While we often cringe at the first sight of changing leaves, fall is the season of style. We rounded up some local talents who are making major waves in the fashion industry — both in Calgary and beyond.
SPENCER BADU | S.P. BADU
Three little words, one very big statement. Designer S.P Badu is using fashion as a means to open up a conversation about sex, gender. “Growing up I’ve always been artistic, per say. When I was 15 I really started gravitating towards fashion,” says the 22-year old designer. “Initially this was going to be a menswear brand, but when I started creating pieces it moulded into unisex. That’s where I was challenged the most.” Printed on the hangtags of his designs it reads, “with this unisex garment you are contributing to a new generation. Breaking the boundaries of gender. Creating a post-gender world.” While Dorothy may have clicked her heels and said, “there’s no place like home,” the young designer, hailing from Toronto, packed his bags and headed to Calgary in search of a change of pace. “Toronto definitely has a different bravado than Calgary. I moved here in 2012 and I didn’t really know anyone so I was in full work mode. I bought a sewing machine and pattern packs and would just butcher them.” His growing frustrations with trial and error led him to enrol in the Apparel Technology program at Olds College. With just a year left in school, Badu is ready to take the world by storm through his forward thinking designs. Badu’s work is easily recognizable — think bold silhouettes, textures, and a lot of black and white. His designs are intricate yet maintain a level of simplicity that allows him to stay within his unisex goal. “There’s a lot of perceptions for how men should dress and how women should dress… but I like incorporating feminine and masculine components together to create a new palette,” he says. So what’s next for this aspiring designer? Badu is busy designing new collections, perhaps flirting with the idea of colour. He’s planning pop-up shops in various cities as part of the #postgenderworldtour, which allows him the opportunity to share his brand — and his message — beyond Calgary. “We’re in a state where everyone wants to be famous or recognized for something but at the moment I’d rather just be successful than be someone people run after. The interactions are far more genuine — at the end of the day we’re all human beings.”
ALEEM ARIF | Bano EeMee
Whoever still believes that diamonds are a girl’s best friend has clearly never owned a leather jacket, or more specifically a Bano EeMee leather jacket. Buttery soft leather, beautiful colours, impeccable tailoring, and carefully detailed designs make these jackets a must have for fall. Nominated for the Top Emerging U.S/Canadian Designer Award by WWDMAGIC, it’s hard to believe Aleem Arif has only been in the fashion industry for a few short years. Arif was born in Pakistan and moved to New York City shortly after. While the designer always had a keen interest in painting and drawing, an artistic career just never seemed like an option. After receiving his Master’s Degree in International Business from Boston University, Arif worked as a senior consultant for a major New York bank. “I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere with my life. The money was good, I was about to buy my first condo — but the missing piece is that I wasn’t being true to myself,” says Arif. In a real leap of faith, Arif quit his job in the middle of the recession and took some time off to travel — eventually leading him to Calgary, Vancouver, and Pakistan. His last destination solidified his decision to leave finance for fashion. “I fell in love with the fabrics, the colours, and the noises. I came home and just sketched. I knew I somehow wanted to be connected to Pakistan, travel, and make a difference with what I do,” explains Arif. Fast forward five years, and Bano EeMee is a major Canadian brand found in 24 retailers across the country. Designed in Calgary and produced in Pakistan, Bano EeMee is a brand that strives for social consciousness and sustainability in all practices. His designs employ 30-40 people every year, ensuring fair wages and the opportunity to develop new skills for people who may otherwise go without work. Arif’s desire to do good for others is genuine and ripples through all his creative decisions. Most brands use chrome-tanned leathers, but Bano EeMee sticks only to vegetable-tanned leathers — a practice that is less harmful for both the environment and the consumer. While his journey has indeed been riddled with much confusion and a plethora of trial and error, Bano EeMee is living proof that nothing worth having ever comes easy. “A lot of times we are sitting, planning, and waiting for the perfect moment — every moment is perfect, you just have to seize it. The worst thing that’s going to happen is that you’re going to fail, but even in that failure you’re going to learn a lot.”
