TORONTO – Fresh off of a successful showcase in Paris, Canadian label Greta Constantine is marking a major milestone on the Toronto runway while also envisioning new ways to expand the brand.
Designers Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong are celebrating a decade at the helm of their luxurious womenswear label, whose moniker combines the names of Wong’s mother, Greta, with that of Pickersgill’s grandfather, Constantine.
Greta Constantine will close out fall-winter presentations at Toronto Fashion Week on Friday. They’re also among the womenswear nominees in contention for the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards being handed out April 15.
Wong said they’d love to venture into the accessories and lifestyles arenas in the future, but the duo also remains focused on the present as they reflect upon their anniversary milestone.
“It’s pretty significant for any company, I think, to hit a 10-year mark,” Wong said seated alongside Pickersgill at their spacious downtown Toronto studio, with rolling racks of colourful dresses punctuating the space.
“But being a fashion business in the fashion industry in Canada specifically… it’s a much smaller market here, and it’s that much more difficult to establish yourself enough to last 10 years.”
Making the journey abroad wasn’t initially a part of the plan, but the duo acknowledged that it became a necessity given the limitations of the homegrown market.
“You get to a point where you’ve gotten as big as you can within your own country… And in order to grow, you have to go elsewhere, spread out your wings in the rest of the world,” said Wong.
The duo have been dubbed “Jersey Boys” after initially establishing their name in creating designs fashioned from the soft, elastic knit fabric. But as the label evolved, so too did their inventory of materials and their embrace of more structure in their designs.
They’ve cultivated a high-wattage clientele list along the way, dressing Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Hudson and Victoria Beckham as well as homegrown notables including supermodel Coco Rocha, actor-director Sarah Polley and “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany.
Wong started his career in Toronto as a costume designer for Susan Dicks & Co., designing clothes for films including “American Psycho,” “Chicago” and “Hairspray.” Pickersgill was previously based in Milan and has worked for international designers including the U.K.’s Neil Barrett and Canadian-helmed label Dsquared2.
“One of the reasons these guys were so successful is that they didn’t start their brand when they were 20 (years old) coming out of school. They started it later in the game when they had really deep and strong experience,” said Bernadette Morra, editor-in-chief of Fashion Magazine.
“That gave them not only the skills that they needed to create fabulous, women-friendly clothing, but it also gave them time to really think about what their place was going to be in the business… what they could bring to the international fashion scene that was unique, that did not exist, and how they could build that brand to stand out in the great sea of fashion brands in this world.”
Pickersgill said he and Wong are “basically cut from the same cloth,’ and feed upon each other’s creativity.
“We both don’t have any formal fashion school training, so we went away and found our own training and I think that all came together.”
“That helps us to create the company and make it bigger. And again, there’s no rules. There’s nothing holding us back.”