[IMGCAP(1)]One of the great things about living in Buffalo, N.Y., is our position on the map. Situated right on the border of our neighbors to the north, Canada, we enjoy summer on the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario beaches, the gorgeous Niagara-on-the-Lake wine county, the mighty and beautiful shared landmark of Niagara Falls, and the bustling metropolitan city of Toronto, about 90 minutes away from downtown Buffalo.

Having lived in New York City for 10 years, I often travel up to Toronto for a little taste of the city. It’s beautiful, it’s clean, and it’s filled with some great fashion inspiration for my style sensibility. I try to make it up there as often as I can, just as the apparel season and store window displays change, to take in both hip street style and high-end couture.

I recently returned from a weekend trip up to Toronto, where I was lucky enough to meet with Mark Ottenbrite, marketing manager for Holt Renfrew, a leading Canadian luxury retailer with shops in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Quebec City among others across Canada. “Holt’s has been stepping it up for 170 years when it comes to meeting the evolving needs of Canada's distinguished clientele” according to their website, and the customer service is incredible.

Mark treated me and my friends to a fabulous store tour, walking us through the top trends of the fall 2011 season, complete with some great suggestions of how to incorporate the latest looks into a corporate setting.

As promised last blog, with a little help from Holt’s, here is a short rundown of some of the key looks I noticed for handbags this season. A great handbag can be a way to show off your personality and panache, and carry your files, laptop and other work-related goods safely and securely. A classic handbag fabrication or silhouette can last you years, and never go out of style, so here are a few of the fall must-haves:

Totes and satchels in bold colors and skins. Think rich leathers, the exotic charm of snake and croc prints, and suede in a rainbow of warm fall colors and tones including metallics and soft neutrals. You can also look for less expensive and more animal-friendly man-made materials that show off the same look. Go genuine or go faux!

Many of these bags also have amazing hardware details such as metal locks, studs or rivets. These extras can really jazz up a classic handbag silhouette and give it a bit more of an edge, especially when held against a workplace appropriate suit.

Lots of designers are also creating their own take on the classic quilted leather bag. While you may not be able to afford a timeless quilted black leather Chanel handbag (but, boy are they gorgeous!), Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, Isaac Mizrahi and Michael Kors all have more moderately priced looks. Check out Nine West and your local department store for even more inexpensive options.

Also, because I tend to carry a ridiculously unnecessary, huge handbag to work, I have to say that I really love men’s accessories too. A quick look at the men’s section always has me drooling over gorgeously constructed briefcases, laptop cases and travel bags. I think these looks can be great for women as well, and the richness of the deep colors and quality of leather is fantastic. Jack Spade makes some gorgeous leather duffel bags and cases, which can be great for day time, carrying your after-work gym clothes, overnight things, or for office-to-office travel. The wallets and small leather goods are super stylish too.

You can also take a look at luxury brands’ men’s accessories for some inspiration. Currently, I am really loving Gucci’s travel and business options, as they are super stylish and have sort of a vintage feel, which I adore.

In addition to getting you up to speed on handbags, let’s take a quick look at two key apparel trends for women this fall. These two items are just a few of the trends that Mark and the Holt Renfrew team have identified as perfect for fall work wear. You will be seeing these looks at your local stores, everywhere from high end to lower end shops, and they are both key pieces to help keep your wardrobe current.


Bow Blouse. Remember the classic 1980 movie 9 to 5? Dolly Parton’s song comes blaring into my head and that’s what I think of when I envision this trend. A ladylike style that comes in many colors, prints and fabrications, the bow blouse can be paired with a pencil skirt, structured trousers, or even peeking out under a shift dress. I recently picked up this adorable bow blouse at Target and love the way it looks both at the office and on the weekends with dark skinny jeans.

Maxi Coat. The New York Times listed this item as the No. 2 trend on their fall trends list this year. Seen on Kate Middleton a while back (and then shortened for another more recent event!), the maxi coat can be found in a wide array of styles from the classic military look to an ’80s throwback with boxy shoulders and a more masculine structure. This look can be paired with polished black knee-high dress boots or a sharp suit, for a professional and current ensemble.


Although not as long as the maxi coat, while shopping in my local mall, I recently noticed that chain store H&M had a large number of blazers and coats that will work well for corporate dress this fall. Many of them do have a boxier look—most a menswear silhouette—but I also found this coat, which I picked up in navy, and love the girly bow details on the collar and pockets. Check out some of the other coats and jackets at H&M, great for on the go travel from office to client.

Many thanks to Mark Ottenbrite and the Holt Renfrew Toronto team for helping me see what’s new and en vogue this season, and proving that, with a little creativity and flair, you can navigate through any corporate dress code with style.

Emily Alexandria Burns is a State University of New York Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and started her career in New York City working for companies including Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni, Christian Dior and Jones Apparel Group. She is now e-marketing communications specialist for Freed Maxick & Battaglia CPAs in Buffalo, N.Y., and recently named the Association for Accounting Marketing's 2011 "Rookie of the Year." Follow her on Twitter @FreedMaxickPR or email her at emily.burns@freedmaxick.com.