SOME LOOKS WE LIKED: At Magnolia’s BASCH party

Brandon Dwyer, designer of BASCH outside Magnolia Boutique (333 Eglinton Ave. W.). Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

In Toronto, there are few reasons for the style set to travel north of Bloor: family, friends or, in my case, Magnolia Boutique. As a precursor to tonight’s BASCH by Brandon Spring 2010 presentation at 99 Sudbury, designer Brandon Dwyer teamed up with shop owner Juan Carlos for a sneak peak at the collection last week.

A cult haven for well-to-do Forest Hill-iates, Magnolia has been around since November 2008. Juan Carlos’s background in fashion design (he was an aspiring designer two lives ago) fueled his passion to get great work noticed. “Instead of being part of the designers that compete with each other, I wanted to help showcase local talent alongside international brands, so my customers would realize that fashion is not just European or American style,” Carlos explains.

Among Magnolia’s offerings for the upcoming season (shipments arrive daily): fur faves IZMA, painstakingly pretty Lucian Matis, the print piper Zoran Dobric, and body-con dresses and perfectly versatile tweeds from BASCH.

“I was happy to pair with BASCH because we share a value: uniqueness,” says Carlos. “That’s important at Magnolia: We don’t get more than three pieces per style, and we don’t reorder anything, no matter how fast it sells out. We don’t want our clients to think that they’re unique, only to run into a friend in the exact same outfit.”

Click through to check out our favourite looks from the night!

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TALK TO ME: Rita Liefhebber, part II

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

This is the second part of our conversation with fashion designer Rita Liefhebber. You can read the first part here.

Describe the girl who wears your garments. Who do you design for?

“She is a woman who is understated and effortlessly stylish. She appreciates minimalism and subtle luxury.”

If you weren’t a designer, you would …

“Open a dog sanctuary. Something I may still do one day.”

What’s next for you?

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TALK TO ME: Rita Liefhebber, part I

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

You could be forgiven for thinking that Rita Liefhebber, with her model-worthy looks (yeah, she was one), would be intimidating in person. But the Toronto fashion designer is as lovely as her mesmerizing mermaid hair—not to mention smart, down-to-earth, and—oh yes—talented.

Liefhebber has dipped her toe into almost every fashionable pond: modelling, assisting veteran stylist Lori Goldstein in New York, and overseeing the fashion pages as an editor at Flare in Toronto. Last fall, she launched her eponymous collection and continues to work as a stylist.

What I love about her is that she’s not afraid to dream big: She’s about to show during New York Fashion Week for the third time, a major feat for a new Canadian designer. Liefhebber isn’t about being a big fish in a small pond—she’s the girl who wants to run the empire.

Tell me about your journey. What made you decide to start your own collection?

“I started in fashion as a model at 15. I then became a stylist while living in New York and later moved back to Toronto. Shortly after, I became the fashion editor at Flare. New York called again and I returned to be Lori Goldstein’s first assistant. I had been planning on starting the line for the last few years but I didn’t want to pass up those opportunities.”

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“Assisting Lori on a Hedi Slimane shoot in L.A. He is cooler than you can ever imagine and he travels with an entourage of skinny well-dressed guys in a Rolls Royce. Amazing.”

What inspires you?

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THE IT: Meet Moon

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

They say that the ultimate challenge for the modern woman, when dressing for day, is “how to go effortlessly from business to pleasure, work to play.” Somehow I think that Bonnie Brooks wants to save the day.

When the Bay gathered us all into an all-white room in Liberty Village, for the launch of Moon, its new private label collection, it was a big deal for more reasons than one. For starters, the Bay had recruited the Mimran Group (the company of Saul Mimran, brother to Joseph) to design what appears to be the antithesis of the upscale designer fare on offer in The Room, the Bay’s luxury boutique. They also managed to snag downtown arbiter of cool Leigh Lezark and her on-and-off-again Misshapes to spin at the party and appear in the company’s upcoming ad campaign.

During her set, Leigh was wearing what appeared to be the line’s most daring piece: a sequined jacket that looked so right on her I wanted to strip it from the mannequin out of justice.

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THE IT: Meet Ezra Constantine

Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong, the designers of Greta Constantine and Ezra Constantine, the menswear line which had its official launch party last week. Writer Paul Aguirre-Livingston turned what seemed like a missed opportunity into an exclusive interview. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

“I think you missed it,” said Samantha Beckerman, of the Beckermans fashion line, as I rushed into a historical Annex home for the preview of Ezra Constantine’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection. Turns out that the 9 p.m. showing of the new menswear line was cancelled because, on the busiest August night for Toronto’s media, the people had simply come, seen, loved and left.

