Philip Sparks is one of Canada's most admired mensewear designers. With 3 past collections under his belt and SS09 just presented at a Gen Art fashion presentation in New York during Fashion Week, Sparks grounds his collections in Canadian fundamentals. With yellow and grey as the hero colors of his latest collection - he knows how to create classic menswear with a subtle twist. With an ongoing partnership with Canadian retail giant Town Shoes, and an "accidental" home collection to his name, this 26 year old gave us the rundown on what he has been up to lately. (yb)
Photo credit: Deborah Wang
Name: Philip Sparks
How did you get into fashion? I started sewing on my mother's sewing machine when I was 16. I just wasn't happy with the clothing available to me in small town Ontario.
How does Canadian culture influence your creations? Canadian culture is really influencing my collection moving forward. We are doing a lot of research right now into traditional Canadian costumes like blanket coats and fur accessories.
You recently introduced a home collection. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
The home collection was accidental. After last spring?s production was finished, I had a bit of fabric left over. I made a couple sets of off cut napkins, where one edge is the raw shape leftover from where we cut out a sleeve or chest panel. Some friends offered to sell them in their boutique, MADE, and they sold out in a day. I
continued to produce them until we ran out of fabric. There are tailored blankets and cushions made of wool suitings and coatings for fall.
Any formal training? I graduated from Seneca College's Fashion Arts Program in 2003.
What have you been working on recently? We have done most of the sourcing for fall 2009 and are in the process of pulling together the last bits of inspiration to begin our sampling for next season.
I noticed you arent showing during Toronto Fashion Week (as you have in the past). Why did you decide not to present this year? I've been very blessed on the marketing side of the business so I decided to put all of my efforts this season into sales. While I was in New York during market in July, I was asked to show with Gen Art during New York Fashion week so I broke my no fashion show rule. We may still do something during Toronto's fashion week though since a lot of people here who have supported me didn't get a chance to come to New York to see the show.
Any other collaboration in the works? I work with Town Shoes on an ongoing bases. We produce a new collection of Philip Sparks shoes each season. I'm also working with Choreographer Christopher House on costuming a piece for Toronto Dance Theatre due to open this November.
What inspires you? Everything. But my favorite inspirations come from old photographs and vintage pieces found in flea markets.
How would you describe your personal style? I like to mix up old and new. I really enjoy finding vintage pieces and mixing them into a modern wardrobe. It keeps things balanced and interesting.
How was the Gen Art show in New York? The Gen Art show was a great experience, great exposure and great contacts. It really opened my eyes as to how to take my business to the next level. It made the idea of putting on my own show there more of a reality and a lot less overwhelming.
What can we expect for SS09? What inspired the collection? Spring 2009 is inspired by 1950's high school guys: the greasers, the preps, the jocks and the nerds. I wanted to keep the collection very minimal so I limited the number of fabrics I used. I chose suiting that could also translate into shirtings and jackets; we even used covered buttons in the same materials, all in a monochromatic palate of pale grey with pops of yellow.
You mentioned you are picking fabrics for FW09. What have you been working with thus far? We are still trying to finalize everything. Without giving too much away, I will say that there is going to be a lot of pattern.
Key items every guy should have in their closet? Every guy needs to have a well-tailored winter coat, one with a bold pattern in dark colours, and don't forget about some really warm winter accessories. Our fall pieces are mufflers, collars and mittens in natural brown and black beaver fur.