In the ever-changing world of fashion, it can be challenging to make a mark in the industry before what’s “in” becomes what’s “out”. A well deserved shout out goes to these 50 fashion brands that have been making moves in Toronto, establishing themselves as brands to watch out for.
As one of the major Canadian cities, Toronto constantly gives new meaning to Canada’s diversity and culture through its music, food, art, and of course, fashion. Experience the intriguing Toronto fashion scene by getting to know the 50 fashion brands.
Inspired by an old European mentality, founder Daniel Toriman has captured the essence of rugged charm into his men’s fashion brand 18Waits. The collection consists of knives and bottle openers, Japanese and waxed cotton jackets inspired by blazers and military coats, linen and cotton shirts, and wool chinos. The clothes are constructed from the finest fabrics appropriate for each item within the collection. There is virtually no detail overlooked.
Adrian Wu, who’s believed to be one of the youngest Canadian fashion designers to hit the Canadian fashion scene, launched his career at the age of 18. In the year of 2011, Wu’s career reached a peak at the LG Toronto Fashion Week where his debut collection attracted the attention of the National Post causing quite a controversy.
Amanda Lew Kee
Amanda Lew Kee first started designing in 2008 and launched her women’s collection fresh after graduation from Ryerson University in 2010 at the LG Toronto Fashion Week. Lew Kee works closely with the entertainment industry and has dressed public figures such as Shenae Grimes, Keri Hilson and Liz Trinnear.
Streetwear brand, Ambush Apparel has already been recognized in major media outlets like Complex magazine and received co-signs from rappers Mac Miller and Taylor Gang’s Sledgren. Launched in 2010, Ambush Apparel is now known for its bold designs, bright colours and heavy typography on tees, sleeveless shirts and baseball caps.
Emerging Canadian textile designer Anu Raina combines unexpected materials during her textile making process as she believes that multitude of textures are exactly like the woven complexities of life. Raina’s experimental approach towards textile making has allowed her to create designs that surprise both herself and her audience.
Born in Toronto and raised in Sao Miguel, Portugal, fashion designer Arthur Mendonca launched his namesake business in 2002 and soon became successful internationally. Mendonca is known for creating clothes that contain vibrant feminine energy and elegant and understated style by combining luxurious fabrics, striking silhouettes and expert tailoring.
Vancouver based designer Ashley Watson and her staff handcraft her one-of-a-kind leather products using exclusively recycled material. She began designing handbags with recycled leather in early 2005, inspired by the original features of soft and gently worn jackets purchased from charity thrift stores. Available at Thieves Boutique in Toronto (1156 Queen St West).
Toronto-based jewellery designer and artist Ashley Winnington-Ball believes in the use of ambiguous and unexpected materials to differentiate her work from that of other designers. She transforms what most would call waste – rusted metal, industrial, salvaged and antique items into beautiful and interesting pieces. By wearing something made from recycled bits and pieces, you make a statement to others about your aesthetic, your values, and about who you are and can be in this world.
Bustle (Shawn Hewson and Ruth Promislow)
Bustle Clothing, founded in 2002 by Shawn Hewson (designer judge on Project Runway Canada) and Ruth Promislow who are both Bay street lawyers, is a leading Canadian sportswear label that has become well-known for its cheeky and well-tailored aesthetic.
Each season, Bustle produces a collection based around a new theme, through which high pedigree inspiration is translated into luxurious, but “funked-up”classics, seasoned with Bustle’s sharp tailoring, attention to details, and signature cheekiness. Bustle’s designers have appeared as style experts in numerous publications, and on numerous Canadian and International television productions.
At 23 years old, Caitlin Power has been recognized nationally for redefining womenswear through androgynous tailoring, architectural details, and sleek silhouettes. Her trademark leather can be noted in every collection, making her designs unique and luxurious. In 2008, Power established her self-titled brand Caitlin Power, which is a contemporary woman’s ready to wear brand that targets powerful, sophisticated and androgynous women.