MAEGHAN ARCHIBALD | PARK
Maeghan Archibald wants to make one thing very clear — fashion isn’t glamorous. As the director of fashion for PARK, she finishes off most shows backstage, sitting on the floor eating cold pizza. “Put your preconceived notions of what working in this industry is aside. It’s a beautiful end product but the amount of work that goes into it is huge,” says Archibald. PARK (Promoting Artists Redefining Kulture) is a non-profit organization created to support emerging artisans and designers. Founded by Kara Chomistek (read her story in our December 2014 issue), PARK is a catalyst for creative growth and is helping put Calgary on the map as a real fashion hub. It’s common for fashion-focused individuals to leave Calgary in search of better opportunities in cities like Vancouver, Toronto, or New York, but PARK hopes to build an industry that will keep people here. Archibald’s initial exposure to fashion took place on the other side of the catwalk — as a model. “I was scouted to model by Mode. I did some photo shoots for magazines, and a couple fashion shows, but it was never something I was really passionate about,” she explains. Archibald grew up dancing with Chomistek, so when she posted some of her modelling photos on Facebook, Chomistek asked her if she’d be willing to participate in the shows. After walking in two PARK shows, she knew she wanted to switch things up. “Sitting in the chair and seeing the craziness that was happening around me made me realize what I actually wanted to be involved in,” says Archibald. From an intern, to fashion marketer, to fashion coordinator, and now fashion director, Archibald has been a key player in PARK’s success. Her current role consists of handing photo shoots, styling for ad campaigns, choosing designers, dressing models, pulling clothes, and creating concepts for the shows as a whole. “When you come behind the curtain it is stressful, intense, and high energy. But seeing how it all turned out makes everything worth it — that’s the ultimate feeling.” Her favourite part of her job? Laying in bed the day after an event and catching up on all the pictures, media coverage, and congratulatory words. “I’ll never be a fashion designer or a professional model. My role is to help create the platform and support the people who are great at those things.”
CONNOR GOULD & LESLIE MCNEILLEY | Camp Brand Goods
You often hear famous celebrities and successful business owners talking about their big break. It’s that one particular moment that changed the course of their entire future. For Camp Brand Goods, it all started with a sweatshirt and two simple words — happy camper. “The design was just about on the chopping block and then it ended up getting [worn] by a couple big fashion bloggers,” explains co-owner and founder Connor Gould. “It literally happened overnight,” adds his wife and business partner, Leslie McNeilley. The company, which at the time consisted exclusively of simple T-shirt designs, began in 2011 as a creative outlet for Gould. While he loved his job as a graphic designer, he craved a level of freedom that could only be found on his own. Fifteen hundred dollars and a credit card later — Camp was born. The first year of sales were primarily to friends and family, but it wasn’t long until others caught on. Now it’s rare to go a day without seeing the word Camp scrawled across someone’s shirt. So what is it that makes the brand so hotly desired? “I see it as a brand that resonates with an outdoor enthusiast. You don’t have to be an avid climber or canoe-er, or backpacker — but it’s creating a community around similar hobbies. It’s definitely casual wear, but the brand embodies the feel of an outdoorsy lifestyle,” says Gould. Last November the duo opened The Livery Shop, alongside local jewelry brand Coutu Kitsch. Located in Inglewood, the Livery is an amazing space with historic roots. The store provides an opportunity for customers to really experience what each brand is about, far more than can be felt from a website. The future vision for camp includes participating in trade show circuits, expanding to new cities, increasing manufacturing, and creating new designs. Despite the growth, Camp will always strive to stay true to their roots. “The thing we’re really trying to hold onto is that when you’re wearing Camp you are part of a ‘good times gang,’ ” explains Gould. “When I think of Camp, I think of eight of our friends around the fire and we were all wearing the very first sweatshirt we made. We were like a mix between a gang from Westside story and a roots catalogue,” adds McNeilley with a laugh. Life as their own bosses has afforded the pair the opportunity to design their own lives, meaning ample time to #keepitwild in the mountains with their dogs Otis and Brutus. Happy campers, indeed.
