I recently sat down with Shawna Robinson, part owner of Toronto based label, LABEL – you like that don’t you? See the irony label lovers? Label is the name of the line owned by Robinson and her partner Natalie Sydoruk. The idea is that you see no Label. You define the clothes; the clothes don’t define you.
Have a look at the Q&A after the jump (and photos from the live photoshoot at Cheval).
- How and when did Label start?
- Why name it ‘Label’?
- What are the materials you use?
- What does the line consist of now?
- Earlier this year, Label was a part of Platinum, a benefit produced by Fashion Cares and the amazing Fritz Helder and The Phantoms, where your looks as well as those by nine other Canadian designers were auctioned off to raise funds for AIDS research. How important is music and philanthropy to Label?
- You mentioned Label Whores – how do you feel about them?
- What kind of woman wears Label?
Label was launched 2007. It started as a custom T-Shirt line for this store called Ukula, which is a Toronto boutique/magazine. That went really well so we thought to repurpose the business as wholesale. Now we’re on our second season and we’re actually running things properly and using various retailers in the city. So yeah! Happy results.
We pretty much thought of everything else about our label except what to call it. I was looking at the flyer for a retailer on Queen St. Natalie used to work at and model for, and we kept going through the store and picking up the labels and looking at the names trying to brainstorm. At one point, we said to each other, “What’s the point of having a label? What does it say about our garment?” We want people who wear Label to be able to define it instead of have our brand define them. It’s kind of a play on the kind of “label whore” phenomenon.
Production is about 80% organic fabrics. We’re using a lot of organic bamboo, organic cotton, and hemp. We’re also trying to use environmentally sustainable fabrics as well. They’re not organic but they’re byproducts of production. There’s this one called lyocel, which is a byproduct of wood pulp. And we also use silk, and even natural based paints. We don’t really use polyester or anything like that unless it’s dead stock. So sometimes we buy out fabric and ends of bolts from places that are going out of business because that stuff is just going into a landfill anyway. I wouldn’t say that we’re 100% green at this point but I don’t think it would be possible for any designer to be right now. We can’t find zippers that are sustainably made; we can’t find thread. It’s really hard but our goal is to get to a point where we’re 100% sustainable.
For Fall, we’re doing a lot of dresses just because it’s about being easy. If I’m wondering what to wear, I just pull on a dress with a jacket, and I feel great! We have some great silk evening pants and a little skirt. We have a wonderful handmade blazer that has great embellishments on the collar. Each is one-of-a-kind. It’s still like a capsule collection. We’re only at about 16 pieces for Fall, and then for Spring/Summer we’re doubling that again, so we’re trying to grow every season.
The line itself is very transitional. The point with Label is that you should style it to suit your needs and suit your personal style. When the samples were made for a lot of our spring dresses, I was wearing them with just sandals, but in the winter, I’ll wear them with heavy leggings, boots, and a sweater. They’re just like building blocks.
Music is an influence. I don’t know if it’s necessarily important. I don’t know if we necessarily endeavour to work with bands but when the right artist comes along we’re definitely very excited to work with them. More because of style and fashion, a strong influence, stage presence and things like that. Take Isis from Thunder Heist. I’m giving her some pieces now and I want to dress her now too because she just has this great presence and she’s such a vibrant, and stylish girl. So when we see a front woman or man that just wears stuff well, that’s when we just want to get involved because they can rock it way better, and can just show people how.
Philanthropy is very important to us because of our whole background in the eco-movement. You should always give back! For example, we’re right now participating in a charity that’s building a school in Uganda. We just try to stay involved in the community. Although we’re not building our business on this platform, whenever we’re given the opportunity to do anything that’s helpful, we’re available. And also it’s such a good lesson in creating your work on your own terms.
I can’t say too much because I used to be one and I still walk a fine line because certain labels inspire me. For example, Alexander Wang, Stella McCartney, McQueen, Prada. I’m amazed by Miu Miu! They’re like my favourite brand ever, and I get one of their shoes every season. But I think looking at these artists, because that’s what they are, and using them for inspiration in your life, in the way you dress, instead of only wearing this or that makes more sense. I think people who wear only one brand or one style because they want “that look” is a bit more prevalent in lower end lines. I think it’s great to love a brand or admire a designer but I think you should try to make things your own. We try to support new designers as well as our old favourites. I think people should have fun with fashion and the way they dress, is kind of what I think. It’s only clothes.
Every woman. There are so many people that wear our clothes, and that’s what I love about it. There was actually a comment war on Blog T.O., because someone complained about how skinny our models are and I wrote back that we make our clothes in all sizes; they look good on all body types. Our goal is to dress the conservative Bay St. lawyer and the crazy Queen St. hipster. They’re pieces you can make work for your wardrobe, so I think it’s for everyone….yeah!
Thanks Shawna for the interview and for the invite to the photoshoot/fashion show (the clothes are gorgeous and it was so much fun!)
Label is sold just about everywhere: at Model Citizen in Kensington Market, Chase Gardee, on Queen St., Finn Boutique in Yorkville, and if your ever in Brussels or Australia, check out Myki and Live This.
Visit the Label online store at seenolabel.com.
> images from seenolabel.com and Gloria Chik