Eye on the prize: Emerging designers vying for $30,000 in Mercedes Benz Start Up

By , on October 18, 2015


(Photo from Mercedes-Benz Start Up's website)
(Photo from Mercedes-Benz Start Up’s website)

TORONTO – Six emerging Canadian labels will be vying for the top prize at Mercedes-Benz Start Up, an annual contest for up-and-coming homegrown talents.

They’re competing for a lucrative prize package which includes a $30,000 bursary and a fully produced runway show during at Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week next March.

Here’s a look at the designers heading to the runway for the competition finale on Tuesday.

Designer: Nikki Wirthensohn

Label: Narces

Location: Toronto

Their line in a line: “It’s an eveningwear line that specializes in special occasion… but at the same time it’s meant to suit the different lifestyles of a confident, strong, sensual woman and really fit into their multifaceted lifestyles.”

Plans for the prize: Wirthensohn has already established a red carpet presence, with “Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) among those seen in her creations.

The designer is hoping to be able to direct part of her potential winnings to helping broaden exposure for Narces.

“We do find our growth has come from our dresses being at certain events, on certain people. That gets the word out in terms of our line and it gets the recognition. At this point we need to further that. This will give us an opportunity for us to actually have a team on the ground when we are doing PR for a red carpet that we can make those changes…

“The other part that we see that’s going to be important for us is our online business to really make an upgrade to our online platform.”

Designers: Jose Manuel St-Jacques and Simon Belanger

Label: UNTTLD

Location: Montreal

Their line in a line: “We’ve got key words that we hang onto,” said Belanger. “Unique, personality, some sense of craftmanship and a sense of history of where we come from and where we’re going.”

Plans for the prize: “Here in Quebec, we have a good following, but we’re trying to grow our business within all of Canada,” said Belanger. “We just got an agent in Toronto, and with part of the money what we would like to do is organize trunk shows with retailers that we’d like to partner with in the rest of Canada…

“We would like really to open a boutique our own store so that we can do some direct selling because for designers it’s very difficult to survive only on wholesale.”

Designer: Spencer Badu

Label: S.P. Badu

Location: From Toronto, but attending school in Calgary

Their line in a line: “I’d say there’s a futuristic, minimalist approach to it,” Badu said of his unisex label. “We like to focus on detail, but the main idea of the brand is to corrupt the conservative connotation of gender and perception of how a man or woman can dress.”

Plans for the prize: “Being an emerging brand, there’s a lot of things that money factors into in terms of creation and reproduction and employees and equipment; so that money could just help elevate everything we’re currently doing.”

“Currently I’m in school, so the first thing would be a space to work out of. And then I would say production is the most important thing for us. It really comes down to the clothes.”

“Right now, it’s mainly me. I do everything from pattern drafting to sewing samples to sketching and designing,” he added. “I have people to help me out here and there, but when I graduate, I’m going to be looking to expand the team.”

Designer: Daniel Beaudet

Label: Leinad Beaudet

Location: Montreal

Their line in a line: “Eccentric minimalism,” said Beaudet. “ The whole background or core of my collection the starting point is always related to Quebec because I live in Quebec… And it always plays on our history, our culture.”

Plans for the prize: “I want to use a part of it to participate in a trade show in New York. That’s my biggest ambition. For the rest, I’d like to use it to create a financial cushion, to have a bigger line of credit and help get future investment and financing.”

Designer: Laura Siegel

Label: Laura Siegel

Location: Toronto

Their line in a line: “I collaborate with artisans in rural villages around the world to sustain culture through craft.”

Plans for the prize: “We don’t have any funds to spend on marketing right now, so that would be great. But at the same time, things are looking good for our spring-summer ‘16 orders, so I guess we’ll probably need that to go towards production because that’s going to be larger than it usually is, which is a good thing.”

Designers: Chloe and Parris Gordon

Label: Beaufille

Location: Toronto

Their line in a line: “Our brand Beaufille means ‘handsome girl,’ and it’s a line about the cross between masculine and feminine, hard and soft, edgy and romantic. We try to encapsulate that ethos in everything we make,” said Parris of the sister duo’s made-in-Canada collection.

“Because both of our backgrounds are kind of different – Parris being in jewelry design and metalsmithing, and myself textiles and fashion – we always wanted to merge those two and have evidence of decoration or metal or hardware on the garments to tie the two collections together,” added Chloe.

Plans for the prize: “Within Canada, there’s not a lot of funding for the arts period, especially with fashion. It’s a struggle for any Canadian designer to have enough cash flow to stay afloat,” said Chloe.

“Right now, we’ve had a really good year in terms of sales and getting a lot of new doors on board. Part of that money would really help us be able to facilitate those orders.”

“Really, it just goes back into the cash flow for a business like ours. For what we do as well, we have to spend money on production about six to eight months before ever receiving it back from the store. That’s definitely something any new business needs and something we definitely need because we’re definitely in the growth period of our business. For us right now, the cash is pretty essential to even just continuing what we’ve started.”