Toronto Designer Sample Sale

May 30, 2011

Text by Holly Archer.

Photos by Kalynn Friesen.

Starting last Wednesday, fashionistas were given the opportunity to gather at a three-day Toronto Designer Sample Sale, organized by Muttonhead.

Participating designers, including Sarah Stevenson, Justine Diener, Jessica Mary Clayton and Eliza Kozurno, set up booths and racks with their merchandise, and mingled with guests, while a friendly bartender handed out sangria and beer.

Clothing and accessories designer Sarah Stevenson says the best part of the evening was meeting the other designers and talking about their businesses. Designers rarely get to see each other in person, and talk about their collections, says Stevenson. She adds that she also enjoys talking to clients because feedback is important to her.

Stevenson’s eponymous collection, both feminine and minimalist, was inspired by her own artwork.

“My artwork is what starts it off … [it] inspires my silhouettes. I focus on the prints,” she says. “It’s personal expression.”

Other designers found their inspiration elsewhere. Jewelry designer Eliza Kozurno’s collection, Eliza, is made for women who are not afraid to stand out from the crowd.

“I make jewelry for strong women who want to show their style, they want to be a little different. Elegant, strong and modern,” she says. “[My jewelry] is not the usual pearl jewelry.”

She says her ideal muse would have a European belief in clothing and jewelry –  a belief that uniqueness is the ideal. “Everybody is unique on the inside, why not show it on the outside?” she says.

Kozurno makes all of her jewelry herself – and her merchandise is sold in Toronto boutiques, such as A Love of Mine, Made You Look and 290 Ion. Kozurno says she did very well during the opening night of the sample sale, despite the terrible weather, selling five pieces from her collection.

Justine Diener’s vintage inspired collection was influenced by a very different motif – the subtle and feminine lingerie worn in the 1950s.

Diener’s collection, Diepo, is “all about the tease,” says Diener. “It’s really like sexy Spanx. We reference these old 50s girdles, and how they’re a little more modest,” she says. “Our company is based on beautiful shapewear with a daywear aspect.”

Her business partner, Kristin Poon, has moved to upstate New York, but Diener and Poon met in design school, have a tight friendship and are planning to continue working together on Diepo. With Poon in New York, they are going to move forward with approaching retail buyers there.

Interestingly, Diener, Stevenson and Kozurno all answered one question the same way. When asked what inspired and drove them to become a fashion or jewelry designer, they all mentioned mentors and a very young, keen version of themselves, knowing before their adolescence that they wanted this line of work. Diener’s mother taught her to sew. Kozurno surrounded herself with fabrics, making bags and scarves. Stevenson’s grandmothers made clothes for her, and she would dress her friends and sisters up.

Despite having a master’s degree in fashion and textile design, Stevenson says she learned very little about the business world of fashion in school. Pertaining to starting her own company, she says, “I jump in headfirst and learn how to swim.”

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