CANADIAN RETAIL: LA MAISON SIMONS

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Given the company’s aggressive expansion plans, which are not without risk in today’s competitive marketplace, the fifth-generation retailer now considers himself more of an entrepreneur than an heir. “I think there is a place in the market for a real company that’s in Canada and has Canadian values,” he says. Among those ideals, he adds pointedly, are reinvesting profits made in Canada into Canada.

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Quebec fashion retailer Simons has ambitious designs on the rest of Canada


Nathalie Atkinson
Quebec City — The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Nov. 28 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Last updated Tuesday, Nov. 25 2014, 4:59 PM EST

When La Maison Simons, the venerable Quebec-based department-store chain, opened its outpost in West Edmonton Mall two years ago, it was the company’s first store outside its home province. That foray, though, was just the beginning for the 175-year-old retailer, merely the eve of the next phase of Simons’s ambitious national expansion. Two years from now, five more stores – four outside Quebec and the fifth across from Ottawa in Gatineau – will be completed, if all goes according to plan. The combined extra retail space will encompass some 485,000 square feet.

The first of these new stores is to open at Les Promenades Gatineau in August, followed by West Vancouver’s Park Royal Shopping Centre in October, then Square One in Mississauga in March 2016, Ottawa’s Rideau Centre in August 2016 and The Core in Calgary in March 2017.

The schedule is as ambitious as the design schemes for the stores themselves, if Edmonton is any indication. There, avant-garde fitting rooms feature social-media-connected screens, while an undulating lighting installation by architect Philip Beasley, titled Aurora, evokes the Northern Lights.

For all of this activity, however, La Maison Simons, which is a retail institution in Quebec, remains relatively unknown in many quarters of the country. To understand what it has to offer in an increasingly crowded retail market, which is seeing glamorous American department stores such as Nordstrom and Saks venture north, it helps to see where and how Simons began so many years ago, in Quebec City’s Upper Town. During a recent visit to the provincial capital for a prearranged tour of the chain’s historic ground zero, the chill off the St. Lawrence River is cutting and I experience firsthand why Simons, born inside the walls of Old Quebec, was for decades one of the largest knitwear importers in the country. Geography, as they say, matters.

Peter Simons, 50, is the CEO of the privately owned family company; his younger brother, Richard, is the vice-president of buying (neither of their sisters is involved in the business). “Our plan,” Peter Simons says when I meet him, “is to stay a private company as long as we can. How long is long? I don’t know.” Another goal, Simons adds, is to continue expanding until the company has 20 stores across Canada (including at least one in downtown Toronto), although he admits that “it was a very different business when my brother and I started – we were doing $12-million a year.” (In 2012, that figure was more like $300-million, according to reports.)

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The first stop on my tour with Simons is Place Ste-Foy in the affluent Quebec City suburb. It was here that his father, Donald, now 85 and retired from the company, situated a second store in 1961. A 2009 renovation and expansion has doubled the size to an airy 100,000 square feet; today, it doesn’t so much anchor the shopping centre as beckon customers from their cars as they drive by – the dramatic facade combines reflective blue glass, titanium, black granite tiles and rough stone.

Inside, it’s ultra-sleek, all glossy white and chrome, with mirrored details and glass walls. We breeze by designer brands such as See by Chloé, Marc by Marc Jacobs, InWear, Vivienne Westwood and Carven. A dizzying array of patterns define the private-label hosiery.

The store has just opened and dozens of cheerful associates are tidying their departments. As we pass, they wave or glance up to smile hello, apparently used to seeing the boss. He, in turn, knows most of them by name.

Technically, Simons isn’t a department store – it doesn’t sell stand mixers or living-room suites – but a retailer of fashion and home decor. Within these categories, the breadth of the selections is staggering. In men’s wear alone, there’s both a snowboard and outerwear section and a White Shirt Bar, plus sections showcasing international designer brands such as Z Zegna, Filson and Paul Smith. Simons’s own brands of suiting come in regular, fitted and semi-fitted silhouettes, to suit a range of body types, tastes and budgets.

