From bags to bijoux, Canuck accessories are nonpareil, as this fall’s collections amply show. Here are three great lines – and the unique talents behind their creation
From knitting metal to local leather handbags: Meet Canada's accessories queens (and king)
Accessories designer Maryam Keyhani wears one of her sharp-edged metal necklaces in her Toronto studio.Jaclyn Locke
Designer Maryam Keyhani
Artful, original and elusive by turns, the necklaces designed by Maryam Keyhani of Toronto could easily be regarded as wearable Rorschach tests. Are those, for instance, the throat grooves of a blue whale or the pleats of a mushroom in the folds of her silk organza pieces? And do the sharp, gold-plated brass appendages of her metal ones resemble fangs or claws?
“I have always been interested in how different materials behave, how you can make silk look rigid and strong and do the exact opposite with metal,” says Keyhani, who studied sculpture before launching her namesake accessories line, currently being sold at Holt Renfrew in Canada and at top shops around the world, in 2011.
This counterintuitive approach produces designs with such impact that an outfit will often cede the spotlight.
“I wear a lot of classic-shape clothes, so I wanted [to create accessories] that would give a sense of putting something exciting on,” says the Tehran-born designer who moved to Canada when she was 13.
Maryam Keyhani's pieces often incorporate brightly coloured silks.Jaclyn Lock
Her necklaces, all of which are sewn and pleated by hand in Toronto, are as light on the body as they are boldly accented. Betraying her artistic background, the jade, daffodil and cerulean silks that curl around her collars evoke such colour masters as Matisse and Kandinsky (not to mention her father, painter Mostafa Keyhani). And like a great piece of art, her works transcend both trends and time. “I imagine them being passed on,” she says.
Next up for the designer: a small line of hats, which won’t be much of a stretch, as hats have been her style trademark for more than a decade.
“I have wanted to do hats for so long,” she says. Paging Dr. Rorschach. – Amy Verner
Arielle de Pinto applies knitting techniques to a popular line of jewellery.Jaclyn Locke
Designer Arielle de Pinto
While jewellery designer Arielle de Pinto’s business may have been born of ennui, the pieces she fashions are anything but dull. The Montreal-based designer, who crochets delicate metal chains into enduring statement jewellery, first took up knitting while attending Concordia University.
“I was bored, it was freezing and I had a lot of time to learn the techniques,” she says over the phone from New York, to which she frequently flies for work. “I ... became determined to make fabric out of metal and it took me almost a year to learn how to manipulate it – it was a lot of work!” It still is: The designer makes all of her own samples in her Rosemont studio by hand, then has a team of young women personally trained by her handle production. The latter has become a necessity now that her company, launched in 2007, has started expanding. Initially, de Pinto’s line consisted of necklaces, then incorporated hair combs, rings and earrings. Most recently, footwear has been added.
“[Shoes were] just the next thing I wanted to make,” says de Pinto, who launched a stacked-foam platform and elastic crochet sandal with the art collective LVMM this summer.
Designer Arielle de Pinto often pairs crocheted metal chains with larger chunks to create strikingly modern necklaces.Jaclyn Locke
Another collaboration will bear fruit this fall, when the footwear she has created with designer Simona Vanth is released. The offerings – including a stellar pair of intergalactic-looking metallic boots – feature de Pinto’s signature metalwork.
“We succeeded in making some very glamorous shoes that are so comfortable,” she says. “I was so lucky to be able to do both casual, fun shoes with LVMM and then the most luxurious of ‘jewellery shoes’ with Simona.”
And she isn’t stopping there.
“At this point, we have so much to elaborate on – some incredible new shoe bases and hardware for LVMM, a weave that looks like tiger and zebra skin for my own Atelier jewellery line.”
Boredom, it seems, is no longer a problem. – Tiyana Grulovic
Martin and Ela Aldorsson are gaining growing acclaim for their Ela collection of clutches, totes and other bags.Jaclyn Locke
Designers Martin and Ela Aldorsson
It seems only fitting that Ela and Martin Aldorsson, the newlyweds behind the hot handbag label Ela, should be expounding on the notion of what they call “humble luxury” from their sparse yet stylish space in small-town Ontario.
“We’d rather have fewer but well-made [possessions] over [having] a lot of things,” says Martin, whose philosophy is reflected in the couple’s warm but minimal set-up in Paris, Ont. and pervades the understated yet finely crafted line of leather goods the duo launched last year. “The whole notion of humble luxury comes from an idea of not upstaging the wearer, to design something with an attention to detail but with not a lot of bling on it.”
Having met in England while she was working in sales at Burberry and he toiled in advertising, the couple developed the concept for the brand after noticing what they perceived was a lack of good design at accessible prices.
The idea to make handbags in particular came naturally to her; the line’s self-taught designer, Ela has always been drawn to accessories.
“From designing jewellery when I was a teenager” to stints for Hermès in Toronto (where she “fell in love with the bags and craftsmanship” while working in the PR office) and then Burberry in London, “the interest was always there and I just learned more and more about it.”
The M.I.L.C.K. clutch, shown in a variety of hues, has become a signature of handbag label Ela.Jaclyn Locke
The brand’s DNA is evident in the M.I.L.C.K. clutch (meant to contain money, ID, lipstick, cellphone and keys); the small envelope has become a signature, its asymmetrical flap and looped closure now defining totes and more.
For fall, Ela is introducing a slim “editor’s pouch” that further reflects the couple’s pared-down lifestyle. “When I’m out and about, I just put all my goodies in here,” Ela says, picking up the mirrored metallic leather version.
“It’s all about downsizing,” the designer adds, but doing it “beautifully and simply.” - Tiyana Grulovic