A Right Fit

I have played on the same piano bench with the same pillow (which I actually glued on so it wouldn’t slip off) for over 20 years. It may sound silly, but I have shared many memories alongside this musical chair – my first piano lesson, conquering the most challenging Schubert Impromptu ever imaginable, and most of all, having the honourable privilege to teach a group of children that, to this day, have taught me so much about myself.

Let’s just say it’s definitely looking a little worn out and I came to a very difficult decision to look for a replacement. Again, many would find me ridiculous, but it definitely hasn’t been the easiest of tasks.

Low and behold, I came across something that I did not expect to see – a fashionable stool that caught my eye as a great addition to my living and the replacement I was looking for. What was so special you ask?

Montreal designer Corinne Campenio has created a line of furniture featuring original photographs that have been modified into themes and printed on fabric. A native of Southern France, Campenio gets her inspiration from her travels and creates themes that are classic and contemporary. I fell in love with pieces such as “Opera” and her “High Heels” chair.

The hunt for the perfect piano stool finally came to an end and as much as it was a personal experience for me, I also wanted to personally get to know the lady behind it all.

corinne campenio_image of designer

MC: How did it all begin?

CC: I had this idea in mind for a few years before we started developing the brand. I am a furniture lover and have always wanted to create unique and inspiring pieces. My daughter Jessica and I did a lot of research and preparation before officially launching the brand.

MC: Is there a specific reason for the focus on chairs/stools and pillows?

CC: I have always loved designing homes and interior design is a real passion for me. All the accessories and pieces I own in my house are all so precious to me. It made perfect sense to start with chairs – there are so many different types and styles. Cushions are also great accessories that bring colour to a décor. For me, it’s all in the details.

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‘High Heels’

MC: There is definitely a French theme to your work – how personal are these photographs and how do you work through the selection process?

CC: Indeed, the brand started with only French inspired themes. We then developed more themes with different angles and ideas. I live in the South of France most of the time and it was easy for me to get inspired everyday with everything that is surrounding me. It’s such a beautiful place. I usually always carry my camera around. Sometimes, I will have specific themes in mind and will look for the right items, whether it’s a flower, the ocean or a street sign. I take a lot of pictures and 100% of the images used for each theme are my own original photographs. I do take a lot of pictures; therefore, the selection process may take a while. It’s about finding the right images and then creating a story around it.  Many of our themes have different images in them.

MC: You launched your line in Montreal last year and opened your first showroom in Toronto at the beginning of 2014. Every city has its own personality and the buying audience is different. Have you seen a difference between Montreal and Toronto?

MC: Developing both markets is a very interesting thing. Because we have a variety of themes and chairs, it gives a lot of choices to our audience. We also have a wide collection of “Lingerie and Paris” themes and I would say that as of now, they have been a great success in the Toronto market. As for Montreal, we noticed that our cottage and flower themes were more popular. We also created two different themes for both cities – “The Street Art” theme for Toronto and “The Montreal” theme for Montreal. We’re very proud of those two collections. We love working in both cities and meeting new people that have interest in the brand. It’s great to see which pieces are more likely to sell and why. The production is 100% made in Montreal and the showroom and events are taking place in Toronto. It’s a good compromise.

MC: Let’s talk fashion for a minute – there are a lot of pieces with heels galore all over them. Are you a shoe fanatic and do you have a favourite designer?

CC: In this case, the shoe fanatic would definitely be Jessica! She inspired me to create more fashion pieces. They are trendy, modern and attract a younger audience. We want to be able to create various pieces and themes that will attract men and women at the same time. It’s hard to resist shoe shopping when shopping in Paris and I am a fan myself. My favourite shoe brand is definitely Repetto. I am in love with their ballerina collection and they’re all very comfortable.

MC: What can we expect from your pop up coming up next month in Toronto?

We’ve partnered with carpet square design brand, FLOR, to create a limited edition pop-up that will be the ultimate interior design destination in the Yorkville area. We want to have a stronger presence in downtown Toronto and be able to showcase our pieces to the public. Our new products that will also be on display next month. Just in time for the holidays!

