TALK TO ME: Amanda Lew Kee, part II

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

This is the second part of our conversation with Toronto fashion designer Amanda Lew Kee. You can read the first part here.

If you could collaborate with any person (past or present) on any project (fashion-related or otherwise), who would it be and what would you create?

“Past: McQueen. Create structural objects to beautify one’s foot.

Present: Intern with Mark Fast, Erdem Moralioglu, Nicolas Ghesquière.

Future: Nick Knight. Make fashion films.”

Lady Gaga. Is she: a fashion revolution, a fad, or a fake?

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TALK TO ME: Amanda Lew Kee, part I

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

The first time I heard about Amanda Lew Kee was from a friend raving about her Mass Exodus showing as part of the Ryerson University student collections. It wasn’t until I met Amanda a few weeks later—when she rolled up to The Room at the Bay, leather-clad in her own design and with supermodel-in-the-making (and good friend) Nadine McAdam in tow—that I appreciated how far ahead of the young pack she is.

Amanda’s capsule-esque collection, shown last month at the Great Hall, further confirmed the hype. The short film/model mash-up preview was very Dracula’s love child running around in Berlin—all black, mostly leather, and heavy on the layers and texture. Her cult status just keeps growing: Amanda was chosen as one of the Toronto Star’s Best Dressed 2010, her collection is on display at Holt Renfrew this month, and she’s the subject of a two-page spread in Flare’s August issue.

What’s the best project (aside from your own label) that you’ve worked on?

“One of the best was dressing 90210’s Shenae Grimes for the MMVAs. I also worked with Fritz Helder on a viral video shoot. He first approached me to do some wardrobe and later asked me to be in the video; he said he was using me as his muse for the looks. The girls were dressed in Helmut Newton-inspired black bodices with a bondage detail spiraled down one arm and one leg, slicked back hair and my signature pastel blue lips.”

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“A few! Meeting Derek Blasberg at his Toronto book launch, having him tweet about my ‘gang’ (I brought some friends that dressed in my clothes), and when he emailed me on the eve of my debut to wish me luck! Most recently, I had tea with Stacey Kimel and Adrian Mainella, and they both offered inspirational advice and guidance. I rushed home to review my Spring 2011 collection and made appropriate revisions.”

Who is your favourite person (other than a designer) in the fashion world?

“Daphne Guinness! I idolize her personal style, charisma and confidence. There is something about her majestic character that fascinates me.”

In film, which character’s style do you most admire?

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TALK TO ME: Calla Haynes

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

It’s always inspiring for the Canadian fashion industry when one of our own branches out in search of monumental opportunities. So when Calla Haynes was nominated for ANDAM’s prestigious €220,000 prize (alongside homeboy Mark Fast), it was a sign that she had officially arrived. After paying her dues in Paris for five years—with Olivier Theyskens at Rochas, then Nina Ricci—the Toronto-born designer launched her own label, Calla by Calla Haynes, last year.

The Spring 2010 collection features ridiculously amazing textures (snakeskin anyone?) and a muted, streamlined colour palette which, at first glance, looks so stylized you wonder if you could ever pull it off, but it’s also so wearable that you vow to try. It’s all infused with as much Parisian joie de vivre as New York cool.

From Paris, Calla answered The Style Notebook’s Talk to Me questionnaire.

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“Going into the Chanel boutique on Bloor with my mom at age 12.  The director of the store was so nice—he gave me a press kit that I took home and scanned over night after night.”

Your wedding dress got a lot of attention, and there was talk that you designed it. What was the inspiration behind the dress?

“Actually, Olivier Theyskens made my wedding dress for my ceremony in Canada (I designed the jacquard linen and silk fabric), and Robert Normand made my civil ceremony dress.”

What’s the best project (aside from your own label) that you’ve worked on?

“One of the most rewarding projects I worked on was my first collaboration with Jeremy Laing. I had just left Nina Ricci and it was nice to get recognized right on style.com for that work.  It’s led to many more collaborations with Jeremy, and I’m very happy about that.”

Which literary hero do you most identify with?

“Eeyore or Judy Blume’s Margaret.”

You went to Parsons in New York and now you’re based in Paris. Do you follow the fashion scene back home? Do you sing our praises around town?

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LAST CHANCE: Mark Fast at Luminato

Mark Fast’s knit dress, on display until June 20 at Brookfield Place at Bay and Wellington. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

In Mark Fast’s The Ascension of Beauty, knotted white ropes hang from the ceiling, framing one of the designer’s signature knit dresses. The effect is of an enormous cat’s cradle—or a surrealistic knitting machine. It’s a fittingly fascinating installation from a designer whose name is on the fashion industry’s collective lips.

Originally from outside of Winnipeg, Fast moved to London to attend Central Saint Martins, then launched his eponymous line in 2009. His Spring 2010 show caused a stir when he sent plus-size models in his clingy spiderweb dresses down the runway. He followed up the buzz with an ANDAM prize nomination (along with fellow Canadian Calla Haynes) and a much-awaited capsule collection for TopShop, which launches on July 7.

Click through for photos of the installation, courtesy of Luminato.

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