Interview: Philip Sparks
What is your inspiration for this season?
My inspiration was Peter and the Wolf. I was at the Hart House orchestra over a year ago in the Fall. I leaned over to Andrew and said I have this Peter and the Wolf inspiration. I put it aside and forgot about it because I had some other stuff on the go. So when it came to starting this Fall it was "oh Peter and the Wolf, that's right". But I didn't want to do Russian, I wanted to do Canadian.
So we did a bunch of research online - Canadian inspired, like, Canadian costume, Canadian clothing. We went through all kind of references in terms of what is Canadian clothing. What is Canadian costume? What do Canadians relate to that isn't Lumberjack. So in all that I wanted to make a collection that was warm, not in just in terms of colour palette, but in terms of warm clothing; warm materials used. And a collection that was happy. I went through a moment watching recession whatever and war and all that sort of stuff and I wanted to do something that wasn't very dark.
Tell me about the fur. Did you partner with a Canadian company?
We are working with North America Fur Auctions. They took over the fur trading part of The Hudson's Bay Company. They are the oldest fur trading company in North America. They partner us with fur technicians and people who manufacture fur garments. It's the office just around the corner from here. They offered me a training course. They have an office in Milan and in Toronto and they bring people around the world to take fur classes for a week and we learn what's involved.
It's actually incredibly involved. We learned a process called letting out, which creates a long piece of fur which was used for the jackets. Actually over 15 pieces are used in the 3 finger fur gloves and they had to be careful about matching the fur all around.
You aren't showing at the tents. Tell me about that decision?
When I moved into the Burroughes Building I knew I wanted to show the collection here. I wanted a rawer, organic experience for the show rather than the slick presentation of the tents. I also have more control as there aren't sponsorship conflicts and guest list issues that occur when taking part in the official Fashion Eeek presentation.
It's important to take yourself outside of this market and show outside of this market as well because you want to build a business. However, our biggest market right now is Toronto. We have a very loyal customer base here now. And we still want to show up here, we think it's important to show when we can.
You recently did New York and trade show in Vegas. Do you have any comments on the differences between Canada and the US?
Everyone loved it. I think many Canadian designers go out there and pretend they aren't Canadian and based in New York because they are there for months at a time. I just find that saying I'm from Toronto and based out of Toronto people are drawn to it more because of that aspect. There is a little of the "oh, you are based in Toronto" only because it's hard for them to view it and have people view it a lot.
The buyers at the larger department stores come over a period of weeks bring different people with them before they place an order. It makes it difficult because you have to be there over a long period of time. But that's the only reason and it's not because you're from Canada.
Photos by James Kachan