Tuesday, July 19, 2022


By Lisa Doherty

Canada's Unique & Inclusive Emerging Designers

Photos: Aille Design, DEE SILKIE / @asianwithacamera, OOOBABY, KQK

It is no surprise that the fashion industry has faced its share of unforeseen challenges over the last couple of years. In particular, the often overlooked Canadian fashion enterprise has had to work a little harder to keep their head above water. The last two and a half years have raised new challenges for designers but have also raised more awareness than ever to the provocations that they had faced prior to the pandemic. With the Canadian fashion industry always trying to prove their talent as a force to be reckoned with around the world, some designers are feeling motivated now more than ever, especially for those who are fresh faces in the industry.

More recently, diversity has become a pinnacle in fashion, as designers are now absorbing the value in implementing more inclusive approaches to their collections by working with, and listening to the wants, needs and concerns of consumers. Whether it’s sustainability, cultural inclusivity, or gender-neutral approaches, designers are bringing more and more innovative work to the table every day. Canada’s designers are no exception. The difference is that Canadian designers maintain a quiet confidence as they navigate an industry where they are trying to make their mark and be taken seriously both domestically and GLOBALLY. They need to be seen and celebrated. Their work needs to be valued around the world. There is a wealth of talent in Canada that goes unnoticed and under-appreciated.

The unique designers that we had the pleasure to interview are only some of the talented creatives in our diverse country. They, as well as many other industry professionals need our support in order to catapult them to the forefront of the Global fashion industry. In an interview, we at Fashion Studio Magazine asked: What is their unique vision for their brand? What do they have to offer the rest of the world? We also asked them about the unique challenges they have had to face leading up to where they are today, in particular over the last two years. Here’s what they had to say.


Alexa Jovanovic, known as The Braille Fashion Designer, works with the blind and visually impaired community to create fashion pieces with fully legible braille. Her emerging designer brand Aille Design (pronounced: eye) is on the leading edge of how inclusive practices and co-design processes are shaping the way that fashion is evolving. Aille Design wants to help normalize the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all areas of fashion, from clothing design and modeling to accessible shopping environments and digital spaces. Customers love that braille fashion pieces are empowering, and also serve as a conversation starter to build awareness about what it means to “look” or “feel” blind.

Photo courtesy of Aille Design

A challenge often faced in inclusive fashion is designing pieces that can be worn by the average consumer, as well as individuals with disabilities. Bringing inclusive fashion to the mainstream is key to reducing stigma, and celebrating our differences. For Aille Design’s latest piece, they decided to focus on colour, one of the biggest misconceptions of how blind and visually impaired people perceive fashion. The braille on their new blue dress design will describe the colour blue from multiple perspectives of individuals from the blind and visually impaired community. The goal of this piece is to showcase how blindness is a spectrum and fashion is felt, not seen. Created to be enjoyed by all audiences, the blue dress is bold, covered in braille, and makes a fashion statement you can feel.


Through a combination of various creative techniques and classic tailoring, KQK is mainly defined by its craftsmanship and artistry. In each new collection, the brand works on introducing new fabric manipulations by reusing and recycling any type of material and fabric scraps that they can find. Building upon values of a sustainable circular economy, everything KQK creates is unique, one of a kind, and made to last a lifetime. More recently, they also started introducing ceramic work, which has now become an integral part of the brand. The dialogue between both fashion and ceramic has helped as well reinforcing the organic language of KQK.

Photo courtesy of KQK

The pandemic most definitely made us all rethink as an industry how to develop more sustainable habits in our practice and how to educate the public toward more conscious consumption habits as well. This can be a challenge for brands in the sustainable fashion industry at any time. However, leading a fashion brand upon these values also has other challenges; a more important one being the economic aspect. Purchasing a piece from a sustainable brand might appear more costly to a consumer at first view, when compared to other larger brands, but it comes down once again to the consumption education that we must focus on.

Photo courtesy of KQK


Great design affects us in many ways from housing, to furniture, fashion and more! As a Canadian Handbag Designer, OOOBABY wanted to design beautiful leather multi-purpose quality handbags focused on functionality, organization and affordable luxury. The brand’s mission is primarily to have women feel supported and empowered by the functionality of each bag. When women wear the OOOBABY brand, the designer wants them to feel stylish, classy and elegant. OOOBABY wants them to feel socially conscious about wearing a quality bag that is timeless in style. To the brand, that is what makes great design. Each collection is handmade in small batches by artisans with premium Italian leather. As a slow fashion label, the OOOBABY sophisticated, minimalistic designs encourage the wearer to own a high-quality bag that lasts.

Photo courtesy of OOOBABY

As a three-year young company at the time the Covid-19 pandemic hit, OOOBABY’s momentum building was interrupted tremendously. All their events and shows were canceled. This is a large aspect of the exposure a young brand needs to build. Women weren’t going out anymore. Women really didn’t need a new handbag to carry from the living room to the home office. The designers also endured manufacturer closures, backlogged orders, and increased costs, all of which are virtually unsustainable for any up and coming brand. Despite these challenges, the lockdowns enabled OOOBABY to spend more time on designing additional styles to add to their collection. Now that the label is back up and running stronger than ever, they are seeing the light and the future looks bright!

Photos courtesy of OOOBABY


DEE SILKIE is a Canadian conceptual and artistic outerwear designer based out of Toronto, who has a passion not just for creating coats that keep us warm throughout the treacherous Canadian winters, but her individual pieces and designs are geared towards telling a story. While inspiring consumers through colour, passion for sustainability, and wearable art, Dee has created some noteworthy coats that are sure to turn heads and spark conversation. Take the confetti coat, one of DEE SILKIE OUTERWEAR’s staple pieces. It is meant to bring vibrant colour and brightness to the dull winter months. Its happy neon colours and flirtatious patterns are striking to the eye. And while, we all typically lean towards darker, more subdued colours for the winter months, maybe the confetti coat is the “Vitamin DEE” we all need during these times. One of the most unique and artistic items the brand has created is the MONEY COAT. It literally has money in it. Two-Thousand dollars to be exact. The story behind the money coat is both inspiring and motivating. With Canadian designers not eligible to receive funding for their creations, the money coat was made to bring awareness to this fact, as well as to bring attention to raising money for designers to pursue their passion and creative outlets. While practicality is an important focus for the brand when it comes to creating coats, the message behind them is what sets DEE SILKIE apart from the rest.

Photo: @asianwithacamera

As an emerging brand with a passion for sustainability, DEE SILKIE OUTERWEAR like other designers, has found the lack of consumer knowledge around the topic a challenge. This was a prominent inspiration for the creation of the Confetti Coat i.e. to avoid “throwing the word sustainability around like confetti”. “The word sustainability can be muddied and a different conversation for everyone.” The brand stands by the importance of both designers and consumers truly understanding and caring about what sustainability means.

Photo: @asianwithacamera

While the last few years have been challenging for Canadian designers to catapult themselves to the top of the fashion industry, they continue to persevere and share their talent and creativity without giving up. All of these brands are in the thick of creating new concepts, art, and wearable trends that we can all support and get behind. We must wear our Canadian Brands proud.

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