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Best of Toronto

The Best Fashion Designers in Toronto

Posted by Briony / December 8, 2010

Toronto Fashion DesignersSome of the best fashion designers working in Canada today call Toronto home. Damn, are we ever lucky. Well, naturally - the Big Smoke is arguably Canada's fashion HQ: we have the biggest Fashion Week, the Holt Renfrew flagship store, most of the fashion magazines, and dozens and dozens of well-edited stores.

And the talent has stepped up to populate our stylish city with well-clad citizens. Whether you're girly or glam, punk or proper, there's a talented Toronto designer for every taste. (Want some more options? Other local faves include Label, Evan Biddell, Eliza Kozurno, Jenny Bird, House of Groves, Hoi Bo, and Pink Cobra.)

Here are the 12 best Toronto Fashion Designers as voted by readers of this site.

1. Philip Sparks

The always-grinning Philip Sparks is beloved for his old-school suiting and natty separates: need a preppy sweater or a well-cut pair of wool trousers? Philip's your man. Now the ladies can sport his fresh designs, too: this fall saw the launch of his first women's collection, which has garnered a lot of buzz from the fashion press.

2. Greta Constantine

Supermodel Coco Rocha is but one of Greta Constantine's many celeb fans. Perennial high-fashion editorial favourites Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong (who co-starred on the first season of Project Runway Canada) got famous with their Grecian-inspired jersey dresses, but recently the boys debuted an admirable men's collection (Ezra Constantine) and have branched out into new fabrics and styles.

3. Amanda Lew Kee

This relative newcomer to the fashion scene and recent Ryerson graduate may only have a couple collections under her belt, but a well-received turn on the Fashion Week runway (sans her trademark black leather) and means this blue-lipsticked scenester definitely has some longevity in her. (Even Flare's Lisa Tant tweeted about her debut!)

4. Pink Tartan

Kim Newport-Mimran forms one-half of Toronto fashion's power-couple (her hubby is Club Monaco and Joe Fresh titan Joe Mimran), but she holds her own with Pink Tartan, the sporty line of bright separates and simple daywear. Pink Tartan fans can also get more of Newport-Mimran's designs at her new Toronto flagship store.

5. Jeremy Laing

The shy, bespectacled Laing is one of Toronto's most successful designers: the Vogue darling regularly shows in New York, where his dark, streamlined urban warrior designs have won him much acclaim. Hometown hero bonus: despite all his non-Canuck success, Laing continues to happily make his home in Parkdale.

6. Jules Power

With just a few pieces (couture sweats, gingham button-ups, and the perfect floral minidress), Jules Power has become the flame-haired sweetheart of the Toronto design scene over the last several seasons. Her easy pieces make dressing as simple as sweats, but with twice the chic.

7. Jessica Jensen

Every girl needs at least one grown-up purse. Thank goodness we have Jessica Jensen to make them for us. The bubbly blond makes exquisite leather goods of all shapes and sizes: satchels, hobos, totes, clutches, and wristlets come in plenty of colours to choose from. Let's keep our fingers crossed that she keeps her holiday pop-up shop open year-round!

8. Heidi Ackerman

Arguably one of the most visionary young Canadian artists working today, the down-to-earth designer specializes in sexy knit minidresses and catsuits, eye-catching shapes, and battle-ready fabrics. This year, she even provided the costumes for the underground production, Opera Erratica.

9. Thomas

The boyfriends Thomas (Drew and Mikey) started off with hipster-approved cobwebbed, ripped-up jersey tops, and have moved on to crafting solid, future-fantastic pieces with subtle, unique details and a certain heft and badassery about them. Their recent triumph? Showing one of the best collections at Spring/Summer 2011 Fashion Week.

10. Bustle

A menswear staple for years, Bustle continues to clothe Toronto dudes in cheery, tongue-in-cheek fashions (floral shirts, pastel pants, and patterned blazers for days). Need a sure bet at Fashion Week? Husband-and-wife duo Shawn Hewson and Ruth Promislow always pull out all the stops when showing their collection, from cameos by local fashion folk to a performance by Die Mannequin.

11. Virginia Johnson

Textile designer Virginia Johnson has been around for almost a decade, and she's been busy these last ten years--her products are carried in many prestigious stores all over the world (including Barneys and Selfridges), but locals still flock to her flagship on Ossington for clothes and accessories featuring her earthy, colourful designs.

