With a head of ringlets and horn-rimmed frames, designer Jeremy Laing is a famous face on the streets of Toronto.
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One of the few Canadian designers still firmly planted in the city, he manages to reach an international audience mixing structure and movement whilst maintaining an underlying sensuality that has become the DNA of his design aesthetic. Educated in fashion design both in Toronto and at Westminster in London and also completing an apprenticeship at Alexander McQueen, his completely made-in-Canada collection takes quality construction and use of innovative fabrics to another dimension, using stretchy velvet, mouton knits and mohair coatings. This season Jeremy showed his FW12 collection on his turf for the very first time as part of off-site Toronto Fashion Week, where he chatted with i-D online about his city, the Dries Van Noten lifestyle and RuPaul’s Drag Race…
Why did you decide to start showing outside of Canada at the beginning of your career? Pragmatically, the space was there. But in terms of the bigger picture, I’ve always been inspired by that kind of Antwerp model of life where where you enjoy your rose garden and ride your bike to work and then take the train with your collection to Paris Fashion Week. It made sense in terms of attracting an international market. How many dresses am I going to sell as an unknown kid in Canada versus you know, maybe I can get some buyers from around the world to pay attention and so in terms of building a business, export from the start was what made sense. I like dropping in and then peace-ing out.
Describe your city in 5 words… On the verge either way.
Toronto could either go way up from here or collapse under condos. It’s definitely at the point where there’s something happening but it could go either way, partly because people keep leaving and there’s never that critical mass. People always leave because there isn’t the money here for new ideas, or the infrastructure to support young talent. But for things like art and music, there are all kinds of people who are still firmly planted here, whose work is reaching critical and important audiences around the world. If enough of them stay, who knows?
What has been your proudest moment so far as a designer? I don’t really allow myself any. I mean, every season has been the best, which feels like I’m going in the right direction. There’s nothing to be proud of really. You just keep on going because you’re eternally dissatisfied.
Who or what inspires you the most? In terms of my business, definitely that Belgian thing is what I would aspire to. If I could be Dries Van Noten in 20 years I would be pretty happy. I hope he’s happy because from the outside it looks like that’s a business and a world that makes a lot of sense. There’s a lot of integrity there, a lot of self-determination, a strong point of view. All those things are important to me as a creator.
What you do you hope to achieve in the next five years? I’d love to do some menswear. I’m getting bored of my wardrobe.
Who do you like to wear personally? Well I’m wearing vintage Margiela and Attachment, which is a Japanese menswear line, and some Ann D boots. I wear a lot of those Alternative Apparel linen t-shirts under everything and a lot of Raf Simons. I have a thing for the coats he does.
What are you most thankful for? My husband. He keeps me in line.
What’s the best thing you’ve seen recently? I really loved Latrice Royale on RuPaul’s Drag Race. She’s everything.
Text and Styling: Hazel Ong
Photography: Karen Roze
Hair and Make-up: Vittorio
Models: Penelope and Bryce at Elite and Sydney at Elmer Olsen
All clothing Jeremy Laing. Shoes Celine and Givenchy at Holt Renfrew