Interview with Lesley Hampton

Meet Lesley Hampton, a talented fashion designer and creative director based in Toronto, who established her label in 2016 after graduating with honours with Bachelor of arts from University of Toronto and Sheridan college. Although Lesley only launched her line last year, the young and ambitious designer has already showcased her collection at Fashion Art Toronto, Toronto Women’s Fashion Week, Vancouver Fashion Week, and was also featured in Elle, Vogue, and Glamour.

We met at Stylist Box, an exclusive showroom for fashion stylists, fashion editors, and designers, founded by Christian Dare and Gail McInnes. The modern space was filled with the designer’s pieces from her current collection. Lesley welcomed me with a smile. She is naturally charming and her personality shined through her honesty and confidence.I was amazed by her determination to focus on important issues in society, such as body awareness and breaking the rules of what considered the ideal female body. We spoke about her collection, current fascinations, and  goals for the future.

Liat Neuman: At what point in life did you decide that you wanted to express your creativity through design? 

Lesley Hampton: I did a fashion designer internship the summer before I started university, and I studied art and history, which definitely help me to make my way to fashion design. During my study at the university I realized that I definitely see myself working in the fashion industry.

LN: How being a fashion designer has changed your life and is it helping you to enhance your point of view on things you believe in?

LH: It’s definitely helped me figure out how people feel in clothing and how you can make them feel more comfortable or stronger based on what you dress them in or what they choose to put on their body. It helps me to understand that anybody can look beautiful and you don’t have to strive to be in a specific size. It is more about how fashion works for you and makes you happy

LN: Which materials are you using for the collection and how is it different from your previous collection?

LH: The materials for FW 2017 collection are made from sequins, including sequinned mesh, embroidered lace, and Palmira sequins lace and poly finish like poly cotton. It’s different from the summer ’17 collection, I was focusing a lot on sequins and sparkle,with floral printed crepe and stretch sequinned mesh. The collection before, which was shown at FAT, was called City Warrior and I used mailer pleating.

LN: Where do you find your inspiration? Does everyday life inspire your work?

LH: The colours of the collection was inspired by the golden hours, which is when the sky turns a soft gold, the hour before sunset or after sunrise. The golden hour is also a term used  in trauma cases, that is the most crucial period for treatment. Since the golden hour refers to a period of time that lasts for one hour, following tragedy or injury, I brought it into my runway people that experience the golden hour, like Adrianne Haslet, the dancer, who was one of the Boston bombing survivor.

LN: Who is your target audience?

LH: I like to say that my target market is any woman who feels comfortable in her own skin and wants to look strong and powerful when she is attending a red carpet event or an evening party. My target audience is mainly women between the age of 25 to 40, but of course I’m worn by women of all ages that feel comfortable in my design.

LN: What message do you want to convey through the creation of your design?

LH: The message I want to convey is to be comfortable with the body that you have and do it through clothing. Don’t feel like trends or body ideal should hold you back from wearing what you want.

LN: What motivates you?

LH: Every time I see someone wearing my clothing, it makes me happy and motivated. The energy and the excitement come when I see people wearing my designs. It helps me push myself forward and  to continue designing.

LN: What are your goals for the future?

LH: My current goal is focusing on production and be able to reach a wider audience. Right now it is definitely expanding and moving into sales. Another goal is to be able to inspire more people to feel comfortable with their body and what they wear.

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Talking Old School Technique and New School Design with Ken Chow of KRANE

Photo courtesy of Krane

‘Old-school leather techniques meet a new-school design attitude’ in KRANE. The rarity of the meeting of the pair in today’s fast-fashion industry is so well known that it’s become a platitude — all the more reasons to appreciate the conjoining of beauty and utility in Ken Chow’s label.

Ken has many backgrounds — he was born in China, grew up in Ontario, and studied at F.I.T. in New York; his early passion was for drawing and fine arts; and now he is the founder and creative director of KRANE. But with Ken, it’s easy to see a sense of continuity in all his endeavors, as though his efforts from early on has somehow directed him to his success today and his renowned military-inspired designs.

We recently had a chance to chat with Ken regarding KRANE, its latest Spring Collections, and what the designer likes to do in his home city, Toronto.

