I discovered Simple Smiles & co. at Fashion Art Toronto a few weeks ago – their runway show was one that stuck in my head throughout the whole week. I loved the use of chunky knits, chains and of course, the live violinist playing alongside prancing models.
Designer Katherine Phan successfully destroyed any stereotype of knitting being for old grannies and actually made it look really cool. “Life can be a whirl wind of events. When I knit it reminds me that simplest things can bring you joy,” says Katherine.
I’m even thinking of digging out my needles and yarn – even though the only thing I’ve ever been able to knit is a straight forward and very basic scarf.
The Lady-like Leopard: When did you decide you wanted to be a fashion designer?
This was something that evolved over time. I have always loved using my hands to create, whether it be baking, wood working, jewelry or knitting, ect. With my mother being a seamstress, I really took an interest in textiles and I just kept challenging myself to make bigger and bigger pieces.
The Lady-like Leopard: Where did you get your inspiration from?
Adventures. I love traveling and trying new experiences. I find inspiration usually comes when I take chances and try something new.
The Lady-like Leopard: What is your favourite part about working in the fashion industry?
My favourite part is working with other creatives. It takes so many different talents to complete one project. I love seeing a project come to life.
The Lady-like Leopard: What was it like collaborating with Sainte Genovefa for Formal Rebellion?
Collaborating with Jen was incredible! I really wanted to change the perception of knitting and show an edgy avant-garde approach. Having had to construct most of our pieces separately we were over joyed with the result. All ten looks were started and finished by hand and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner who understood the challenge of creating our proposed looks by hand.
The Lady-like Leopard: Which designer would you most like to collaborate with in the future?
Ooooo that is tough. I have a loooong list of people that inspire me that I would love to one day collaborate with. Locally I have a few people that I have reached out to and it is a bit of a secret, so hopefully you will see more projects come out soon. I love working outside of my comfort zone, so I am really open to collaborating across all platforms. However within fashion I would love to work with Eugenia Kim. I love her style and I love that her brand of hats is stylish with a bit of whimsy.
The Lady-like Leopard: What do you do first: choose fabrics or design the garments?
It is a little bit of both, I need the inspiration or a theme to work with and then I need to research the fabrics (or in my case yarn). Just like fabric, there are TONS of different types of yarn and each will have different tensions, gauge and stretch which is all important for the desired look. Everything kind of builds on each other there might be certain yarns that might inspire a piece as well.
The Lady-like Leopard: How do you calm your nerves before a big fashion show?
I don’t think that there is a calm before the show. The best part is the rush, the craziness and the sense of not knowing whats going to happen. A good friend told me before the show: “If you’re not nervous then your dreams aren’t big enough”.
For more about Katherine Phan and Simple Smiles & co. visit her website at www.simplesmiles.ca.