Chloe comme Parris (Chloe and Paris Gordon)
Sisters Chloe and Paris Gordon are Toronto based designers who are committed to design pieces that provide personal interaction with a consciousness for longevity. Drawing inspiration from both the manmade and natural world, they create pieces that possess a graceful unity. In 2009, the two sisters launched Chloe comme Parris, a collection that draws inspiration from the foreign and exotic, incorporating imagery and techniques from exotic cultures into modern, wearable context.
Comrags (Joyce Gunhouse and Judy Cornish)
Comrags designers Joyce Gunhouse and Judy Cornish have been in business for almost 30 years. Although they have done limited wholesaling across Canada (with their main business operating out of Toronto) they have taken note of the increasing interest in buying Canadian so Comrags has decided to go online and open sales nationally. Everything is produced in-house by staff that have been with the company forever.
Crown Shaving Co.
After years of using products filled with harsh chemicals, Dino Caracciolo decided to revolutionize the daunting task of shaving. He became devoted to developing a line of products specifically for men containing natural non-irritating ingredients, thus the birth of Crown Shaving Co. All products are free of alcohol, artificial colorants, artificial fragrances, parabens and sulfates.
Canadian jewelry line, Cuchara moved from Vancouver to T.Dot when desiger Edi Caneda relocated from the west coast in 2010. Her line consists of two distinctive collections of necklaces and bracelets. The rainbow collection uses gold chains adorned with fluorescent beads and silver spikes. The stone collection features stones shaped and polished into a tooth shape.
Cydelic by Choryin (Choryin Choi)
As the lead designer for the artistic luxury brand of clothing and accessories Cydelic by Choryin, Choryin Choi draws inspiration heavily from dreams and electronic music and creates items that show as bold, artistic takes on a classic yet edgy aesthetic.
Choi’s runway collection “Monster” premiered on the LG Fashion Week runway in 2011. Using meticulous hand craft methods resulting in sculpture like detailing, Cydelic by Choryin was created to inspire people into thinking outside of the box and “to show the fantasies that the human mind can create where there are no boundaries and anything is possible.”, according to Choi.
Toronto based fashion designer David Dixon possesses a modernist openness towards emerging design and rejects the notion of radically changing from one fashion trend to another. Dixon’s designs combine luxury with the functional and fantasy with sensibility. Now the David Dixon brand is being sold across Canada, the United States, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Diepo (Justine Biener and Kristin Poon)
Brought together by their studies and a love for vintage lingerie, Justine Diener and Kristin Poon founded diepo in 2007. Diepo is a fusion of Justine’s tailored, spare perspective with Kristin’s clean and sporty aesthetic. The two use their strengths, Justine in wovens and Kristin in knits to create a line of luxurious garments that blur the line between bedroom and daywear.
A self-taught designer with a strong sense of independence and a reluctance to blend in with the crowd, Evan Biddell began designing clothing at a young age and had opened two stores in British Columbia by the time he was 21.
He made his debut onto the Canadian fashion scene as the first winner of Project Runway Canada and quickly became one of the country’s most promising young designers. Evan has since relocated to Toronto’s West End where he continues to create clothing and grow his brand, now sold at select boutiques worldwide.
EWANIKA (Trish Ewanika)
Designer Trish Ewanika followed the call of fashion to Toronto and has since dedicated herself to making things that are honest, beautiful, and lasting. Her EWANIKA collection rises to the challenge of reconciling modernity with femininity and the most modern thing in clothes, comfort.
The clothes convey development in a new direction but still pay respect to tradition. The EWANIKA silhouette is light handed, creating restrained allure and a relaxed sense of day-to-night chic that reflects a contemporary personality.
Fusing their passions for photography, art, literature and music, couple Anabela Carneiro and Geoff Piersol created Fieldguided- a line of hand-made artistic goods/ blog (fieldguided.blogspot.com). The FieldGuided totes are 100% cotton and hand-printed with silkscreen, some of which feature lyrics from Kate bush and Serge Gainsbourg songs.
