Fall Minimalist


heelsandsoul-culottes-seoul-michellepham-12heelsandsoul-culottes-seoul-michellepham-11WEAR FROM: Cashmere top – VKOO | Culottes – A small boutique in Hongdae | White platforms – A small boutique in Itaewon

Dear friends & family,

This is going to be one of the last outfits on the blog where I have long, flowing hair (more like plenty of split ends) because I recently chopped off my locks in exchange for a lighter do. You’ll read more on that in the next blog! I have been experiencing a major backlog with blogging on this trip, and I have many stories and photos coming up the pipeline in the next few days. My current destination is Hanoi, Vietnam. I left Seoul about half a week ago and immediately went on a 25 KM trek up in the northern highlands of Sapa.

I am really glad to be back in Vietnam again. I love this country very much. If you speak your mother tongue or are lucky enough to be a polyglot, use it! Language is the key that opens the floodgates to people. When I was in Korea, I wanted to communicate with so many people but it was difficult since I didn’t know the language. Some expressions and aspects of culture just can’t be translated or understood in the same way in English. Meanings take on different forms. People warm to you when you share a common mode of communication. Although my Vietnamese is rusty, I enjoy being able to have small chats with the local vendors, haggling on the streets and having discussions with my taxi drivers.

I do miss the higher quality of sanitation in Korea. This is where the ultra germaphobe in me comes in. Here, the toilets (if there are toilets instead of holes in the ground) look like they could use a vat of Lysol. You will also need to bring your own toilet paper if you are going on an excursion or to the local hole in the wall restaurants. However, each place has its charm and comparisons are moot and pointless between countries. The standards we are familiar with can’t be imposed on the places we go to. The world is organized by a gamut of facilities, experiences and settings. The best way to travel is just to enjoy all that is thrown at you.

Another difference between Korea and Vietnam is that things are not as “cute” here in Vietnam. The fashion is a few years behind and there aren’t many conventional “Instagrammable” coffee shops and flower boutiques. But, it’s real. I like that Vietnam still feels real and less artificial. If I had a choice between using Splenda or real sugar in my tea, I’d go with the real sugar any day. In actuality, I enjoy squeezing drizzles of honey into my tea. I was thoroughly exhausted by all the consumerism and advertising after a month’s stay in Seoul. Korea has a highly photogenic consumer culture, hence why it is a normal occurrence to see people there snapping photos on selfie sticks and DSLRs at every photographable moment possible. When I was visiting Jeju Island, I was walking up Seopjikoji Beach and was incredibly surprised at the advanced level of selfie sticks I saw on the path. There were the long 5’5 tripod-style selfie sticks, the basic ones, the swirly ones, the ultra short ones, the couple ones and more. At some points, it became too much because I was consistently ducking to avoid the crowds of selfie sticks. Not to mention, sometimes it takes away from your senses being able to fully take in the present moment. I visited Seopjikoji on my own, which is rather unusual for Korea. People don’t like to do things alone. Eating alone, shopping alone and sitting alone are a big social taboo because you are perceived as being socially unintegrated. The day I left Seoul, I went to an Italian restaurant by myself because all my travel companions had left earlier and I needed to eat. They segregated the only other person eating alone and I on the main floor of the restaurant where no one else was sitting. The groups of people and couples were all situated with a nice view on the upper floors. Each time they came down, they would look curiously at us while the other man and I exchanged looks that said, “I get you, friend.”

I’ve got to catch some sleep now, but I’ll be back soon with more to tell. Sending x + o’s wherever you are.

Autumn in Seoul


_DSC0200_DSC0237_DSC0199_DSC0204WEAR FROM: Skirt – Talbots | Floral Top – Marimekko | Purse – Kate Spade | Shoes – Birkenstocks | Necklace – J. Crew

My beloved friends and family,

I know that I have been totally lackluster with keeping up my updates for Heels & Soul during my Asia trip. To be fair, my silence was not intentional. A lot has happened since I arrived on this continent and for awhile, I didn’t have access to a working laptop. We’ve moved houses three times in Seoul. The first Airbnb turned out to be cockroach and mosquito infested. These were not regular cockroaches that we can just laugh about and whack with a book. First of all, anyone who knows me knows that bugs and I do not mesh. Secondly, I hate (emphasis) two types of bugs in this world: mosquitos and cockroaches. Lastly, this was a mutant cockroach. Let’s just say a big no no to cockroaches. Mid-day, as D. and I were taking a quick nap after lunch, I opened up my eyes to see this monstrosity of a creature sprinting across our ceiling at a breakneck speed. We both yelled and I ran for the door leaving poor D. to deal with the horror. Armed with a sturdy Birkenstock, he was able to chase the giant cockroach around the room as it flew about, hiding under the bed before running up the wall again. We both agreed that this was not a normal cockroach and that if we saw one more, we were out of the Airbnb. One morning, my cousin was opening the door when he saw another one hiding in the corner. He was able to hit it, once again, with another Birkenstock. Thank God for Birkenstocks.

