Since she’s one of our favourite designers we spotted during WMCFW, Novella visited Hilary’s studio last week to chat about the Canadian fashion industry and why fashion has yet to be viewed as an art form in our country.
Novella: What is Fashion Week for you?
Hillary MacMillan: Fashion Week is mainly about media exposure, so I think it’s a way to get people to recognize you and get brand recognition. For me, it’s about trying to get your name out there.
N: So, Fashion Week is important for designers because it’s the most powerful platform to get that visibility within the fashion industry?
H.M.: Yes, I think so and also I think it’s a good way to get feedback from your customers and people.
N: How do you prepare a collection that is going to be showcased during Fashion Week, as opposed to preparing a collection that is just for a boutique?
H.M.: You have to finish your collection three months before Fashion Week starts, and you add certain pieces that are more special, more attention-grabbing. These pieces are designed to make your name stand out.
N: The way to present fashion collections is changing. Designers are considering other formats besides runway shows to showcase their collections. Where do you think is this going? Have you considered other different and more creative formats to present your designs?
H.M.: I haven’t considered other formats yet, but I’m sure I will eventually! I guess Fashion Week is easy in terms of the event organization, because as a designer you don’t have to deal with that part.
N: What happens after Fashion Week?
H.M.: Immediately after there is a whole bunch of interviews and social media work. Then I always try to rest for a couple of days before going back to work. I think it’s very important to take some time off because Fashion Week is just crazy.
N: How do you feel once you take your bow at the end of a runway show?
H.M.: It’s like a feeling of relief — and it’s also a little bit scary because you don’t know how people are going to respond to the collection, if they liked it or not.
N: Is there any competitiveness among fashion designers during Fashion Week? Especially the day that you are showcasing your collection, are you paying attention to other designers’ shows?
H.M.: I definitely look at other designers’ collections, shows and social media to see what they’ve done — but it’s not a negative competitiveness. I’m very proud of all our Canadian designers, of course, being one of them!
Of course it is competitive because, at the end of the day, you want to do well but the atmosphere backstage with other designers is very positive. If we bumped into each other backstage they wish me good luck and I wish them good luck too, and everyone is excited and happy!
N: As a fashion designer who is able to read fashion and look at it beyond what’s on the surface, how would you define fashion?
H.M.: For me, fashion is a wearable art form. Everyday we make a choice on what we want to wear and that’s how the world is going to see us that day. Whether is conscious or unconscious, you are making those choices everyday. As a designer I think about fashion from this perspective, and that’s why I put so much thought and work into my designs. You have to do a lot of trend forecasting, sourcing different fabrics, etcetera, so during those six months there is a lot of work that goes in each collection.
What message is your customer trying to tell to the world by wearing your designs?
H.M: So, my customer is an urban, modern woman so she wants something that fits well, and at the same time, something that is a little bit outside of the box. She is fun and adventurous and wants to tell this to the world through the way she looks.
In Toronto we have so many talented designers here but sometimes it is very hard for them to get visibility and get there so most of them they end up leaving Canada. What are we doing wrong or not doing at all? Do you think there is more support and opportunities for fashion designers outside of our borders?
H.M: I think we should definitely invest more locally. There are not a lot of trade shows in Canada so everyone has to go to New York, or Paris or London. Having a some central Canadian trade shows would be great, especially because we are such a large country so even showing your collections inside of Canada is nearly impossible and very expensive.
Also, we need government funding because there is nothing, literally, for fashion because isn’t considered part of the art industry. For example, in the States Zac Posen did an event at the White House with Michelle Obama and that is a great to support their home talent because if the government gets involved, also the rest of the people look at fashion as a serious business and real art form instead of something just fun and frivolous.
What is the colour of Toronto?
H.M: I would say blue because it’s a very sunny city even when it’s freezing cold, and also because we have a big beautiful lake.