TORONTO — After spending three years working by day at a mineral exploration company to make ends meet and by night on her fashion label, Sarah Stevenson Design, fledgling designer Sarah Stevenson has won the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s New Labels contest and the chance to create a clothing line for Target.
The win, which included a 25,000 Canadian dollar, ($24,750 at current exchange) cash prize, was revealed on April 30 after a runway show before 700 buyers, industry insiders and media on hand at Toronto’s historic event space, The Carlu.
“I was in shock when I heard my name. I kept squeezing my stylist’s hand backstage because I couldn’t believe it,” Stevenson, 32, said.
Since launching her label in Toronto in 2010, Stevenson has single-handedly made the fabrics for her designs, which are clean, simple and embellished with beautiful, laser-cutting techniques.
“It’s been double the work and tough do to with no financial help. This win has made every struggle worthwhile,” she said.
Stevenson, along with 19 other emerging Canadian designers, entered the annual competition in December. Four finalists were selected by a judging panel that included John Morioka, Target’s senior vice president of merchandising and Elisha Ballantyne, Target’s divisional merchandise manager of apparel and accessories.
This year’s finalists included the edgy Canadian-Japanese design duo SevenThirtyOne, Paria Shirvani and contemporary dress and separates brand Christopher Paunil.
“Sarah put together the most cohesive collection and showed lots of consistency in terms of thinking through her vision and who her brand is for,” said Ballantyne.
Inspired by the still-life paintings of Dutch Baroque artist Rachel Ruysch, Stevenson’s collection features richly hued florals and hand-painted textiles transferred onto silk. The collection also showcased Stevenson’s laser-cutting techniques, which she honed while studying at Toronto’s George Brown College from 2006 to 2008 and in Milan in 2009, where she pursued a master’s degree in fashion and textile design.
While in Milan, Stevenson turned down an internship at Giorgio Armani to return to Toronto and launch her label.
“The first thing I did when I got home was contact the Incubator. They helped me figure out how to run a business,” said Stevenson.
The nonprofit organization was created in 1987 by the City of Toronto to boost the fashion industry and offer support and mentorship to budding Canadian designers and entrepreneurs. Since then, the Incubator has spawned similar organizations in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Dublin, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Milan.
The organization introduced its New Labels competition in 1992 and has since launched the careers of Canadian designers Joeffer Caoc, David Dixon and Todd Lynn, as well as top models Daria Werbowy and Shalom Harlow. This year’s partnership with the Minneapolis-based Target has sweetened the winner’s pot.
According to Ballantyne, Target will meet with Stevenson over the next month to begin work on an exclusive, limited-edition apparel collection that will be sold across Canada in 2014.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast