Toronto’s Women to Watch in Fashion with Rena Rutkauskas #style

The inaugural RE \ SET event, presented by The Collections, was a unique experience in Canadian fashion. On Feb 6th and 7th at Toronto’s Great Hall, a group of influential designers were presented in an unconventional and interactive forum. Village Living Magazine was there to see the vision of Robin Kay, President of the Fashion Design Council of Canada, come to life. ‘My mission is to have the federal government finally recognize our designers within the current description of the creative cluster and, in doing so, clearly identify our industry as a pillar of commerce and culture in Canada’.

We had the pleasure of speed dating four female led labels on site, in between their presentations & buyer meetings. Read on to be inspired by these artists.

Elle Ayoubzadeh, Founder and Creative Director at fashion & footwear brand Zvelle dishes…

On the women who inspire her

The current Zvelle collection was motivated by Amelia Earhart. Be captivated by that story here  Elle finds inspiration in women who aren’t about conformity, who follow their instincts and who aren’t afraid to operate outside the box. Business women Tori Burch, Victoria Beckham, and Mellody Hobson are among them. Perhaps chief among them is her mother whose tenacity has made her a lifelong role model.

On how women should feel in shoes

Outrageously comfortable, for one. Zvelle leaves no stone unturned when it comes to all the features that amplify comfort while still making every shoe a head turner. That’s a unique promise in the shoe industry (perhaps having a woman who wears the shoes all day every day as the designer is the trick!).

Confident and ready to do her thing, for two. Confidence comes from a different place for all of us and it’s one of Elle’s great pleasures to be part of that for women.

On ‘Unpredictable Detail’ as a cornerstone of design

Elle thinks deeply on all levels about the elements of her pieces. Take the upside down heart as an example. On the surface it’s a pretty motif, in actuality it also symbolizes the Persian number 5 which is the most solid and substantial number, representing character and equal elements of masculinity and femininity. Another beautiful example are the lines on the Amelia heel that subtly echo the wings of a plane.

On whether or not an outfit is built from the bottom up

Of course an outfit starts with the shoes! Elle can remember her dad driving her around the city when being as young as six years old on the hunt for the perfect pair of white shoes for a recital.

On women in business

Elle believes women should vote with their dollars and has built an independent, self funded business that women can feel good about supporting. She also has an ongoing partnership with the Women’s College Hospital Foundation.

Tara Rivas, head designer at womenswear label TMR Collection dishes…

On the collection as a reflection of her life

The collection is incredibly personal and has evolved with her own life stages. The current collection is divided into two moods – one inspired by a trip to Miami where she furiously sketched looks while on the beach. The other, an ode to urban ease for the woman who really values comfort and needs to look chic running from A to B.

On the surprising elements of her pieces

Look for reversible tops, cut outs in delightful places, and organic bamboo fabric that feels like loungewear but has street style cred.

On a personal motto in life and in business

Don’t go through life but grow through life!

On advice for young designers

Say yes to everything, brand fit permitting. You never know what each opportunity will turn up and only good things will come from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

On the business side of running a label

In her role, part of the job is dreaming up new designs and a big big big part of the job is also running the business. Specifically, TMR believes in slow fashion, a refreshing business model in light of the mass trend toward fast fashion.

Hilary MacMillan, designer of her contemporary womenswear label Hilary MacMillan dishes…

On the tension she creates between exclusivity and inclusivity

While Hilary’s thoughtful designs look ripe for the ready-to-wear pages of Vogue, her price points are refreshingly accessible. How she chooses her fabrics and manufacturing partners helps her customers snag one of her exclusive prints. Every season we can expect one from the collection – on the RE \ SET runway the print de resistance was a sumptuous velvet burnout.

On the biggest compliment she could receive

Seeing someone wearing her clothes on the street!

On getting started in fashion

Hilary was previously the owner of a jewelry store on Queen West. When she experimented with a capsule clothing collection and shared it with her customers in store, the response propelled Hilary into turning the p

assion into the label she runs today.

On her latest collection

The audience at RE \ SET oohed and awwed over a collection inspired by 1970’s feminism : velvets, jewel tones, modernized ruffles and bell sleeves. New to the label was a debut collection of knits in unique silhouettes.

On what you need to know about her designs

Hilary’s line is 100% animal friendly – no fur or suede or leather here.


Parris and Chloe Gordon, the designers behind ready-to-wear and accessory line Beaufille dishing…

On a banner year

The sisters were nominated for the CAFA Womenswear Designer of the Year award, only two short years after winning the CAFA Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent in Accessories and being nominated for the CAFA Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent in Fashion. It’s a great honour to be in a category with their mentors and while it’s a tad surreal, this duo is super stoked.

On the role of Canadian Fashion Week 

The return of Toronto Fashion Week, revived by Freed Development, is a coup for Canadian designers. Without it, the sisters wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show their creative side on a homegrown platform with their peers. They attribute showing at home to their more recent success at NYFW. Toronto Fashion Week offers a chance to prepare designers for – and expose them to – the international markets without getting tossed directly to the wolves so to speak!

On advice to aspiring designers

You must absolutely LOVE what you do. That’s what fuels the necessary persistence in this industry and finds you throwing yourself into it. The more hours you spend on designing, the more talented you become. So never give up!

On advice to business partners out there

As sisters, they know a thing or two about how to succeed in a business duo. In many ways, their relationship paved the way for this venture. It comes from knowing your partner inside and out and above all, having implicit trust in them.

Feature Image : Fall/Winter 17 Beaufille

RENA RUTKAUSKAS is creative director and co-founder of Smithery Style, helping women dress for their body shape. She believes that no one should ever feel she has nothing to %$#^! wear.

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