Apostle News

  • Winter has come, but that doesn't mean our style and accessories have to get packed away with our cute summer clothes. When we cozy up, layer up and warm up, there is still a ton of potential to polish off that outfit and showcase your style. 


    Sweater Weather Style Inspiration

    Yes, winter has its downsides, but there are also many upsides:
    Warm drinks, the calmness that comes with fresh falling snow, winter
    activities (skiing, skating, sledding, and for some- hockey), and of
    course cozy sweaters and all the winter fashion.

    But great winter style can be tough to navigate.
    Just how do we put together the best winter outfits, and how do we
    accessorize them? The answers to these questions are right here!  


    To create some amazing winter outfit style inspiration, I joined forces with some of Calgary's bests :

    Janine Deanna is not just gorgeous on the outside, but she has a heart of pure gold, a brilliant mind and her personal sense of style is one to watch (and I watch all of her style stories and am eagerly awaiting her next style-focused blog post).

    Avenue Beauty is among the best of the best for hair & makeup, and owner, Robin, is top notch in every way. She has both a "can do" and "how can I help?" attitude, a kind heart, gentle spirit...and as if that's not enough, but her talent and passion for her work is incredible and admirable. All of this combined makes Robin one of the best people to be with. 

    Christy Swanberg, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways... Christy has a way of photographing and capturing joy, emotion, calmness, ease, and beauty, and is in a league all of her own. Her work is clean, fresh and classic, and her attitude of community, connection and gratitude is infectious...oh wait, no, that's her laugh! And if you spend two minutes with Christy, you will laugh. She is bold, energetic, and full of joy.

    Now, as if this wasn't a great team of Calgary women, but then we thought that the best location to reflect a cozy, warm and inviting feeling was none other than Calgary Heritage Roasting Company. The building is vintage, brick'y (that's a word, right?), full of charm, natural light...and owners Jamie & Mike are simply THE best! They created a space that is truly reflective of who they are : warm, inviting, interesting, and after just a few minutes, feels like home (now, in the sense of Jamie and Mike, you feel as if you have known them forever. In the sense of the coffee shop & roasterie, you go in and immediately want to find a place to sit in the sun, take off your shoes and relax).


    Calgary Photo Shoot Christy Swanberg, Janine Deanna, Avenue Beauty, Calgary Heritage Roasting Co, Apostle Boutique


    Let's go through some of the best
    Sweater Weather winter outfits and chat about
    how to style them and what to watch out for to
    ensure that you don't have just the same-old outfit!


    While there are many different types of winter outfits and sweaters, every outfit is based on a basic shape or neckline. That said, knowing how to accessorize both the necklines and that additional sweater "bulk" that is so necessary to stay warm, you can take that winter outfit from "ok" to looking next level, polished, complete, and hella-good! 


    Outfit one :

     Winter Outfit Style Inspiration


    This is the kind of outfit that you can wear anywhere - work, school, out for dinner, shopping... The black jean could easily be swapped for a nice skinny pant, and I don't know of a single situation where a long sweater or cardi over a lightweight base layer doesn't look good! With these three elements (dark pant + long cardi + lightweight top) you can go anywhere! 

    An outfit like this is like a blank canvas for your accessories. The open sweater creates a really nice vertical line (and we love vertical lines because of the nice slimming effect it creates), wearing beautiful drop earring paired with a couple layered necklaces continues this line and falls very nicely with the top. 


    Winter Work Outfit Style Inspiration


    Go ahead and add some delicate rings and a cool watch. If you want to roll up the sleeves and put on a bracelet, that will work too. But when layering necklaces, you'll want to keep the wrists simple so that the look isn't overdone.  


    Winter Outfit Sweater Weather Style Inspiration


    Things to watch for : When you have a crew-neck (high neck) top like this, the light fabric allows necklaces to lay flat. If you're wearing a crew-neck sweater that is a bit heavier, you'll want a longer necklace with a bit of weight to it. This will ensure that the necklace doesn't disappear in the bulk of the sweater, but also that it will lay properly.  

    Jewelry Shown : Bamboo Earrings (contact for details), Sono Necklace layered with the Constant Necklace, Knot Today Ring, Minuit Full Black Watch


    Outfit 2 :

     Winter Outfit Sweater Weather Style Inspiration


    Layers are both functional (warmth) and fashionable (there's the "rule of 3" - an outfit should have at least 3 additional pieces to be complete). I love how Janine layered a basic tee with an open denim top and cozy cardigan. This isn't a trio that many of us would think of, but one that we all love (and will likely now try ourselves). Because of the layers on top, keep the denim clean and simple (no fading or distressing). And the piece de resistance, that hat!! A great hat can amplify any outfit and take it to that next level of style. 


    Winter Outfit Ideas Layers


    When it comes to accessorizing this outfit, it's important that we keep it all in balance. With the layered tops, a short and delicate necklace that sits just above the neckline is a great option. Even if your neckline of the base layer is a V-neck, select a necklace that sits within the V-shape and doesn't overlap. This will keep it clean and balanced, rather than having too much going on and creating a top-heavy look. 

    A cool, bold earring that hangs (or drops) 1-2 inches is the perfect addition to this outfit because it adds a nice vertical line (which we like) and balances the layers by bringing the eye up to your lovely face. And go ahead, roll up those sleeves once or twice and add a couple of great bracelets to finish off the look. 


