By Katherine Ellis
Photography by Kareen Mallon
With almost 25 years in the fashion industry, Farley Chatto says it is his private clients who keep him on his toes, rather than the many celebrities he has designed for, including Chris Noth, Andrea Martin and Toronto’s own Marilyn Denis. Learning how to sew at a young age, Chatto made his first menswear piece under the vigilant guidance of his mother – a source of inspiration and support in his life. FAJO Magazine sits down with the talented designer to ask what he thinks of the fashion industry today and his future plans.
FARLEY CHATTO: No, I wanted to be a gemologist; work in fine jewelry and stones. I am not tall, only 5′ 8”, and have a very slight build. Finding clothes that I liked or that fit was always an issue for me. I started moving into clothing, and I thought: you know what, I can get anything that I want and I know that it will fit. I still love fine jewelry, but now I either buy it or borrow it.
What do you like best about being a fashion designer?
Next year is my 25th anniversary [of having my own company], so in 25 years, the most enjoyable part is still meeting people. Whether they are customers, whether they are models, whether they are suppliers – I think that the best thing is being part of their history in a very quiet and subtle way. I have affected their lives and left my print, my signature in their life, in their history.
Who is the most interesting person you have ever had to design for?
I could list celebrities, but to me the most interesting people would be my everyday clients, because they come up with the most interesting and challenging garments, from wedding gowns, to engagement party dresses, even maternity wear.
Very much so. The most interesting thing out of all is that once you have gained their trust, and they trust you, then it becomes a no-brainer.
The womenswear collection is for your clientele and is “private”, whereas your menswear collection is what goes on the runway. What influences this latter line?
I came up with a motto in the 1980s, when I first started my collection, and found it again, in an old press release: “Old world roots for a new world man.” It is still true. I base a lot of my clothing on history, but it has been revamped and revisited, and retouched, and reshaped for the men of today. I am inspired by all eras, I tend to lean towards the 40s and the Victorian period, as well as the shapes and the cuts that I love, but it changes every time.
What is a fashion piece that you personally cannot live without?
Really good shoes. (laughs) I love my shoes, I have a lot of them. It’s funny, the pair that I am currently wearing was bought for my wedding. It’s a pair of Yves Saint-Laurent perforated brogues. I have to admit: they are the most comfortable shoes and are extremely stylish. It’s an odd colour, and I didn’t know how to work it into my wardrobe, but it has been working quite nicely. They are a soft cement colour or shitake mushroom, that sort of fungus grey colour, and I love them. I don’t know why, but they work with everything, from suits to jeans.
You studied fashion design at Ryerson. What is the difference between current graduates and students who graduated in the 80s and 90s?
When I started off in the late 80s, it was an easier world compared to now. It was an easier time to sort of be accepted and looked at, and retailers would take more of a chance then. And now I think that, technically, we were also taught a little bit more on the technique and less on business. The kids that are coming out now are the opposite, but I think business is pushed more on them. So that they understand that fashion is a business.
On Nov.16, there is the FGI trend review, where myself and Carrie Hayes will be reviewing the trends that happened on the runway in Canada and worldwide. We will be giving the fashion industry an update on the upcoming year in the fall. And then apart from that project with FGI, I’m also prepping for next year, which is my anniversary in the business.
After traveling and working in cities like Paris, Milan, New York and Chicago, and then coming back to Toronto, what would be your dream assignment now?
I am doing it right now. I have my own company, great clients, and I am now at the point where I can pick and choose. But you know it’s not about the fame for me, it’s all about the people. I am very happy, but if tomorrow Dior decides that they wanted to hire me to head up the House, I wouldn’t say no!
At Chatto’s studio
An example of Chatto’s designs
Braden from Velocci Model Management wears some of Farley Chatto’s pieces in the gallery below. Chatto says that he names all his clothing after people he knows or has worked with. In these photos, the jacket is called Eyal, the pants – Mason and the shirt has just been named Braden (after Braden who wears it).