3rd Floor Studio: Versatility For Real Women

600 ted belton orange and cream spread

Shoshanah Kuper admits her family needs their own reality show. The lively bunch have supported her as a fashion designer from day one and never have a problem raiding her designs for something to wear. Luckily neither do her clients! Kuper’s womenswear brand, 3rd Floor Studio typically sells for $150 – $300 with custom dresses available closer to $600. The designer got the fashion bug at a young age, became an intern at a modelling agency and never looked back. Along the way she has learned how to approach fashion as a business in order to stay competitive and relevant in today’s market. Kuper started 3rd Floor Studio from the ground up focusing on flattering fits for real women, gorgeous fabrics and versatility. Read on to learn in this #stmINTERVIEWED why this designer almost went into fashion photography, what her line was originally called and why she  believes creativity comes from being in a world of restraints.

Above Photo: Ted Belton

I didn’t want design to go from something I loved to something I resented.

 Photo of Shoshanah Kuper: Ted Belton

STM – Before you found fashion, what did you want to do?

Shoshanah – When I was 5 I wanted to be a doctor, specifically “Sailor Doctor”–the Sailor Moon character that I apparently created. Other than that there really wasn’t a time before fashion for me. There was a time in high school where I wavered a little from fashion design to other jobs in the field like fashion photography or event planning because I didn’t want design to go from something I loved to something I resented. I quickly found my way back to design, went to Ryerson University for fashion design right out of highschool and never looked back.

…has probably been one of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned in running a fashion BUSINESS.

600 fall winter 2015 (2) by ted beltonPhoto: Ted Belton

STM – Who has been your biggest influence/mentor along the way? What were two things they taught you which you will hold onto forever?

Shoshanah – I interned for Sara Duke in summer of 2011. I had been there for about a month when she urged me to start my own line and the next week she was selling my pieces, under the name “Big Tuna by Shoshanah Kuper” in her little store. She taught me to make things on a budget which was never something that was taught at school and has probably been one of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned in running a fashion BUSINESS. My father Shaul has also been a huge influence as a successful CEO in the software field. I grew up subconsciously learning how to sell a product, market myself and work really hard for what you want to accomplish.

…but generally don’t have a concrete inspiration other than the fabrics.

Photo Courtesy: 3rd Floor Studio

STM – You have mentioned before that you usually do not begin by sketching your designs, but instead go straight into pattern drafting, (the art of drawing each panel or puzzle piece which will be sewn together to form a garment.) Why do you skip this initial step?

Shoshanah – When I think of a new design I generally make a list of elements each garment will have i.e. cap sleeves, neck tucks, pencil skirt and I’ll probably edit it 50 times when I do a collection. This process works better most of the time for me rather than sketching especially as I’m probably at the grocery store when I’m thinking about new things and not at my desk. I do not enjoy drawing nor do I think I am the best artist. Sometimes I do do a quick sketch but they are very simple and rough when I do and it’s usually because it’s too hard to describe in a list. I know in the future that sketching will probably become more of a useful tool for me when I have other people doing my pattern drafting, grading etc. But for where I am currently, if I can’t draft it and grade it properly within my budget and timeline, it’s never going into production and eliminating the sketching stage just seems natural to me and saves me time dreaming of these amazing things that are not in the cards.

…this is my sister’s favourite trick…

Photo: Ted Belton

STM – For your Spring/Summer 2016 collection, what was your inspiration?

Shoshanah – This is another one of those steps that I generally skip or think of after the collection is done because it reminds me of this, that or whatever. In school they always teach you start with your inspiration; for instance “Cape Cod, has a lot of white picket fences, so you do a lot of pleating”. I guess most of why I skip this step is because I don’t print my own fabrics, if I had this ability then having an initial inspiration would be more relevant. My process starts with going to my fabric wholesaler and pouring through the racks, grabbing anything that I like. Everytime I do this is think “this is never going to come together” and more often than not, everything on the table is in the same colour scheme. I edit this down knowing the types of fibres I like, generally cotton-spandex blend and viscose and there is my collection. My collections always have a vintage vibe to them without looking costumey but generally don’t have a concrete inspiration other than the fabrics.

…I’m not kidding, an entire shoot with one accessory…

Photo: Ted Belton

STM – What are some features/design elements of your garments that help achieve your goal of making them easy to wear?

Shoshanah – It really goes back to fabric selection and pattern making. I am very picky about my fabrics and knowing what certain fibre contents and weaves can become is a huge part of the choosing process. Therefore, I know that a lightweight drapey viscose is not going to become a structured dress with a voluminous skirt, it will however be a great flowy maxi. When I’m patternmaking I have a few tricks that I apply to most pieces; being able to wear a regular bra, cutting waistlines slightly higher than what is considered to be “natural waist” so that you always look your thinnest, cutting armholes slightly lower so to try and prevent sweat stains (this is my sister’s favourite trick). All of these things add up to garments that are not finicky and that work for many different occasions. For example, at my Spring/Summer ‘16 shoot I wanted to play with showing how all the pieces can be worn for everyday life, even the more dressy ones. The only accessory that was added to the lookbook shots and the campaign shots was a single pair of shoes. I’m not kidding, an entire shoot with one accessory (that’s got to be a record), they were orange and camel and they went with all 24 garments–yes I paired orange shoes with a mint dress, with a yellow dress, with a magenta dress….I like colour. But it just goes to show you how versatile the pieces are, that by adding a different accessory one garment can be worn for many different occasions and it can be added into your existing wardrobe and actually make your life easier.