Greta Constantine is a luxury line of womenswear designed by designers Kirk Pickersgill (left) and Stephen Wong (right), who are know as the “Jersey boys of Toronto” due to the jersey they use for their collections. Pickersgill has worked for international designers such as Dsquared2 and Neil Barrett, while Wong started as a costume designer and has made clothing for several films such as The Last Day of Disco and Hairspray.
Handsome Clothing set out on a mission to redefine what it means to be handsome which resulted in a t-shirt/sweatshirt collection adorned with printed designs. The Hopeful collection is comprised of tees from previous collections, redesigned with hand dye, drip and brush stroked colour treatments.
Handsome Clothing’s brother brand, HNDSM, a men’s jewelry line features the Tanzania collection (handwoven bracelets made in Tanzania using Harita seeds said to bring good luck to the wearer). 10% of the profit of each piece goes directly towards helping the children of the miners who source Uru Diamonds.
Highly inspired by vintage clothing, Heather Lawton designs clothing that conjures a world of texture, luxury and mystery. Lawton launched her collection in 2006, interspersing fine silk, lace, and cashmere with sensual and unusual fabrics such as goat hair, Mongolian lamb, quilted crocodile, python, rope and a synthetic filigree mesh with the delicate airiness of Nori seaweed. Lawton showed her first collection in 2011 at Toronto LG Fashion Week.
Heidi Ackerman is known in Toronto for her otherworldly designs that combine fashion forward and avant-garde style with the concepts and principles of sustainability. Ackerman has received wide recognition for her experimental and innovative sustainable designs including “Emerging Young Designer Award” at R4 and LG Fashion Week.
House of Groves (Jennifer Waters)
House of Groves is a clothing line created by designer Jennifer Waters. Waters focuses on enhancing the natural lines of a woman and creates with deceptive simplicity. The garments are enhanced through texture and the precise tailoring of menswear finishes.
House of Groves creates garments with grace and integrity that will become instant classics in a modern woman’s wardrobe. The label embodies fresh, contemporary style with a look to the past. Each piece is made impeccably. Every detail is thought through.
Ideall Clothing (Bryan Espiritu)
Toronto based designer, artist, and writer/blogger is the man behind the well-liked Ideall Clothing. While many Toronto-based designers have created and continue to start-up new clothing lines, very few survived or truly took off. Espiritu, however, not only created a successful clothing line, but has built his own brand in The Legends League.
Espiritu is known for his urban style design on a large variety of clothing and merchandise. Espiritu’s hardworking attitude and creative mind have made him a success example for many emerging designers.
Canadian born fashion designer Jeremy Laing shows great strength in innovative pattern making by combining organic and geometric materials. Laing was a finalist for the prestigious ANDAM Fashion Award in the year of 2011.
Jessica Jensen moved to Toronto in 1997 to train in fashion at Ryerson University and has marketed and designed licensed accessories for over twenty-five international brands including Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger. In 2007, Jensen launched her own signature handbag collection and the label debuted for spring summer 2008 and is lauded for its modern design philosophy, luxurious styling and effortless sensibility.
Fashion designer and entrepreneur Joe Mimran is the man synonymous with Canadian fashion and has been working in the fashion business for over 25 years. Mimran is the dynamic force behind some of Canada’s greatest Canadian retail success stories: Alfred Sung, Club Monaco, Caban and Joe Fresh.
Jules Power is best know for her sexy and colourful take on contemporary fashion and her uniquely polished casual pieces with charm and nostalgia. Her refreshing design not only creates a great sense of luxury, but also maintains comfort and youthfulness. Power has spent the past decade designing for Canada’s top iconic brands, Roots, Danier Leather and Joe Fresh Style, and in 2009 Power launched her own womenswear brand and showed her first collection in Toronto at LG Fashion Week.