Photo courtesy of Krane

Hoon: Tell us about Krane’s latest collection.

Ken: Spring takes Krane into a slow(er)-fashion territory for the main Krane line. A new category called Krane Artisanal will be introduced later in the season with emphasis on handwork and reworked, up-cycled, remixed one-of-a-kind pieces. K by Krane — Krane’s more accessible line of essential carry-alls — is coming back with core silhouettes with an injection of energy.

H: Take us through your creative process. How do you begin new designs? Do you revisit your old work for inspirations?

K: As you may know, the brand has a military DNA. I have a go-to book of military uniforms that I refer to — you could say that it’s Krane’s bible of a sort — and I do a light trend research every season to update the core silhouettes. The majority of the time, it starts with the inspirational industrial or military detail, then the materials, the sketch, the pattern, the first proto, and finally the final sample. There are different names for the collections. The permanent collection is organized according to the Morse Code alphabet starting with the Alpha Collection — Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc. Because the inspiration and design ideas originate from specific themes, I absolutely recycle and re-explore past ideas. Fashion moves too fast at times and too often, and I feel that certain ideas are not given enough time in the market. With time, your audience grows and reinterpreting past collections allows them to be loved again and appreciated for what it is.

H: You’ve been interested in the military aesthetic since early on. What draws you to it? And what keeps you going back to its essences?

K: My attachment to the military derives from my spiritual side, which I got from my mom. I have always believed that the activities we engage in as kids are precursors to later stages in our lives; and that every event that you are in tune with is leading you to that next stage. Growing up in Halton Hills, Ontario, I entered a lot of Remembrance Day Poster Design Competitions, which peaked my interest in the military aesthetic. The Military theme has so many positive qualities associated with it. At its core, it is utilitarian and focused on good quality. It also has a sense of strength attached to it, which are all qualities that I want Krane to represent.

Photo courtesy of Krane

H: What does it mean for you to have Krane products made in Canada?

K: Canada has an abundance of skilled artisans, so keeping production local allows me to keep the products at a desired level of quality. Keeping production in the country also allows me the opportunity to create jobs in the industry. As Chinese manufacturing takes over (with the takeover of Fast-Fashion), this is becoming increasingly important for the Canadian apparel industry.

H: What would you say are the challenges behind being a creative in Canada in the context of its economy, society, and culture?

K: Economy – attaining a cost-effective production cost to meet the desired MSRP to stay competitive with the (international) market.
Society and culture – introducing forward thinking ideas into the collection due to the conservative buying habits of the majority of Canadians

H: Tell us about your time at F.I.T. and working in New York. What did you see, learn, and do? What was it like working with Geller and Plokhov?

K: F.I.T was a well-rounded fashion experience. Everything you wanted and needed to learn about fashion, they had, but the curriculum alone wasn’t going to give it to you. You had to be focused and hungry and seek it out for yourself. I attended special guest lectures by Renzo Rosso, Anna Sui, Rose Marie Bravo (CEO of Burbery in 2000); I saw the Antwerp Six (including Martin Margiela) and Visionaire exhibition at FIT Museum; I made use of workshops outside of my program to teach myself accessories design; and I scored myself a Marc Jacobs internship!

Also GenArt was huge then with their famous International Styles Competition, so I entered and won an opportunity to showcase my designs with them for the Styles 2001 Edition. That was the year I competed with Cloak (by Alexander Plokhov and Robert Geller) in the Menswear category. We both didn’t win, but we formed a friendship in the process, and I got to spend some time working with them aftewards where I learned more about precise Russian tailoring and the cool German style.

Photo courtesy of Krane

H: How has drawing and fine art in general influenced your work?

K: My dad is the artistic one in my family, and he passed onto me his gift of photo-realistic technical precision. The key to this ability is training your eye to hone in on every little detail. I think this has affected my design style in the sense that it made me a detail-oriented designer.

H: Controversies regarding cultural appropriation pops up in fashion rather often. In this context, what does it mean to be a designer with multiple cultural heritages? Or does it have no bearing in your creative process.

K: I think if Krane were strictly an apparel brand this question would have more relevance. Because my themes are niche and all fall within certain directions, this doesn’t have too much of an effect on my creative process.