The idea is for multiple generations to shop under one roof, the different house brands offering something for everyone. Of those labels, Twik is the trendiest, aimed at the fad-mad under-25 set who might otherwise shop at H&M, while Contemporaine is for chic 30- and 40-something careerists. Another exclusive house brand is Le 31, taken from the expression for dressing up. They all date back to the 1960s, when Donald Simons saw that the youthquake and, later, Expo 67 were influencing shopping; the store added European designers like Courrèges and Lanvin to the mix and modernized for the times by creating its own contemporary collections.

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“We aren’t going to localize our assortments – with a store our size, it’s like a menu,” Simons says in reference to the planned new stores. “We have a really complex assortment and it relates to the way people buy and what they want because they are very diversified and sophisticated today – they know how to put together the $20 T-shirt with a $1,000 jacket. They are shopping that way, with very variable needs. Our assortment allows us to service multiple markets like that.”

As we walk through one suiting department, Simons runs into a long-time employee. They joke about having worked together almost 40 years ago, when Simons was a teenager and started working part-time on the sales floor, in men’s socks and underwear, under a certain Madame Girard (who Simons still sees every year at the company Christmas party).

On our way back to the original store in Upper Town, we make a pit stop at the restored Fontaine de Tourny, a 19th-century French fountain that Simons donated to the city for its 400th birthday. At the store itself, which now encompasses three annexed adjacent businesses, including the former Empire cinema and an original Birks shop, there are tasteful geometric touches that evoke the one-time theatre’s Art Deco facade and incorporate its marquee; inside, the look is modern, with back-lit walls and a catwalk. The executive and buying offices are on the third floor and a fourth houses design studios for the house brands. There are photo studios, too; an upcoming e-commerce expansion will put their entire inventory online (about 50 per cent of it is available now).

“Our DNA was really in importing,” Simons says as we walk past tidy stacks of colourful knits to his office. “My great-great-grandfather sailed across the Atlantic for buying – two weeks there and then back. He crossed the ocean 72 times.” These days, Simons does a similar amount of travelling – it just comes with frequent-flier points. The following day, in fact, he’ll be off on a combination scouting, buying and leasing trip.

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Given the company’s aggressive expansion plans, which are not without risk in today’s competitive marketplace, the fifth-generation retailer now considers himself more of an entrepreneur than an heir. “I think there is a place in the market for a real company that’s in Canada and has Canadian values,” he says. Among those ideals, he adds pointedly, are reinvesting profits made in Canada into Canada.

To that end, Simons is adamant about participating in the economy not just as an employer but as a kind of artistic patron, commissioning elaborate designs for his stores. To work alongside established architects Lemay Michaud and McKinley Burkart, for example, he has chosen the emerging Toronto interiors firm designstead. For the Park Royal store in West Vancouver, Douglas Coupland has been tapped to create a showpiece installation.

Similarly, Simons grows animated when talking about the fashion business and the ways, big and small, that the company might stand out from the retail crowd and positively affect the future.

For instance, he sees potential in the talks the firm is having with Bionic Yarn, a startup fronted by Pharrell Williams that recycles accumulated plastic from the ocean into eco-thread for high-performance textiles (it has already been used in collaborations with Timberland, Moncler and G-Star RAW).

“I’m gonna be honest with you,” Simons says later, over lunch in the city’s Old Port. “Forget the next two years of new stores. We’re 175 years old – we don’t think in two-year increments. We’re thinking in 50-year increments.”

When we were at the fountain, there had been too much caked ice and snow on its plaque to properly read the inscription, a poem that Simons had commissioned from celebrated Quebec author Marie Laberge, so I look it up when I get home. Its theme, which could be Simons’s, is the meeting of the past and the future.

One passage reads: “Loyal and proud, strengthened by our past, forever courageous and determined never to die.”

Follow Nathalie Atkinson on Twitter: @NathAt

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CANADIAN MANUFACTURER: REIGNING CHAMP

WHILE WANDERING THE EATON CENTER IN TORONTO, (IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME IN THE CITY…)

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INSIDE CLUB MONACO, THE RALPH LAUREN OWNED AMERICAN CHAIN, STARTED BY CANADIAN JOE MIMRAN NOW OF JOE FRESH, A DISPLAY OF A CANADIAN MADE PRODUCT,

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I HAD NEVER HEARD OF “REIGNING CHAMP”, SO A LITTLE EXPLORATION ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB, AND PRESTO, A CANADIAN COMPANY, BASED IN VANCOUVER SINCE 2007

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(ON A PERSONAL NOTE, I GREW UP RIGHT BEHIND THE PARK ON THE TOP OF THE HILL, IT’S QUEEN ELIZABETH PARK, OR LITTLE MOUNTAIN AS WE KNEW IT…SO I DEVELOPED A CERTAIN AFFINTIY WITH THIS COMPANY IMMEDIATELY.)