My family needs it’s own reality show.

600 Family 3rd Floor Studio IMG_1886Photo Courtesy: 3rd Floor Studio

STM – Do you have any siblings? What is your relationship with them and what do they think of you being a designer?

Shoshanah – My family needs it’s own reality show. I am the second of five children spanning from 26-12 years old and I am very close with the bulk of them. My older sister Rachel really is my best friend who I go to when I’m freaking out about anything. We live a subway stop apart and I usually see her at least twice a week for a meal or running errands together. My parents also live quite close to us and we have weekly family dinners where we are generally having handstand competitions, playing games, eating a lot of amazing food and having sing-a-longs with our close family friends. For instance, for my little brother’s 12th birthday the other day we had a great dinner and then I slept over in a tent with him playing Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit and watching Back to the Future. With that description we seem super normal but we are insane (we think it’s in a good way) and you have to experience it to get our inside jokes that we think are absolutely hilarious, but most newcomers are lost. My siblings love that I’m a designer, especially the girls because they think it means they have an exclusive boutique 10 minutes away. For instance Rachel was just Best Man at her friend’s wedding and needed multiple dresses for the Western and Sikh ceremonies; she didn’t have to go to 500 stores across the city finding what she liked in the right colours and the right fit–she spent 20 minutes with me and a few days later she was done worry free. Of course there is the other side to this where they think because I’m their sibling that they can get whatever they want, whenever they want, which is not my favourite thing!

…that’s not the type of designer or business person I want to be.

Photo: Ted Belton

STM – What is your one piece of advice you would give to anyone regarding personal style and fashion?

Shoshanah – I always think that you should wear what you feel good in and what makes you happy. I don’t have to like it, only you do. I can convince you that you look good in something, I can sell you my whole line if your wallet allows it but it’s not going to make either of us feel good if the clothes just sit in the back of your closet, that’s not the type of designer or business person I want to be. As my mom always says “If you don’t love it, don’t buy it”.

…when my dad says he’s proud of me.

 Photo Courtesy: 3rd Floor Studio

STM – What is one opportunity you turned down and now regret?

Shoshanah – I feel like most opportunities that have made sense for me I have taken and the ones that I didn’t were well thought out “no’s”. I wish that a competition like TFI New Labels had been something that made sense for me, but because the way I work is so opposite from the general process in which the competition follows, it was not something that was in the cards for me. That said, I would have loved the mentorship, publicity and the prize money that comes along with the competition, but I don’t regret my decision to not partake. However, I am looking at applying to some other competitions like the CAFA’s and World Mastercard Fashion Week for the future.

…I truly believe that you should show one asset at a time.

Photo: Ted Belton

STM – What is one accomplishment/milestone you are incredibly proud of, but most of the world does not know about you?

Shoshanah – It sounds so minute and it’s not even something that would make a blip in any radar machine, but I am most proud of when my dad says he’s proud of me.

…creativity comes from being in a world of restraints.

Photo Courtesy: 3rd Floor Studio

STM – Many of your designs include your signature high neck line. What is it about a higher neck line that appeals to you?

Shoshanah – I have a larger chest and I have a very hard time finding pieces that fit me that I can be covered, comfortable, wear a bra and feel attractive in all at the same time yet not be shopping in the old lady section. I’m a lot more conservative than a lot of people and if I’m wearing something I deem “slutty” it’s most likely a foot longer than what most people would think is “slutty”. I totally understand the “if you’ve got it flaunt it” theory, however, I truly believe that you should show one asset at a time, leave something to mystery. My pieces are not necessarily made especially for larger bust sizes, however they accommodate them well and don’t make you feel as though you are on display.

What I am most interested in is not which rules are still here to break, but which rules will come back…

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Photo: Ted Belton

STM – What is the one fashion rule you think needs to be abolished?

Shoshanah – I feel like most “rules” have already been abolished in the last few years, at least in terms of women’s fashion. The costume history nerd in me actually would like to go back to live (as a wealthy non-persecuted person of course) in so many different eras where the rules were followed. Yes, advancement comes from the rules being bent and broken, but creativity comes from being in a world of restraints. Now that there are very few fashion rules, especially for women of my generation, still in existence, the same type of creativity that had been seen for so many years prior is somewhat non-existent. Do you really take notice as you would have in years past to the statement a woman is making when she wears a cream wedding dress instead of pure white? Or judge a woman when her shoes don’t match her purse? What I am most interested in is not which rules are still here to break, but which rules will come back or new rules (which could) be made in the future now that the rules our grandmothers dressed by have become obsolete.

600 fall winter 2015 by ted beltonPhoto: Ted Belton

STM – If you could only wear one designer/brand for the rest of your life, not yours, who would you wear and why?

Shoshanah – Is this assuming that I have an unlimited bank account to pay for these items and that everything fits me perfectly and I look amazing in it all? If yes, then this is a really hard decision, but I think I would choose Missoni because it basically has everything you’d need for a regular life. It’s not just fancy or casual pieces, it’s everything including bathing suits and shoes as well. Plus it’s super fun and I don’t think you could ever be bored with that much colour and print in your life.

Make sure to follow Shoshanah Kuper and her brand 3rd Floor Studio on twitter: @3rdFloorStudio_, Instagram: @3rdfloorstudio and facebook: 3rd-Floor-Studio. To learn more and to find a list of retail locations, visit www.3rdfloorstudio.ca.

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