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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CANADIAN DESIGNERS ABROAD: TANYA TAYLOR

THE ARTICLE BELOW, FROM “FASHIONISTA.COM” IS A VERY DETAILED AND COMPLETE STORY OF A CANADIAN DESIGNER ABROAD. UNFORTUNATELY, TANYA TAYLOR DID NOT WIN THE “CFDA/VOGUE FASHION FUND” PRIZE THIS YEAR. READ ON AND YOU WILL SEE THAT SHE DIDN’T EXPECT TO, AND WHY SHE SHOULD MAKE AN EVEN STRONGER CANDIDATE NEXT YEAR. BRAVO TANYA!
TANYA TAYLOR FASHIONISTA 4How CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Nominee Tanya Taylor Is Making It in Fashion

How the young designer went from an intern to dressing the First Lady in just a few years.

Dhani Mau Dhani Mau · Nov 3, 2014

http://fashionista.com/2014/11/tanya-taylor

Photo: Tanya Taylor

Photo: Tanya Taylor

Tanya Taylor is having a moment. The Toronto-born, New York-based designer has been called “one to watch” since her first collections (Taylor launched her namesake line in 2012) and is currently verging into industry darling territory.

She counts editors like Joanna Hillman, “It” girls like Harley Viera-Newton, and even the First Lady as fans, and this year she made the shortlist for the prestigious and career-changing CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. (It just so happens that the winner and runners up will be announced tonight, and we think she has a pretty good shot of being among them.) Most importantly, retailers are on board — she’s stocked at Saks, Lane Crawford, Holt Renfrew and recently got picked up by Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom. The designer says her sales have nearly tripled for spring 2015.

While Taylor, who is still under 30, certainly seemed cognizant of the positive direction in which she’s going, she also has no intention of being a flash in the pan. She’s just as business-minded (she studied finance at McGill before switching to fashion), thoughtful and careful when it comes to working with the right retailers as she is about building a presence on Instagram.

Fashionista recently stopped by Taylor’s new SoHo studio, where we chatted about everything from how she got where she is so quickly, to what the whole CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund process is really like

Models backstage at Taylor's spring 2015 show. Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Models backstage at Taylor’s spring 2015 show. Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into fashion?

I grew up in Toronto and for University I studied finance at McGill University. I loved finance, loved math, and loved the idea of being entrepreneurial. I didn’t know really what that would lead to. I was missing the creative exploration I had done as a kid. I had painted a lot; my mom and my grandmother sewed a lot and I was part of this world where I felt very creative — at University studying finance, I didn’t, so I decided to go to Central Saint Martins one summer and they have this intro to fashion class that was the opposite of being in a finance class. It was this other world that I really didn’t know existed.

There’s a fashion show at McGill that I designed a small capsule collection for of six pieces that were made out of the most bizarre materials. I thought they were fabulous at the time but I didn’t know how to sew. But, I think the ambition I felt and the excitement I had to learn something new, especially in design, made me realize I should probably go to school and learn the skills I would need to be in that business. So, after graduation I moved to New York, went to Parsons and interned at Elizabeth and James. They had just launched the company a year before that, and there were three people on the design team and I was their only intern. I was exposed to so many different areas of the business — hand sewing and print development, but also just understanding how they were a commercial business. I realized that I was really passionate about it. After I graduated Parsons, I worked for them for two years as an assistant designer, where I also managed their financing for the design team, which was cool to be able to do both. But I missed doing something that felt more like my personal language of what I believed in, so I decided to leave on a little bit on a whim one day and I started this three years ago now. I was 25.

What was your initial idea of what you wanted your brand to be?

I knew I wanted to make everything in New York because that’s what I knew in terms of the development I had done before. I knew I wanted it to be an expression artistically of prints and paintings that I loved to do at home. I didn’t realize that as the collection grew, they would become more personal and they’d become more directly related to what I wanted as a woman and who I wanted to design for was very much a reflection of myself and women that inspired me. I started off being very instinctual to fabrics and silhouettes.

I missed something in the market. We’re at an advanced contemporary price point and I missed shopping that price point that still felt artistic and colorful and personal and knowing who was behind the brand. That was part of each collection.

With so many young designers in New York, showing at Fashion Week, how have you managed to stand out?

I think we’ve done things differently. Referring to Fashion Week specifically, we’ve always tried to find a way to either show the collection differently or do different collaborations that other people weren’t doing because it is hard to stand out. For the second and third seasons, we showed at the MoMa, for example. I love fine art and I think it was really cool to take the collection and put it in the environment of being an installation in an art gallery. That was something that was risky because no one had shown there and it took a lot of work to get that in place, but I wanted people to know that I was comfortable taking risks and I think young designers should take risks.