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“RESPECT THE DETAILS. MASTER THE SIMPLICITY.” NICE MANDATE!

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(IT ALSO TURNS OUT THE FACTORY IS JUST A COUPLE OF BLOCKS FROM MY DEAREST FRIENDS HOME.)

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REIGNING CHAMP, HAND BUILT IN VANCOUVER B.C. AND AVAILABE INTERNATIONALLY.

VISIT THEIR WEBSITE FOR MUCH MORE.

http://www.reigningchamp.com/

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OUR OWN: THE MAPLE LEAF TARTAN

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING WHAT THE TARTAN IN THE BACKGROUND OF “CLOTHINGCANADAFASHION” IS…

Designed in 1964 by David Weiser in anticipation of the centenary of Dominion, the Maple Leaf Tartan is the unofficial tartan of Canada. The Commercial Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Canada said of the design, “In creating the Maple Leaf Tartan fabric, David Weiser captured the natural phenomena of these leaves turning from summer into autumn. The green is the early colour of the foliage. Gold appears at the turn of autumn. Red shows up at the coming of the first frost. The two tones of brown find their way throughout the leaf creating a prolific profusion of colour.” Its International Tartan Index number is 2034.

MAPLE LEAF TARTAN

FOR MORE ON THE TARTANS OF CANADA:

http://www.windsorscottish.com/sc-dress-cantartan.php

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CANADIAN FASHION: KIT AND ACE

Lululemon Founder’s Family Bets on Casual Luxury with New Retail Venture

By Reuters 29 October, 2014

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VANCOUVER, Canada – Sewing machines hum inside a spacious clothing boutique where the wife and son of Lululemon Athletica Inc’s founder hope to capture the retail magic that turned the yogawear maker into a stock market darling.

Meet Kit and Ace, the brainchild of billionaire Chip Wilson’s wife, former Lululemon lead designer Shannon Wilson, who started the new streetwear venture with his son J.J.

Backed entirely by Wilson family money, Kit and Ace has started with one store in the heart of Vancouver’s artsy Gastown neighborhood. The shop, which drew a handful of shoppers on a recent rainy weekday, specializes in “technical” luxury: cashmere-blend casual wear that is pre-shrunk, washable and durable.

It remains to be seen whether Kit and Ace’s simple line of basic black, white, navy and gray t-shirts can gain the same traction as Lululemon’s products.

“Where Lululemon was very successful was that they identified a new trend,” said Darren Dahl, a marketing professor at the Sauder School of Business. “With this new brand, it’s not quite as clear that they have pinpointed an identifiable market.”

Lululemon itself has faced significant problems in the last 18 months, including a high-profile recall of overly sheer yoga pants and a tense board scuffle involving founder Chip Wilson.

Kit and Ace, which opened in July, plans five new shops across North America in November, at least 100 there by 2019, and a presence in Australia, Asia and Europe after that.

The global push could come sooner if the right partner comes along, said Shannon Wilson, who searched the world for a luxury fabric with the properties of sportswear. Failing to find it, she developed her proprietary blend of cashmere, viscose and elastane fabric, formulated in Italy and trademarked “technical cashmere.”

“We do have a very aggressive growth plan because we want to be first to market in this,” she told Reuters.

Pop-up style outlets, like Lululemon’s temporary showrooms, are set to open in coming months in six cities, including Toronto, New York and San Francisco. Kit and Ace wants to use these to enter markets quickly while scouting for permanent locations.

The Next Lululemon

The company started with just four employees seven months ago and now has about 130.

At least two dozen once worked at Lululemon, according to their LinkedIn profiles. A half-dozen employees, including a senior product developer and designers, came directly from there this year.

