Toronto Fashion Week

What it's like to be a first-time designer at Fashion Week

Is Hilary MacMillan feeling the pre-show jitters?

"Oh, yeah. I'm on the edge of my seat all the time!" the designer laughs. A year and a half into creating her self-titled line, the Toronto designer will be bringing her womenswear to the Toronto Fashion Week studio for the first time today.

"I think the scariest thing is how people will react to it. You're waiting for a positive or negative review. I think the pre-show jitters started a month ago, so I'm just kind of trucking along."

Good thing she's making such good time. I caught up with her three days ago and the only things left to do were to make last-minute fits and finalize the styled looks. "Other than that, I'm feeling pretty confident with my progress."

Don't go looking for out-there designs at her studio presentation; MacMillan describes her wares as "very wearable". "I'm not like a crazy over the top designer. It kind of lasts for a couple seasons - it's not hot for now and then you can't wear it six months from now," she says.

That classic design mandate seemingly clashes with the dark inspiration of her new collection. MacMillan drew from Art Nouveau, particularly Le Pater, a 1899 work by artist Alphonse Mucha. The series of illustrations explores themes found in the Lord's Prayer, to often unsettling effect, but MacMillan was inspired by the way Mucha contrasted the dark, monochromatic panels with a feminine, floral front and back cover. That influences translates in the collection to "ethereal, lighter palette, whites and light blues and soft pinks" grounded by darker pieces.

In addition to her work as a designer, MacMillan does double-duty running Elle Hardware, a Queen West boutique she operates with her sister. MacMillan's line of womenswear is sold there, as well as jewelry and accessories. The store opened three years ago; since MacMillan's line started picking up steam, she's stepped away from the day-to-day operations, but stops in once a week.

"You do get some 'Who's the designer?' 'Oh, I'm the designer!' moments" with customers, she says. "Not everything looks good on everybody, so you kind of have to be aware of that (when people are looking at your designs). It's definitely an interesting thing to encounter."

Her role with Elle Hardware previously brought her to the shows as a buyer, but this is the first time she's put her own creations on display.

"It feels surreal, for sure. It's like it's not real yet, you know? Until it gets to the day, it doesn't feel it's really happening. I'm trying to make it seem more real to me than it is. It's going to be exciting."

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Thanks to MasterCard Stylicity for sponsoring our coverage of Toronto Fashion Week

Photo by Mauricio Calero

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