While her latest business endeavor, Orejen Fashion Lab, is a relatively new addition to the world of womenswear, creator Tonya Belle is no fashion rookie. A first generation Canadian of Trinidadian descent, Belle’s professional journey began as a retail store manager after studying fashion management at Seneca College.
From there she became a merchandiser for Tommy Hilfiger, before becoming the first merchandiser ever for luxury fashion retailer, Holt Renfrew. Persistent weekly calls to Holt’s human resource department finally lead to a merchandise associate position in their buying office where she began honing her love for supporting emerging brands.
She had additional buying stints at Sporting Life, Sears, TJ Maxx, and Target totally over 15 years of buying experience before she entered maternity leave and set her sights in a new direction…
I’ve always had an affinity for lingerie. Something about intricate lace, smooth satin, and delicate fishnets really puts me in touch with my feminine side. While walking in Toronto’s West Queen West neighborhood I found there was always one store that instantly stopped me every time I’d approach it.
The mannequins in the display window of Kallone Intimi have a sultry, mesmerizing quality about them. They definitely live up to the store’s name, meaning “beauty” in ancient Greek. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner I decided who better to teach me a few things and get me in the spirit than store owner, Rachel Avery.
What do you get if you mix the work ethic of Karl Lagerfeld with the design aesthetic of Alexander McQueen and season to taste with a dash of BadGalRiRi? A bold, young bridal designer who’s one part Indian, one part Canadian and all parts #GIRLBOSS.
Mani Jassal and I are sitting in a busy, cramped Starbucks in downtown Toronto on Queen Street West. With celebrities like R&B artist Ashanti to singer Miguel’s longtime girlfriend Nazanin Mandi wearing her designs, it’s nice to catch up with another fellow Ryerson University School of Fashion alum who is quickly making a name for herself only a few years post-graduation. I imagine it must have been a bit of divine intervention that has put her where she is today as Mani tells me about how she almost took a different career path.
Turns out Mani and I have some things in common. We are both immigrants of ethnic backgrounds who came to North America when we were young and grew up with traditionalist parents. She tells me about how her South Asian parents had wanted her to be an engineer or a doctor and at the time it was something that she had accepted for herself. She applied to the University of Toronto’s aerospace engineering program, the University of Waterloo’s chemistry program, and then the wild card, fashion design at Ryerson University. Continue reading Mani Jassal: Leader of the New School→
I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that back when Drake and Future named their joint mixtape they were on Mary Young‘s web site anticipating her now released Fall 2015 collection. And rightfully so. With cosigns from Refinery 29, Teen Vogue, and other major fashion media, Mary is steadily positioning herself as one to watch both locally in Toronto and abroad.
“Design itself inspires me,” Mary says. Give her a well-curated space with white walls and rustic wood or metal elements and her creativity will flourish. An average day in her life can involve anything from sketching, pattern-drafting, and sewing samples to managing her e-commerce store, packing and shipping orders, attending industry events, or taking meetings like the one we are on now over coffee at one of her preferred spots, RSqaured Cafe on Queen Street West. Continue reading What A Time To Be Mary Young→
Models are people too! It’s easy to forget that when all we see are those perfectly airbrushed faces glossy and glistening on billboards and magazine covers. Not too long ago I got an itch to shoot someone’s portrait so I spoke with a model agent from Spot 6 Management and had Tyrah come over to my space for a quick model test. That’s where I got to pick her brain and discover she’s way more than just a pretty face who has lent her look to projects for swimwear designer Andrea Iyama, beauty brand Pureology, and more. She’s a dog mom and pineapple-on-pizza advocate who could probably kick your butt at Mortal Kombat.
Earlier in the summer I was interviewed by Golden Boy Press and I love how it turned out so I’d love to share some of my favorite parts here discussing life, my work, social media, feminism, and more.
What’s your life philosophy? How do you try to apply that to your work?
I’m still developing my life philosophy, actually. I suppose one keeps developing a life philosophy until they die, and I still have a lot more living to do. But lately my philosophy has been all about honing and trusting my intuition. Whether it’s about a new job, a person, anything. I’m always striving to follow the navigation of my inner compass. When it comes to my work, I try to do what feels right. It’s usually been the projects where I didn’t speak up when I should have or didn’t do things my way that I end up not liking.