MC: Are you able to share something with us about the new collection pieces that are in the works? 

CC: We’re currently preparing a “flashy” collection for the Maison & Objet Miami Trade show in May 2015. New chairs and cushions will be unveiled. Let’s just say the wood colours won’t be the traditional colours that our customers have been used to. As for the summer collection, lots of palm trees and bright colours are in store.

corinne campenio pop up

All pieces and cushions will be available for purchase during the 4 day pop up

Fashionartist

It definitely feels more like spring this week in Toronto unlike the horrible minus temperatures that just passed a few a days ago. Even though this will be a very short-lived weather wave, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for the launch a brand new Canadian label.

Aleks Susak started her career in the fashion industry over a decade ago conquering both the world of modeling as well as marketing and public relations. After designing and creating clothes independently for a number of years, the demand for custom orders increased and the natural transition into fashion design couldn’t have been a more organic shift.

Growing up in an artistic household, Aleks has established her namesake womenswear label for women who have an appreciation for fine art while dedicated to expressing this femininity and individuality through fashion. Pieces in the collection are painted individually by hand, making each piece one-of-a-kind.

Aleks Susak Preview4“My inspiration for this collection comes from patterns in nature,” she says. “Especially those of butterflies and peacocks – they both have an incredible array of colours and beautiful designs in their appearance and I wanted to incorporate this into my first collection. I use leather, silks, and denim which are individually very different, yet work together in such a way that fuses edginess with sophistication and femininity.”

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at her studio of the Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Every top, pant and dress has been treated like a silk canvas for her hand painted designs. To see these close  up was quite an experience as the details truly speak for themselves. The tailoring behind Aleks’s corsets, leather skirts and jackets accentuate the right curves and definitely add the edginess she has strived for throughout this entire collection. She has even added a very interesting twist to the array of belts that have also been created for certain ensembles but you really have to come and check out the full runway show and see for yourself.

Aleks Susak Preview2

Aleks Susak Preview1

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Her dedication is contagious and very inspiring. Not only am I privileged to have this incredible entrepreneur as my friend but she is definitely a wild cat to look out for.

Aleks will debut her work on November 26th at 99 Sudbury in Toronto.
Prices range from $250 to $1,200 and will be available through custom order at aleksusak.com.

b|2|b with Anya Nordström

Now, more than ever, we are surrounded and live in world full of ruthlessness and competition no matter where you look. The simplest wants and needs can sometimes feel like the toughest of battles. And because of that, we have become a highly motivated and ambitious society pushing our limits to the very maximum. The professional world may be the most ruthless of all.

We are known as Generation C – a group of avid consumers, enthusiastic early adopters, passionate about creation and curation, and live for connection and community. It is an absolute privilege when I get the opportunity to profile an individual whose work I truly admire and respect. Just like myself, they, too, are a member of the Generation C Club.

I decided to start a b|2|b series as a way to salute these professionals and businesses with a very mimaculture flare. This past summer, I came across Anya Nordström – a Swedish-American beauty who brought her work to Toronto and successfully managed the inaugural Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOM*).  With publications like Seventeen Magazine and a successful modeling career under her belt, ANPR has officially launched with some great partnerships in store for Anya’s agency.

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Photo credit: Jefre Nicholls

AN: I think I am a natural people person and work best under pressure which is huge if you want to make it in this industry. I have also always struggled with repetitive nine-to-five office jobs but when you work in PR, there are literally never two days alike. The PR scene in Toronto is interesting because it is a much smaller industry than NYC but that can have both positives and negatives. I love Toronto and think that there is definitely no shortage of talent here. I am very excited about my upcoming projects with The Market Collective and Fashion Group International and think that Toronto is going to be a great fit for the future of ANPR.

MC: You recently worked for the inaugural Toronto Men’s Fashion Week, TOM* – how was that experience since it was the first of its kind here?