H: It’s been over ten years since you moved back to Toronto to start Krane. How has menswear — its aesthetics, qualities, understanding, etc. — changed since? Where do you see it going and where do you want it to go in the next five years?

K: Menswear has changed and evolved so much since I moved back from New York. I remember how hard it was being one of the few working specifically in this area. Because there were next to zero brands focusing on menswear, it made you feel like you had to be either extremely conservative or extremely loud. Luckily I studied in NY, so I had American ties, and I was able to play in the American market, which gave the brand peers and relevancy. Because I participated in tradeshows like Capsule (one of the first Contemporary Men’s Tradeshows), Canadians started to take notice.

I feel as if menswear had this huge boom in the mid 2000’s and that, all of a sudden, overnight, there were all these new menswear designers in Canada. Fast forward to today, we have so many menswear designers now, and they are not just concerned with the tailored conservative aesthetics that we would stereotypically associate with the Canadian aesthetic. The variety in aesthetics is a good sign of growth for menswear in Canada, and I see more diversity happening in the future, especially since we promote multiculturalism.

H: What kind of positive impacts, if any, would you say fashion has on society and the culture in general?

K: Fashion allows people to dream and become who they want to be. Through the way you dress you can be the change that you want for yourself …and society, if that is your goal in life. Fashion’s constant concern with newnewnew keeps pushing the art forward and enriches life in general.

Photo courtesy of Krane

H: Changing gears, the latest collection is called Travel Essentials. What are some things you never travel without? And with those things, you have a month to travel — where you would you go and what would you do?

K: Essential items – a good duffle bag, backpack, and a nice size dopp kit (like the ones by HALEY, ANDER and MATTEO). I would take these on a trip to Peru, do ayahuasca, hang out with alpacas, and explore the ancient country.

H: What are the key pieces in your wardrobe?

K: An M-65 jacket, a good pair of denim, a solid sweatshirt, a black T, a suit, a mid-top sneaker, a Chelsea boot, and a nice pair of oxfords.

H: What is the one fashion item every man should own? Or is there no such thing?

K: A nice pair of leather boots.

H: Describe to us your ideal Sunday.

K: A bike ride (or other leisure physical activity) to the island, art gallery, or park with my favorite person(s), and then just let the day develop organically.

H: Where and what do you like to eat in Toronto?

K: I love noodles, and there’s a ramen joint on Dundas called Sensotei that is so fresh and yummy.

H: Fill in the blank: I would like to live without….

K: War.

H: Anything else you’d like to add.

K: I love tennis.

Learn more about KRANE here. Krane products are made entirely in Canada. The Krane Man and Krane Bag lines are manufactured in factories in Toronto, Canada, with the handwork done in-house.

A Conversation with Miri of Topaz Custom Jewelry Boutique

Anyone who is familiar with the Yonge and Eglinton area has probably heard about Topaz Custom Jewelry Boutique. Among the unique fashion boutiques in uptown Yonge, there is a charming jewelry store that carries an eclectic mix of of handmade jewelry from local and international designers who are both well known and respected in the industry. The boutique showcases contemporary designs and one of a kind pieces that can’t be found in any other local stores in the city. The wide selection range from bold statement pieces to timeless elegant jewels that will coordinate with your outfit and let you embrace your individuality.

I had the chance to speak with Miri, the owner of the store, on what makes her boutique so special and how she gives her loyal customers the best shopping experience by focusing on their needs and assisting them with creating the ultimate jewelry wardrobe. Her passion and commitment to perfection are definitely reflected in her work. Miri knows how to brings to life any outfit just by using the right accessories.

Phoro: Real Style Magazine

Liat: When did you open the store and why did you choose this location?

Miri: It’s hard to believe that I opened the store 10 years ago, it feels like yesterday. I chose the location because I love the area; I love shopping boutiques; and I really believed that the area could use a jewelry & accessories store. I did not want to be in a mall or plaza, so this location was perfect for me.

L: Who is your target audience? 

M: My clientele has a very wide range; from 10 years old to 80!  There are many fashionistas out there who are all unique and diverse. The majority of my clients fit between the ages of 30 and 60.

L: What distinguishesT opaz Custom Jewelry Boutique from other similar boutiques in Toronto?

