By Alisha Sawhney
What can we expect from you at this season?
This is my first full fur collection and it’s also my first real introduction of womenswear – women’s coats, dresses and evening gowns. Because I’ve moved into fur, my clientele predominantly tends to be female. I’ve loved fur since my days at Ryerson in the ’80s. We’re taking fur in a new direction with warmer tones and new shapes. You’re going to see a lot of fitted, shapely fur coats this season.
How would you describe your design style?
I’m a classicist with a twist. I love history and tradition, and I love understanding the traditional handwork that goes on behind the scenes. I’m a bespoke tailor, so I’m one of the few who still does a lot of the suits by hand. And because I trained a lot in Europe, I have a very strong European sensibility, so that hopefully will translate in the North American market.
How has fashion education evolved since you were at Ryerson?
The fashion industry has changed dramatically since I first started. Perseverance and wanting to work hard are still key elements to succeeding, but it’s also really important to take what the school offers you and challenge it. Once you go into the marketplace it becomes a whole new game, because it’s your own money you’re spending.
You’ve dressed big names like Sarah Jessica Parker, Drake and Elton John. What is your experience working with celebrities?
Celebrities are always interesting people. Taken out of the milieu of celebrity, they’re just regular people. When you meet them one-on-one, they’re very simple. I like to work with the celebrity, so I take my style and the clothing you see in my shop, and I just adapt it a little bit to work with their look.
Do you find it challenging to remain innovative in a competitive industry like yours?
Fashion used to always be about something new. It was about changing the mould and breaking it, but as designers, we’ve discovered that fashion is really about evolution. What might be old to one person could be brand new to someone else. Because it’s my 26th year in the business, there will be an influence of some of my older designs.
Why the (somewhat controversial) emphasis on fur?
I hope people will come away looking at fur as clothing and not as this mysterious hands-off type of garment. Working with fur is something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s really lacking in the market right now. Designers use fur but they’re playing it safe with their looks. On the other hand, you also get people like Alexander McQueen who go crazy and make fur over the top. I think we need that. It challenges people’s thoughts.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 19, 2014.