Fashion

An Inside Look At All-Canadian Dress Line, Horses

Psst...FLARE's Atelier editor Heidi Sopinka has an atelier of her own, where she and best friend Claudia Dey dreamed up a dress line called Horses, and then made it real. She opens her notebook for us

Claudia Dey (left) and Heidi Sopinka; Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

Claudia Dey (left in Caftan) and Heidi Sopinka (in Blouson); Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

“Dubious, at best” is what I don’t say aloud when someone regales me with their latest plan for a creative business endeavour. But when our brill Atelier editor, Heidi Sopinka, told me that she and her closest friend since college, Claudia Dey, were going to set aside their careers as wordsmiths (of note!) to design a line of dresses, I thought, YES. It’ll be huge. They both have impeccable, decisive taste, self-styling genius, can-do fingers, and the work ethic of 16th-century Calvinists. “All I ask,” I said, “is that you chronicle the birth of the label for FLARE, and give me one!” The magical results—each of the seven dresses is its own person—are an affirmation that dreams should be followed. —Miranda Purves

Heidi (wearing Tunic) works on a Caftan neckline while Claudia (in Slip) cuts fabric; Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

Heidi (wearing Tunic) works on a Caftan neckline while Claudia (in Slip) cuts fabric; Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

May 27, 2012 – We push our sleeping babies in their strollers through Parkdale. Under a filthy bridge while Venus transits the sun, we talk of our extensive vintage collections. “What if we made something of our own?” Within a block we have our name, and our first collection: dresses. There is no turning back.

June 15, 2012 – We find cheap tickets to New York and pound the vast garment district’s 30-degree pavement. We wade through sequins, spandex and fluorescents, finally landing in sand-washed silks. After too many Astor Martinis the night before, we find a mill to develop custom prints with us. We race to catch our flight home, silks in hand. It feels like a true beginning.

July 2012 – We spend our days on bicycles and in the car (our second office), shuttling between our beloved expert pattern maker (a regal Austrian with five dollhouses), and our sample seamstress, who offers in her wry, Argentinian accent, “Welcome to fashion,” whenever there are hitches.

August 2012 – Patterns and dresses in play, we focus on our logo. In love with art nouveau book covers, we consult a font expert. We want something hand drawn, both eternal and modern, elegant and punk rock. After months of refining, we are shown a Mahler poster from 1910; when the same E and S appear behind Patti Smith in a 1976 clip of her performing our anthem, “Horses” on the Old Grey Whistle Test, we know we’ve found it.

The Collection; Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

The Collection; Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

Oct. 3, 2012 – The day before our look book shoot, we race to pick up Margiela and Miu Miu pumps from a dear girlfriend and assemble the stylist’s equivalent of a medicine bag—leather jacket, Portis fedora, snakeskin oxfords, our grandmothers’ jewellery, double-sided tape, red wine and static guard. Now all we have to do is convince October to look like June.

Oct. 4, 2012 – We hike into a waterfall with our dresses on a rack (isn’t this how it’s done?) as the sun shines. When our model emerges in our slip dress, it’s the first moment we have had to see what we’ve made. The brilliant Mark Peckmezian shoots everything on film. By afternoon we reach the waterfall; our model stands in a red lamé dress where, a week before, it had been roaring. And though today it has weirdly disappeared, it doesn’t matter.

Vintage Buttons; Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

Vintage Buttons; Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

Nov. 13, 2012 – L.A. or bust! The unforgiving fashion calendar makes us two months late for the spring-summer buying season. After a lot of cold calling and even colder doors came an excited response from a stunningly cool boutique in West Hollywood. After landing in L.A. like dress-pedalling renegades, the LAPD pulls us over for driving in the dark without headlights. We turn on our headlights. We stay in East L.A. and are out all day feeling like Willy Loman—but with red lipstick on. When we meet the preternaturally stylish boutique owner of Tenoversix (instant lady crush) and she says she can’t choose— she loves it all—we’re thrilled; and galvanized.

Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

Nov. 27, 2012 – New York again. Garment bag in hand, we take the subway—with purpled toenails (from trading in high-tops for heels)—to three appointments stacked up on our last afternoon: Nylon, Elle and T Magazine. One of our style icons tells us our collection is “emotional.” We share a pint and a taco salad at LaGuardia’s sports bar and celebrate our six-month anniversary. This is when we pick up emails from our dream stockists on our home turf. They say they would be happy to see us.

Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

Photo by Kristin Sjaarda

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