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Black clothing designers talk about their come up in the Toronto fashion industry

Black clothing designers talk about their come up in the Toronto fashion industry

When I think of fashion, I rarely think of Canadian clothing or designers. What does come to mind, however, is streetwear from the UK and luxury items from the U.S. This is likely because I am a male in my mid-twenties who is immersed in pop culture and the rap music scene, and I am still learning about fashion.

To gain a better understanding of the Canadian fashion scene, I interviewed three up and coming designers about their brands; SK Kinetix, Cold Collect and The Tallest Tailor.

SK Kinetix – founded by Sabrina Kayse, is an athleisure clothing line with a focus on overcoming mental and physical obstacles to achieve what you set out to. When talking about the beginnings of her career, Kayse tells us about the parties she used to throw around the city. She recalls she also did interviews with up and coming artists, one of which was SZA

After a critical family matter occurred, Sabrina had to put her hustle and dreams on hold and regroup. She went back to school and started working at the same time, which was something very new to her. “I started this boot camp in my twenties and literally pushed myself so hard,” says Kayse. Through the intense training at the boot camp, she realized that she could do anything if she really wanted to. “Fitness is a lifestyle for me”, says Kayse and she decided to build a business from her new-found passion. 

Cold Collect was founded by Andrew Smiley and is a company that designs wearable art. Currently, they specialize in adding a little flair to the classic Nike Air Force 1 (AF1) and will soon be getting into clothing as well.

Smiley was always intrigued by the AF1, but sadly due to the strict budget set by his parents, he could never get a pair. That was until he was older and could afford to buy his own. “I didn’t know customizing shoes was something that could be profitable, but since I was inspired by AF1s from a young age, I started experimenting,” says Smiley. 

In 2016, he began putting his shoes out there, starting with his friends and family. “I started to realize that I could build something out of this, so I created a website and made the shoes available internationally,” he says. Today, Cold Collect has grown into a premium shoe care and customization business.

The last person I interviewed was Chaad Pierre, a biology student at Ryerson University, and the creator of The Tall Tailor. Pierre creates custom pieces and does meticulous alterations for his clientele. “Leaving high school, I didn’t know what to do in terms of a creative outlet, then about two years ago I started to sew”, says Pierre.

He started out by making custom outfits for friends and acquaintances for Halloween in 2018. “I wanted a Halloween costume and like most things, I waited until the last minute and couldn’t find one. So, I hit up the fabric store to make one and that’s how the whole thing started.”

His costume was Playboi Carti and he created a chest rig out of fabric. People really liked the outfit, so much so that they ended up contacting him for custom orders. 

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While Toronto fashion does share similarities with The States, it has more in common with the UK. “I feel like the UK and Toronto are not that far off, our swag [is] pretty similar simply due to the weather,” says Kayse. Pierre agrees and notes that the similarities can especially be seen when it comes to trending fashion. “We (Toronto and London) are similar in the sense of the big trends, which right now are vintage and thrifted clothing”.

Whilst there are definite similarities, Smiley sums up the difference between Canada and the USA in the perfect way. “It’s really common for people to make fashion statements out there, you can really go all the way with it and people are more flashy. Here (Canada), it’s do your thing and you know it’s not that serious.” In Canada, the approach to fashion is more laid back and people aren’t quite as concerned about luxury designer labels.

Although, when summer hits in Toronto – it’s a different story. “In the summertime that’s when you see color and we pop out because our summer’s here are actually amazing, but for the most part, we are a dark city. A lot of people wear black, a lot of people wear grey, and a lot of people wear tonal colors.” – Sabrina Kayse, SK Kinetix

When asked about what improvements they would like to see in the industry, all three designers were unanimous about wanting more support at a local level, which is imperative if we are going to stand out from the U.S and the UK. Smiley also highlighted the importance of supporting more black businesses, “Honestly I think what we are doing right now is important because there needs to be bigger space for black businesses”, he says. 

The fashion industry is still growing in Toronto, and it doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon. If you’re interested in breaking into the industry, these designers have some great advice for you. “Start now, there’s no time to delay,” says Pierre. “Don’t let other people discourage what you’re trying to do,” says Kayse and from Smiley – “do it your way and draw inspiration from what already inspires you”.

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