NEW LABELS FINALISTS GIVE US AN EARFUL
Story by Kate Fane
Photos by Silverlight Photography
Even though someone else walked away with the $25,000 prize money, Toronto upstarts [blak]-i certainly made their mark on the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s New Labels Competition. With only two seasons under their belt, the unisex label, dresigned by Deigo Fuchs and Helder Aguiar, has worked to redefine sportswear with tailored elements and unconventional fabrics. Plaid spoke to Fuchs about the TFI competition, their design inspirations, and how they won’t rest until our closets are filled with [blak]-i.
Your interview with the Globe and Mail last year was titled “Why it’s tough out there for new Canadian designers.” Have events like TFI’s New Labels Competition made it a little easier?
Originally when we entered the TFI New Labels Competition we thought that winning the $25,000 prize was the most important thing. But being one of the finalists [in the competition] was an amazing experience; throughout the process we received great feedback from the judges. And it wasn’t until after the show that we realized the amount of exposure the event gave our label, so what we got from the event is priceless.
What’s the process like getting ready for an event like this? At what point do you stop sleeping?
As you can imagine, putting together a collection is a very laborious and stressful process; add in the element of a competition and it’s unimaginable. We’ve been fortunate to have a few years experience with the sample making process which has made us very organized. We were lucky to not have too many sleepless nights or last minute running around. We were also very lucky to work with an amazing stylist, Marcus Tripp, who aided us in preparing the collection for the runway, and all of the accessories that we did, well in advance.
The looks you showed at TFI were very striking. In addition to your trademark hard-edged sportswear, the contrast between high and low was emphasized with pieces like the fabulous transparent tuxedo shirt. Did you have a particular inspiration or focus with this collection?
Thank you for taking note of all the small details! We did have a specific inspiration for our Fall 2012 collection. Entitled LiMiTED, our collection blends a formal tuxedo aesthetic with the rawness of streetwear and the functionality of athletic apparel. There is also a very strong undercurrent of a menswear inspiration running through the collection. The pieces range from modern, intricately cut denim to fluid jersey pieces and cutting edge leather garments, all with a subtle yet vibrant accent of highlighter yellow.
How would you define Toronto’s sense of style? Does [blak]-i try to challenge this identity, or work within it?
It’s hard to pinpoint Toronto’s sense of style. Toronto is such a diverse city that it doesn’t get enough credit for its fashion sense because it doesn’t just have one, but many styles. That’s what makes Toronto so cool. Our goal is to dress the individual; it’s not about following or challenging Toronto’s fashion identity, it’s about making clothing that people want. What inspires and drives us is our customers. There is nothing quite like when a girl comes up to us and tells us they want the full collection in their closet.
The two of you met as students at the International Academy of Design in Toronto. Was starting your own label always the goal?
If you were to go back in time and tell us that in six years you’ll have your own label, we would have never believed it. We only meet each other in the last term in school, but we realized that we both had the same passion and work ethic, and that lead to a great partnership. Most people who study in a design program have a vision, but actually realizing this vision is the hardest thing to do.
What’s been the biggest challenge for with starting [blak]-i? The greatest achievement?
Our biggest challenge has always been money, money, money. Some have too much, we don’t have enough. There are very few fashion backers or investors out there, so many designers had to close shop because of that reason alone, which is very unfortunate because of the amount of lost talent.
Our biggest achievement to date would have to be our show at the TFI New Labels Competition. It was a great opportunity for us to showcase our label and has provided us with remarkable feedback from not only industry insiders, but consumers as well. We are extremely proud of the show we were able to produce.
What’s next on the horizon for [blak]-i?
As they say, ‘Tomorrow is another day’, and getting our collection to the consumer is our ultimate goal. This was only the beginning of many great things to come.