Vancouver Fashion Week FW19 - Interview With Fashion Designer Grandy of Atelier Grandi

Runway Photography by Dale Rollings

Please share a bit about your journey to embrace fashion design as a career.

Back in 2009, I had left the financial sector, and taken some time to travel and figure out what I wanted to do. My degree is in business, but my whole life was also constantly engaged in a plethora of artistic activities. My left and right brains couldn’t come to an agreement on whether we enjoyed more creative or structured pursuits. As I traveled to wildly different places, an emerging constant was appreciation from strangers of my clothes - much of which I had designed and made myself. It became apparent to me that fashion design and entrepreneurship is an ideal combination of the artistic and the analytical. I had no official fashion schooling and very little insight into the industry. I had no idea what I was getting into. I just knew that my brand of dogged hard work and perseverance would lead somewhere.

How did you learn your skills? 

Growing up a slight person with mature taste, shopping was awkward. I was always being denied clothes I wanted due to size. In middle school, I figured out I could manipulate darts to make clothes fit better. The next year, I made a whole dress, then another, then very quickly, I realized I could make my own patterns, too. From there, it became a matter of continuously trying, learning, digging up resources, and doing it over and over again. When I decided to start on the fashion path, I made one dress a week and blogged about it, each week working on a new technique - in a sense building my own curriculum. I had done that for a year when Vancouver Fashion Week invited me to do my own show in 2014.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand?

Art and artistic ideas drive the majority of my design choices. Trained as a classical pianist from a young age meant I had a lot of early exposure to art and history. It taught me that you can’t have good design in a vacuum. When I design, I think about you and your world, how my pieces would help you express yourself in your life.
I don’t believe in designing for aesthetic’s sake. Every collection I design is steeped in its own concept and story — it’s the depth and authenticity that translate into a sophistication my audience picks up on. I’d say my lines are classic and timeless. The silhouettes are elegant, but stand out in a striking, artful way.

“Woman” is a rapidly changing concept in the daily progress towards global gender equality. In our march forward, my muse expresses her equality, not by androgynously blending in, but by openly embracing all it means to be feminine.

I design for the bold, sophisticated woman who has something to say — someone with such a compulsion to express her ideas that she has no time for standard, boring wardrobe. The GRANDI woman is creative, she is inquisitive, she is refined, and she uses her savoir vivre and stylish choices to ask provocative questions. She knows what her style is and doesn’t ask for anyone’s permission.

What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

It's all easy and tough at the same time - from conception, to production. No particular task is "hard" because I have the freedom to do whatever I want; no particular part is "easy" because it all involves colossal amounts of work. I think of the timeline of bringing a collection to fruition on a "fun curve", like an inverted bell curve - where it's most fun to develop a concept at the beginning and see it come alive at the end, and less fun in the marathon of production. The middle part takes some real grit.

Where do you find inspiration for new collections? How important is colour to your design process?

Again, it all starts from a place of artistic expression. I find power in that source because art says something about what it means to be human - it tells the story of our triumphs, our despair, and our evolution as a whole. These stories inspire me. The design process is about visually manifesting those ideas and expressions into a piece of clothing that allows the wearer to use it to convey her sense of self. Sometimes colours are important, sometimes their absence tells the story. I've designed both collections that vibrant with every hue, and stark in only black and white.

Readers would love to know more about the current collection you showed at Vancouver Fashion Week. Can you describe it for us - aesthetic, fabrics, palette, silhouettes, inspiration, etc.? I also loved the styling and would love to know where you came up with the idea and whose fabulous sunglasses the models were wearing.

It was inspired by the potential of a common pack of crayons to intrigue creative expression. The collection, Essential Colours, harnesses the power of classic silhouettes and elementary colours to create bold, stand-out looks. Crayons are so simple and accessible, yet in different hands, they can tell wildly different stories. Wardrobe staples parallel in their simplicity, yet with different wearers, you have the freedom to style it bold, fun, or quirky, or any which personality you want to express about yourself.

I wanted to extend this freedom of expression to every aspect of my runway show - in styling, in accessories, in attitude. I drew some styling inspiration from a dance scene in an old Tim Curry movie. The eye wear is custom designed specifically for this GRANDI collection, by Toronto-based studio Black Iris. They specialize in these fabulously bejeweled pieces, packed with just the vibe I wanted to bring to the show.

As for the tiny party hats, well, it wouldn't be a real party without tiny, glittery party hats.

Do you have a favorite look in this collection?

I'm probably partial to the pink and the red looks, but don't tell the other pieces. Overall, I think the white and the two blues actually got the best responses from the audience.

Where can readers purchase your designs?

I sell through my online store, We also do regular pop-up shops and trunk shows year round, and the best way to stay in touch with that is via our social media accounts.

What's next for you as a designer and your brand?

One thing I enjoy about this business is you never know where your opportunities will take you. I’ve had the chance to showcase pieces at some pretty incredible places all over the world — in Tokyo, Cannes, L.A., at home — and am very much looking forward to the next. The big goal now is to actively make our pieces more accessible to more people by approaching boutiques and other avenues of sale.

What advice do you have for young fashion artists just beginning their journey to become designers?

Have a vision, stick like hell to your guns, and surround yourself with good people. I promise you it will be an extraordinary journey, and much, much harder than you imagine.

Live it, don't dream it.

Links -
Website -
Facebook  - Atelier Grandi
Instagram - @atelier_grandi