Killigrew Fashion is a hybrid of comfort, quality and luxury. Made from 100% Peruvian pima cotton, these t-shirts, polos and tank tops are simple and stylish. If you’re wondering what a killigrew is, its part of the crow family and in Celtic mythology it is believed that the immortal spirit of King Arthur lives on in the form of a killigrew.
Krane (Ken Chow)
Chow brings his visual art background into the fashion industry with Krane, a remembrance of vintage uniforms with an ode to modern industrial design. Old-school leather techniques meet a new-school design attitude in pursuit of innovative garments and accessories. Graphic details evolve and transform classic silhouettes in making bold statements that acknowledge the thoughts and aspirations of today’s contemporary male.
LABEL (Shawna Robinson and Natalie Sydoruk)
Designers Shawna Robinson and Natalie Sydoruk have been collaborating since 2009 on their clothing line, LABEL. The idea was born out of their mutual desire for quality clothing that fit their unique lifestyles.
Shawna, a freelance wardrobe stylist and aspiring artist, and Natalie, a Ryerson fashion design graduate and model, both desired clothing that was intelligently designed with comfort, sustainability, and wearability in mind. LABEL is deeply committed to creating clothing from an ethical standpoint, utilizing, wherever possible, organic, renewable or reclaimed fibers for our garments.
Las Valentias (Erin Keatch and Tara Kelly)
Las Valentias is a clothing brand founded by designers Erin Keatch and Tara Kelly. Drawing inspiration from mentally ingesting such as books, old films, music, illustrations and traveling, Keatch and Kelly design clothing that reflects history infused with modern sensibilities. Their collections are timeless, rooted in the space between the imagination and the everyday.
After a period of working for various dress manufacturers, designer Lida Baday launched her eponymous label in 1987. Baday’s work is characterized by high-quality fabrics and sophisticated styling, but she is particularly known for her skills with wool jersey. The label is now sold at Holt Renfrew across Canada, and at illustrious department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom’s in the US.
LOVAS (Wesley Badanjak)
Toronto based designer Wesley Badanjak founded LOVAS Wesley Badanjak in 2008. Badanjak draws inspiration from his love of history, music and his Croatian heritage and the clothing brand focuses on classic tailoring and precise finishing in modern silhouettes, creating sophisticated wardrobe. Badanjak is not only an outstanding fashion designer, but a successful businessman and has been showcasing collections at LG Toronto Fashion Week regularly.
Matis received his education in the Fashion Design program at Ryerson University where his talent was very quickly noticed. He received multiple awards including: The Fur Council of Canada Award (2002), Le Chateaus Menswear Competition (2002), Peoples Choice Award for Best Sketch (2002), Semi-finalist for the International Young Designer Competition (2002) and Alfred Sung Award for great design talent (2003). Lucian’s first professional collection was presented at L’Oreal Fashion Weeks Fall/Winter 2007 shows, and was received with great accolades and praise from the Canadian industry.
Muttonhead is a unisex apparel company focused on fair trade and sustainable garment production. The goal is to incorporate sustainable and recycled fabrics into every piece without sacrificing style.
Muttonhead designers believe that clothing should be valued for its form and for its function. All garments are designed and manufactured in Toronto using of a variety of natural and sustainable fabrics, such as recycled hemp, organic cotton twill, recycled knit, and tencel (a biodegradable fabric made from wood pulp cellulose).
Designer Olena Zylak started her professional career in Toronto as a costume builder for major productions such as Ragtime, Showboat and Fosse and moved from the world of theatre to create her own knitwear line.
Her costume experience nurtured her use of hand-worked techniques and attention to detail, which have become hallmarks of the Olena Zylak collection. Zylak uses imported yarns of luxury fibres to create a highly textured line that is at once precious and fragile, as well as sexy and strong.
Outclass (Matteo Sgaramella)
At only 24, designer Matteo Sgaramella has established his clothing brand Outclass. Sgaramella believes that the definition of style is constantly changing and fashion-forward audiences are no longer looking for the most flashy outfits or the most expensive, instead what they are looking for are authentic contemporary fits to carry them through their long days.
