Costuming into Norma

There are many layers to an artist when preparing for an opera such as Bellini’s Norma. From studying the repertoire until you can no longer sing ‘Casta Diva’ to watching some of the most famous sopranos of all time perform the role you have been given to play. As for costume design, this may just be the icing on the cake. The amount of preparation that goes into making each character’s full production wardrobe is another world of its own and one that should not be overlooked.

jahn-jessica_costume-designerMy visit to the Canadian Opera Company’s costume department turned into a very inspiring experience as I had the opportunity to chat with the COC’s designer for Norma – Jessica Jahn. Based in New York City, Jahn was a professional dancer before making the career move as a designer.

A production that has already been performed both in San Francisco and Barcelona, she has been able to grow with her designs as well as with the artists performing in them before they make their premiere in Toronto next month.

So what was the thought process like before even diving into design mode?

“You have three goals as a costume designer,” says Jahn, “help tell the story through the costumes, make the performance comfortable, merge both of these together to achieve the final performance and storytelling experience”. In the case of Norma, the aesthetic goal was to create a fluid, cohesive colour palette that denoted a tribe or community. By looking the set design and productions from the past, and with so much to research, Jessica wanted to find one key fact or detail that would be the driving inspiration for her designs. Finally, you can’t help but also play the role of an anthropologist, historian, and psychologist – they all factor in.

Inspirations came from both tribal and native communities as well as runway looks from designers such as Alexander McQueen. Following in this direction, the entire cast of Norma represented a collective of people experiencing a deep story through costume. Tribal tattooing as shown on their foreheads and arms represented both historical and fantastical worlds colliding on stage.




Fabrics such as natural fibers, leathers, linen, raw silk and cotton moleskins were chosen complimenting organic and neutral tones that expressed both darkness and romance. “Collaborating with Sondra [Radvanovsky] was a bonus and something I find very important if you have the opportunity to work with the artists ahead of time. With so much experience, they are able to help guide you as they are the ones who will need to perform and change throughout a three-hour-or-so performance”.

A process that took almost a year and a half in the making, opera goers will not be disappointed.

For more information about the COC’s production of Norma visit

Photo credits: Sondra Radvanovsky as Norma inNorma (San Francisco Opera, 2014), photo: Cory Weaver

The artist and the symphony (part two)

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra wants us all to “escape into music” as they open a new season tomorrow evening with glamorous soprano Renée Fleming. If you have paid attention to their advertising campaigns you will notice another theme – escaping into the illustrations that are their fantastic promotions.

From TTC posters to social media, the works of  Toronto-based artist Alanna Cavanagh are everywhere. As the second part to last week’s post, we dive once again into the visual world and explore its marketing influence.

By collaborating with branding company Haft2, artists like Alanna were sought out to provide the ultimate “balance of sophistication and quirkiness mixed with classic and modern”. In addition, the TSO’s program guides, Key, feature a piece of Canadian artwork in every guide, giving the opportunity for local talent to gain exposure.

As a marketer and cultural advocate, I get goosebumps when seeing campaigns look so ‘harmoniously’ in line with their branding and messaging.

For more information about the TSO’s 16/17 season visit 

Photo credits: Alanna Cavanagh (@alanna_cavanagh)

The artist and the symphony (part one)

For some, marrying the art of illustration and brand may not seem like a match made in heaven. But for others, there could be no better match.

When it comes to fashion and beauty, there has been a rise in seeking out artists such as Donald Robertson (Mr. “Drawbertson) as a way to boost marketing campaigns for various brands such as Bergdorf Goodman,  J. Crew, and Smashbox. The final verdict? Success.

Recently, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra collaborated with local artists such as ANSER and Alea Drain to help support their work while promoting TSO Late Night back in June as well as the New Creations Festival. Along with supporting their promotional efforts, another goal was to show how art connected with  music and they felt no better way to do so then by reaching out to these artists. Both a celebration and ode to the city’s fine arts community, this is a wonderful example of a ‘duet’ that can go far beyond the performance stage.


Beethoven by ANSWER



Aleks Susak revealed her latest “Colour Collection” for Belgrade Fashion Nights at the Canadian Embassy in Serbia. Attendees included ambassadors and social elites within the community.

revijan-aleks-susak-smanjene-48Check out some of our highlighted media coverages:
Lepota i Zadravlje
Super Zena


Today, our fashion options are endless and whatever style one follows, there is something out there for everyone. With so many looks to choose from and play around with, I can never draw away from my favourite piece of all time – the collar shirt.

Recently, as I was searching for a new travel destination, the city of Charleston caught my eye along with something else – a lovely shop known for its vast selection of finely tailored shirts. Shirtini has been known to sell quite a selection when it comes to modern classics, effortless style, and a curated collection of menswear inspired shirts.

Of course, I couldn’t help myself and just had to spark a little Q&A session with Lin, the owner behind Shirtini.

MC: In your opinion, what defines are proper shirt?
We look for well-made shirts with flattering fits. We love attention to detail and touchable fabrics.
MC: Why is tailoring so important?
Most of our shirts have a casual fit and not a lot of darting. We find what’s most important is matching the shirt style to a each person’s individual proportions. If a client is having difficulty finding a good fit, we may encourage them to think in terms of scale rather than size.
MC: What inspired you to sell only shirts?
Everyone knows you can’t have too many white shirts, and that was certainly my point of view, but finding the styles I wanted was difficult. On the top of my list was a crisp white shirt long enough for leggings and a classic white shirt to wear with jeans or an evening skirt. So we started from that point. We were inspired by the small shops we visited in Paris and the tiny shops of Capri. Our Charleston shop is also very tiny. It’s been helpful in keeping us focused.
MC: With fall just around the corner, please share with us your top three shirts of choice and the types of ensembles you would combine with each one.
This fall we are all about mixing it up with luxurious textures and fabrics. We love the look of our super soft gray plaid flannel boyfriend shirt paired with white jeans, chocolate suede boots, and a metallic scarf. A fitted shirt in a washable microfiber suede plays well with a leather belt and a dark wash jean. And as for the white shirt collector, this fall is all about the details. A flash of ribbon trim or a twist of fabric.