Another T.O. label explodes onto the international scene
The design duo behind fashion label Greta Constantine launches latest collection in Paris by Julia Parfenyuk
The Canadian fashion industry is about to see another home-grown label explode onto the international scene: Greta Constantine. The “accessible luxury,” ready-to-wear women’s label is a favourite of many actresses, singers and media personalities here in Canada as well as in the U.S.
At the helm of Greta Constantine is Toronto’s design duo Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong, who have set their sights on steering their label to fashion’s capital and introducing it to the industry’s prominent influencers, tastemakers and media.
Pickersgill and Wong both come from impressive fashion backgrounds: Pickersgill is a stylist, having worked in Milan for Dsquared2 and Neil Barrett and has guesttaught at Istituto Marangoni in Milan. Wong worked as a costume designer in Toronto and has designed for big studio films like American Psycho, Glitter, Chicago and Hairspray. The designers met in Toronto, became good friends, and with a shared design esthetic and vision. They launched Greta Constantine in 2006.
They caught the industry’s attention with their signature draped and architectural jersey dresses — and were quickly dubbed the “jersey boys of Toronto” by several publications. After showing at Toronto Fashion Week for several seasons, Pickersgill and Wong decided to skip the sponsored fashion week and began presenting their collections to press and buyers independently in the city as well as in New York.
“When we started this business, a good friend of ours gave us this advice: ‘You have to be willing to live and breathe fashion 24/7.’ I took it quite literally and devoted all my time to working, and my personal life was non-existent. I’m now trying to have more of a balance, but it still remains that my main goal is to focus on building and growing Greta Constantine,” says Wong.
Greta Constantine is well recognized in Canada (with strong sales in the Middle East, as well, the designers reveal), but the logical next step is to reach customers across the pond. Of course there’s no better place to make a splash than in Paris, which is what Pickersgill and Wong did with their fall/winter 2015 collection — presenting it for the first time during last month’s Paris Fashion Week.
With the goal “to be recognized internationally,” as Pickersgill shares, expect to see Greta Constantine making international fashion news and solidifying its presence in the French capital. Of the recent fall/winter 2015 collection, which Pickersgill and Wong presented at the opulent Salon Pompadour in the hotel Le Meurice in Paris, Wong explains that it took some time to arrive at that moment.
“We had been coming to Paris for the past three years to market [and do] sales appointments. Last year, we secured a PR office (Laurent Suchel), and it was a good friend, the stylist Darryl Rodrigues, who gave us the push we needed to make our debut [there].”
This Paris introduction of their sharply tailored, sophisticated looks in an all-black palette “with the odd touch of greys,” made a positive impression on the French press and buyers. Pickersgill and Wong say that for this collection they were inspired by the fashionable women they know and dress (T.O.’s Coco Rocha is one of their favourite clients), and they wanted to present a more elevated, luxurious Greta Constantine vision.
“When using a monochromatic colour such as black, we felt it was important to have a wide variety of texture to give it depth, so we found some very luxurious fabrics, such as double-faced twill, cotton velour with metal threads, plush wools, sheer silk tulle, textured peau de soie and a dense armourlike satin. We used these, along with our standard fabrics like silk/wool weave, and a technical, neoprene-like knit,” says Wong.
Speaking after the Greta Constantine designers’ Paris debut, Wong shares that the duo has big plans on the horizon: “Now that we’ve taken this first step in presenting in Paris, we have to continue with it — [to] build momentum, to establish the brand here in Paris and in the rest of Europe.”
Although the duo is looking for international reach and recognition, Toronto remains Pickersgill and Wong’s home base.
As Wong says: “This is where our heart is. We both grew up [here] and we see everything that Toronto has to offer. It’s grown into a very cool and sophisticated city with lots of diversity and open minds. I have many friends visit from all over the world, and they’ve all expressed that it feels like there’s something great bubbling up to the surface here.”
Both designers have their favourite, diverse neighbourhoods in Toronto. Pickersgill lives in Yorkville, and although he’s a selfdescribed homebody, he does love to frequent Asuka on Yorkville Avenue, Joso’s on Davenport, and Parts and Labour in Parkdale for a night out dancing.
Wong lives at Yonge and College and loves the fact that he can walk everywhere or use public transit. He lists off some of his go-to spots around the city: “I am having a ramen moment. The best place for ramen in Toronto is Sansotei Ramen. For a date, I like 416 Snack Bar — it’s got a great menu, amazing vibe, and my date always thinks I’m cool when I take them there.”
The Canadian fashion industry might be small, but its creatives have immense potential, and Greta Constantine is another great example of that.
We see everything that Toronto has to offer. It’s grown into a very cool and sophisticated city.”
Stephen Wong and Kirk Pickersgill launched Greta Constantine in 2006