M: Topaz Jewelry Boutique is distinguished by the vast array of products. We have over 45 designers in the store. Our pieces are timeless as demonstrated by our many customers who are still wearing pieces from my first year in business. Our customers purchase both for themselves and as gifts. Equally important to the products, Topaz Jewelry Boutique is distinguished by our service. We designed the store with an open wall so that the customers can touch and feel the products and easily try them on. Every associate is a stylist who can offer advice on how to wear and layer the pieces. The customers talk widely about both our product selection and our customer experience.

Photo: Topaz Custom Jewelry Boutique

L: How do you choose the designers and pieces that you want to showcase? 

M: I pick the products on my buying trips. I frequently travel to New York, Israel, Europe in search of the latest styles to purchase merchandise for the store. While I’m buying, I envision my customers and walk through the showrooms imagining what they would like. It’s always important to imagine what your customers want, not just what your personal style is. I’m always looking for unique pieces that are versatile and practical; a good balance between casual, every day and statement pieces.

L: How would you describe the aesthetic of the boutique and does it reflect your own sense of style?

M: The boutique is set up in a way that is easily accessible to the customers. There is an open wall with statement necklaces that are readily available for the customers to touch and try on. On the other side and in the middle, there are cases of merchandise. These are often daintier pieces that are displayed side by side so that customers can compare the items to each other and make their selections. The boutique is warm, fun and friendly, it is definitely a representation of my personal sense of style. I like to experiment with my style, often switching between simple staple jewelry and significant statement items.

Photo: Topaz Custom Jewelry Boutique

L: What are the best sellers in the store?

M: Topaz Jewelry Boutique has many best selling items, and because it is a store that fits with current trends, the best sellers change frequently. Our meditation rings have been a classic, though, some of our latest best sellers are our chokers and earrings.

Photo:Topaz Custom Jewelry Boutique

Topaz Custom Jewelry Boutique is located at 2554 Yonge St. Visit their page at and follow them on Instagram here.

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Does “Made In Canada” Matter?

Canadian-made brand “Raised by Wolves”- Photo @ Pangela Productions

With the importance of fair trade products on the rise as well as the support for local businesses becoming increasingly popular, this question should be a no-brainer- of course buying fashion items from Canadian designers should matter. However, when considering the actual act of labeling a product to indicate that it’s made in Canada, it seems that Canadian consumers do not tend to consider this an influence to their shopping.

Business of Fashion put out an article, “Does ‘Made In’ Matter”, which explores whether or not consumers really do care where their clothes are from. What they found is that the term ‘Made In’ is increasingly losing its credibility as brands can have their clothing made in a cheap labour market and simply package the product in their own country to say that the item is made from there. Certain countries are known for specializing in specific products. For example, Italy is known for their superb shoe making. How would you feel buying a shoe that claims to be “Made In Italy” but is actually produced in a cheap labour market? It happens more than we think- the validity of the “Made In” label is continuously decreasing.

When it comes to Canada, the “Made In” label can mean more than indicating the quality of clothing (especially to Canadians). In a recent Toronto Star article that was published this past October, titled “Canadian Designers: The challenge of making a name in Canada”, reporter, Katrina Clark illuminated the elements, which affect Canadian designers’ ability to grow their brand and sell their clothing. Canadian designers are not considered as distinguished and valuable until recognized outside of Canada. Brands from fashion capitals such as France or Italy are historically reputable and because of this, if Canadian consumers are going to buy within the designer realm, they will tend to purchase from these fashion capitals simply because of an ongoing reputation. For this reason, labeling a clothing item “Made In Canada” does not matter in terms of quality of the product itself. However, this label can still be of influence to those who choose to support local Canadian designers.

Canada Goose Manufacturing- Photo @ Toronto Standard

Many people prefer to support local artists, designers, and businesses rather than give their money to large corporations. I know that I despise chain restaurants, especially in Toronto when the single owned restaurants are endless and most of the time a much better option in terms of atmosphere, nutrition and taste. When thinking of this choice I make to almost always choose the local restaurant over the chain, I ask myself, why do I not pick the local designer over the large retailers when it comes to my fashion choices? I know that my money would be better deserved. I know that the quality of my clothing would be better and also more unique. However, when it comes down to it, paying eight dollars more for a pizza from a family run Italian restaurant is much less of a commitment than buying a four-hundred dollar jacket from a local designer when I could buy one for seventy dollars at Zara- I mean, when you do the math that’s about thirty pizzas saved (do not fact check that).


