Sharp presents a three-part series of interviews with Canadian tastemakers, over a bottle of Peroni at their favourite venues. In part one, we sit down with Canadian fashion designer Philip Sparks at The Rushton, in Toronto, to discuss style, inspiration, and summertime relaxation.
Video: Bob Barrett
Editing: Richard Keating
Photos: Paul Koziorowski
Sharp: Tell me about your outfit.
Philip Sparks: This is from my spring collection. It’s a wool gauze blazer; it’s like nice suede. It’s a four seasons kind of piece that we made as something you could pick up earlier in the season and wear through the spring and again in the fall. I’ve always loved plaid and I think it comes through in it. It shows in all the collections.
Sharp: Yeah, the linen fabric is beautiful.
Sharp: Where is that made?
PS: It’s all made in Toronto. We do the majority of the work from our studio, and we work with some local contractors who do pieces of the work and put it all together. It comes back to us for finishing quality control. And we send it out!
SHARP: So, where do you find are your most reliable sources of inspirations for your designs?
PS: The most reliable sources for my inspirations would be vintage photographs and vintage pieces. I stay on top of what’s happening in terms of trends and fashion, but I tend not to look there for inspiration. I’ll go and do my own research looking back at different periods in history and pulling my own inspirations.
SHARP: Which periods in particular do you find particularly appealing?
PS: I would say I’m always going back to the 50’s, and I’m always going back to the 30’s. Occasionally, for men’s wear, I’ll go back to the turn of the century, 1900’s, 1920’s.
SHARP: Summer is around the corner, do you have any favourite past times, apart from picnicking on the island and drinking on a patio?
PS: There are a lot of markets and antique shops where we find photographs, and old books. All different bits of reference. We’re always renting a car and heading out to the city for those types of affairs.
SHARP: So, even when you’re doing the things you enjoy most in the summer, it’s about your work?
PS: Yeah it is. What I do is an integral part of my life. I enjoy every aspect of it and the more I’m doing inspires my work.
SHARP: Do you have any other creative job that you would like to do?
PS: I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I think that if I did do anything else, it would always involve making clothing, in any shape or form. I really like to work on my projects, develop them independently. I could see myself working on other collaborative projects with other people, like in costumes, be it film or television, theatre.
SHARP: Are you finding you’re getting more attention; are people are starting to clue in more?
PS: Yeah, definitely! We’re starting to see people wearing the clothing on the street, which is one of the most rewarding things to me, to see a stranger wearing the clothes on the street.
SHARP: Do you ever go up to them and say, hey, that’s my shirt!
PS: No, I like to be quiet about it and just notice that it’s happened.
SHARP: So, where do you get your inspiration from for your collections?
PS: Most of the inspiration for collections comes from vintage photos, vintage finds, antique markets, flea markets. I enjoy rummaging through vintage stores and finding those pieces that have something really great about them but are just sort of off for modern day, and its great reworking those pieces. Finding a photo that’s got a great suit or great silhouette for a dress, working from there is a great starting point.
SHARP: Is there one sort of vintage photo or book that sort of really stands out as an amazing discovery for you?
PS: I’m always looking for references that are convenient, which is a bit harder to find. One of the most inspiring books I have is a collection of William Notman photographs. He’s a Canadian photographer.
SHARP: Why is the Canadian angle so important to you?
PS: In terms of the research, it’s a fresher take. It’s harder to come by than say American imagery or British imagery. There’s a very unique combination of American and British as well as something that makes it very Canadian.