I think the quality of what we produce with the price point we have is something that has really differentiated us from other people. We work really closely with French mills and Italian mills. Every fabric is custom and thats a part of the process that I’m extremely involved in and excited by. We are such a print-heavy collection and there’s a story behind every print. There’s not a lot of people that make their own prints.

How did you fund the line in the beginning?

I have a board of investors that are a scary group of people that have excelled — that are lawyers, accountants and business professionals in Toronto. They had funded other things I knew about so it wasn’t too difficult [to find them] but it was definitely difficult to get their confidence in something that didn’t exist yet.

When I first had the idea, I had to put together a business plan and pitch them the concept and really make it a financially viable business in their eyes, which is hard because fashion is so much more emotional than other businesses. I constantly report back to them every month, so I have that accountability that has really added an extra level of responsibility to succeed, which I’m happy to have because I like to know where everything is going.

It’s a lot of money to start a business and I just don’t take that lightly. I had one employee for two years and we’ve grown so much in the last year, but I do feel like I need to prove to them that I’m grateful for their support in the beginning and that I’m exceeding their expectations now.

The First Lady has worn your designs on multiple occasions recently: How does that happen and how does it impact your business?

[Michelle Obama] is so supportive of young designers and became aware of the brand and wanted to support it, so she has worn it four times in the last two months. But we’ve only ever found out on Instagram, which is the crazier part of it because now every morning I wake up and look at her Instagram. It’s not like someone from her team is going to email you like, “P.S. this is happening today.”

It’s been very helpful. I think timing-wise, it couldn’t be more valuable in expanding visibility but also just having the right woman supporting the brand. Her personality, her energy and commitment to so many important projects — we love her as being this amazing ambassador, among other women, of the collection. I think the coolest thing is she’s been wearing all our prints. It makes you flash back to when you were painting them in the studio and how it ends up on her and there’s just that really exciting journey that you get to see. I get to go to the White House next week which is so much fun — she’s having some of her favorite designers come.

I think celebrity dressing is really interesting. I love seeing girls wear our pieces with their own style. This is not so much celebrity, but Joanna Hillman at Paris Fashion Week, she took one of our resort dresses she put a black turtleneck underneath and this really cool scarf — I was obsessed with it. l saw it on Instagram and thought it was so cool. It’s exciting to see how people put their own twists on it. There’s definitely girls that we would love to dress that we haven’t yet: Diane Kruger, Carey Mulligan, younger girls too. We have “dream girls” that are kind of up-and-coming like Gia Coppola or Natalie Love

Michelle Obama in Tanya Taylor. Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NUVOtv

Michelle Obama in Tanya Taylor. Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NUVOtv

Also exciting: You’re a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which I know is a several-months-long process of challenges and events. What’s it like and what stage are you in now?

[Being in a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist] is always exciting; it’s totally stressful sometimes but in a surreal way where you realize someone from Vogue’s emailing you with a timeline and you take a step back and you’re like, it’s still an email from Vogue, like you’re happy about it and don’t want to lose sight of the fact that its a very dreamlike thing to be happening.

We presented to the judges in July. From the beginning I wanted to make sure that as many judges came in as possible because I really wanted to have that one-on-one time, and the mentorship of this program is the most important thing for me along the way — to make sure that they’re giving feedback and that I’m really learning through this.

I think it’s been a test of the team, because we’re a small group and a lot of members are new. It’s been a lot of pressure on us but it’s also made us feel like as soon as this whole thing is over, on Nov. 3, we will be the most tightly functioning group and it’s pretty cool to be able to get through all the glitches of communication and know that you can overcome anything.

Has there been a moment or milestone that made you think, Ok, this is a real business now or ‘I’ve made it?”

We were putting the application together for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund the night that Michelle Obama first wore the dress. We had a page with all the women who support the brand and there was no space for anyone else, but she wore it and we’re like, “ahhh,” cutting and pasting that shot and trying to put it in the application — it was one of those moments where you’re handing in the application with a little more confidence.

I did not expect to be a finalist this time. I thought we’d apply and then reapply next year. I had to fly back from Alaska early — I was on a family trip — to be by the phone in case Steven Kolb called. Will, who’s my first employee and my sidekick, called me freaking out. He’s like, “Steven Kolb called the office, get here. why are you late?!” I was running down the street and the film crew was outside. It was one of those things that just was the best, best moment. I had to call my husband on film and he didn’t realize the crew was above my shoulder and he was in bed. They were, like, “FaceTime your husband!” Poor guy, for the month before he kept trying to prep me for if we didn’t get it, saying “everything’s gonna be fine, we’re going do all these great things anyway,” and I don’t think he thought we’d get it. And then when we did he was like, “holy shit.”