Bringing in experienced talent is important if Kit and Ace decides to seek investors who want evidence it can be another Lululemon, said James Smerdon, head of retail consulting at Colliers International.

A noticeable absence is Chip Wilson, who remains on Lululemon’s board. His wife says he is not involved in day-to-day operations, but is a mentor and guide.

“There’s no conflict of interest,” she said. “It’s been cleared through the board and through the company that he can be in conversation with J.J. and I about Kit and Ace.”

An outside spokeswoman for Lululemon could not immediately comment.

Wilson, who was behind some of Lululemon’s more famous designs during her tenure between 1999 and 2003, said the venture was in “no way” interested in competing with Lululemon, which has been expanding into streetwear with apparel that can be worn from yoga to a night out.

The companies share other similarities, like the manifestos adorning their shopping bags, and complementary “muses,” fictional characters that embody their ideal customer. Kit and Ace are athletic and creative, while Lululemon uses a successful thirty-something couple named Duke and Ocean.

Kit and Ace’s Vancouver store opened shortly after Chip Wilson publicly accused some Lululemon board members of focusing too much on short-term growth. He eventually agreed to sell half of his 27 percent stake and refrain from waging a proxy contest.

Lululemon grew from one Vancouver store in 1998 to 270 locations worldwide, and pulls in $1.6 billion in annual sales, but it has struggled since the March 2013 recall.

While Kit and Ace is still in its infancy, it will probably appeal to a core segment of Lululemon consumers, said Liz Dunn, who heads brand strategy at Talmage Advisors.

“Worrying about it as a big competitive threat initially seems a little premature,” she said. “At the same time, Chip Wilson, obviously, and his family have a lot of money.

“So to the extent that they want to grow this brand aggressively, they certainly could.”

Editors: Jeffrey Hodgson and Lisa Von Ahn

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CANADIAN FASHION: JEANNE BEKER SPEAKS

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Jeanne Beker on the challenges facing Canadian designers

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http://www.thestar.com/life/fashion_style/2014/11/10/jeanne_beker_on_the_challenges_facing_canadian_designers.html

Fashion expert Jeanne Beker says Canadian consumers need to support homegrown designers so they can compete with international brands. Beker is launching a new collection with The Shopping Channel.

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CANADIAN FASHION: ARITIZIA

Can Aritzia Become as Well-Known in the U.S. as in Canada?

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Canadian retailer Aritzia has opened 15 stores in the U.S. since 2007 — but Americans’ awareness of the brand has yet to match its retail footprint.

Lauren Indvik Lauren Indvik · Nov 12, 2014

http://fashionista.com/2014/11/aritzia-cmo

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Aritzia is one of the best-known — and beloved — women’s retailers in Canada. And though the 30-year-old, family-owned company now has 15 stores in the U.S., bring up the name “Aritzia” in the States — even to someone in the fashion industry — and, more often than not, you’ll be met with a blank stare.

“When I was trying to understand what people’s perceptions about Aritzia in the U.S. were, people either hadn’t heard of it, or it was their best-kept secret,” says Oliver Walsh, who left London (and the helm of the prolific digital agency he co-founded, Wednesday) to become Aritzia’s chief marketing officer in Vancouver almost exactly a year ago. “People struggle to articulate it as succinctly as they could. We maybe haven’t educated our customer in as proactive of a way about what our brand is; [instead], we’ve let them experience it, and take different things from it.”

To Americans, Aritzia could perhaps best be described as a more fashion-forward Anthropologie, with a crisp, understated aesthetic that is more similar to Vince, Club Monaco and Ayr. It got its start as a single boutique in Vancouver in 1984 and, like Anthropologie, aims to maintain that boutique feel at each of its locations. Its price points are similar to those four American brands: cotton and wool sweaters run between $60 and $175 on average, and a smart wool coat will typically cost around $350. Most of what you’ll find in Aritzia’s stores are brands that the company itself designs and manufacturers — there are 14 private labels in total, each with its own own creative director and design teams, whose goods are sold exclusively at Aritzia. The retailer also carries a range of third-party brands including Rag & Bone, Frame Denim, 3×1, Mackage and Alexander Wang to round out the mix.