Therefore, Outclass offers its customers a youthful sophisticated line that takes inspiration from historical garments and design practices and merges them with contemporary fits.
In the year of 2007, Philip Sparks launched his career in fashion and founded Philip Sparks Tailored Goods Inc. Drawing inspiration from found photographs, Canada’s great outdoors and vintage fabrics, hardware and notions, Sparks displays high versatility in his design.
Pink Tartan (Kimberly Newport-Mimran)
Kimberly Newport-Mimran started Pink Tartan in 2002 with a simple design philosophy: “a quality collection that blended sophisticated fashion with feminine details”. This idea soon became a Canadian fashion explosion and the brand is now being sold nationwide, both in Canada and the United States, and carried by Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and many other retail and specialty stores.
RESPONSE (Glynis Dupuis)
After working in the fashion industry for three years, Glynis Dupuis decided in 1997 to expose her own design talents and launchRESPONSE, a fashion-forward line of clothing. The Response collection represents Glynis’s “response to the times,” an ever-changing journey of lifestyle and fashion. Glynis’s store of the same name hosts the collection complemented by an innovative selection of shoes, jewellery, and accessories that are hand-picked to work with her clothes.
For 20 years award winning Canadian designer Ross Mayer has built his reputation on sleek, architectural suits & dresses. Mayer’s clientele are fiercely loyal and flock to his boutiques for his sophisticated signature pieces and the impeccable customer service the team provides. The collections encompass everything from chic daywear, the perfect little black dress to a sumptuous selection of drop-dead evening wear, all in the finest European fabrics.
Scout and Catalogue
Through influences of Mexican bohemian beach culture and the desire to live a more simple and balanced life, Scout & Catalogue was born. The collection consists of an array of scarves, bags and bracelets made of snakeskin, denim, leather tie-dyes fabrics and muted colour tones. Each piece is reminiscent of afternoons at secret beaches, sun kissed skin, and all day siestas.
Smythe (Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe)
Taking inspiration from their own lives, designers Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe design jackets to fit a women’s real lifestyle. Their label Smythe told the fashion world by storm in 2004 when Lenczner and Smythe first introduced their now iconic tailored jackets. The luxe toppers flew off the racks and their designs have been wardrobe staples for in-the-know fashionistas ever since, including celebrity fans like Anne Hathaway and Blake Lively.
Designer Stephan Caras was born in Corinth, Greece, and educated in Melbourne, Australia. Having the opportunity to travel to five continents, Caras has developed an international vision for fashion design.
This vision, coupled with his experience, establishes a new standard of elegance for women within his designs that are masterfully draped, well tailored, and that emphasize femininity and luxury. Throughout the years, Caras has been invited to various international fashion events and has shown his collections in London, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Osaka and Hong Kong.
Combining traditional craft techniques with contemporary aesthetic, The Leather Atelier is creating highly coveted hand crafted leather accessories. Jewelry such as the geometric leather plate and hand-braided leather and oxidized brass necklaces, and fringe earrings can be found throughout this collection. They also offer bags, clutches, belts, and coasters. The rarity of each piece is a testament to the amount of time and personal touch the artist puts into creating them.
VAWK (Sunny Fong)
Sunny Fong decided to turn to the fast-paced world of fashion after spending four years in film school and realizing film-making isn’t his thing. In 2004, Fong launched VAWK, a high-end women’s wear line balanced by inspirations of modern femininity with classic sensibility, and has had a number of successful shows at Toronto LG Fashion Week.
Drawing inspiration from her travels and from nature, particularly birds, water, trees, flowers and animals, textile designer Virginia Johnson creates colourful prints on clothing, shawls home and children’s wear. Johnson paints all of her prints with watercolours and then they are silkscreened onto fabric in India and Toronto. Her collection was founded in 2001 and is now carried in over 200 stores worldwide, including Barneys and Holt Renfrew.