During World Mastercard Fashion Week in Toronto, I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the Toronto Fashion Incubator‘s Press and Buyer’s Brunch. The Toronto Fashion Incubator is an amazing organization that nurtures emerging and independent designers in the Canadian fashion industry. The Press and Buyer’s Brunch was a wonderful way to connect with many of these great design talents in an intimate venue. One of the labels that I totally fell for was Bernice and Barclay. With their beautifully tailored pieces that are both feminine and fun, the perfect mix of ladylike dresses and separates in fun and bold prints, I instantly knew that they would be one of the standouts of the day. The passionate and super sweet design duo behind the label, Lori and James, walked me through the line and I quickly starting plotting how I’d get one of their dresses into my wardrobe. Mark my words darlings… it will happen, but in the interim, here’s a peek into the Bernice and Barclay design world.
What inspired you to launch Bernice and Barclay?
Lori: James and I had both been working in the fashion industry for a while and we were ready to start something for ourselves. I think I was holding back on doing it by myself because I knew how much work it would be to do it on my own. It’s one thing to design a collection – but there is a whole entire other side of it as well. Even with the two of us, staying on top of designing, production, promoting and sales – it’s a challenge to get it all done. James and I got to talking and with both of our backgrounds combined, we had enough experience to start a line. I think what really inspired our brand was the name. It is both of our middle names. We loved it because we wanted a company that represents “being fashion” but we didn’t want it to be stuffy. We think the name shows both the sophistication and the little bit of quirkiness and fun we have in our collections.
James: Bernice and Barclay was launched by Lori and I because we both love fashion. The timing in both of our lives just seemed right to launch our label as we were both looking for new challenges and wanted to offer something new to the Canadian fashion landscape.
Are there any challenges to designing as a duo?
L: I haven’t found it very challenging to design with James because I think we both know where our strengths lie and we both have complimentary skills. We wouldn’t put out a piece that one of us isn’t ready to stand behind- so we will either cut the piece from the collection or bring it back to the drawing board until we are both happy. We aren’t afraid to voice our opinions so sometimes we get in little scraps – but we get over it quickly!
J: We both have our own preferences and esthetics so sometimes that can be a bit of a challenge. In the end we usually create something that embodies both of our tastes, and people seem to like it! We don’t have a tendency to argue, it’s more like a really good debate!
Are there any advantages to designing as a duo?
L: I think the the advantages outweigh the disadvantages greatly. When you work in a team, you have a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and you have someone that will critique you honestly – because their name is on it as well. When you work alone, you can get stuck in your own head and limit yourself, but when you are a duo; you have someone to push you past your own limits.
J:Absolutely! Lori and I are able to divide and conquer as we both have different strengths. Working with a partner helps alleviate some of the stress and workload.
Who are your style icons?
L: That’s hard because I go through phases all the time – An obvious one that came out in our Summer collection is Bridgette Bardot- But it ranges from Katherine Hepburn to Audrey- I also have always have modern day ones like Kate Middleton – she always looks so put together but not stuffy – and Gwen Stefani – I would like to have her wardrobe.
J:My style icons include Deborah Harry from Blondie in the 1970’s-80’s, Bianca Jagger (the Mick years), and Coco Chanel (forever).
Who is the Bernice and Barclay woman?
L: This weekend we had a pop-up shop; and it was the first time we’ve been able to really meet our customers. What I learned is that the Bernice & Barclay woman is someone who looks for, and knows good quality and appreciates style. They want their wardrobe to reflect their personalities. We got a big response to our collection because our dresses have a really beautiful base to build their own look upon.
J:She’s a no nonsense woman who doesn’t have forty-five minutes deciding what she should wear in the morning. The Bernice & Barclay woman wants to reach into her closet for her go to dress, throw on a great cut blazer, grab her favorite pair of heels, and get to the office to kick some ass. Later she has plans to meet her friends after work, she’ll ditch her blazer, throw on a sexy shade of lipstick, and during the course of the evening break a few hearts. At least that’s my version of the Bernice and Barclay woman.
Where can one buy the collection?
Our collection is always available on our online store www.berniceandbarclay.com. We are also at Viens Avec Moi in Ottawa and Fresh Collection in Toronto. We would also like to start having pop up shops in different cities. We had one this weekend in Ottawa and it was really fun and great to see our customers react to the clothes.
What was the inspiration for your current collection?
L: Our FW Collection that is currently available was inspired by the simple elegance of Kate Middleton and the edgy look of Debbie Harry. James and I put together mood boards separately and when we combined both ideas, the collection ‘Rocking Royalty’ came about. I think that’s what set the tone for our overall look- “Edgy Sophistication”
J: Lori and I were influenced by new wave punk goddess Deborah Harry and the demure lady like style of Kate Middleton. I know it sounds a stretch, but the melding of these two icons contributed to the inspiration of our Fall/Winter Collection, Rocking Royalty.
What are some of your must have items to stay fashionable during the winter months?
L: If you live in Canada, the definite must have item would have to be the either the Debbie or the Kate Chalet Knit Sweater Dress – they are so warm. We made extra long sleeves that go past your hands so it looks extra nice and keeps you warm. The Debbie Sweater Dress is more form fitting and the Kate Sweater dress is fuller on the top. Both of them are great because you can dress it up to go out, or for work – or wear it with biker boots and wear it casual.
J:From our collection I’d suggest the cozy Chalet Knit Kate Sweater worn with statement leggings and a killer pair of boots! Our Pixel Print Dress is another favorite of mine that is stylish, and will aid in banishing the January blahs!