    How to style accessorize winter outfits


    Things to watch for : You might be tempted to wear a long necklace with this outfit, but that will add too much bulk to an already layered area of your body. This is why the earring should be a bit bigger- too delicate of an earring won't look "at home" with this outfit but something bold will balance everything off nicely! 

    Jewelry Shown : Mezi Large Hoop Earrings, Floating Disc Necklace, Braided Sparkle Bracelet with the Mazi Bangle, and a stack of Glimmer Rings


    Outfit 3 :

    Sweater Weather Cozy Winter Outfit Inspiration


    Who doesn't love a cozy knit sweater?!! Add extra points if it's a little oversized, because that is just the best thing to put on to relax and enjoy a warm drink as you gaze out the window at the snow gently falling. 

    Now that I have painted that peaceful winter scene for you, let's look at this outfit. Cream or off-white is one of my favorite colours to wear, but while it may not look awesome on every skin tone, something that I do encourage you to look for is texture. A great textured knit not only looks great, but it hides a multitude of sins (such as stains, pilling, lumps & bumps, the turkey-induced bloating, etc). Texture and pattern distracts the eye from such "sins" and I love having at least one item like this in my closet (because let's be honest, I'm clumsy and spill all.the.time.).

    When you have a bit of an oversized sweater, I always suggest that you try tucking it in a little. While oversized is super comfortable, we don't want it to make you look oversized, and tucking it in just a little gives you your waistline back without taking away from the sweater. If the sweater neckline is wide (or off the shoulder) or deep, a cute tank or cami underneath adds a great unexpected detail.


    Sweater Weather Cozy Winter Outfit Inspiration


    To keep this outfit simple, the accessories should be simple too. I love a mid-length necklace that has a little oomph to it- a great chain and/or a cool pendant is the perfect addition, and the mid-length creates that pretty V-shape (or vertical line) that balances the oversized sweater. Finish it off with a classic and simple style earring, and you will look SO good as you gaze out your window, meet a friend for coffee, or have a relaxed night with family. 


    Sweater Weather Cozy Winter Outfit Inspiration


    Things to watch out for : Maintain the casual look of the outfit with casual jewelry. While you want a necklace that won't disappear in the knit of the sweater, or an earring that is so small that its obsolete, make sure you don't have something too bulky, heavy or glam because that will take away from the laid-back vibe of the outfit.

    Jewelry Shown : Straight & Narrow Earrings, Triple Charm Necklace


    Outfit 4 :

    Sweater Weather Winter Outfit Style Inspiration


    Ahh the turtleneck! Such a great sweater for those winter months, but it is the one look that creates so much style uncertainty. How do I do my hair- up or down? What kind of earrings? Necklace, or no necklace? *insert head-explosion emoji here

    With a high neck, I love the look of having your hair pulled back and away from your face- this creates the appearance of a beautiful long neck (plus you don't need to worry about your hair sticking to the sweater, or getting knotty or static'y). 


    Sweater Weather Winter Outfit Style Inspiration


    Here is where personal style really comes in, because I like the clean look of no necklace, but also wearing a sleek long necklace is very slimming and is an easy way to dress it up. 

    With the earrings, I find that a simple stud just isn't quite enough. If you can find a really cool bold stud earring, or even better, an ear climber, this brings attention up to your face. Another great option is a small drop earring or small hoop. This style of earring continues with elongating your neck and bringing attention to your face. 


    Sweater Weather Winter Outfit Style Inspiration


    Things to watch out for : If you choose to wear a necklace, I find that a length that hits at or below the bust is ideal for creating a long & lean (aka slimmer) look. A turtleneck sweater already has a lot going on around your neck and shoulders, so we don't want to add more, but we want to draw the eye up and down with a long necklace. 
    For the earrings, make sure that they aren't so long that they're coming in contact with the sweater. Jewelry should have space to move freely- both for look and function (you don't want to ruin your jewelry or clothing with snags).

    Jewelry Shown : Wing Ear Climbers and the Everyday Hoops (coming soon in gold and silver, contact for details), Petite Paddle Pendant Necklace, La Boheme Multi Link Watch


    There really is so much potential when it comes to winter outfits and polishing off that Sweater Weather style. Great layers, textured knits,
    hats, a solid denim, and of course, the perfect accessories! 


    It might seem overwhelming, but if there are just two things I want you to take away, this is them :

    Balance : Where your outfit has the most bulk, don't add to it with jewelry. Instead, add jewelry to other areas to create balance.

    Vertical Lines : We love creating vertical lines and V-shapes, why? Because they are slimming! Use both your clothing (think necklines and layers) and your jewelry to achieve this! 



    Winter Outfit Style Inspiration


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  • Gift Guide

    Buying gifts can be fun...or it can be completely overwhelming. You want to get something that you know they'll love, but it can be stressful to find that perfect thing. 

    This is where I come in! With a lot of care and the genuine desire to select pieces that will be truly loved, here is my top Gift Giving list of jewelry and accesories broken down into categories so that you can easily select something you know they'll love! 


