WOW WOMEN

by INGRIE WIL­LIAMS

Best Health - - CONTENTS -

Meet Bo­jana Sen­taler, the cre­ative ge­nius be­hind the epony­mous la­bel

On the eve of cel­e­brat­ing 10 years in the fash­ion busi­ness, pres­i­dent and cre­ative di­rec­tor Bo­jana Sen­taler takes us be­hind the seams of her highly cov­eted lux­ury coat la­bel

IF YOU ASK BO­JANA SEN­TALER ABOUT THE pro­jected legacy of her epony­mous high-fash­ion la­bel, her an­swer is im­pec­ca­bly styled. “The master of out­er­wear on a global scale,” she says, “is what I want Sen­taler to be known for.” In many ways, it’s a vi­sion that has al­ready ma­te­ri­al­ized.

Since launch­ing in 2009, the line of lux­u­ri­ous gar­ments that ex­udes a time­less aes­thetic has been worn by a ros­ter of fa­mously chic women. Most no­tably, the Duchesses, Kate Mid­dle­ton and Meghan Markle, have stepped out in Sen­taler, each time rais­ing in­ter­na­tional aware­ness for the Toronto-based brand. Cur­rently avail­able through an e-com­merce site (sen­taler.ca), as well as in North Amer­i­can bou­tiques such as Holt Ren­frew, Nord­strom, Neiman Mar­cus and Saks Fifth Av­enue, the la­bel has also re­cently ex­panded into Hong Kong.

And 2019 may bring it to other de­part­ment stores around the world. To date, the la­bel has stuck to its winter-wear roots, of­fer­ing ele­gant, high-qual­ity coats made from Peru­vian al­paca hair that’s sourced using cru­elty-free, sus­tain­able and fair-trade prac­tices. How­ever, up­com­ing sea­sons could see an em­brace of ad­di­tional tex­tiles. “I want to be the best at one thing rather than be good at many things,” says Sen­taler. “I do out­er­wear well, and I feel like there’s so much more to learn and grow within the cat­e­gory.”

FRENCH CON­NEC­TION

Of­ten de­signed around an hourglass sil­hou­ette ac­cented with a belted waist­line — per­haps fea­tur­ing a dra­matic col­lar or sig­na­ture ribbed

sleeves — there are many el­e­ments that come to­gether ef­fort­lessly to cre­ate a Sen­taler coat. The la­bel’s his­tory is sim­i­larly struc­tured — pieces of a pat­tern that came to­gether just so.

“I have loved fash­ion my whole life, but when choos­ing a univer­sity [to at­tend], I thought it would be a smart de­ci­sion to grad­u­ate from a busi­ness school be­cause it would open up my op­por­tu­ni­ties to be able to do any­thing I wanted to,” says Sen­taler.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Schulich School of Busi­ness at York Univer­sity, she went on to pur­sue a ca­reer in the cor­po­rate world. “It was in­ter­est­ing, but I am a born en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit, and it was dif­fi­cult for me to work in an or­ga­ni­za­tion and only do one job be­cause I had so many ideas.”

In 2008, she left her nine-to-five job and moved to Dubai. While work­ing there on a me­dia project, Sen­taler was re­spon­si­ble for in­ter­view­ing prom­i­nent fig­ures, in­clud­ing Karl Lager­feld, the iconic fash­ion vi­sion­ary and cre­ative di­rec­tor of Chanel. “Af­ter­wards, off the record, I let him know that it was my dream to be a fash­ion de­signer and how I would love to have my own la­bel one day,” she says. “Ba­si­cally, I was ques­tion­ing if I could do it be­cause I didn’t grad­u­ate from a fash­ion school. His ad­vice to me was: ‘You ei­ther have it or you don’t, and if you have it, go for it.’”

Tak­ing Lager­feld’s words to heart, she left the Mid­dle East, made a brief re­turn to a cold Toronto winter and then headed to South Amer­ica. “I ended up in Peru. And Peru­vians are very proud of the al­paca fi­bre that orig­i­nates from their coun­try. Ev­ery­body was ask­ing me, ‘How do you like al­paca? Did you touch it? Isn’t it the most beau­ti­ful fi­bre in the world?’ So, I was in­trigued.”

