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An Interview with Kathryn Bowen

15 Apr 2020

Established in Toronto, young designer Kathryn Bowen combines tradition and modernity to create acclaim-worthy clothing featuring very precise fits. Meet the incredibly talented creator.

What was your first experience with fashion?

Actually, it was through the women in my family. My great-grandma, my grandma, and mother all sewed, and my mom thought it was an important skill to teach me and my twin sister. She had no interest in it, but I really enjoyed it. It was hard work at the beginning, but through the process I got more and more interested in the details of garment-making and started reading fashion magazines. Then, it brought me to the Royal College of Fashion in London where I got to master it even more. I recently inherited my great-grandma’s sewing machine; it is passed on through generations and currently on display at my studio. 

When did you decide to launch your brand?

After graduating from the Royal College of Fashion in London, I started working for several London-based designers. I worked two years with Yang Li and I really enjoyed that experience. Through his brand, I learned about tailoring and European quality, and I would have stayed with him longer, but my visa ran out. When I returned to Canada, I didn’t want to work for any other designers as I couldn’t find the same excitement of twisting a classic garment into a fresh version of it in the Canadian fashion scene. So, I decided to start my own project.

My tailoring upholds a certain nuanced quality, there is a lot of details that stand out, a lot of versatility and adaptability. So, you can wear a garment in two or three different ways and play with it. 

I launched officially in 2018.  

What’s your favourite step in developing a collection?

The development stage, halfway through the research, when I make the prototypes and play with them. I am a very organized person so I expect the design process to be fast, but a lot of times, I will do five prototypes for one piece because I cut it and I recreate it ten times over. I like spending a lot of time fitting the garment, because it is the most important part of ensuring its longevity. Sustainability is a major concern in the fashion industry, using deadstock fabric is key but also creating a garment that will last longer than the deadstock itself. For me, creating long-lasting pieces is essential. 

Your main influence?

It is almost subconscious; I am looking at different sources for references but, most times, I have an Old-World approach to design in the way that I like referring to obsolete pieces of clothing. I am interested in old artifacts and antiques, things that were useful but no longer used by society. Returning to something that was once beautiful is a major source of inspiration for me. 

For the current quarantine situation: please recommend a recipe, a book and an album; if you feel like it or a mantra.

I have been cooking plant-based food for the past weeks and vegan chili is my favourite. I made it maybe four times in the last month, the secret is to cook the tofu separately from the chili and spend as much time baking it as the chili itself.

Mainly classic literature: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, Augustus by John Edward Williams.

I listen to a lot of classical music, artists like Wim Mertens and also cool alternative female artists like FKA Twigs and Grimes, those two combined will get me through the quarantine.

When I feel stuck, I very often think ‘’I am just going to run away’’ and I know it doesn’t sound very positive, but I start daydreaming about it for a bit and this respite helps me gain perspective and re-connect with the present in a more positive way.