It might surprise you to learn that the stylist-turned-designer behind Toronto-based premium denim brand, Pretty Denim, rarely used to wear, let alone even own a pair of jeans before creating a line of her own. But it’s from this very vantage point that gave Tahnee Lloyd-Smith the perfect eye for creating denim that’s anything but ordinary.
Pretty Denim is very much the fashion-lover’s denim brand. Her debut collection plays with traditional silhouettes and styles of a utilitarian fabric in order to create spectacular, stand-out pieces that can hang hem-to-hem with luxury labels. Now, with a second capsule collection underway, Pretty Denim are poised to be a sophisticated staple in your wardrobe for years to come.
We chat with Tahnee about her brand, how she got here and what’s next.
Business Name: Pretty Denim
Name & Title: Founder and Creative Director, Tahnee Lloyd-Smith
Edit Seven: Tell us about your brand.
Tahnee Lloyd-Smith: Pretty Denim is a denim brand that I created out of a desire for more elevated jeans and denim pieces. I want Pretty Denim to be a kind of armour that you can put on feel more confident. Our latest collection is really a blank canvas for you—all we’re providing is the best possible base for you to stand out.
E7: How did you start your business?
TL: I never really gravitated towards denim until I tried on this one pair from Zara that were super high-waisted and embellished with pearls along the front and sides. I bought them, wore them and thought, this is such a cool concept—why isn’t everyone wearing these fun, elevated jeans? At the same time I was working on another fashion project and it went south. But from that experience I had this whole new bank of knowledge about manufacturing and production—basically the school of hard knocks for starting a fashion label—plus this new idea of creating elevated denim so I said, you know what, I’m going to put all this knowledge and creative inspiration to work and really do this!
E7: What were the challenges or realizations you had along the way?
TL: There were a lot of challenges for sure. For one, I didn’t go to school to learn the fundamentals of clothing construction, I was a stylist before so I had to learn to rely on and trust other people to help me in different areas. For example my sidekick, and seamstress Annie is amazing—she essentially reigns in all my crazy ideas into what’s physically possible to construct.
E7: Who or what inspires you and your collections?
TL: My Grand Mere was so inspiring in the sense of reminding me that I am—we all are—these beautiful sculptures who walk through the world, so remember to stand tall, have pride, carry confidence and dress well. She had a real sense of the importance of having respect for others and for yourself.
My husband is another source of inspiration. As a person he’s incredible and fantastic, but his physical wardrobe too is so stylish and minimalistic. I’ve totally borrowed his button-ups to wear with great jeans and a good heel. I’m definitely inspired by that masculine simplicity and I love bringing that interplay to not only my own wardrobe but to the brand.
E7: How does your second collection compare to your first?
TL: My first baby [collection] are all statement pieces, and I truly love them, but coming into this new collection I almost went back to the drawing board. Day-to-day I’m quite the minimalist and I wanted to create something that reflected that. Everything is still highly-tailored and really elevated, but it’s more in the subtleties now—rather than a statement fringe or sparkle, it’s in how we use colours, and in the feel of the brushed fabric.
I think it also speaks to the business, and conscious-consumer side of me—I want you to wear these pieces year round and not just for a one-off event. My dream would be to have someone find one of our jackets in a thrift store 30 years from now and still wear it. So I really created a capsule collection in the hopes of having that longevity and promoting smart consumer choices.
E7: How does sustainability fit into your brand?
TL: When I started my business I made a mandate that we will always produce in Canada, no matter how big we get. I didn’t do this just to slap on a sustainable label, I really wanted to bring business back—We were once the largest denim producer in the world, and being Canadian I’m proud of this history.
On the production side, there’s a lot we do to minimize environmental impact: We don’t use stretch denim or pre-shrink our jeans, we source our fabric from North America, we have home-sewers over factories, even my personal travel footprint is small, I mean, I walk to my sewers.
E7: How do you stay grounded and balanced?
TL: I know it’s easier said than done, but I really try not to worry about stuff—I always put it into perspective, and think in the grand scheme of life, is this what’s going to take up my energy? Life is too easy to call it stressful when I live in a first-world country. It absolutely has hard moments, I’ve sat on the floor and cried, it’s not all roses and daisies, but you can work through it.
E7: Is there anyone you’d love to see wear your designs?
TL: Yes, Katie Holmes! She has such an effortless style. And I like her from the little I know. Everything she wears it looks like she just threw it on and it landed perfectly, and the girl loves a good jean. I feel like if she’s out in something she genuinely went in her closet and picked it out to wear.
E7: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
TL: Sounds cliché, but if you don’t believe in it, like truly believe, then no one else will. When you believe deeply you wake up earlier in the morning, you stay up later at night, you work a little harder. Even when you struggle or get discouraged you’ll never not believe in the idea.
Visit PrettyDenim.com to shop now!
(Story by Contributing Editor, Sarah Dziedzic)