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What Aritzia is not is fast fashion. “Our mission is to conceive, create, develop and retail fashion brands at a quality which no one can match at our competitive price point,” says Walsh. “We don’t want to compete with fast fashion… we compete on quality, not on price.” Quality, he says, doesn’t just mean great design and materials; it’s also about how the clothes are styled and represented, and the level of customer service offered in stores and online. “If I had the opportunity of buying an ad” — Aritzia doesn’t advertise in print — “or introducing better customer experience through live chat or same-day delivery, I know what I’d choose. Great customer service is your best marketing,” Walsh says.

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To grow brand awareness in the U.S., Aritzia has hired a small PR team in New York — a new move for the company, which has “never really done PR,” says Walsh. The team is focused on educating the U.S. market about Aritzia and its seasonal collections, and getting Aritzia’s goods on the backs of celebrities — Jessica Alba, Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lopez have all sported Aritzia product in recent months.

One thing Aritzia won’t be promoting? Its Canadian heritage. “We don’t want to be known as a Canadian brand,” Walsh says. “We’re very proud of it, but we’re not shouting it out. A brand [can get] a lot of equity saying we’re in New York, which you don’t get saying we’re from Vancouver, even though we do fashion a lot better than some New York players.”

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CANADIAN FASHION DESIGNERS: TORONTO

BLOGTO

The Best Fashion Designers in Toronto
Posted by Alex Brown / November 3, 2014

http://www.blogto.com/toronto/the_best_fashion_designers_in_toronto/

The best fashion designers in Toronto have one thing in common: staying power. It takes a special kind of stamina and drive to maintain an attentive audience in an industry that’s forever changing its preferences. Each of these designers have uncovered lasting examples of what’s beautiful in the art of design and matched that with a vision that changes with the times.

Luckily, they’re not the only ones – the city has plenty of talent to choose from. Younger designers like Sid Neigum, Beaufille, Mikhael Kale and Caitlin Power are part of a growing list of Toronto fan favourites. Together, they’re all part of dressing the future.

Here are the best fashion designers in Toronto.

Pink Tartan
In the 11 years of Pink Tartan’s history, founder Kimberly Newport-Mimran has cracked the code to becoming a crucial designer in Canada’s fashion elite. After eight years in business and a New York showroom already under her belt, Newport-Mimran opened a Pink Tartan flagship store in Yorkville in 2010 while high-end retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and Holt Renfrew continue to carry the line. The Pink Tartan woman possesses all of the fashion sense of a delicately pretty, preppy girl, while managing to fit strong professionalism into the balance. When it comes to outfitting women, Pink Tartan is all about class.

Smythe Les Vestes
Smythe Les Vestes’ flawlessly tailored goods have garnered attention from nearly every relevant female celebrity of the past 10 years, from Kate Middleton to Blake Lively and Katy Perry. The brand exclusively creates jackets and outerwear with a sharp, classic focus. Familiar classics, like the wool HBC coat, are given memorable twists (creative patterns, interesting silhouettes) to showcase the brand’s unique capability to take mainstays and make them feel new again.

Philip Sparks
Philip Sparks’ designs offer a vintage feel – the type of uniform donned by gents clad in thick-rimmed glasses and a 1920s flair. What started as a brand designed solely for men eventually extended into womenswear, which stems from the same old-school mentality but with contemporary touches. The designer’s rise to the top has been a steady one, with less emphasis on runway shows and more of a focus on a ready storefront. Sparks also takes orders for custom suits at his shop on Ossington.

Greta Constantine
Greta Constantine have made a name for themselves by creating beautiful draped pieces with a subtle theatrical touch. Design duo Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong prefer simple materials to high-maintenance fabrics and consider themselves “an accessible luxury line” with a clientele of powerfully chic women looking for effortless style. Past men’s collections (under the name of Ezra Constantine) have revealed the minimalist inclinations of Pickersgill and Wong, while their women’s line maintains an enviably chic attitude.

David Dixon
David Dixon’s luxurious eveningwear designs speak to a woman who favours simple silhouettes and textured, colourful gowns. Since his apprenticeship with Alfred Sung in the 90s, Dixon created his own label In 1995 and has since established himself as one of Canada’s leading designers in ultra-feminine formalwear. Earlier this year, he launched a bridal collection for Kleinfeld Hudson’s Bay.

