By Sarah Dion-Marquis
Photography by Aleyah Solomon
Bojana Sentaler, 27, cheerfully admits that she hates winter. She is making the best of it, however, by designing clothes for the cold season at her studio on Richmond Street in downtown Toronto.
The young designer has carved a niche for herself with a line of luxury outerwear products. She has a collection of coats ready to go, and now looks forward to the launch of her online shop in both Canada and the United States in mid-September.
The Belgrade-native, who immigrated to Canada at the age of eight, says she always gets cold in the winter. When wearing a big puffy jacket to go out for dinner was out of the question, she “used to compromise being cold for looking stylish.”
However, she found the solution to her problem while living and working in Peru, where she discovered Alpaca, a fabric that is five times warmer than wool.
The Alpaca animals live 5,300 metres above sea level. Their hair develops microscopic pockets, like an insulator, preserving body heat. Alpaca has been a luxurious fabric for centuries in South America – historically, Spanish settlers would give the Inca gold in exchange of the very rare Alpaca fur.
Sentaler started designing coats with Alpaca upon her return to Canada. She focuses on clean lines, luxurious fabrics (Alpaca is the main one) and puts an emphasis on feminine silhouettes.
“When you see one of my coats, it’s not screaming in your face [that] it’s a designer coat,” she says. “But there is something special about it, and you wonder what it is.”
As a young designer who started her own business, Sentaler wears many different hats, but that allows her the freedom to bring her vision to life without interference. She oversees everything: marketing, supply, clients, designing and planning events.
She took a big risk when she opened a store in downtown Toronto just one year after she started her company.
“It was a huge commitment,” says the confident entrepreneur. “And it kicked off really fast.”
Sentaler knew what she was getting into. She earned a B.A. from the Schulich School of Business and had previously worked in marketing and media in Dubai. She even had the opportunity to meet with Karl Lagerfeld, who told her that “the basis of everything [in fashion] is mature and sexy,” which she says she found to be very interesting. Another thing she learned from the fashion icon is that “when you’re passionate about something, you will never retire.”
Sentaler’s experience and hard work paid off: she developed a large group of customers, who bought coats last year and who seem eager to shop for more this fall.
Her latest collection is very focused on the oversized trend that can be seen in the jacket hoods, “so that the body could sill be sexy.”
Colours are also important for Sentaler. “For the gloomy winter, when you put on a bright colour, it makes you cheerful, puts you in a happy mood,” says the designer, whose collection includes red, maroon, orange and cedar wood.
Sentaler’s customers are very lucky and so are her friends and her sister. “They get my old coats!” she laughs.
The designer admits to not knowing exactly how many coats she has in her closet at home. However, she says there is one coat she will have forever: the one with the grey hood – her company’s first design.