It might be true that you can’t go home again, but sometimes the home that’s waiting for you is a whole lot more exciting than the one you left behind. At least that was the case for Canadian fashion blogger Kayla Seah, who recently returned from a stint in Europe to her native Toronto. 28-year-old Seah knew from an early age that she wanted to work in fashion. To make her dream a reality, she started out in retail, assisted various stylists, and eventually began styling herself. After spending a summer working in New York City and completing a degree in fashion communication, she moved to Berlin in 2012, launching her blog, Not Your Standard, the same year. “I was able to get my Italian citizenship through my family and live in Europe, so that was very cool,” she says.
After three years growing the blog into a full-time gig, Seah returned to Toronto excited by all of the chic new places popping up, including two new outposts from luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue (which boasts the dreamiest shoe department we've ever seen, BTW). These days, she’s firmly planted downtown, enjoying a hometown that she thinks is finally owning its unique vibe. “Toronto is no longer a place that’s trying to mimic any other city,” she explains. Here, inspired by pieces from Saks' newest collection, she shares her fashion philosophy, trusted packing tips, and why you should never underestimate the power of a great statement coat.
What drove you to start your blog?
"When I was young, I worked in a lot of retail stores and remember being very bored because I wanted to do something much bigger with clothing. I've been obsessed with putting my own outfits together since I was very little. My experience assisting stylists made me realize that I really liked the online world and wanted to go in that direction. I also worked at several boutiques, so I got exposure to visual merchandising, and I started picking up Instagram. I always thought that I’d be a stylist, so I figured that the blog was a way I could style but not have to be on set doing shoots all day. It was about making it my own thing. I realized I could monetize it and turn it into a full-time job."
Why do you think your content stands out?
"My blog is called Not Your Standard for a reason. I didn’t want to create just your standard fashion blog. I wanted to incorporate every aspect — fashion, music, beauty, and lifestyle. For me, it’s about informative pieces that don’t necessarily have to be photography-based."
You spent three years living in and blogging from Berlin. What made you decide to come back to Toronto?
"I was a bit bored with Berlin. It’s a very cool city, but it’s very relaxed at the same time. In Toronto, you can dress up in heels and nobody is going to look at you. In Berlin, you get a second look if you’re not wearing sneakers. I missed my family and the North American culture. When I left in 2012, I was sick of Toronto because I felt that it was trying to be something other than itself. But in those three years it really grew up and became its own thing. Every time I came back to visit, I really loved all of the new spots that were opening."
You were born and raised in the city. What inspires you about your hometown?
"Overall, this is a really fun place. I always enjoy getting dressed up and going out for drinks. The Queen West neighborhood is a wonderful place to go. We have so many great restaurants everywhere. Grey Gardens, Bar Isabel, and La Palma are three of my favorites right now. At night, I like wine and cocktail bars."
How would you define your personal style?
"I love classic pieces with a bit of an edge — more masculine in that sense. I don’t like anything overly girly, but I do like a nice silhouette and structure. When it comes to outfits, everything is in the details. I prefer starting with a simple outfit and adding a really great jacket or pair of shoes to take it to the next level."
How has your style evolved over the years?
"Investing in designer pieces is something that I couldn’t afford to do when I was younger, but now that I can, I see the real value in it. It's all about mixing the highs and lows."
What’s absolutely essential in your wardrobe?
"I would never get rid of my jackets, from leather jackets to duster coats. I rotate them constantly and consider them investment pieces. I’m wearing a blazer with pretty much everything these days — casual for daytime and dressed up at night. Oversized blazers are my go-to, as well as biker jackets. Paired with flats or heels, they look great. In Canada, a good winter jacket is also key. Oversized coats are great because you can pile a ton of layers underneath and not look frumpy."
Just back from a trip to Iceland, you seem like you're always on the move. Any favorite travel packing tips?
"I always bring more shoes than not because it’s an easy way to make your outfit look different if you didn’t pack quite enough clothes. Before I even start packing, I lay out all of my outfits and photograph each one. Then when I’m traveling, especially on a business trip or running out to an event when I don’t have time to put things together, I’m happy knowing I have a go-to look ready."
What advice would you give someone looking to launch a fashion blog?
"Don’t do it for the free things and the money. Really develop your own style. If you believe in it, stand behind it and keep doing it regularly. The perks of this job might come down the road, but don’t get into it for that reason."