Klaxon Howl
Matt Robinson’s Klaxon Howl has clothed every type of manly man there is. His designs harken back to a time when the blue-collared man had to clothe himself in sturdy workwear – thickly-laced leather work boots, dungarees, and cotton button-up shirts. Robinson’s primary inspirations have come from mixing early-to-mid 20th century military and sportswear influences to create a vintage take on today’s modern man.

Adrian Wu
Adrian Wu’s imaginative designs are more conversation pieces than ready-to-wear fashion. The designer got his start at Vancouver Fashion Week in 2010 at the age of 19, and has since collaborated with Margaret Atwood (he designed clothing based off of her book In Other Worlds) and broken into the national fashion landscape. His often dramatic and fairy-tale-like work has been met with varying levels of praise and criticism – like his fall/winter 2012 show at Toronto Fashion Week, where models wore Guy Fawkes masks.

Anu Raina
The Toronto-centric art infused into Anu Raina’s designs have granted the designer praise in the city’s fashion and art communities alike. Her designs have placed a colourful Toronto skyline on the backdrop of supple fabrics. The result is a vision of vibrant and youthful clothing with a splash of creative elegance.

VAWK
Since his win on the second season of Canada’s Project Runway, Sunny Fong has developed VAWK, a line dedicated to creating beautifully hand-crafted women’s wear. The brand is named for the phonetic spelling of a Sanskrit word meaning “of divine creativity,” a fitting description of the designs that make up the brand as a whole. Women’s suits are finely tailored with hints of femininity and grace.

Photo of Philip Sparks at his Toronto studio.
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CANADIAN DESIGNERS ABROAD: ERDEM MORALIOGLU

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Erdem Moralioglu: “She’s so many different people”
November 19, 2014

http://the-talks.com/interviews/erdem-moralioglu/?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=14623f8607-&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d2191372b3-14623f8607-417196677

Short Profile

Name: Erdem Moralioglu
DOB: 1977
Place of Birth: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Occupation: Fashion Designer

Erdem, how did growing up with a twin sister influence your path to becoming a womenswear designer?

Having your twin as the opposite sex is kind of an interesting thing. It’s like the female version of yourself. Of course we’re from different eggs, but I have a very close bond with my sister. She knows me inside and out. And I think that’s at least partly where my obsession with women comes from. I was always obsessed with women! Looking at how women dressed, how they carried themselves, what lipstick they wore, how they smelled. I was very attracted to women – not sexually – but I was obsessed with how and what women looked like. From a very, very young age, I only ever drew women.

How young?

When I was around three or four. When I was given a piece of paper and a crayon – most kids would draw a tree and I would always draw a female. It was always a waist and a skirt, even the proportions I could always draw. I remember my parents took me to see The Nutcracker and I only drew the females in the cast. I didn’t care about the guys in it.

At what point did you realize that becoming a fashion designer is a real career path?

When I was probably seven or eight years old, I think. I grew up in Montreal, so you had channel five, which was the French channel – Canal 5 – and they would show on the news the couture shows. I would watch Tim Blanks on Fashion File. I could eat fashion. I would watch Yves Saint Laurent or Chanel and I understood that there was this world out there that was very, very far away from where I was, living in the suburbs of Montreal. I understood that there was a world where people made clothes, and that was a living and a career. And I knew from a very early age that that was a world I wanted to be part of and what I wanted to do.

Did you always know you wanted to have your own label? You started Erdem only one year after graduating from your masters program.

I always wanted to work for myself and start my own company, I just didn’t quite know how I was going to do it. So I entered a design competition for a studio space and I ended up winning it. It was this great space with a pattern-cutting table, a sewing machine, a computer, and a desk. It was literally the size of this room, it was so tiny! Like 200 square feet. But I got the space for three years and I suddenly had an address, you know? A phone number. And then I started it. I did that collection, that first one, and Barney’s ended up buying it.

Most brands have to establish themselves for years before something like that happens.

I know. I remember packing the collection myself and writing an invoice – I didn’t know how to do any of that stuff. It was trial and error. My first show, I didn’t even know you had a model caster. I called the agents myself, like, “Could I put a first option on so and so…” We also spray painted the shoes because we didn’t have any money for them. I’d bought these shitty shoes and spray painted them black. That’s just what I had to do.

