In the latest installment of Industry Insider we chat with Shawna Robinson, one half of clothing brand Label. She reveals her favourite spots in NYC, the inspiration behind the Toronto-based sustainable collection, and how she recently reacted to seeing Anna Wintour while visiting the Vogue offices.
Working in fashion for the past 5 years, Shawna Robinson, who buckles down with partner Natalie Sydoruk to create the sustainable clothing line aptly called Label, is a lovely redhead, who majored in art history and political theory at Western University, and who naturally gets a little nervous when brushing past one of the most influential women in fashion. “I saw Anna Wintour getting into an elevator,” Robinson tells us of her recent trip to New York City, where Label held meetings with editor’s from Nylon and, of course, Vogue. “It was like seeing Keith Richards. I started hyperventilating and I had to turn my head so that she wouldn’t see me freaking out,” she laughs. “She had her sunglasses on, her bob. It was like seeing her out of a picture.” Despite that brief moment of jitters, Robinson, who admits she gets dressed in the morning based on her mood, is the picture of well-versed fashion maven and industry insider when we chat about inspiration, style and how the fashion world in Canada has helped Label grow from a t-shirt collection to a mainstay in the fashion week calendar.
Whether on site or off during Toronto Fashion Week (Label has had great success with both types of shows!), the brand largely came out of necessity. “We’re very pragmatic in the sense that we look at our own wardrobes and we ask people that we know that we think have good style, ‘What are you missing in your wardrobe?’ ‘What piece would you need to tie some things together?’” Robinson says of her and Sydoruk’s style quest. “That’s why we call them building blocks for your wardrobe.” Maintaining an eye for fashionable basics, while trying to keep in mind the environment, is where Label may be ahead of its time. “We try to position ourselves as a sustainable brand without being overly eco about it, because we’re designers, first and foremost, and we want to create something that’s great,” postures Robinson. “So if we can’t find a fabric that works, whether it’s not holding up well, or it’s not the right colour, we’ll choose something that’s maybe not within our frame work. We don’t say that we’re exclusively eco fabrics, but we’re probably about 80 percent sustainable and natural fibres,” she says, while also mentioning that the brand makes use of strategic cuts and uniquely works with any scraps in order to cut costs as well as doing a good deed for Mother Nature.
Now working on Label’s 5th collection, Robinson admits to being a lover of Alexander Wang, Stella McCartney, Jeremy Laing and Erdem Moralioglu. “I really admire lines like Erdem, even though it’s completely not my style,” she tells us. “It’s great to look at all his prints and see these really awesome, girly party dresses. He’s able to do that same thing that defines him season after season, but really reinvent himself each time, and that’s really inspirational from a design perspective.” And while Robinson tells us most of Label’s inspiration comes from sourcing fabrics, the brand’s modern, clean esthetic is still a work in progress. “We’re so new that we’re still trying to find exactly who we are,” says Robinson, who loves The Bowery neighbourhood in NYC, and who sights the Brooklyn Flea and United Bamboo as favourite places to visit while she’s there on business. “[Our aim is] that when you look at a collection, you’ll know that it’s Label without even seeing the name, but yet it won’t be a redundant repetition of last season.” With their Fall 2012 collection once more full of basics every girl would want in her wardrobe, we have a feeling the brand isn’t as far off as their humble musings suggest.