    "keep in mind when you are giving a gift to someone you
    want to get (or be) close to, that a gift given with lots of thought
    and consideration may make the relationship closer...
    a gift should be chosen with care and thought."
    -Barbara Greenberg



    Gift Guide for Sentimental Women

    We all know a Sentimentalist. This is a person that loves to take pictures, create memories and truly appreciates things with meaning. From necklaces with a special engraved message, to a locket, or a ring with 3 genuine (very well priced) diamonds that you can give special meaning to (perhaps each diamond represents a child, holidays taken, number of times moved, or their past, present and future), or a great everyday bracelet that you can engrave. Here are my top picks for the woman that is sentimental and loves a gift with meaning.

    Gift Ideas for a Sentimental WomanGift Ideas for a Sentimental Woman

    Gift Ideas for a Sentimental WomanGift Ideas for a Sentimental WomanGift Ideas for a Sentimental WomanGift Guide for the Sentimental Woman



    Gift Guide for Women Who Like To Travel

    The biggest mistake one can make when traveling is to over-pack. Women who love to travel don't want to weigh down their suitcases with jewelry or clothing they won't wear, so having pieces that is versatile and they can wear with everything, is key! Plus, when you give them the perfect jewelry travel case to keep it all safe and tangle-free - you will earn hero status!

    Gift Guide for the TravellerGift Guide for the TravellerGift Guide for the TravellerGift Guide for the TravellerGift Guide for the TravellerThe best bracelet for any day and every occasion



    Gift Guide for the Classy Woman

    Clean, feminine and timeless, the Classic Woman loves pieces that will never go out of style and look great with any type of outfit. Delicate chains that can be worn alone or layered up, the perfect everyday earring, and an amazing watch. Any of these selections are sure to put a smile on her face.

    Gift Guide for the Classic WomanGift Guide for the Classic WomanGift Guide for the Classic WomanGift Guide for the Classic WomanGift Guide for the Classic Woman



    Gift Guide for Stylish Women

    She doesn't shy away from standing out in crowd, but doesn't have to raise her voice to do so. She is confident and feminine, and she can often be seen wearing a statement piece of jewelry or clothing. Whether it's a eye-catching earring, urban-cool watch, unique bracelets that can be worn alone or layered up, or a great necklace, the Stylista appreciates gifts that you won't find in a big box store. 

    Gift Guide for the StylistaGift Guide for the StylistaGift Guide for the StylistaGift Guide for the StylistaGift Guide for the StylistaGift Guide for the Stylista



    Gift Guide for Women That Love Silver Jewelry

    There are women that wear only gold and women that will only wear silver (and there are those that like to mix it all up). Pretty Silver jewelry in contemporary designs can be tough to find these days...but look no further! Apostle has more than what is outlined below, but any of these selections are any Silver Girl's dream!

    Gift Guide for the Silver Jewelry LoverGift Guide for the Silver Jewelry LoverGift Guide for the Silver Jewelry LoverGift Guide for the Silver Jewelry LoverGift Guide for the Silver Jewelry LoverGift Guide for the Woman That Loves Silver Jewelry


    Gift Guide for the Minimalist Woman

    Minimalist Style doesn't mean boring or plain, a Minimalist is someone that loves to maximize what they have- to do more with little. It is about clean lines, simple design and versatility. These women appreciate contemporary styles with a classic touch- something that will last them for years to come, will look amazing with any outfit, and will always look up to date and polished. 

    Gift Guide for the Minimalist WomanGift Guide for the Minimalist WomanGift Guide for the Minimalist WomanGift Guide for the Minimalist WomanGift Guide for the Minimalist WomanGift Guide for the Minimalist Woman



    I get it, not all of us are wired to really tune in to what someone would love, and the pressure to do so can cause you to break into a sweat. But I am wired this way and finding that perfect gift for someone is a task that I truly enjoy! You can rest assured that any of these Gift Guide winners are sure to be something that is loved for years to come!

    That said, if you are still unsure, simply click here to send me a quick email and I would love to help you further. With just a few questions about the person you are shopping for, I can narrow down some very specific pieces that suit both their style and lifestyle. 


    Gift Guide


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  • Alzheimer's Society Run

    Alzheimer's disease and other diseases that cause dementia are physical, progressive and degenerative diseases affecting the brain. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia symptoms. 

    Alzheimer's is characterized by memory loss, communication difficulties, disorientation regarding time and place and changes in personality and behaviour. Each of these symptoms affects a person's ability to function independently. 

    *information from the Alzheimer Society Calgary website


    Alzheimer Society


    For Rob and I, both of our grandmother's had a long journey with Alzheimer's Disease and to support those currently facing this disease, and those that might down the road, we are taking part in the 2019 IG Alzheimer's 10k Run this Thanksgiving weekend. 

    Please help create life-changing support by making a secure donation online - simply click the link or photo below. 

    Thank you so much for supporting the individuals and families currently impacted by Alzheimer's, and for contributing to the research that can help those in the future. Every little bit helps! 


    Donate Now


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  • Real Style Project - Story 9

    This is Style Story 9 in the Real Style Project. To learn more about the Real Style Project, click here.


    Real Style Project Dina Ottoni-Battistessa


    Committed to her family, her work (which
    also happens to be her dream), and to
    taking care of herself, Dina may have
    cracked the code to living a balanced life. 