12. Preloved

Why throw away an old sweater or pair of pants when you can make something new out of it? That's what Julia Grieve and Peter Friesen figured - now, their line Preloved sells upcycled dresses, sweaters, scarves, shorts, and skirts that allow unwanted clothes to get another chance (a kids line and home line have also been launched). Reported fans include Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Anne Hathaway, and Kate Hudson.



Thierry P. Nihill / December 8, 2010 at 10:12 am
Not one of your "top" designers has been producing ground-breaking new designs, year after year, the way that Marty Rotman, and George and Anna Giouris have for the past three decades at Northbound Leather. Give credit where it's due: Biddell is great - but Pink Tartan couldn't design "drop dead sexy" the way Northbound can if you lent them Jean-Paul Gauthier for a year ... Just saying' ...
I'm Just Saying... replying to a comment from Thierry P. Nihill / December 8, 2010 at 10:19 am
Jean Paul Gaultier.
I'm Just Saying... / December 8, 2010 at 10:20 am
And I really don't think that Amanda Lew Kee belongs on this list. At all. Her designs are interesting and it's nice to have some new blood on the scene but her spring collection was nothing to write home about.

Are you on the FDCC's pay roll Briony?
JR / December 8, 2010 at 10:31 am
Hi Briony,
In the main picture at the top (middle picture) is a guy in a beige coat with black trim. COuld you please tell me which designer that is? Thanks.
ica / December 8, 2010 at 10:33 am
this is fantastic. one problem though, where can I support these designers by buying their clothes?
can you give us a bit more info on that?
mj / December 8, 2010 at 10:38 am
Your list is insulting to the really talented designers like the great Lucian Matis. That is fashion! Too bad this lame city is not fashionable enough to support such wonderful designer.
Thierry P. Nihill / December 8, 2010 at 11:20 am
@I'm Just Sayin'

That's what I get for using an iPhone (darn automatic speller!) while waiting for broken-down trains to start running again this morning ...

I'm still rolling my eyes that Pink Tartan is on this list. That's really, really laughable ... Just because Northbound Leather is "assumed" to be a "Fetish Store" by the mainstream press doesn't mean that's necessarily the case, either.

Briony, have you actually SEEN some of Northbound Leather's crossover-slash-mainstream designs this season? You should really walk in and review their new Swarovski-crystal encrusted pieces (the purple and the ivory-sheen leather corsets alone are worth dropping a jaw over on any trip into the store). With all due respect to your 'conservative bunch' above, none of them have anything that compares ...

And no - I'm not on Northbound's payroll, either: I just think it's time they got recognized for producing some really revolutionary, mainstream-appropriate pieces ...
rob / December 8, 2010 at 11:24 am
Anon / December 8, 2010 at 11:34 am
I'm sure she's a nice person, but Jules Power? She makes overhyped sweat/lounge wear. Where's Sunny? Where's David?
G-Rizzle replying to a comment from rob / December 8, 2010 at 02:32 pm
Louie J / December 8, 2010 at 02:56 pm
looks like this list has caused some design feathers to be ruffled - whoa! the best part is that everyone has an opinion - let the flood gates open - topic for the day - who do you love more? your favourite designer that didn't make it on Briony's list or Briony for having the balls to post her opinion about designers? Closing note...Baby Steinberg made it on my list. Louie J.
Briony replying to a comment from JR / December 8, 2010 at 03:25 pm
The ensemble is by Philip Sparks. His website lists ways to find his stuff:
Fashion Maverick / December 8, 2010 at 05:11 pm
Heidi Ackermann is one on the list definitely worthy of the accolade. She has authenticity, and her designs have stayed true to her vision. Jeremy Laing & Greta Constatine are great- they could help put Canada on the fashion map- rather than watered down excuses for fashion. For eg. Pink Tartan, which is such the darling of Toronto fashion. Why?! Because it mass produces staples?!
nyc416 / December 8, 2010 at 05:36 pm
Pink Tartan and Bustle? Seriously? I live in New York and work in fashion and just to let you know, all of these brands except Thomas, Greta, and Philip are considered jokes by anyone in fashion outside of Canada.

PS where's Klaxon Howl?
anonymous / December 8, 2010 at 06:19 pm
I don't understand why BlogTO never mentions Smythe in their fashion features. Smythe is way more talented and successful than MANY of these designers, yet you have consistently left them off your lists.
Dayna / December 8, 2010 at 08:54 pm
Guys, stop attacking the writer if you don't agree with the Best Of results - these are voted by blogTO readers. Briony has nothing to do with the choices.