AN: Working on TOM* was a great experience but was definitely a much larger project than anticipated with several speed bumps along the way. Creating a MAJOR event with zero budget and with a team that had never worked together before had its challenges. All in all, we pulled it off and I am very happy with not only the event outcome but everything that I was able to walk away with. I now have several new business partnerships and clients and was able to successfully launch ANPR after many years of going back and forth on when would be the best time to “pull the trigger” and make it official.

ANPR-Home-Anya

Photo credit: CJ Mark

MC: Any crazy stories you can share with us?

AN: Whew! Where to start! I have dealt with so many challenging clients/events/unforeseen circumstances that I can look back now and just laugh. Of course, in that moment, all I wanted to do was run and hide. As a publicist I can’t be too specific but let’s just say I have had experiences with nudie pic leaks, celebrities that have had a few too many, main event performers not being permitted into the country, magazine outlet impostors who sat front row at all of my runway shows only to later find out they were students, and have even caught a fainting model just after coming off the runway. You name it, I’ve been there. Let’s just say this life is never dull.

MC: What advice would you give someone starting out?

AN: The best advice for a person starting out in the fashion PR world is to stay humble; you never know where your interns are going to end up and keeping connections is a must in this field. One of my first interns is now an assistant editor at a top NYC based publication and we work together now almost weekly. I also think being able to see through all the “bologna” is a skill not easily mastered but if you can figure it out, you’ll be able to waste a lot less time. Someone once told me that “people often show you who they really are so pay attention to actions more than words to find the truth”.

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Layla’s Ghosts

In 1898, author Henry James wrote his famous novella Turn of the screw – where a young governess is assigned to care for her employer’s niece and nephew in the English countryside but soon finds out some rather disturbing and supernatural secrets. Composer Benjamin Britten would later take on this ghost story and turn James’ novella into “as one of the most dramatically appealing English operas” of the twentieth century.

Recently, I have started growing more fondly to the contemporary works of Britten and his other counterparts. My heart lies with everything that is pre-1900, however, the musicality behind these compositions have taken quite an impression on me.

Soprano Layla Claire is currently performing as the governess in Opernhaus Zürich’s production of the entrancing gothic opera. Known for her incredible interpretations of Mozart heroines, the Canadian artist is turning heads (in all the right ways) by taking on this complex role.  

LaylaClaire - Lisa Marie Mazzucco

MC: How did you prepare yourself for Britten’s Governess?

LC: Turn of the screw is a fascinating, creepy story. The first step was to read the libretto by Myfanwy Piper and then Henry James’ novella. Last step was to go through Britten’s score to see exactly how he was inspired by the words and set them to the music.  Our production at Zurich Opera is set in the 1950’s, inspired by Hitchcock-style psychological thrillers, so I also watched a lot movies of that genre which was a lot of fun.

MC: What musical challenges did you face when rehearsing for a contemporary opera in comparison to more classical and romantic works?

LC: Opera of the mid- twentieth century is more difficult to learn than classical works because of the more complicated and unpredictable rhythms and harmonies.

MC: Can you share one of your favourite arias from Turn of the screw?

LC: One of my favorite moments to sing is in Act 2 Scene 3, when, after coming face to face with the former Governess’s ghost, the Governess loses all hope of being able to continue to protect the children on her own. In this short aria she defies her employer’s wishes by writing to him for help. It is beautifully desperate.

 Rehearsal footage from the final rehearsal

Following Layla’s performance in Zurich, she heads to Washington National Opera to debut in  Dialogues des Carmelites (Poulenc) then returns to the Met to sing Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky).

The Creative Prowess

I could sense the artist in Jane Gutcher the moment she walked into the coffee shop for our first meet. The designer behind handbag label November Lark has a creative passion that is quite contagious. With the launch of her premiere collection, she has introduced a line of sought after leather accessories that are by nature practical yet evoke a beauty that is a perfect marriage of form and function. For me, all it took was one late night to come across this collection and I was already in touch to snag an interview.

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“Usefulness and beauty should be one complete thought,” as described by Gutcher, “and quality is never compromised”. Along with this design philosophy, each piece in the collection imitates a womanly shape which was inspired from a corset belt. Her simple, yet modern aesthetic started to bring in requests from friends and as these became more frequent, it only made sense to move forward and take the next step.