Photo @ Etsy Canadian Jewellery

It sounds brutal but as a broke and hungry twenty-something, this is just my thought process. If I had the maturity and the disposable income. I would be buying locally because I absolutely think that Canadian fashion brands have much to offer and should be recognized for this. In terms of labeling something as “Made In Canada”, I don’t believe that this matters currently to consumers simply because of the lack of recognition of the quality of Canadian products- but it certainly should. Canadian designers should receive the same recognition for their work that it just as great and sometimes better than European luxury brands. Those who buy designer items should feel proud and encouraged to purchase fashion items that are “Made In Canada”.

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Fashion Gives Back

In the cruel world we live in, charity is a kind and thoughtful act that will put a smile on other’s faces.

With the popularity of social media and the rise of the selfie syndrome, it is no wonder that we are becoming more narcissistic and self-centered. Obviously it’s becoming more prominent in the world of fashion, however, retailers and designers have the power to raise an awareness of global issues. Raising collective consciousness can be done in several ways; concentrating on the ethical aspect in the production of the garment, sourcing sustainable materials, and of course, by working toward a charitable mission. With that being said, our current love story is with designers who see charity as an integral part of their brand vision. We cherish these little gestures that make our world a better place.

Here is the best part, you can ditch your guilt next time you go on a shopping spree, as we gathered some inspiring fashion brands that are giving back.

Photo credit:


Sentler is a Canadian luxury outerwear company based in Toronto. The luxurious coat collection will keep you warm without feeling bulky, thanks to the Peruvian fabric Alpaca, which is extremely light and soft. We adore Bojana Sentaler, the owner and the creative director of the brand, as she chose the model of giving back as a way of life. Her motto is that there is to protect youth to give them hope and strength. In her previous collection, Bojana donated a coat to Fashion Heals, an organization that hosts a special evening event to connect the fashion world and SickKids hospital. This season, Sentaler designed a new line of stylish hats for kids and announced that 25% of their profits will go towards SickKids. 

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The for-profit footwear brand founded in 2006 was the pioneer in adopting the value of improving living by giving back to charity. They in fact patched the path to other fashion brands. Their business model is “one for one” meaning that for every pair of shoes sold, the company donates one pair of shoes for children in needs in developing countries. Toms is also donating profits to protect wildlife, such as saving elephants from poachers.

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Warby Parker

Warby Parker is designer eyewear brand that offers glasses at affordable price points. Following the footsteps of the Toms business model, they teamed with VisionSpring, a non-profit to provide a pair of glasses for those in need for every pair sold. In addition, the company is training locals to perform basic eye exams and sell glasses to enable them to earn a living.

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FEED Project

FEED is a handmade bag and accessories company founded in 2007 by Lauren Bush, who decided to leverage her artistic creativity to fight world hunger. The company donates a portion of its sales to provide meals to children in Asia, Latin America and Africa. With their success, they also partnered with other fashion brands such as DKNY, Gap, Tory Bruch to gain more awareness for this important mission. FEED also lets you know how many school meals your purchase provides while purchasing the item.

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Urban Zen

Urban Zen by Donna Karen was established after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The well-known designer felt the urge to help the country preserve their culture and their creativity in any way she could. Urban Zen center sells artisan products like handicrafts, accessories, and furniture from Haiti and other countries around the world. Also, Karan creates a casual clothing line for the brand inspired by her travels and charity work. The profits from every purchase are sent back to the people in Haiti who produced them.

Photo Credit:

 Fashion Project

Fashion Project is an online marketplace for women’s apparel. Founded by Anna Palmer and Christine Rizk,  they aim to create an online platform to buy and donate a variety of luxury items and to use fashion as an act of generosity. The idea is to help the charity raise money in an effective way. By selling one item, you enable them to supply meals for needy families. To participate in this significant project you can either donate items from your own closet, or spoil yourself with a new purchase.

Photo credit: The Huffington post