Montreal based fashion designer Eugenia Leavitt creates the most wonderful cocktail dresses made from organic fabrics like silk, cotton, hemp, and bamboo. Her careful attention to detail, construction and cut make Leavitt's designs both timeless and ultra sophisticated. I picked Eugenia's brain about fashion, her process, and her business.
1. What is your vision with the dresses you create? What do you believe sets you apart from other contemporary designers?
I would say my main loves are fashion, art and all things handmade. I try to combine these when designing. Right now, my main focus now is making organic cocktail wear (made in Canada). I usually imagine a dress as piece of art that I'm making. Ideally I would spend days and days on one dress and cover it with embroidery and beading.
2. For the past few years, lots of designers seem to be looking to the past for inspiration, and creating lots of retro fashions. How do you feel about this endless recycling in contemporary fashion? Do you think designers should be so reliant on the past for new design ideas, or should they be looking elsewhere for inspiration?
I don't think anyone can help recycling from the past in some way. Even if they try to do something completely new and different it's a rejection of the past so it's still a comment on it. I do think that if a designer is looking to the past for inspiration, they should add something of the present and of themselves to that inspiration to make their work unique.
3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In 5 years, I would like my custom/ready to wear business to have grown. To have my line carried in stores across Canada and some internationally. I'd like to create some of the fabrics I use (ie design the patterns, for woven and printed fabrics, I'd like to get into natural dyes as well). I envision my atelier like a laboratory, with people experimenting with sewing, embellishing, dyeing and printing. I would also have a few more kids and somehow spend a lot of time with them, their dad and keep up with the business!!
4. What are the up and downsides to being a designer of high-end fashion in a city like Montreal?
In Montreal, people seem to be more open to fashion and are looking to have a personal style which is great. On the other hand, the market for high-end is relatively small compared to bigger cities. It would be really hard to make it selling clothing only in Montreal unfortunately. I love working and living in Montreal. It's also more affordable to have a studio here and to live here than in other places.
5. Describe your ideal woman and/or customer. If you could dress anyone past or present, who would it be?
My ideal lady appreciates fashion as art. She enjoys fine details in clothing and looks out for original pieces. I would love to dress someone like Charlotte Gainsbourg (there's something intriguing about her, maybe it's her Father!), Lesley Feist and maybe Michelle Obama!
6. Describe your creative process.
I usually start with a lot of ideas and then narrow them down, trying to make a collection cohesive. I definitely like to choose the fabric I want to use before I get settled on a design idea. Figuring out a collection, usually involves a few duds, the designs I end up using and then some ideas to save for later. I love doing things with my hands, so I can't seem to get away from some detail that takes a long time and will cost a lot to produce!
7. Who are some of your favorite designers- local, or elsewhere?
Locally, I love Renata Morales. I also really appreciate Dries Van Noten for his fabrics and Balenciaga for his innovative designs
8. So many women's fashion designers are men. Do you think a man can ever truly understand a woman's body, mentality, or needs when it comes to dressing? Do you think being a woman making clothing for other women gives you an advantage and insight?
I heard someone say, that men designers can stick to a particular customer for their brand more easily because they are not wanting to dress themselves. Women designers maybe can't help thinking about what they would want to wear. When men designers talk about the women they design for, it usually comes down to the female form and being sexy. These are definitely not bad things, but perhaps a woman designer takes much more into account when designing. Not necessarily more in terms of depth, but the many different aspects about being a woman, she can't help it! For me, not matter what I do, my designs are very feminine. I guess it's a part of me and I can't escape it!
For more examples of Eugenia's work, please visit her website at www.eugeniadesigns.com