He knows too much about every judge, he watched “The Fund” last season with me, every episode four times.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?

I think at the beginning [of starting my business] I was very nervous to ask for help from people and as soon as I started asking for help or advice — about a year and a half ago — I just immediately saw great things happen. That’s how I got to meet Paul Andrew to do our shoe collaboration. I think that’s why this [CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund] process makes so much sense to me. If someone is willing to spend some time and really give some thought to how we can grow, I think that’s an important thing for us to take advantage of. I am both designer and CEO of the company so I’m always really curious about how we can better improve business functions. Being part of the Fund I’ve reached out to people I’ve never met, like Joseph Altuzarra, to be like, “Hey, can I talk to you and have a coffee and learn from you?” It’s given me the confidence to do that, where before I was very nervous, so I just realized people will meet you and they have great things to say and I value that a lot. They’ve gone through the same thing.

What’s your strategy for retail and sales? Are you selective about what stores you work with?

We’ve changed our whole sales strategy: We’ve just moved to 10Eleven Showroom. They’ve worked with DVF since 1989 and it’s run by this fabulous woman named Betsee Isenberg. She is a firecracker of a lady and I was into the fact that she’d be a part of it because I wanted this female energy around the brand; I wanted these women that know how to sell, but they also love it and they are our women and I think that immediately translates to buyers, so we’ve grown sales tremendously in the last season. Spring/summer sold as much as the entire year before, so we’ve almost tripled sales.

It’s definitely a selective process, like we have retailers we want to work with us and we want to time it in a way that we’re not overdoing our production abilities. Because we make everything in New York, it’s tricky since there’s not a lot of factories that can do 1600 units and can deliver on time and still maintain the quality that we always have, so we’ve inched our way into growing. I think that’s a smarter way to do it.

I think in the next three years we’ll take on more partners, but we just picked up Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom. We’re at Saks, Lane Crawford is a huge business for us; that’s already such a unit driver and that’s about all we can handle. It’s also about figuring out how to make sure that new markets aren’t saturated. We’ve never sold in San Francisco so maybe we don’t want a Saks, a Nordstrom and a Neimans all in San Francisco. We want to understand more about the customer in each area and really thoughtfully build the business.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge so far?

I’ve never managed any employees. I was in a junior role before and I had one assistant and interns, but it’s a whole different ball game when you’re considering six people’s feelings and needs in their jobs while still maintaining a creative space to be able to design and build a collection. I think the hardest thing for me has been figuring out how to balance being in operations and being the designer — that’s why we applied to the Fund. One of the things we would propose if we won was to hire someone who could help me with the operations side of the business because I just would love someone who’s able to manage that a little more. I think it would help us grow.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a clothing line?

It’s important [before starting a clothing line] to work in a position or at a company that you admire and want to learn more about. I would have loved to work at more companies, I think the more internships you have, the more positions you have and ability to soak up ideas about what you want your business to become is important. It’s a hard job. Sometimes it can be glamorized as a a really easy, fun project. If you want to start a fashion business, it is a business, so you must be prepared for all of the compromises that takes. In the last three years building this, I’ve missed a million dinner dates. If I didn’t go all the way, I know we would’ve grown a lot slower, so there needs to be a curiosity at all times and an open-mindedness to people around you that have more wisdom and I would suggest just asking people questions.

I had never thought about marketability, salability, price point anything like that, so sketching something and understanding how to make it, how to get it into a store and what its price would be, that’s an entire learning curve. It surprised me how hard it is to get stores. There are stores you think your collection would be perfect for and there’s all these other factors to understand. Production is something that baffles me and requires so much time and I think also marketing and communications — now with social media and Instagram, just the consistency that’s required to make sure people understand what you’re doing and having a really strong language behind what you believe in. You have to make sure that everything you do is in line with that.

What’s next for the brand? Where do you see it 5-10 years from now?

We want to launch e-commerce in February. We get to know our customer a lot through wholesale, but I think with e-commerce it will be a really interesting tool for us to get to know them even more. My favorite part about the business is having women into the studio and really learning what they like, what they don’t like and how we can become stronger.

Our shoe collaborations have been really strong, but I see that in 5-10 years as something we actually do as a brand extension and do it in-house. We always do this little art accessory of a purse that’s so different each season, but I love that almost being a collector’s item and I see that becoming more of a staple in-house. The team, I see us growing a lot, retail growing a lot, brand messaging — just trying new things, like the Kalen Holloman collaboration we just did, I want to keep trying collaborations with artists. We’re doing a video this fall. I want to keep finding ways to express a younger, unique point of view in American fashion through different artistic collaborations. [My own] retail store? Maybe in 2019

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