    Real Style Project Dina Ottoni-Battistessa



    Over the years I have longed to find that fine balance between family, work and me time (like Dina, I need to have time to myself- you'll read about this in a moment), but I started to come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as "balance", rather "balance" is an unattainable end to the rainbow that we are always chasing. Then I met Dina. 

    Dina Ottoni-Battistessa is a mom to 3 amazing boys ranging in ages from 5 to 18 years old, she is the co-owner of Calgary's top rated preshcool, AKIDEMY, which was also a finalist in the 2019 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, she inspires women to move, play and gives her real-life tips on minimalist living (like her posts about her "no spend year") through her blog Move.Play.Mom, and she's an aspiring writer that is currently working on her co-authored book and hopes to write a children's book or novel. 


    "As much as I can be involved and can share and can output a lot of hard work in a short period, I am also very conscious of my needs and time. Time spent with my family and children are very important to me. BUT I also really value and need time to myself. I need time to disconnect, be on my own, to think and breathe. I do this through running, swimming, and yoga. I enjoy being alone and having time to reflect and think."


    Dina Ottoni-Battistessa


    Dina not only understands, but implements the importance of taking care of herself and doing the things that make her happy. I believe that this just might be the key to living a balanced life, because if you aren't taking care of yourself, you don't have the tools, energy or mindset to take care of the other things in your life. But let's be real here, "balance" doesn't mean that you are spending equal amounts of time between work, family, friends and personal time, but it means that you are taking care of your priorities in a way that makes you feel happy, content and complete. So that said, "balance" can look different from one person to the next. 


    "I have always been very thoughtful about building the life I want to live. Manifesting the lifestyle I wanted for myself. I know that sounds so cliché, but it's very true. Every decision I have made along the way has been calculated to best guide the journey I want to take."


    Both Dina and her husband Ben are self employed, and this is all apart of their thoughtful design for their lives. "We wanted to create our own work and schedules that was driven from our passions of doing what we love....I have a flexible working schedule that allows me time for balance. I can run, swim, bike or go to yoga because (after years of hard work to set up the business) I have created the time. I spend a lot of time with my kids but I also carve out time to still have fun myself and with my husband."


     Real Style Project Dina Ottoni-Battistessa

    Dina Ottoni-Battistessa


    Originally from Montreal, Dina moved to Calgary to follow love. After what started as a bit of a joke, Dina met her husband through an online dating site and the relationship progressed quickly. After 15 years together, 13 of those married, three kids, and both living the entrepreneur life, Dina and Ben cheer for one another and allow each other to live their best life (even if it takes a little convincing to be on board for the no spend year). Between family (Dina's brother also moved to Alberta and she loves having him close by, and Ben's parents and two brothers are also very close) and kids, Dina and Ben love to be active- both together and on their own. We have already read about what Dina loves to do, and Ben is "golf obsessed", but together they have a weekly swimming date and do yoga together (I can only imagine doing yoga with my husband...I think I'd spend the whole time laughing). But I love how as a couple Dina and Ben have a unified vision for how they want their lives to be, they are committed to having fun together, but also allow each other to do their own thing. Whether you are married or not, I think that these elements are integral to obtaining balance! 


    Real Style Project Dina Ottoni-Battistessa



    To get a good sense of who Dina is and the narrative of her Style Story, I asked her some questions. Read through my interview with her below. 


    Your style in 3 words:

    Streamlined - Minimalist - Athleisure

    What is style to you?

    Coming from a fashion city like Montreal, I grew up immersed in style and fashion. Style for me has always been another way to express myself, where I am in my life and my personality. I have always had my own sense of fashion and don't dable in trends too often. I have always preferred to find pieces that resonate with my lifestyle but can also sometimes show my quirkier side. Because Montreal is filled with amazing boutiques, small local artists and designers...I never was one to be hooked on brands or labels. I am more about, if I like it, it fits well, it is made well - it doesn't matter who made it, I will invest in it. As I get older, I am more mindful and aware of where my pieces might come from, something I am learning more about and taken more of an interest in lately. 

    What are some items that you always seem to wear?

    I can't leave my house without my watch. My Fitbit is attached to my arm, it's not the most stylish piece but it adds so much value to my life. I also can't ever leave without having some sort of earrings or studs on. The only time I might not have earrings in, is on a run. 


     Real Style Project Dina Ottoni-Battistessa


    In a room full of people, what do you think others see?

    Most people see me as the minimalist mom and educator with a zealous attitude and big ideas. I know people will often see me as an extrovert, a super outgoing and strong woman...but the truth is, I am an excavated extrovert! I had parents who really pushed me out of my comfort zone, and wanted me to use my strengths and share them, and over the years I have become more aware of this. 

    What are some of your personal core values or guiding principles?

    My dad used to tell me that anything I did, and product I created or service I provided, as long as I believed in it, I would never fail by sharing it with the world. He would say, regardless of outcome, I would grow and learn from the experience. I have carried that with me in everything I do. ...I believe that if you follow your passions and you share that with the world, you will attract like minded individuals who will continue to inspire and guide your vision.

    At my core, I am a minimalist, and I chose a lifestyle that allows me to do what I love, pursue my ideas and goals, live a flexible life and spend time experiencing life to its fullest with people I love. I would say that a very important guiding principle in my life is, REMEMBER TO PLAY. ...We need to reconnect with the things we love and remember to find time to play. Play games, play sports, dance, sing, anything...we need to find time for that, because that will bring us so much joy in life- real happiness that isn't fleeting.

