Androgyny chic is predicted as a big fashion trend for next fall, but Cinthya Chalifoux has been following men's wear tailoring for years.
The Montreal fashion designer, a native of Sorel-Tracy, Que., has consistently applied tailoring techniques associated with men's clothing to the women's apparel she makes and sells under her own CIN Tailleurs label, launched in her adopted city in 2009.
Calling herself a tailor inspired by haute-couture fashion, Chalifoux creates meticulously crafted pieces cut from her own patterns and made from the finest materials: silk, cashmere, cotton and wool. Each garment takes 30 hours, on average, to make and is based on precise measurements of the wearer's body to ensure an exact fit.
A typical collection runs the gamut of equestrian-style jackets to sharply cut blouses and floor-length gowns, whose slim-fitted silhouettes derive from the Savile Row tradition of made-to-measure men's wear.
"After learning the craftsmanship behind men's tailoring, I was inspired to want to use that skill by transferring it to couture dressing for women," says the 28-year-old designer, who learned to sew at the hands of her grandmothers before studying pattern development and tailoring at L'École des métiers des Faubourgs-de-Montréal, starting at 18.
"Couture evening gowns have been an obsession of mine from a very young age; I always wanted to dress women," says the francophone, who runs her business with fellow designer Maria Karimi.
Silkscreen prints, hand-loomed weaves and jewellery pieces produced by teams of Montreal artisans heighten the status of each garment as one-of-a-kind.
The objective is not to dress women like men, but to allow them the option of high-quality, custom-designed clothing created for the urban woman of today.
"The woman who works for a living in a suit doesn't want to look like a man," Chalifoux emphasizes. "She wants a sophisticated look that can carry her from her day job through to the evening."
Other women obviously agree with her. Demand for her designs is growing. Last September, she opened her first retail store, CIN Tailleurs, on Saint Denis Street in Montreal, where she caters to women for whom well-tailored garments are always in fashion. Among her latest clients? Men.
"I started by designing women's wear, but now men are asking me to cut for them," she says. "It only makes sense to design for them as well. To us it definitely is a culture, a way of buying and wearing unique, one-of-a-kind pieces."