CAFA Designer Spotlight: Jenny Bird

In the lead-up to the 2015 Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards, we chat with some of the buzziest nominees

Homegrown talent FTW: this Saturday, Canada’s fashion elite will celebrate the industry’s best talents—established and emerging—at the second annual Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards in Toronto. FLARE will be there (again!), and in the lead-up to the big night, we’re spotlighting some of the most exciting nominees.

Today we meet Jenny Bird, nominated for the Accessory Designer of the Year Award. We at FLARE are big fans of the self-taught designer’s namesake jewellery line, and so is the rest of the world—her bold baubles are sold in 14 countries. We love that she gives back, too: she’s developed products to raised funds for the Canadian Red Cross, the World Wildlife Fund and the Pollinator Partnership.

Jenny Bird 4

Jenny Bird, nominated for the Accessory Designer of the Year Award at the 2015 CAFAs

In five words or less, how would you describe the woman who wears your brand?
Since “stylish” is a given, here are my next five: cool, free-spirited, approachable, strong and fun.

Tell us about the first time you felt awestruck by fashion.
The first time I remember feeling awestruck was as a child, hanging out with my great-aunt Mary. I grew up in rural Ontario without cable TV or a local mall, so I wasn’t exposed to much “fashion” until later in life. But from as early as I can remember, during larger family gatherings, Aunt Mary would appear: a vision from the city. She didn’t have expensive things; what she had was fabulous personal style and impeccable taste. It was from observing her coiffed ways that I became aware of the impact a woman’s appearance and personal style could have.

Jenny Bird Nova Orb Collar

Jenny Bird Nova Orb Collar

It can be difficult for Canadian designers to resist the urge to set up shop in other countries. Why did you decide to establish your brand at home?
We are fortunate to have an incredibly loyal and supportive Birdgirl community across Canada: they shop with us online, as well as during our biannual sample sales in Toronto. We are proud to be based in Toronto. Our family is here; Canada is home. For the wholesale business, it is possible to maintain headquarters here, as long as you have international sales outposts. For us, this means having partners in New York, L.A., Europe and Asia (and making a lot of trips to the airport)

Can you share one major source of inspiration for you?
My continuous source of inspiration is what I call the “grand reflection.” We are constantly impacted by our shared human experience in this world—at times without even being aware of it. The political landscape, our economy, the weather, the planet’s condition, our sociocultural environment, the human health condition, the cosmos, our progress in science and technology, and our spirituality all play a major role.

Like a mirror, this shared experience inspires and is reflected in pop culture, music, street style, art and design, fashion and everything in between. Tapping into this collective pulse is my creative fuel. It’s so inspiring to feel its direction; to observe how it trickles down and drives what I want to wear and how I want to wear it today, tomorrow and the next day. I have no interest in yesterday; it’s what jewellery I’m going to want in my tomorrows that excites me. How will I want to be adorned? How are modern, forward-thinking women wearing their jewellery? What are they wearing it with? How are they styling it? Observing our grand reflection, and being tapped into its pulse, is everything for me.

Jenny Bird Nova Orb Drops

Jenny Bird Nova Orb Drops

It’s 2025: what does your brand look like? What do you hope to accomplish by then?
WHOA. 10 years seems like 10 lifetimes in fashion. The Jenny Bird brand will still be an accessories-focused brand, but broadened to include such categories as eyewear, home, etc. I expect that we’ll be doing the majority of our business online, given how eComm is being adopted, and how our eComm has exploded. Customers don’t need to try on jewellery like they do clothing; online is our future.

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The Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards take place Saturday, Jan. 31. Visit throughout the week for more Q&As with the nominees!