    What motivates you?

    My family and my children are my motivation and inspiration to want to live a conscious full life. The children in my program day to day are a huge motivation to serve them, create an incredible program and a solid foundation for their tomorrows. I am also so motivated personally by movement, running, swimming and getting outdoors as this helps me to feel strong, confident and capable! I love moving people, and sharing things that I am passionate about, so seeing people who are touched by something I write on my blog about, a post on social media or something I share in a story on Move.Play.Mom also motivates me.

    As a little girl, what did you dream about doing/being when you grew up?

    First, I wanted to be a hockey player! I played hockey at a very competitive level until my twenties. Then as a teenager I wanted to be a Rockstar- I played guitar and started a band...that didn't pan out as I planned lol. Throughout the years, whether I was a child, teen or young adult, I always knew I was going to be a teacher and I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Finding ways to bridge the two have been all that I could have hoped for and I feel so lucky to do what I love. ...I really believe that you can make anything happen, if you really want it, believe it and work for it! Maybe that Rockstar dream can still happen...we'll see...


    I've said it many times-
    our style is comprised of every aspect of our story
    and when you learn more about a person you can really
    see their story shine through the things they wear.
    Dina was instantly drawn to some jewelry that she felt really
    reflected her style- they are minimal in design, yet have
    interest and a bit of a cultural aesthetic. 


    Ethical Sustainable Jewelry SOKO

    Ethical Sustainable Jewelry SOKO 



    Dina is about intentional living, doing the things
    that bring you joy, and truly experiencing life.

    I love how she is no stranger to hard work (having a flexible schedule doesn't just happen overnight, it happens through years of work & determination), or to having fun. From Dina's story I have learned that balance comes from within and that it is about your dreams and goals for your life, working hard to get there, and finding that contentment and joy. Balance may look different from one person to the next (after all, our passions and goals are all unique), and so my "balance" may look completely off-balance to you, but that's what makes our world such a wonderful (and dare I say balanced) place. 

    Real Style Project Minimalist Living Dina Ottoni-Battistessa


    Thank you so much Dina for sharing your story, because through your story we can truly see how each element plays into your style and how it all comes full circle. 


    All of the photos from Dina's Style Story were beautifully captured by Melanie from Grey Lily Photography. Check out her wonderful family & wedding photography, and watch for her business-focused website coming soon- Brands by Grey Lily.

    Grey Lily Photography

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  • Real Style Project - Story 8

    This is story 8 of the Real Style Project. To learn more about the Real Style Project and what it's all about, click here.


    Real Style Project Mandy Balak Style Story


    Whether you need a listening ear,
    a cheerleader, or a swift (yet kind) kick in the butt,
    Mandy Balak is your girl! 


    Mandy Balak Real Style Project


    Born and raised in Vancouver, Mandy has called Calgary home for the last 10 years and just celebrated her 32nd birthday this past May (her birthday and her finace James' birthday are just days apart). Whether her name is familiar to you or not, Mandy has an incredible list of of businesses & experience under her belt: Ace Class ("Our vision is to create a world where women can thrive together" - from theaceclass.com), Rise (an annual conference-style event for women to create connection, community and empowerment), Date Night, Best of Calgary, Branded Magazine, spin class Motivator, Mandy's podcast with Ace Talks and the Mandy Balak website that includes her unique & motivational blogs about life, self-love, and lessons learned.


    Mandy Balak Real Style Project

    Now, I don't know about you, but just looking at that list is equal parts overwhelming and inspiring, but I am also in awe of Mandy for all that she has done, accomplished and learned. While some of those businesses have been put to bed, Mandy talks about each venture with honesty, humility and an intense fondness. Mandy always recognizes the value of putting yourself out there and views every failed attempt as an incredible opportunity - one of her well-known, and incredibly life-giving quotes speaks directly to that : "failure doesn't happen to you failure happens for you" And an extension of that, I have heard Mandy say it, and you'll find it in many of her interviews, she strives to continuously "level up". 


    What we do for work and all of our business-related successes & failures play an integral role in who, and how, we are. These pieces of our lives are major contributors to shaping us, but they aren't the only pieces.



    There is no question that Mandy Balak has an impressive amount of business experience, but she is so much more than her resume. Mandy is down-to-earth and loves relaxing at home with her man, going bowling, meeting friends for drinks, travelling the world, coffee, and let's not even start on how much she loves toast. Mandy is a champion at fusing her everyday passions together with her entrepreneurial passions and creating something that is beautiful & unique.


    Mandy Balak Real Style Project


    To round-out Mandy's style story and to give you a greater sense of who she is and what she stands for, I asked her a series of questions. Read my interview with Mandy Balak below.


    How would you describe your style?

    Laid back and approachable. I would say I'm a jeans and converse kind of gal. 

    What are some items that you seem to always wear?

    Moto jackets and sneakers. I always feel polished and put together when I have a badass jacket on, plus, I like to rock white sneakers whenever possible. 

     Mandy Balak Real Style Project


    What is style to you?

    I love the saying "Be your brand" and I often get dressed thinking "Is this on brand for me?" I think it's so important to just own your signature look, whatever that may be. Style should be comfortable and feel authentic. 

    In a room full of people, what do you think other people see?

