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

Thornhill Post - - Life Profile -

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

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