STYLE Toronto designer Sid Neigum’s ex­pan­sion plan.

Sid Neigum is the Canadian designer to watch now.

Elle (Canada) - - News - By Ava Bac­cari

It would be re­ally easy to lose sight of Sid Neigum in his Toronto stu­dio were it not for his quick move­ments. Dressed en­tirely in black, he blends in with the pud­dles of dark fab­ric that have spilled over into the crisp white space. When I ar­rive, he emerges from be­hind a rolling rack of black scarves and darts over to a skirt from his lat­est col­lec­tion. Tak­ing it from the man­nequin, he tries it on him­self to demon­strate its move­ment. “He re­ally is the best model!” shouts Yin, his seam­stress, from a sewing ta­ble across the room. Neigum grins and leads me to a lounge where we sit down to chat, away from the dis­trac­tions of the work in pro­gress. But this doesn’t tem­per his fre­netic en­ergy. He fid­gets con­stantly, and I imag­ine his mind rac­ing with ideas in much the same way. When he speaks, though, he is calmly as­sured— all his hard work has led, fi­nally, to a break­through: “Sup­port from Canadian re­tail­ers has been re­ally dif­fi­cult to get,” says the Ed­mon­ton-born designer. “But now that’s chang­ing for me.”

For the first time since Neigum launched his epony­mous la­bel in 2009, his clothes have been picked up by two ma­jor Canadian re­tail­ers: His spring/sum­mer 2015 col­lec­tion, an ar­chi­tec­tural feat in­spired by mod­u­lar origami, is now avail­able at The Room at Hud­son’s Bay and Toronto bou­tique Jonathan + Olivia. Neigum, who pro­duces ev­ery gar­ment in his Toronto stu­dio with Yin, worked right through the Christ­mas hol­i­days to get those or­ders fin­ished for Fe­bru­ary. No easy task: His de­signs fea­ture in­tri­cate laser-cut de­tails, metic­u­lous drap­ing and care­ful fold­ing, demon­strat­ing a mas­tery of tech­nique that puts him leaps ahead of his peers. Few at­ten­dees were sur­prised when that col­lec­tion won him the Mercedez-Benz Start Up com­pe­ti­tion at World MasterCard Fash­ion Week in Toronto last Oc­to­ber.

The $30,000 prize, which helped fund Neigum’s fall/win­ter 2015 col­lec­tion and run­way pre­sen­ta­tion, seems to be part of an on­go­ing win­ning streak for the young designer, who most re­cently claimed the Swarovski Award for Emerg­ing Tal­ent, Fash­ion, at the glitzy 2015 Canadian Arts & Fash­ion Awards gala in Jan­uary. Be­yond in­di­cat­ing that Neigum might just be the most ex­cit­ing young tal­ent work­ing in Canada now, th­ese cash prizes have en­abled him to fi­nan­cially break even for the first time in four years. But the designer, who grad­u­ated from New York’s pres­ti­gious Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, is the first to ad­mit that they’re not enough to guar­an­tee long-term fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity— Jeremy Laing, af­ter all, won an in­au­gu­ral CAFA award in 2014 and qui­etly closed up shop the same year. “That money only lasts h

so long, so you need to think about a way to have longevity,” says Neigum, adding that the busi­ness side of the in­dus­try can be for­eign to many de­sign­ers.

Hav­ing a fa­ther who is a busi­ness owner has given him a crit­i­cal ad­van­tage, says Neigum. Su­san Lang­don, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Toronto Fash­ion In­cu­ba­tor, where Neigum’s stu­dio is lo­cated, has seen that pa­ter­nal ad­vice at work. She de­scribes how Neigum in­vested early prize money to at­tend the Co­terie trade show in New York and a fab­ric-sourc­ing event in Seoul and to hire a sam­ple maker. “He has tal­ent and won­der­ful de­signs, of course, but he’s a smart busi­ness per­son as well, and that’s why his busi­ness is now ac­cel­er­at­ing.”

Neigum also knows how to put him­self out there, con­stantly email­ing and cold-call­ing stores he wants to be sold in. “It’s like a global attack,” he says, shift­ing for­ward to the edge of the couch. “I’ll try to get an ap­point­ment with any­body and then fly to that city and try to lock down a sale.” He leans back and low­ers his voice. “I’ll do what­ever it takes.”

Of­ten the con­ver­sa­tion about the strug­gle faced by Canadian de­sign­ers turns to ex­am­ples like Er­dem and DSquared2, who both reached in­ter­na­tional ac­claim only af­ter leav­ing Canada. But, ac­cord­ing to Neigum, the so­lu­tion is not as sim­ple as mak­ing a break for Lon­don or Mi­lan. “I would never be able to have this in ei­ther of those cities,” he says, ges­tur­ing to his vast stu­dio space and not­ing that the monthly rent of $1,000 would likely be 10 times that amount else­where. “It wouldn’t be fea­si­ble, plain and sim­ple.”

But stay­ing at home comes with the unique chal­lenge of at­tract­ing at­ten­tion from lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, both of which are ap­pre­hen­sive about tak­ing a chance on Canadian la­bels. “Amer­i­can de­sign­ers get huge sup­port from their own re­tail­ers, and then they’re able to start ex­pand­ing into Europe and Asia,” says Neigum. “But Canadian re­tail­ers buy more con­ser­va­tively; they fol­low what’s hap­pen­ing in New York rather than make their own judg­ments. I think Ni­cholas Mel­lam­phy [vice-pres­i­dent and buy­ing direc­tor] of The Room at Hud­son’s Bay is some­one who’s go­ing against that grain.”

Neigum in­tu­itively knew that be­ing car­ried at The Room was crit­i­cal to his suc­cess in Canada—so he set his mind to it. He en­ticed Mel­lam­phy to visit his stu­dio last fall. “We were re­ally im­pressed with not only the qual­ity of the gar­ments but also his vi­sion and the way he is able to speak about what he wants to achieve,” re­calls Mel­lam­phy. His new col­lec­tion was in­tro­duced at The Room in Fe­bru­ary with a splashy in­stal­la­tion at the en­trance—some­thing pre­vi­ously re­served for in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed de­sign­ers such as Thom Browne and Rok­sanda Ilin­cic. “He is do­ing things in this mar­ket that no one else is re­ally do­ing,” says Mel­lam­phy. “He’s as good as any­one else around the world.”

Neigum knows it too, as he con­tem­plates where in the world he would like his col­lec­tions to end up next. “There’s not re­ally a plan of attack in terms of lo­ca­tion,” he says af­ter a care­ful pause. “It’s global dom­i­na­tion.” And his takeover has started right here at home. ■

“He has tal­ent, but he’s a smart busi­ness per­son as well, and that’s why his busi­ness is now ac­cel­er­at­ing.”

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