    I'm an introvert who's often confused as an extrovert. 

    What do you love about yourself?

    My smile and my ability to connect people.

    Your personal mantra:

    If it's not a f*ck yes, it's a no. 

    What are some of your personal core values or guiding principles?

    Ambition, growth, connection, freedom and real-ness. These are my guiding lights for decision making in my life and are the foundation within both of my businesses. 

    As a little girl, what did you dream about doing/being when you grew up?

    I wanted to be a CEO, an artist, and a fashion designer. I remember having an idea for a cosmetic brand where I wanted to name all the lipsticks after my friends. 

    Toughest part of being a 30-something woman?

    Saying No. I have burnt myself out endless times over the past few years trying to please everyone and taking on endless things just because. The older I get, the wiser I get to the idea that no matter what, I'll never make everyone happy, but at the end of the day I have to take care of my own priorities and the people who matter most, and learn to say no to everything else. 

    What advice would you give your younger self?

    It's all going to be ok. 

    Why do you think it is so important that women find their tribe/community?

    Having a community is EVERYTHING! It means that you have people that you can be real with, that will be there to support you, and you will likely feel less alone because you have women that "get it". 
    I moved to Calgary from Vancouver 10 years ago and knew no one in this city. I have spent my entire professional and entrepreneurial career invested in building community because I struggled with feeling alone. I felt alone when I knew no one here, alone when I was starting my first business off my living room floor, alone when I failed and had to shut something down that was so attached to my identity, and alone when I was stepping into my true self- building ACE. 
    Having people in my community that I trust and that can not only hold me up, but hold me accountable, makes me feel a little less crazy and a lot less alone. Community can be anything - a Facebook group, a friend to go to a fitness class with, your neighbor, a group, a committee... You really don't need much, BUT connection and belonging is the birthplace of happiness (quoted by the incredible Brene Brown). So if you feel disconnected, where can you lean in?

    What are three key factors to consider when looking for your community?

    Mandy's Checklist:
    Can you be yourself without judgement?
    Do they inspire you to shine bright?
    Have they shown up when the chips are down?


    Mandy Balak Real Style Project


    Mandy's style is uncomplicated with both
    classic and contemporary tones and always
    has that understated sexy edge.

    She was immediately drawn to the Northern Star Necklace because she said the North Star is a symbol that holds personal significance. I don't know Mandy well, but I from what I do know, I thought the Sono Necklace with "To thine own self be true" engraved on it would resonate well with who she is and what she stands for. When I showed Mandy this particular Sono piece, she loved not only the inscription but also the anchor image on the pendant.


    Mandy Balak Northern Star Necklace

    Mandy Balak Style To thine own self be true Necklace



    There is no question that Mandy Balak is a warrior and a champion- when she believes in something, or wants something, she goes for it. The path may not be straight and narrow, but she doesn't shy away from pushing through, yet she also has the wisdom to accept when something has reached its final round. I believe that for Mandy, this is applicable in all areas of her life, and it's something that we can all learn from. I don't want to make her out to be some God (even though she is a Goddess...but then again, aren't we all?!)- Mandy is like every single one of us and there are parts of her story that we can all relate to. 


    From Mandy's Style Story there is one specific thing that really struck a chord with me. It's when she shared the quote from Brene Brown :

    Connection and belonging is the birthplace of happiness. 


    Let that sit with you for a minute.

    Let it settle. 

    This really sinks in and gives me that Oprah Winfrey "aha moment" where the only thing that comes to mind is a resounding "yes! 

    What do you take away from Mandy's Style Story?


     Mandy Balak Real Style Project



    The photography for Mandy Balak's Style Story was captured by the amazing Melanie from Grey Lily Photography. 

    Grey Lily Photography


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  • Real Style Project - Story 7

    This is style story 7 of the Real Style Project. To learn more about the Real Style Project and what it's all about, click here


    When I grew up, girls were taught to be
    strong, individual and independent.

    These are such incredible things for girls of all ages to learn,
    but when you combine that with the belief that we need to be stronger and better than the women around us, all of those positive qualities quickly turn into negative ones. 

    A movement has started where women from my generation are starting to fight back against that competition mindset, and turning to a collaboration, or togetherness, mindset. We are seeing more and more female-run businesses working together on different projects, but also more and more women joining forces to start a business together. The idea of not having to be completely independent, or alone in business, has captured so many women and I am both inspired and intrigued by this and I wanted to hone in on it through integrating a "friends in business" focus in the Real Style Project. 


    Real Style Project Tara Marshall Meghan Bannon Story 7


    Entering into it's second year of business, FORT Architecture is one of Calgary's newest firms, but they have also made quite an impact! Before I started this next chapter of the Real Style Project, I was chatting with a friend in the industry and she said Fort already has a reputation of impeccable talent, ethics, and fresh perspective.

    Started by three friends, Tara, Meghan and Landon, each with a unique eye and incredible skill-set, the trio decided to take a major leap of faith and leave their steady jobs at different firms to create FORT. One year after its launch, when you ask them how it all works with the 3 founders, they say it is seamless- projects are done both as a team, but also independently- allowing one another to be true to themselves, but the teamwork mindset creates unity and cohesion. They know that they can rely on one another to bring each project to completion in a beautiful way that is also unique and distinctive.