JARED BAUTISTA | Photographer
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but Jared Bautista’s photographs might just leave you speechless. Judging from his expansive portfolio it’s hard to believe the young photographer is completely self-taught. Bautista first purchased a camera at age 16 and began experimenting behind the lens while on a family vacation in New York City. “It took me a while because I didn’t think I was good enough to shoot for anyone,” says Bautista. “So, I started just taking pictures of my friends and made an initial portfolio. Eventually I submitted it to Mode Models and an hour later [the director] Michael reached out to me saying, ‘hey you have a real talent, let’s explore this.’ ” After high school, Bautista was offered a six-month long contract with an agency in the Big Apple. Heading back to the city where his interest in photography was initially sparked, Bautista continued to hone his craft. While most creative endeavours often come with fear of criticism, Bautista appreciates the straight talk. He explains, “I like feedback to be very straightforward and raw. At first you might get offended, but it’s the only way to move forward. Of course it’s nice to hear what you’re doing right, but it’s better to hear what you need to improve on. I always tell people to be very upfront with me.” Bautista’s work is very editorial in nature — sighting Bruce Webber as one of his biggest inspirations. Bautista, whose kept Calgary as his home base, travels to a variety of cities shooting images for numerous brands, magazines, and agencies — an impressive feat for any photographer, especially one who is only 22. Some highlights include fashion editorials for magazines such as Inventory, Avenue, Georgie and covers for Vanity Teen. Although he has eventual plans to return to school and study psychology, he’s got a few things to check off the list first. With big hopes to photograph Kendall Jenner and dreams to shoot editorial for Vogue, Bautista isn’t packing up his camera anytime soon. “I’ve had times where I thought, ‘This isn’t for me, I’m going to quit,’ but I’m grateful to have friends who have pushed me and told me [the challenges] are all part of it.”
DORIAN KITSCH & KOFI OTENG |Coutu Kitsch
Some say all that glitters is not gold — but clearly that’s not the case for local jewelry brand Coutu Kitsch. What started as a fun hobby to supplement a boring nine to five has grown into a coveted accessories brand that’s far from traditional. “I really just wanted to make unique jewelry that was accessible and affordable,” explains designer and founder Dorian Kitsch. “I wanted to create something that I loved, with the hopes that other people would love it too.” Founded in 2010, Coutu Kitsch is owned and operated by both Kitsch and her partner Kofi Oteng. The couple met during the genesis of the brand and have each brought with them a unique skill set — Kitsch the artistic vision and Oteng the business savvy — that has contributed greatly to their success. In February of 2011, Coutu Kitsch participated in Market Collective for the first time, creating a new level of exposure that had previously been untapped. As the company gained momentum the pair left their corporate retail jobs to pursue Coutu Kitsch full time. “We love the freedom of creativity. There’s really no rules,” explains Oteng. The brand is edgy, yet feminine — combining vintage materials with modern designs. Think mixed metals, precious gemstones, and beautiful crystals Their unique aesthetic is pushing the envelope. At last spring’s PARK show, models strutted the catwalk in body harnesses, skirt chains, and blinged out bralettes. “Fashion is a reflection of you. I put on jewelry and it spices up the outfit — even if it’s just a white T-shirt and jeans. Pile it on, and all of a sudden it’s your own personal style,” says the designer. In addition to The Livery Shop — the studio/retail space they share with their good friends Camp Brand Goods — Coutu Kitsch can be found in several retailers and boutiques across Canada. The company has big hopes to expand into the United States and Europe. “If you look at the soul of any metropolitan city, fashion is a huge component and that’s where Calgary is headed. We are still so young and it’s great to be a part of it,” says Oteng. The duo’s advice for fellow entrepreneurs and artists? “Take risks, dream big, and don’t listen to what anyone thinks.”