You have a Turkish father, an English mother, and you grew up in Canada. Why did you choose to base your business in London?

I originally chose London because I always wanted to go to the Royal College of Art. I was obsessed with David Hockney, I was obsessed with Ossie Clark, and so I just applied for the Royal College where I ended up getting my M.A. and then lots of things happened – my parents passed away, my sister was going to Goldsmiths to study – and it became very permanent because we were really the orphaned twins in London.

Did your parents passing away make it even more important to succeed in a way?

It was very much like, “Okay. This is my life and I have to make sure this works.” It was sink or swim! And that really compels you in a way. You take yourself seriously – I don’t take myself that seriously, but in a way that what you were doing became very serious. I don’t have a business background and I wasn’t from a wealthy family. There were definitely some bumpy moments. It was definite trial and error. Tons of error! I was very lucky in the sense that I grew quite organically and in a way that was very controlled.

Do you think you’re an atypical British designer? When I look at your dresses, Paris seems to be the more obvious choice.

I suppose it depends on what you define as a London designer. I certainly remember when I started in 2005 I had my kind of Victorian-necked chiffon dress in a city that was doing black leather. I do love Paris. But I also love London. That’s where I trained and where I learned to do what I want to do, and I do think London’s such a part of what I do. I’m a British designer. It’s where the company is. It is, in every aspect, my home. And my beginning. But who doesn’t love Paris? I’d love to live in Paris some day.

I bet you’ve had your fair share of opportunities to move there already. The couture houses must be quite fond of your work.

Yes. But I’m totally content focusing on just four collections a year. I love Paris, and I think that opportunity to work on something outside of what I’m doing is interesting, but it has to be completely the right thing. It’s one of those things that’s like, “Be careful what you wish for.” I also own my company and run my company, which is exciting. I love being independent.

Did you ever consider doing menswear?

I think it would be impossible for me to escape the fact that I am quite a uniform dresser. Menswear is something that doesn’t interest me as much. What I would propose for a man is ultimately what I would propose for myself and I’m a fairly boring dresser. (Laughs) I’ve always been fascinated by the feminine.

So do you approach things from a conceptual point of view when you’re designing for women?

I think my approach is really always about a narrative. It’s about a story. It’s always about this woman, and who she is, and what’s happened to her, and what’s about to happen to her, and who she is as a living character. Even back when I was a child I think that’s what I was interested in drawing and figuring out: a scenario, who she is. The Erdem woman is someone who exists in my head and in my sketchbooks and it becomes really interesting when you go to New York and you see someone wearing a dress of yours walking down the street. Maybe she’s a doctor, or she’s a gallerist, or she’s a young woman, or she’s 78, or she’s a mom. She’s so many different people.

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CANADIAN CONTENT: CANADIAN MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1970

THE NEWS IS SUEDE…FROM CANADIAN DESIGNER MAGDA VISOLIT.

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CANADIAN DESIGNER: TREANA PEAKE / OBAKKI

FROM A SERIES OF PROFILES FROM CAFA / CANADIAN ARTS AND FASHION AWARDS;

Treana Peake – Canadian Fashion Designer

CAFA sat down with Canadian Fashion designer Treana Peake as part of our designer profile series to learn more about her distinctive approach to fashion and what drives her as a socially conscious designer.

Treana Peake is a woman of many talents. In addition to spearheading luxury fashion brand Obakki -worn by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson- Peake is an avid humanitarian and activist. Through her work with Obakki and its philanthropic counterpart The Obakki Foundation, the designer has united her creative talent and passion for social good to create an innovative fundraising model.
The model’s success speaks for itself: Peake has positively impacted the lives of over 500,000 people by providing over 700 water wells and building 12 schools in South Sudan and Cameroon – support that can subsequently lead to self-sustainable growth in these communities.

FOR THE CAFA AND THE COMPLETE INTERVIEW;

http://cafawards.ca/profiles_designers/Treana-Peake.php?no_redirect=true

FOR COMPLETE INFORMATION ON OBAKKI;

http://obakki.com/about/bio.html

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