MC: How did you come up with the name November Lark?

JG: It’s a very short story. One November evening a couple of friends convinced me that I needed to stop procrastinating and start a handbag business. So, on a lark I did. So, November Lark.

MC: You have quite an interesting background and have experience as a shoe designer as well. What made you decide to switch to handbags?

JG: As a graphic designer, most of what I designed was print, 2D, flat. As an artist, I forced myself to take creative risks and work with a variety of materials. But as a fashion lover at heart and especially a shoe obsessed one, being able to develop a footwear collection of my own was a dream. However, the timing of the dream came with a lot of sacrifice – being away from my very young family. My kids were 8 months and 2 years when the opportunity presented itself. In order to make that dream a reality, I had to make a commitment to the business. There was so much travel and time away from my husband and babies that after a couple of years of fun and creative exhilaration, and lots of stress and heartache, I knew had to make the difficult choice.

After deciding to pack up the shoe business, I was left not only with a need for another creative outlet, but leather samples and hardware in my home studio that I had collected from various tanneries and leather fairs. Not one to let anything go to waste, I started to make simple yet utilitarian leather pouches, handbags and even experimented with leather accessories. I didn’t necessarily make a conscience decision to start designing handbags, it was a natural process that happened over several years.I knew that I had to seriously consider producing a line of handbags and leather goods after a trip to New York to visit a good friend of mine. I took a small pouch with me that I used as an iPad cover. In the evening, as the only handbag I had brought was a large tote, I folded the iPad cover over and used it as a clutch. At the end of the weekend, my friend refused to let me leave with it. She still swears it’s her go to clutch. I came home and made another and had that adopted by another friend as well. And that’s really how it all started.

MC: These days elegance and functionality seem to go hand-in-hand. How have you incorporated this philosophy into your premiere collection?

JG: Absolutely! My muses are my friends and I design for them and myself. We all lead very busy lives and play various roles that may take us from dropping off the kids, walking the dog,  lunch dates with the girls, to meetings with clients, board dinners and evening fundraisers. Each of the November Lark handbags are handcrafted with beautiful leathers and hardware imported from Italy that makes them aesthetically covetable. However, they are built with functionality in mind. They have shoulder/cross body straps, comfortable length straps, zippered pouches and pockets and beautiful yet easy to hold handles and wrist straps.

Each style also has a specific function in mind. For example, the Willow is the tall slender tote that is beautiful but can house a laptop, files and what ever else your day may require. It has straps that are attractive and comfortable. It also comes with a detachable shoulder strap that you can attach when you’ve got a flight to catch, passport and documents to carry, suitcase to pull, or you have kids and need to always keep your hands free. The Celeste is the perfect size for an evening out. It will hold a phone, a small wallet or card case, and, of course, lip gloss. It’s got a gorgeous yet comfortable, detachable wrist strap with a beautiful clip that has just enough bling. I am currently developing accessories that can be clipped in place of the strap if you want a different look. Look for them in Spring 2015!

Willow

MC: Did one certain piece in the collection start it all for you?

JG: Yes. It was the Audrey. I wanted to design a day bag that was sophisticated yet not stodgy. I also wanted a silhouette that was eye catching. I came across a photo of a corset belt in an old Harper’s Bazaar and a light went off. I loved the shape! And so the sketching stared and the Audrey was born.

MC: Explain, more in detail, the materials that you’ve chosen to use for your bags.

JG: All the handbags in the current collection are made out of Italian full grain calf leather. The hardware is also from Italy and the zippers are from Switzerland. Materials are very important. Many times the design of a bag or accessory starts with the material itself. For spring, I am designing around some beautiful leather from a small artisanal tannery that’s about an hour north of Manhattan.

MC: What is your go-to-bag?

JG: Most days I have more than one with me. But the one that is constantly attached to me is my studio fold-over cross body. I usually have a tote of some sort to carry all the other things that I think  I may need but usually don’t. If not,the it sits in my car!

Audrey Mini