It’s hard to locate a time in history when Toronto has been as ripe with homegrown talent as it is right now. The teaming scope of young designers and artists populating our city’s streets is nothing short of inspiring. Yet, at a time when our fashion scene flies as close to an international scale as it ever has, differentiating between those destined to burn out as flashes in the pan and those who won’t is, admittedly, difficult. Although nothing can ultimately predict the success of a new, emerging designer, the following Toronto-based brands have proven themselves as irreplaceable innovators. Through handmade detailing and Beyonce-approved outfits, these Toronto talents have already started getting snatched up by international fans. Below, are five Toronto designers you should know, love and boast about.
Label: Terence & Vincent
Brett Paulin’s handmade bags and accessories are a sight to behold. Founded in 2012, Terence & Vincent uses only the softest, butter-melting Bison leather for its products. Boasting distinct, streamlined shapes and durability, the goods are finished with traditional French-Canadian treatment techniques and, although they don’t come cheap, are built to last a lifetime. Paulin explains that the names Terence and Vincent are close to his heart: “The name comes from my two grandfathers. Terence & Vincent is really about family and making something that lasts forever—that you pass on. I want to make heirlooms,” he tells Toronto Standard. So far Paulin has done just that: Toronto-based Terence & Vincent gear is composed of the type of hard-to-come-by quality that warrants reverence.
Label: Amanda Lew Kee
At 26-years-old, Lew Kee’s androgynous designs have become a Toronto staple. Known for holding her fashion shows at bars and restaurants instead of a traditional runways, Lew Kee’s reluctance to conform to any set of preexisting rules have made her a force to be reckoned with in Canadian style. For her Fall/Winter 2012 showing, the designer nixed the idea of a runway, choosing instead to drape The Hoxton in white sheets and act as a model in the billowy show. Her Spring/Summer ’13 line followed suit, showing at an intimate six-course dinner at Queen West’s Ursa restaurant to a carefully selected roster of 15 fashion writers and buyers.
However, a knack for finding unpredictable locations isn’t all Lew Kee brings to Toronto’s fashion table. Named a “person to watch” by the Toronto Star, this young designer has already been snatched up by Canadian heritage brand Roots for a collaboration. And she’s not stopping there, Lew Kee currently splits her time between Toronto and New York City, where she has also shown her work. Her palpable international recognition has only snowballed after being featured on HBO’s True Blood and the MuchMusic Video Awards.
Where to find it: Roots, The Drake Hotel, Devonishire and her website.
Zakariah Milana and Charlene Martin
Label: Sons of Odin
Toronto designers Zakariah Milana and Charlene Martin started Sons of Odin, a label dedicated entirely to menswear, out of a need to revive individuality and creativity in today’s modern man’s wardrobe. Founded in 2012, the label has gone on to do just that: infusing a mix of harem pants and leather finishes into the wardrobes of men worldwide. And the two designers, who technically bring this total up to Six Toronto designers you should know by now, are only getting started. Boasting a loyal following of hip-hop heavy weights like 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Waka Flocka Flame and Migos, the duo’s designs are already bleeding into the international scene, selling their masculine goods at retailers in Vancouver, New York and Los Angeles, among many others.
Available at: Holt Renfrew, Bloor Street, and their website.
Label: Mikhael Kale
Canadian-born Kale started his Toronto-based label in 2007 and has since gone on to win over the likes of Fashion TV’s Jeanne Beker, Jennifer Lopez, Sienne Miller and Beyonce. His self-titled line, which has generated heaps of praise from its showings at World Mastercard Fashion Week, gains its distinct aesthetic from Kale’s ability to juxtapose heavy-duty armour with feather-light fabrics. The result is a feminine silhouette reminiscent of space Martians and fairies. Kale’s designs, which almost feel reminiscent of an early Christophe Decarnin, may also be some our sexiest homegrown silhouettes. The designer’s penchant to celebrate the female form is displayed throughout his ever-growing list of collections. Through curve-hugging frocks and sheer details, Kale has established himself among Toronto’s most innovative elite.
Available at: Holf Renfrew, Bloor Street, and his website.
Opening on Bathurst in 2009 after over a decade on college, Twish Ewanika’s womenswear boutique has firm roots in Toronto. The boutique, aptly titled Ewanika, is a mainstay among professionals of all ages. Featuring a roster of polished, neutral hues in geometric cuts, Ewanika’s designs are the ideal combination of sleek and alluring. And her trademark silhouette, with generous cuts of earthy linen and ethereal bamboo, has become a Toronto staple. Ewanika’s wearable, minimalist collections have garnered her decades of praise: proving, at last, that less is definitely more. Her pieces are what you wear to a job interview, or to a dinner party, or on the weekend. Actually, her simple pieces are what you wish you could wear everywhere.