“It had this military subtext to it,” Fashion Television’s Christopher Sherman commented, “but still very classic Ezra.” What an odd way of putting it, I thought. A collection that is still so in its infancy (not even a year old) already had a look, a “classic” style. And that’s why it mattered that I missed it.

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TALK TO ME: Kealan Sullivan, part II

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

This is the second part of our conversation with Kealan Sullivan, the owner of the amazing 69 Vintage. You can read the first part here.

In your experience, what does it take to be a good businesswoman?

“Have a willingness to learn from everyone around you. Practice focus, self reliance and patience. Be stubborn and do it your own way.”

What’s a favourite vintage find that you’ll never ever part with?

“The list is never-ending, really, and includes glass beads, quilts, vintage lingerie, crochet dresses, suede chaps, 1950s denim, 1940s fringe suede jacket(s), bathing costumes from all eras, cotton hippie dresses, ‘80s patent leather hip-high stiletto boots…”

Any advice for a novice vintage shopper?

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TALK TO ME: Kealan Sullivan, part I

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

This week, I’m taking a break from profiling fashion designers to focus on what keeps fashion in business: the retailers. As the owner of both 69 Vintage and 69 Collective/Buy the Pound, Kealan Sullivan is Toronto’s vintage queen. Kealan has her finger on the pulse on what is nouveau, but her cool-hunting skills are paired with an equally honed education in what makes an excellent vintage piece. Her taste is instinctive and sartorially encompassing: Flipping through the racks at 69, you’ll find everything from sweet satin prom dresses to original Levi’s cut-off denim vests.

Tell me about your journey. How did you get into vintage?

“It all started with collecting hundreds of pieces of baby and doll clothes from the Salvation Army, using all of my allowance at 6 years old.”

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“The first time I heard ‘You’re Kealan Sullivan.’ Really, it means nothing but this was my best friend’s usual response to the question I asked so often: ‘Can I seriously wear this?’ Her reply gave me courage. It still does.”

What makes you decide if you’re going to buy a certain garment for the store? Is there a “Kealan Criteria”?

“There are five rules:

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TALK TO ME: Anastasia Lomonova, part II

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

This is the second part of our conversation with fashion designer Anastasia Lomonova. You can read the first part here.

Describe the girl who wears your clothes. Who do you design for?

“Over the years, the girl I was dressing changed quite a bit. When I started, at 22, I was designing very cute, hyper-girly things (yes, that’s a word!) for a somewhat younger clientele. I’ve grown up quite a bit since then and I think the customer I’m catering to has too. She is confident, eclectic and bold, not afraid to have a strong presence. Her look is polished and refined. Previously, my girl was merely trying to be stylish, now she is a woman who just effortlessly is.”

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

“Sophia Loren. Timeless.”

Which literary hero do you most identify with?

“Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.”

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

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TALK TO ME: Anastasia Lomonova, part I

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

Anastasia Lomonova has been called “Montreal’s rising star” seemingly forever. Now, after winning the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s (TFI) New Labels competition (and a $35,000 grant) in April, she’s sprinting toward fashion star status.

After four grueling months under the watchful eye of the Canadian fashion scene’s elite (including the womenswear buyer for Holt Renfrew and the editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada), Lomonova emerged with a collection so brilliantly simple that it won over both the judges and the crowd. From a self-professed “wannabe painter” to one of the most promising talents to come out of Montreal since Denis Gagnon, Lomonova is looking to move into more custom, one-of-a-kind work for Spring 2011. She won’t move to Toronto (or anywhere else for that matter), but we won’t hold it against her.

Tell me about your journey. How did you get into fashion?

“I wanted to be a painter—I had formal training and everything. Somehow, though, I never really felt that I had much to offer to the world with painting. I was looking for a way to express myself in an everyday setting, where my creations would infiltrate day-to-day life. To me, fashion is the ultimate means of self-expression—clothes really tell so much about a person, they can make us feel a different way. That aspect was very attractive to me, so I enrolled in Ryerson’s fashion program. I only lasted two years there before moving to Montreal to intern with designers, and finally start my own line.”

You won the TFI New Labels competition. How did you stay focused through the process and not let the hype of being a finalist get to you?

“I never compete with anyone else—ever. I don’t think that life is really about being better than someone else, but rather being better than yourself, if that makes any sense. I don’t compete with anyone else other than myself and it’s usually a pretty intense battle!”

What were the most challenging parts of the competition?

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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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