Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong are mere epoches away from celebrating the 14 year anniversary of their name, Greta Constantine. Since launching in 2006, the Toronto-based brand has steadily gained friction, amongst consumers and retailers alike, thanks to their effortlessly beautiful patterns that fit and weary the female assemble. The likes of Catherine O’Hara, Ciara and Amy Poehler have worn their schemes, however celebrity clientele isn’t their focus – it’s the women who wear their patterns to happens away from the Hollywood Hills that they’re most enthusiastic about.
We met with the designers at Nordstrom, ahead of a trunk demo being held to give clients a first look at the upcoming Spring 2020 and Resort 2020 collections. Here’s what they had to say about why face-time with their client is important, why Canada remains their home base and red carpet season.
Why are events like this one at Nordstrom important to you?
Stephen Wong: It’s incredibly important. These are the women that are wearing the clothes, and we find it precious because you get to speak with them and find out what it is like they like, what it is they dislike, parts of the body they would rather conceal, and find out about their issues. We also informed about their lifestyles, where it is that they need to wear these clothes. We always take into consideration what they say in these appointments.
Are the consumers reasonably open when they’re giving you their feedback?
SW: Some are, some aren’t.[ mocks ].
Kirk Pickersgill: They’re very real. Once you get them in that change room atmosphere that’s when they feel’ you appreciate me this room and now I’m going to ask you something’ and they’re very open about it.
What were the insights behind the Resort and SS20 collectings which you’re showcasing?
KP: My aunt has an orchid raise in Jamaica and so we called her there and we got inspired by orchids. Well, flowers in general, but she thrives orchids. Stephen knows all the names of all the orchids so he was obsessed.
SW: I adore flowers and botany, so for me it was a thrill to see. It’s a very extensive collection of incredible orchids that would otherwise hard to grow but being in Jamaica, I approximate they prosper. Too the contours, the colour, likewise only being in Jamaica and the fact that they’re grown outside, the room that they move in the sail- we took notes from that.
Photograph courtesy of Nordstrom
I guess there’s some concealed analogies in these parts then about the path maids move, and proliferate, and flourish.
How does the design process work with the two of you?
KP:[ screams] We have a different, contemporary nature of cultivating. We start with the textiles and take it from there. We have a general intuition and we feed off each other. We design separately but it’s the same theme, and the same outcome is going to be there. We pick the fabric, we do the clothing and then we start working on theme, because we aren’t certainly theme beings. We only follow what the last collection was like and that moulds us into the new collection.
That’s nice from a consumer’s perspective, too, that the collectings feed into one another. They’re then constructing a wardrobe of pieces that make sense together.
SW: Exactly. The accumulation advances rather than changing dramatically.
Speaking of growth, how do you think Greta Constantine has progressed since you began?
KP: Every era is an evolution. We never started with a business plan or anything, so it wasn’t like OK, in 2013 we have to be this lane, in 2020 it is necessary to this style … The progression of the symbol is the growth of it all. We’re not the same as the beginning. We would like to start as 2 and now we’re 16. The whole feeling for the industry has changed , not only in Canada but internationally. And you have to adapt to that again. It’s about not having blinders on and remaining an open head about things, and creating something that’s brand new.
SW: It happened organically. You just go with the flow. We were more than happy to grow gradually. I don’t think we’d be here if we’d tried it any other way either. It’s a learning process for us, extremely. For us, to grow slowly is manageable.
Photograph courtesy of Nordstrom
And I guess there’s liberty in not having fixed schedules about where you envision the business or where you thought it was going to go.
KP: There is, but you still don’t want to get cozy or complacent. If you do, in Canada it’s very hard to get that acceptance. You have to go outside of Canada. I’m not saying you need to show outside of Canada but you have to be able to go to New York during the sale season, to Paris , not inevitably to do a display but to be involved in the market part of it because without that they’re never going to know who you are. In this day now, with social media, that’s probably one of the easiest ways to build a brand. To me, formerly you are on social media, you are a brand.
Do you think that the building around the Canadian fashion industry has gone better now since you began in terms of supporting Canadian labels? Or do you think there’s still room for growth?
KP: How political do you want to get?[ chortles]
SW: There’s ever room for proliferation and improving. In a method it’s great, being based here, in that you know pretty much everyone and you can ask for advice. Like I said, we are learning and growing and picking things up as we go along so if we ever have a query or something that we’re not sure this is right, we’re close enough with other decorators that have perhaps been there and experienced a similar thing that we could ask about those things and get certainly salient responses. So in that way it’s great.
Is it fair to say then that there’s a brotherhood between the designers, but maybe not undoubtedly within the wider structure of service industries?