Cu­rios­ity led to dis­cov­ery: Be­sides a plush feel, the fi­bre also pro­vides in­cred­i­ble warmth while be­ing sur­pris­ingly light­weight, and it boasts a hy­poal­ler­genic qual­ity. Sen­taler had a light­bulb mo­ment and ended up spend­ing nearly half a year in Lima, conducting re­search. “There was the fash­ion-dream as­pect of it,” she says. “And then my busi­ness hat rec­og­nized, at the time, there was a gap in the mar­ket for coats that were beau­ti­ful and fem­i­nine but at the same time func­tional and warm. I jumped at the op­por­tu­nity and launched Sen­taler to fill that gap.”

THE MOTHER LOAD

From any an­gle, the Sen­taler la­bel has be­come a fash­ion suc­cess story. While hav­ing her coats ap­pear on best-dressed women around the world pro­vides wel­come buzz, the pres­i­dent and cre­ative di­rec­tor finds the big­ger pic­ture most re­ward­ing. “The high­light has been to watch it grow,” says Sen­taler. “I didn’t launch un­til ev­ery­thing was per­fect, from the coats to the packaging to the brand­ing. I re­ally took care to ini­tially iden­tify and de­ter­mine who the Sen­taler woman is. All the things I wanted it to be known for [then], and rep­re­sent are the same things now.”

Branch­ing out to cre­ate a char­i­ta­ble pro­gram has been an­other ex­cit­ing win. For the third year run­ning, Sen­taler will do­nate pro­ceeds from the sales of winter ac­ces­sories to the Sick­Kids Foun­da­tion. This sea­son, gloves join the of­fer­ing of a hat and scarf avail­able in neu­tral es­sen­tials (and fresh colours like peri­win­kle) that cus­tomers can shop for in­di­vid­u­ally or buy as a match­ing set. “I be­came pas­sion­ate about chil­dren’s health when I be­came a mother — go­ing through ev­ery­thing and un­der­stand­ing moth­er­hood and how pre­cious chil­dren are,” says Sen­taler, who iden­ti­fies her big­gest chal­lenge as be­com­ing a work­ing par­ent.

“I’m run­ning a boom­ing busi­ness, and I’m also the mother of two young chil­dren. It’s very dif­fi­cult to be able to man­age both well and, to me, both roles are ex­tremely im­por­tant,” she says. “I can’t sac­ri­fice one for the other, so it’s just re­ally about man­ag­ing my time wisely and then pri­or­i­tiz­ing ev­ery­thing ev­ery day.”

To make it all work, the self-pro­claimed per­fec­tion­ist del­e­gates. “I wanted to do ev­ery­thing, but I’ve learned to have trust in my team that they’ll do it just as well as I will.”

IT’S A DATE!

Re­main­ing com­mit­ted to a cal­en­dar is also cen­tral to her self-care rou­tine. “One of the things that’s in my sched­ule are my work­outs,” she says. “I’ve learned that un­less it’s sched­uled, it won’t hap­pen.” Meet­ing with a per­sonal trainer sev­eral times a week, Sen­taler en­joys an early-morn­ing session that fo­cuses on weight train­ing. “You work out ev­ery sin­gle mus­cle in your body — it’s won­der­ful!” she says, “It’s re­ally a meet­ing with my­self — it saves me. It’s the only time in my en­tire day that I free my mind and fo­cus on me.”

With a 10-year an­niver­sary around the cor­ner, Sen­taler has worked to de­fine achieve­ment on her own terms. “Suc­cess for me is free­dom — be­ing able to choose to do what I love ev­ery sin­gle day or night.” she says. “I de­sign in the evenings be­cause I don’t have the day-to-day in­ter­rup­tions. I’m in the cre­ative mind­set when it’s very quiet and I’m in my own thoughts. Usu­ally those turn into very late nights be­cause once the ideas start com­ing, I can’t stop. I can’t go to bed un­til I do some­thing with it!”.

And in the new year, she’ll be fo­cus­ing on a new pas­sion: ap­pear­ing as a mo­ti­va­tional guest speaker to share her ex­pe­ri­ence and ad­vice with as­pir­ing en­trepreneurs. “I’m es­pe­cially ex­cited about mo­ti­vat­ing women to fol­low their dreams and do what they love be­cause you only have one life. If I can change the fu­ture of even one per­son, then it’s worth it.”

TWO FA­MOUS FACES EM­BRAC­ING THEIR LOVE OF CANA­DIAN DE­SIGN. KATE HAS BEEN SEEN IN SEN­TALER’S SIG­NA­TURE WRAP COAT IN GULL GREY WHILE MEGHAN'S BEEN SNAPPED WEAR­ING SEN­TALER’S LONG WIDE COL­LAR WRAP COAT IN CAMEL.

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