    You may have noticed that there are three people on the FORT team, two women (Meghan and Tara) and one man (Landon). Landon, you are incredibly talented, you have a huge heart, and are a great source of support & love for those in your life. However, the Real Style Project is about the stories of our featured women, and here is where we focus on Tara & Meghan. 


    A couple months ago I asked people to nominate a woman that they thought was inspiring, encouraging and had a great sense of self-style. Within minutes I received a message from Meghan, nominating her friend and colleague, Tara. Meghan said that Tara is a "super mom" and an incredibly hard worker. I loved how Meghan took the time to nominate her friend and business partner, and to me, that spoke to the type of woman that both Meghan and Tara are, but also to the kind of friendship and working relationship that they have.


    Real Style Project Fort Architecture Calgary


    Both Tara and Meghan are a part of this new generation of entrepreneur moms- Knowing that they could have a career that they are passionate about without having to sacrifice having a home life with their husbands and kids, they really are doing it all, but also learning as they go.

    Just to show you how hard these women work, and to give you a tiny glimpse into what their lives look like, here's a little background about the women:
    Tara, 37, is a born and raised Calgarian and has been married to her husband for nine years and together they have two kids (2 1/2 years old and 5 years old). Tara went to Mount Royal where she received her Interior Design degree, and continued on to the U of C to complete her Masters of Architecture.
    Meghan, 33, is also a born and raised Calgarian and has been married to her husband for five years, and together they have two children (1 1/2 years old and 3 1/2 years old). Meghan completed the two year Architectural Technologies program at SAIT, then went on to complete her 4 year Masters of Architecture at Dalhousie University. 

    As you can see, both Meghan and Tara have worked incredibly hard to get to where they are in their careers, but when you add in their desire to maintain a healthy & loving marriage and being a present & passionate parent, their plates and hearts are full. These are two women that you can look at and truly admire, and possibly even wonder "how do they do it all?" or think "she really has it all together!"- but I can tell you that both Meghan and Tara are honest and open about how difficult it can be, and that things aren't always as they appear on social media. This lifestyle that they have chosen is tricky to balance, requires a lot of energy (which there sometimes isn't much of), there is often a tug-of-war of love & resources, but yet their lives are full of things that they have chosen, that they cherish, and that they wouldn't give up for the world! Tara and Meghan recognize that they love where they are at, and will continue to work hard to keep it all going. 


    Real Style Project Fort Architecture Calgary Tara and Meghan


    Tara describes her style in the same way that she describes her design style. "I am always drawn to modern takes on classics with a hint of edge. When shopping, I always look for unique details- I personally think this is something that makes a person look effortlessly stylish. You can just be wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but small unique details can make an outfit that much more put together. This is why I am a big believer in jewellery and it's ability to add personality to an outfit."

    While Meghan tends to take a simple, minimalist approach in all aspects of her style, she says she likes a "layered and simple" look. "I'll wear a simple outfit with a couple of layers and pair it with some meaningful jewelry pieces; such as my grandfather's watch, my wedding ring, or a family necklace." 


    What motivates you?

    Motivation to achieve and accomplish is a powerful thing, and we are hearing the question "what's your why?" over and over again. Meghan is motivated by her family. "I want to have a successful career that I'm proud of and live a balanced life not only as a boss, but equally as a mom and wife. I want my children to understand the joy I find in my career and how hard I work in all aspects of my life to attempt a balance."

    For Tara, the idea of overcoming, or surpassing is a major motivator! "Surpassing expectations motivates me. This can be other people's expectations, but more often than not, it's my own. There is something incredibly rewarding in surpassing your own goals."


    Real Style Project Tara Marshall


    Growing up, Tara felt the pressure to be perfect and felt the immense weight of that expectation in much of what she did. But now, being more confident & comfortable with who she is, Tara knows that perfection isn't a goal, rather it is found in those rare moments where the stars align and everything is as it should be (for example, I look great, had an 8 hour sleep, met all my deadline, and my kids are bathed and in bed by 7:00). "We all have struggles, and perfection is an unnecessary pressure we have to stop putting on ourselves and on others."

    Tara goes on to say that "the use of the word 'surpassing' also highlights the fact that I don't always believe in myself. Just like everyone else, I always have that 5-10% of doubt that creeps in and says 'I can't do it.' But the questions of "what it?" really is the motivator: what if we get that dream job, what if I can make that deadline, what if I can do it. For me, that's just enough to challenge and believe in myself."


    Who, or what, has helped shape you?

    As we go through life, we encounter people that help shape who we are. They are either a part of experiences that rock us to our core, or they build us up and encourage us to be our best. 

    Tara reflects on both of these scenarios. 

    Talking about her mom, Tara realizes just how influential her mom was in shaping her as a young woman, but also in her daily life. "I have never met someone so giving with her time or committed to her family. I wouldn't be where I am now without her support and willingness to help me. If I am lacking in confidence or belief in myself, she is definitely the person I go to for a pep talk. Even though our lives are very different (she was a stay at home mom, and I am a working mom), we recognize the toll that both roles take on mom. She is definitely my person that I lean on most for support when I need it...and offers the perspective that I need sometimes to step back and give myself a break."


    When did you start dreaming about having your own company?

