Designer Caitlin Power
The live/work space Caitlin Power has tucked away on a side street near Queen and Bathurst in Toronto is exactly what you’d expect. A rack of Fall/Winter 2014 designs sits on one side of the room, while a rack of patterns anchors the opposite wall. A collection of framed press clippings from over the years hangs over a work table and a mannaquin stands playfully on guard near the front door. Rolls of fabric are stashed under a large desk where the Toronto based designer works, while a screened off area acts as the young fashion designer’s bedroom. I recently paid Caitlin a visit to chat about fashion, being a Canadian designer and her upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 collection being revealed at World MasterCard Fashion week this October.
The Calgary born designer grew up playing on the boy’s hockey team and had dreams of one day landing on the Canadian Women’s hockey team. She also had a passion for fashion and took classes in highschool. When she injured her ankle playing soccer and had to slow down on the sports, fashion became her focus.
In 2010, Caitlin landed a spot in the White Cashmere competition giving her a chance to show in Toronto for the first time. A year later she was a finalist in the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s TFI New Labels competition, which got her foot in the door at retailer TNT. Caitlin admits she had planned to move to New York, but friends encouraged her to come to Toronto for the launch at TNT. Making the most of it, Caitlin stayed for a month to source fabric. By the end of the month New York was forgotten and she was headed home to pack and plan her move to Toronto.
I was curious about her design process and Caitlin explained she draws inspiration from her travels and architecture, which makes sense given her strong reputation for clean lined, solid tailoring. Some of her best work is done in the late hours of the night, alone in her studio with cookies and ice cream. After the inspiration is figured out she enjoys most the process of editing the collection and taking out the items that do not align with everything else. When asked if it is hard to take something out of the line she simply replied, “ I’ve drawn it. I don’t have to create it.” Many of these edited out sketches will be saved for the future but are often never used.
Caitlin believes fashion should be “considered more of a business” and wisely encourages fashion design hopefuls to intern as much as possible to get to know the industry and to “learn from someone else’s mistakes.” Smythe and Dean Davidson are two designers she herself admires and for good reason. Davidson “looks like he understands business and design,” which has allowed him to survive. “The ones I admire, have the business sense.” On that note, she also explains, “If you can’t do it, find someone who can,” and today has assistance with selling her line, a task many designers find to be a challenge given how personal design can be.
What is the one thing this designer is not a fan of when it comes to the world of fashion? Choosing her words thoughtfully she tells me it is the fakeness. “It is a made up world… a fantasy world,” and Caitlin notes she has seen people at times get too caught up in the extravagance of some of the wilder fashions. The girl from the prairies, when asked to choose, would be content wearing a simple all black shirt and black jeans for the rest of her life, as long as she could also have a black leather jacket. Why? It is the safest for her design process and allows her to organically find inspiration. She fears falling for one colour wardrobe wise may influence her designs too heavily.
In regards to support and growth, how can we help this 100% Canadian brand? The newspapers are already doing a good job she tells me, but it is the magazines who have the potential to do more. Too often they feature the big international brands in editorials and skip over the Canadians. Caitlin is thankful when a magazine decides to do an all Canadian feature, but urges them to mix Canadian into editorials alongside the Chanels of the world.
This season, in order to focus on the business and increase sales, an assistant designer was brought on and designs were strongly approached with sales and margins in mind. The result is a simplified more laid back collection ranging in price from $180 – $390. The designer’s favourite piece is an evening dress in black neoprene with metallic accents. “I keep putting it on. I need to wear this,” she laughs when talking of the dress she describes as strappy and very 80’s/90’s.
This young designer has come a long way and is sure to go further. She hopes to one day be carried by Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom, which has only recently opened its doors in the Great White North. When she is not working, Caitlin stays grounded by seeing friends, biking, playing volleyball and as she puts it, “normal stuff”.