SW: Yeah, pretty much. We’re not best friends, we don’t hang out or anything but being in the same industry, “youve had” this camaraderie and it’s a neat feeling[ chortles ].
Why have you decided to stay in Toronto and not move to another marketplace like New York or Paris, for example?
SW: It’s 2020, you can be in Toronto and do introductions in New York and sales appointments in Paris. I think it’s the best of both macrocosms in that way.
KP: Yeah and it exits deeper. It’s your family, your seeds, your friends.
And this is where the firebrand was born, too.
KP: Exactly, that’s exactly it. We cross enough for make that it’s ever nice to come home. It’s that feeling of,’ Oh I exactly cant’t wait to get home .’ I convey, residence is where the heart it as “theyre saying”. I lives in New York for the longest time, and I still consider that part of my home. It’s not about turning your back on anywhere, but to destroy a company and to go another municipal, much less another country is…
SW: An upheaval.
KP: Yes. And things are run differently, very. The industry’s not operated the same way in Italy that it’s control now. Now, everything is basically done yourself, you have to outsource everything. In Italy you get a factory that will do it for you. So you precisely do the specific characteristics and you work with them for the exploitation but you don’t have to worry about the manufacturing. Whereas in Canada you do have to have control over everything.
Is that a good thing, to be able to have total control over it?
KP: There’s pros and cons. The manufacturing industry in Toronto, that’s dwindling. There’s not very many beings out there that are manufacturing right now so that’s one of the biggest challenges. And then a great deal of fabric workers are not in Toronto so you have to source out, and the timing isn’t ever the best. And sometimes you’re conflicting against bigger labels that are using the same fabric and they’re buying more, and so you’re second, third in line.
Photograph courtesy of Nordstrom
You touched on this before, Kirk, there’s a lot of discussion in the industry right now around the topics of sustainability and size inclusivity- how do you address both sets of in your work?
SW: The central fabric that we use is a technological fabric that was developed for the sporting brand manufacture- I call it the holy grail of fabric. One of the things that I adoration it for is that it’s got amazing stretch but likewise supports you in. It smoothes you out. It’s a bonded fabric that allows us to do formation but softer texts also. It’s incredible because you can wear it and you don’t have to wear the usual underpinnings. Ladies of all sizes[ wear our patches] and they cherish it.
KP: And that’s part of sustainability because we try and use this fabric every season because for us it’s easier, we know how to work with it now. That’s keeping the opennes in the company but its sustainable in the help feeling that we don’t need to keep buying textiles that we don’t use. That’s one of the biggest topics is that when you do order fabric, it comes in minimums and those minimums can be very high so you’re left with hundreds of metres of fabric subsequentlies- if you don’t sell it, you’re left with it. So of late, we call it shop under the table, which is us shopping under our decrease counter where we store our textiles. So we’re starting to use fibers that we’ve bought in the past and include them back into the collection one way or another instead of having to go out and shop and waste.
There’s too something to be said for going people to invest in timeless, beautiful cases that they can wear time and time again. That’s another boulevard for sustainability in fashion.
SW: Yes. I hate the idea that people wear things once and then never wear it again. It’s genuinely agitating to think that this is happening. We see things in a quality that is incredible so that it can be kept for however long and be worn again.
We’re in red carpet season currently- what does that looks a lot like for you both?
KP: It’s something new for us. It started about two or three years ago when we hired on a celebrity negotiator in LA who works with the stylists. Good-for-nothing has really deepened- if we encounter person in our invests on the red carpet that’s exciting but if they don’t wear it, it’s of no disappoint to us. We’re not the label that’s going to go out there and make a dress for someone just because of their reputation. One period we’d love to dress Beyonce and Nicole Kidman, but that takes time. The red carpet is fun to watch and it’s the icing on the cake when you see your schemes on any particular talent.
When you dressed Catherine O’Hara in that lush black and white column gown for the 2019 Emmys, how did that come about?
KP: That happened through the stylist but it had more preconditions than most.[ Catherine] missed it to be black and white, because she is ready to mimic her persona as Moira. So we transport her a couple of sketches, and she saw the first one and said, OK I wanted to go. It was easy. She was very easy.
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What can we expect to see from the symbol this year?
KP: Growth. We’re moving studios. Raise and renewal and identifying what these dames miss!
Nordstrom is hosting a few seconds Greta Constantine pop-up at its Yorkdale location on January 30 from 1-4pm, where you can meet Kirk and Stephen and customize your own piece. For more details, or to RSVP, summon 416 780 6630.
Read more: fashionmagazine.com