d happily take a handbag or two as well.

Check out the gallery below for highlights from the recent Mackage runway show at World Mastercard Fashion Week. What’s on your spring wish list?

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Runways and Showrooms

Toronto Fashion Week: Mackage Fall 2013

Mackage is kicking their design game up a few notches, and as a long-time fan, it’s very exciting to see. The label’s Montreal-based designers, Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan, recently took Toronto Fashion Week by storm with their Fall 2013 runway collection.

Atop a sleek black runway and styled with an edge, their line-up of leather and fur trimmed wool coats and winter parkas, for both men and women, was even fiercer than usual. The colour palette of merlot, navy and orange couldn’t be more perfect for fall. From head to toe, each look was as covetable as the last, and topped with a chic clutch, satchel or shoulder bag to boot.

It was our first look, in person, at the brand’s latest venture into leather handbags. The verdict? Want. Now. And that goes for the outerwear, too. Check out the gallery below for our favourite looks from the runway show – trust us, you’ll be in lust too.

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Fashion News

Mackage Launching New Handbag Line for Fall 2013

Mackage outerwear has been a closet staple for us for years now, so we’re rather excited to hear that the label’s Montreal-based designers, Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan, are applying their design chops to a new offering: handbags.

The inaugural collection includes 12 covetable clutches and tote bags done in snake and pebble-embossed leathers. “We strived to mirror the mixed-media elements that we have come to be known for in our coats,” Elfassy told WWD. One of the designs is the result of a collaboration with Megs Mahoney Dusil, cofounder and CEO of – someone who obviously knows a lot about handbags.

Priced from $225 to $600, the debut collection will be available by July 15 at select retailers, including and The images released so far look promising, and we can’t wait to check the bags out in person. Perhaps at Mackage’s runway show at Toronto Fashion Week next week? Here’s hoping.

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Runways and Showrooms

Toronto Fashion Week: Holt Renfrew Presents Fall 2012

Smythe Fall 2012

Holt Renfrew‘s opening night runway show is always one of the most popular on the official Toronto Fashion Week calendar, and for good reason. A well-curated sneak peek into the latest collections of some of our favourite Canadian brands, this season’s edition featured Dennis Merotto, Jeremy Laing, Judith & Charles, Lida Baday, LINE Knitwear, Mackage, Smythe, and Twenty Cluny.

As has been the case the last few seasons, I walked out of the Holt Renfrew Presents show with new must-haves on my Fall 2012 wish list: a green herringbone jacket from Smythe, a sequin party dress from Twenty Cluny and a knitted cardigan with leather sleeves from LINE. Oh, and a new winter coat from Mackage, which of course was already on the list after last week’s presentation of the complete Fall 2012 collection.

That’s a lot of wants needs from one runway show, yes, but those folks at Holt Renfrew are quite talented at luring me into their department stores. Holt’s has always been a dangerous shopping destination for me, and their Canadian fashion showcase at Toronto Fashion Week reminded me just how much.

Watch the complete Holt Renfrew Presents show here.

Twenty Cluny Fall 2012

LINE Knitwear Fall 2012

Dennis Merotto Fall 2012

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Runways and Showrooms

Toronto Fashion Week: Mackage Fall 2012

I’ve fallen in love with Mackage, all over again. My first purchase from the Montreal-based outerwear specialists was way back in 2005, before everyone else had discovered their incredibly chic coats with signature leather detailing. Over the years, I’ve made many a Mackage acquisition, finally coming to a point a few years back when I couldn’t justify another wool coat, crazy fierce or not.

But that’s all about to change. I’ve worn the Mackages in my closet to death over the past few winters, and they’re ready to be retired. And if last night’s Fall 2012 runway show is any indication, there are going to be a lot of very covetable styles to choose from when the cold weather returns again later this year. It was all about the outerwear – wool coats and parkas, for both ladies and gents, with just the right amount of leather and fur accents to keep Canadians looking stylish during the winter months. Separates and dresses, ranging from ladylike to edgy, also came down the runway, and were a pleasant surprise. The self-imposed ban is being lifted; I definitely see new Mackage pieces in my future.

By the way, big name Canadian models Heather Marks and Rick “Zombie Boy” Genest (the muse of Nicola Formichetti, who happens to be Mugler’s creative director and Lady Gaga’s stylist) walked the runway for Mackage last night. But with designs this good, who really noticed?


xx, S

Runways and Showrooms

Mackage Fall 2010

Getty Images via TFS
No one does contemporary outerwear like Mackage. It takes 2 friends from stylish but frigidly cold Quebec to design some of the chicest and most functional leather jackets and wool coats out there. Their pieces don’t come cheap, but they’re definitely worth every penny when you’re trying to survive the Canadian winter and look good doing it. I’ve lived in my Mackage Jerry leather jacket the past few Fall seasons and now I’m eyeing the tan leather creation (look #4) from the Fall 2010 runway. Almost makes me wish for next Fall…almost.
xx, S
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