By Hannah Yakobi
Photography by Kareen Mallon
Ainsley Kerr is soft-spoken and feminine, while her friendly nature makes her extremely down-to-Earth. A well-known figure on the Canadian fashion scene, Kerr is frequently in attendance at many high-profile shows, often accompanied by her equally stylish mother. She is also a supporter of the charity sector and is involved in putting together the Booby Ball, an annual event in support of Rethink Breast Cancer.
Although based in Toronto, Kerr is well-travelled and a strong advocate for Canadian designers. In The White Issue, FAJO Magazine catches up with the ultimate “It girl” of Toronto.
HANNAH YAKOBI: How did your love for fashion begin?
AINSLEY KERR: I’ve always loved dressing up and being feminine – as a little girl I had a lot of little costumes and admired my mother dressing up for different events. I guess it’s sort of in the blood, my mother used to be a model and she used to manage the former Valentino boutique at Holt Renfrew. And my maternal grandfather managed the men’s clothing at The Bay. I remember staying over on Friday nights and going to the store with him on Saturdays. I always had an appreciation for clothing – my first real job was at Over the Rainbow, so it was a little bit different than some of the things I enjoy wearing now but still fashion-related.
You mention some style-related family influences. Do you have any siblings?
I have a sister, who is six years older than me. She is probably a bit more practical when it comes to fashion. She is a corporate headhunter for a big firm in London, U.K. During the day, we are pretty much the same, but in the evening she is much more classic in her style. I’m a little bit more ‘out there’ – I like to enjoy fashion and think it should be playful!
What is in your closet?
It’s a mish-mash of everything. I have a walk-in on one side and in the main room I have a second closet where I keep all my dresses because there is more space.
Over the years, have you had any pieces that you treasured the most?
I have a dress that my sister wore to a formal and it was one of the first celebrated collections of Joeffer Caoc’s Misura. I still have it, but I never wore it. It’s about 15 to 20 years old.
And one of my first pieces in Canadian fashion was for my graduation, when I was almost 19. Holt Renfrew had these beautiful dresses by MERCY, so my mother called the studio directly and said ‘My daughter loves this dress and needs to wear it to her graduation.’ And they designed the same dress for me. I still have it – that’s the sentimental piece that will probably never leave my closet. There is an emotional attachment to it. I also have a belt in my closet which was my mother’s first big fashion investment.
Do you ever borrow any pieces from your mother?
My mother actually gave a lot of her formal pieces away when she was a full-time Mom. But I certainly share jewelry and purses with her, so that’s good! (laughs)
What are your thoughts on the Canadian fashion industry?
It’s unfortunate that so many Canadian designers feel the need to leave Toronto, to go to New York or London, to be recognized. It’s unfortunate that we don’t recognize them here first. We are certainly not as big as those two cities, but we are just as cultural. A lot of the women in the city have the finances to be able to afford some of these designers, and we should be supporting them – I think it’s important. And I’m not just referring to fashion, but Canadian arts in general.
You said you like to play with different styles, but do you have a designer to whom you keep coming back?
I don’t have a favourite, but there are many designers that I love and this changes all the time. Sometimes I’d be reading something or maybe I’ll meet someone and will look at their work and think it’s amazing. I certainly love formal styles too.
I studied theatre and film in university but didn’t go into acting, so fashion is my own way of being theatrical.
Do you think you will ever pursue theatre?
It’s strange because when I turned 30, I decided to do things that I hadn’t done – because I was either too scared to do it or I just didn’t pursue it. Acting may be one of those things.
Recently, I did a voiceover course because I’d like to do voiceover work. I also just shot two episodes for a hosting TV series. It’s very exciting!
I’m also creating a website that will be like a personal diary and will be a great way to support Canadian designers that I love, especially because I do attend so many events.
What is your favourite part about the fashion industry?
Dressing up! You know, when you were in high school and you had the prom, the best part was getting ready with your girlfriends. I love that whole anticipation of what is ahead.
What would you say is your favourite fashion film?
Clothing-wise, it would have to be Sex and the City movies. They are not necessarily about trendy clothes, they are just about being fabulous!
A winter glamour photoshoot with Ainsley Kerr