The mosquitos were even worse. We lived on the 16th floor of an apartment building but for some unknown reason, mosquitos kept on making themselves house guests despite the heights. We closed all the windows and entered and exited the house like ninjas, but they kept on inviting themselves over. Unfortunately, I get allergic reactions to mosquitos, so my arms and legs started to look like bloated pink pool inflatables.  Needless to say, it was a very short stint. While en route to the second house, we accidentally left our backpack in the taxi and a Macbook, tablet, $600 and much, much more disappeared into the black hole of things left behind in taxis. A police report was filed, CCTV cameras were accessed and we are hopefully waiting for a lead to make itself apparent. It has been 20 days since that backpack was driven away in the backseat of a Seoul taxi cab. House number two was just a riot. We weren’t aware that we were going to have a roommate when we inquired about the place. When we came in for a viewing, we had had enough of cockroaches and mosquitos and wanted a quick fix. Lesson be learned that quick fixes never fix anything. We agreed to move in on October 1st. Unbeknownst to us, we accidentally consented to live with a woman who definitely won the  award for the worst roommate. She was actually out of her mind. My friend H.  helped us call the police on her one morning when she had gone on a rage all night. Crazy eyes took on a whole new definition. At this point, I told D. that we just needed some peace of mind and some damn good sleep. Stress wears at you and if you’re living in hostile environments, your immune system and body will definitely start to wear down. With dark circles and exhausted minds, we finally settled into our third and hopefully last place in Seoul. A quiet refuge amidst the bustling nightlife of Hongdae, we are going to get a good night of rest after nearly three weeks of anxiety. *As an update, I wrote this last night but have to now report that we discovered more mosquitos in this current Airbnb. This morning, D. and I launched mission mosquito attack at 6AM and successfully annihilated three of them. Korean Airbnbs sadly are not as reliable as their North American counterparts.* 

Aside from the housing mishaps, I just returned back to Seoul  (just in time to catch the tail end of Seoul Fashion Week) from a weekend getaway to Jeju Island. I’ll give you more updates on that shortly! This trip is moving along with life lessons being passed on at every turn around the corner. Overall, we’ve been having a great time! I hope you enjoyed this set of photos! They were taken at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, which is where S/S 2016 Seoul Fashion Week shows took place! It’s a beautiful piece of architectural work.


Out of the Sewing Room: Mandarin Collars


Hello Autumn! Here in Seoul, the weather is fairly moderate and the faintest whiff of autumn is drifting on by. It’s light cardigan weather and women here are still in skirts. Denim is all the rage here in Korea. Above the knee and mid-calf denim button skirts meet and greet you on every street…..

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Seafoam Skyscrapers


Before I left Vancouver, I was able to enjoy Gravity Pope’s awesome warehouse sale where I picked up a few pretty things for fall, including this beautiful seafoam dress shirt from Maison Kitsuné. This outfit is the epitome of late Vancouver summers for me. There’s enough of a light breeze that a thin cardigan or button-up makes for nice company in the waning sunsets…..

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Little Black Dress x THII


My time with the incredible store THII is up now. The women who work and run this design label in Vancouver are some of the nicest creatives in the city. This proudly made and manufactured in Vancouver company is run by two sisters and their Mom, and they are one of the visible Asian-Canadian designers with prime retail space at Oakridge Mall….

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White Crochet + Bamboo Forests


I have some exciting news to share! Before I continue the next few years in the Bay Area, I’m taking a sojourn to Korea for 40 days, India for 10 days, Vietnam for 23 and Japan for a fortnight. I’m departing next week….

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Slow Sunsets


The last few sweet days of summer are closing in on us. The days have gone by far too quickly in the past few years! Watercolor sunsets on rooftops, moving in and out of apartments in all corners of the world, checking in at another destination, saying temporary and permanent goodbyes at the gates and an endless amount of tight hugs and promises to meet again have been a part of the unfolding narrative….

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Cherry Wine


Vancouver’s summertime is alluring and instead of having to leave my beautiful city during the peak of its beauty, all my dear ones have flown right into the heart of our west coast gem….

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Industrial Blue and White


I just came back from a weekend getaway in Kelowna. From childhood till now, the Okanagan Valley has remained one of my favourite summer spots. Nothing exudes as much wholesome goodness and summer vibes as much as this part of British Columbia….

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How Have Eurocentric Beauty Standards Affected You?


Photographer Calvin Reedy has put out several exhibitions that use art and photography as a medium for investigating deeper social qualms and the cracks in society’s foundations. When asked to participate in his exhibition on Eurocentric beauty standards and how women of diversity respond to these ideals, I was more than happy to be a part of his project….

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