"Here are the 12 best Toronto Fashion Designers as voted by readers of this site."
fdsds / December 8, 2010 at 09:00 pm
can we consider a few things, first:

is there such thing as a top 12 (really, top 12?!) when there are like, only that many brands who are still fiscally afloat?

do any of these brands count if they don't even put their products into production? (and sell?)

preloved? -- i mean i get it, its toronto, its crafty, they cut up button downs from value village and make skirts and shit but... ok nevermind blog t.o. readers.

ps. more than 50% of you commenters may just be retarded

"Here are the 12 best Toronto Fashion Designers as voted by readers of this site."
jinxx008 / December 9, 2010 at 12:15 am
polipoly / December 9, 2010 at 01:43 am
user-pic i the only one who missed the poll where you pick your favorite toronto designers? cause i sure don't remember seeing it on here.
rapi / December 9, 2010 at 07:25 am
hey, guys...who said the list has to be just 12....let's make a longer list!!! i'm sure briony can help...
Enrico Palazzo replying to a comment from fdsds / December 9, 2010 at 01:33 pm
It amazes me how many people miss the "as voted by readers" as well. Although sometimes I find the long rants about how much BlogTO sucks for picking this or that kind of amusing, given that they didn't pick at all.
Cece replying to a comment from Thierry P. Nihill / December 9, 2010 at 05:31 pm
Just saying... the guy in the middle was a fantastic TA :)
Justin / December 9, 2010 at 05:36 pm
Quit talking like fruits in the presence of boobs.
Marjorie / December 10, 2010 at 10:43 am
Awesome collection!
Andrea replying to a comment from Thierry P. Nihill / January 2, 2011 at 09:19 pm
I WILL GIVE YOU THE TRUTH / January 14, 2011 at 11:17 am
And please don't miss up talents who already left Toronto and accomplished there career in another country your own because when they started out you didn't give them any chance or support.Designers such as..

Mark Fast
Jeremy Laing
Philip Sparks

could go on and please just don't insult them with listing them up on with such weak opponents.Sorry but that is just wrong you just can't compare new talents to well deserving/earned titles.
tara / September 22, 2011 at 03:47 pm
What about Jason Meyers, Thien Le and David Dixon......
student / December 4, 2011 at 11:22 pm
helga / January 22, 2012 at 11:18 am
I am looking for famous designers in Canada who design bags and purses. Im trying to design something like famously deigned purse. Tell me if you know anyone! Thanks!
helga replying to a comment from Thierry P. Nihill / January 22, 2012 at 11:21 am
You can take off the automatic spelling. Its in settings.
Maarten Gubbens replying to a comment from fdsds / February 20, 2012 at 02:26 am
Canadian designers are best in the world.Their all designs are fabulous but the first one is quite unique and lovely.
DD / February 25, 2012 at 08:17 pm

How can one get a job with a Canadian designer in Toronto, for example? I have a talented friend who studied at Instituto Marangoni in London, UK and would like to have an international experience.

Thank you,
Debra Reynolds replying to a comment from helga / March 7, 2012 at 10:08 pm
Great Bags!! Look no further than the Distillery for Ho Boi.
Sara makes awesome bags all Canadian and made right here in Toronto.
Waxed leather,waxed canvas and leather goods
Karl replying to a comment from Thierry P. Nihill / March 27, 2012 at 02:46 pm
This list is just as poorly produced as every BLOGTO "Best Of" list. I think its about time you guys start researching the topics you write about. Not to mention, having a journalist with an opinion probably would be a good start. Clearly this list was formulated by searching "Toronto fashion designers" in Google. How stupid do you think we are.
Mary / April 28, 2012 at 11:12 am
Hi Everyone,

Would you please let me know where a designer could find couture Tailors to work with in Toronto...your input is much appreciated.

Serena McArter / July 31, 2012 at 02:29 am
Have you actually looked at Philip Sparks clothes up close? They look good in pictures. The designs are great but the fabric he uses! It's like he does not know that fabric quality MAKES or breaks the design. The fabric does not sew nicely because it is the cheapest crap around. Buy a Sparks shirt, I give it 3 months and not so many washes before it seriously looks like crap.
COSPLAY / September 26, 2012 at 10:54 pm
In the main picture at the top (middle picture) is a guy in a beige coat with black trim. COuld you please tell me which designer that is? Thanks.
KAMAL / March 23, 2013 at 06:03 pm
QUESTION / March 2, 2014 at 10:33 am
What about Mikhael Kale?
Christine / March 2, 2014 at 11:28 am
You forgot Mikhael Kale

He is one of the best designers from Toronto and is also featured in New York's fashion week....

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