    Tara: I have always dreamt about having my own company but lacked the confidence to follow through or doubted my abilities to just jump in and start a company from scratch. There is no question that I have always felt like I was destined for something bigger than whatever my work situation was, and that "what if" question would always pop up. As someone with very strong intuition, I have come to recognize these questions as forks in the road where the question arises because life tells me I need to make a change.

    Meghan: I was on my second maternity leave and realized how quickly my kids were growing up. With a regular 9-5 job I was not seeing the flexibility that I wanted to be able to spend time with my family. Don't get me wrong, I probably work more than I did before, but it's flexible. Part of out agreement in partnering together was just that- if I wanted to walk my daughter to school mid week, it's not an issue. Beyond the flexibility, it was also a desire to have more ownership of my work."


    Real Style Project Meghan Bannon


    How did you know you wanted to start FORT with your friends?

    Meghan: I worked with both Tara and Landon for a few years and we all got along really well and worked very well together. Over some drinks, it came up that we were all searching for the next step in our careers and many of our goals were the same. We all bring a different skill to the table, but align perfectly with many of the others. 


    The biggest challenge in starting your company:

    Meghan: One of the biggest challenges was getting up the guts to make the leap. It will always be the riskier and more difficult choice to own a small business, but the benefit has already out weighed the alternate. We have been very fortunate in our first year with the wonderful jobs that have crossed our paths. My other big challenge is balance. I am starting to get a groove of family/work/life balance, but when a large deadline comes around, I still struggle to manage it all gracefully. 

    Tara: Sometimes the biggest challenge is having confidence and comfort when you are knee deep in the unknown. That's why a partnership is really great- odds are that at least one of us has a positive outlook and is capable of stirring up some motivation when things are feeling tough or intimidating.


    Real Style Project Meghan Bannon Tara Marshall


    How do you split your time?

    Tara: Splitting time is hard. I don't yet have a magic routine where I feel like I am always winning. I am trying hard to let go of the desire for perfection and realizing that's a fluid dance where sometimes things go right, and sometimes they don't. It's important to me that my family has a normal dinner and bedtime routine so that we have time to reconnect and check in. But the reality is that work is always waiting for me when bedtime is done and sometimes that's a hard pill to swallow. I don't want my kids to ever feel like I prioritize work above them, but sometimes on weekends I have to work outside of nap schedules and bedtime routines to meet deadlines. It's a constant juggling act, some weeks are great and some weeks are chaotic. I think the key is being open-minded and flexible. If you don't leave room for something to shift, rigidity is going to be the reason you feel like you are not succeeding at having it all."


    Dreams and goals for the next three years:

    Meghan: So many! 1. An office space: FORT is currently home-based but exploded at the seams with tile samples! 2. FORT to be known as a firm pushing the envelope in all aspects of design. 3. Collaboration. It's a relatively new term in the design world beyond large scale project and joint ventures. There is a trend towards these co-work movements, and out industry could use a little more peer collaborations. Everyone wins in the end.  


    A little bit about their friend...

    Meghan: Working with Tara previously and now has been so much fun. I've never met anyone who is more thoughtful or considerate than she it. Tara is such a hard worker and always a team player. Not to mention she is extremely talented in her field or really whatever she puts her mind to. The decision to work with Tara and Landon was an easy one as they both are simply amazing all around. 

    Tara: Meghan is bold, driven and says it like it is. I appreciate and admire both her honesty and integrity. She is incredibly organized and always plans ahead in both our business and her personal life. I truly admire Meghan's confidence and it's what I would like to aspire to. 


    Real Style Project Meghan Bannon and Tara Marshall



    It is evident that both Meghan and Tara are passionate about their families, their work, and to being true to who they are and what is important to them. This includes maintaining a sense of self and being true to their own personal style. Both ladies looked through the Apostle jewelry and found some pieces that they loved and wanted to incorporate into the shoot.

    Meghan: I was instantly drawn to the earrings for their beautiful green colour and simple brass detailing. They could easily be paired with an everyday outfit or something a little more formal. As I don't usually wear a lot of jewelry, I wanted to pair the earring with something delicate. I chose to layer two bangles to add a little texture to my outfit. 

    Real Style Project Meghan Bannon Jewelry


    Tara: It's probably the architect in me, but I am always drawn to strong geometric jewelry and statement pieces. If I go with a simple outfit, I like the contrast of a bold piece of jewelry to offset the look. This typically leads me to opt for one piece of jewelry or mix scales- large earrings and no necklace, or a large necklace with small studs. I also feel that picking jewelry is a lot like picking home décor- it is the last item you put on or add to a room, and is the piece that can tie a look together. It's the small details that can add that special touch. I also feel strongly that as with home décor accessories, it's ok to change it up and not be tied to a particular style. Have fun and don't think about it too much! 

    Real Style Project Tara Marshall Jewelry



    There is a lot to learn from Meghan and Tara's style story, and I know we can all relate to something. Whether it's feeling an expectation of having to be perfect, the heart-felt desire for something more, the fear in taking a leap of faith, or maybe the struggles that come with balancing work, family and personal life.

    We can all learn something from one another, and that is the purpose of the style stories told here in the Real Style Project. What do you take away from Meghan and Tara's story?


    The photography from Meghan and Tara's style story was captured by Melanie from Grey Lily Photography. To learn more about Melanie and her work, click here

    Grey Lily Photography


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