What can I say about Andrew Coimbra? He’s a boy that I met back when we were just wee young things as little Minor Niners in the halls of Harbord Collegiate in the Annex. One of my most vivid memories of Andrew at that time is of him wearing a great pair of ultra-fitted denim overalls, Adidas shell toes, and holding a portrait he drew of the late R&B singer, Aaliyah. Oddly, this feature on Andrew (a passionate fan) goes live on the 13th anniversary of the young singer’s tragic death.
On a more positive note, I caught up with Andrew shortly after his debut menswear collection hit the runway at Toronto’s first-ever men’s fashion week, TOM*. Having watched Andrew’s foray into fashion over the past (eek!) 10 years (his resume includes his first line, Sushi Clothing, working for Canadian brands Pink Tartan and Philip Sparks, and a recent internship in NYC with Proenza Schouler) I was ecstatic to see his refreshing and sophisticated SS15 collection of his namesake label. Luckily for us ladies, all pieces are “gender flexible” as he puts it.
Here’s what Andrew had to say about his collection, TOM*, and being a menswear designer in Canada:
GC: Tell me about your new collection, what was the inspiration?
AC: I went through a personal exploration into Canadian identity and art. Influenced by one of my favourite artists, I set about rediscovering works by the Group of Seven, who have particularly shaped the way Canadians view and interpret their country. Specific pieces I was drawn to were “Afternoon Sun Lake Superior” by Lawren Harris, and “Patterned Hillside” by Franklin H Johnston.
Further inspired by the works of photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, I used Google Maps to find the location that Harris painted his work of art, and took a portion of that area to create the base for the print.The depths of the lake were used as points of difference and value. I then took colours directly from Johnston’s piece to give a fresh life to the new print.
The result is a repeat that can be regarded as grains in a piece of wood, flecks of paint in an oil painting, or the varied textures in a piece of marble. I really enjoy the outcome as it feels ambiguous – like camouflage – which echoes the idea around identity exploration. Whether used as a tool to hide or be exposed; it is entirely up to the viewer, as well as the person wearing the pattern.
GC: What was your experience like participating in the first ever Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOM*)?
AC: The experience was good! Like anything new, there were a lot of things to navigate, and back-and-forth communication to make sure information was clear, but that was managed incredibly by the team. They really did work tirelessly to make the best event they could, and I think they did. Every event or thing has to start somewhere, and I think that they managed to harness a lot of really great elements that helped set the bar pretty high for the inaugural event.
GC: What is your take on the menswear scene in Toronto, and in Canada?
AC: The menswear scene in Toronto is at this very subtle turning point – and it has been for a couple of years now. Other major cities, internationally, have shifted and broadened their creative spectrum, and it’s proving to be successful/appealing, so now – in very typical Toronto fashion (no pun intended) – Toronto feels comfortable enough to take that plunge and really explore their more fashionable/bold side.
Canada in general is a very humble country, and I think that extends itself to fashion sensibilities. The risk factor involved in supporting a designer that isn’t as easily recognizable in brand name is so high that it constantly keeps the market at a stalemate, and with standard menswear brands continuing to push the same aesthetic, the menswear scene can only expand so much, with that sort of consumer practice.
GC: Where do you hope to see yourself as a designer in the next 5 years?
AC: In the next 5 years I would love to have my label be a strong representative of Canadian talent, on an international scale; carried in various retailers worldwide, whether in a physical retail store, or online. I think that is a major factor in turning Canadian perspective on fashion, and international perspective on Canada.
GC: What are some of the highs and lows of being a Canadian menswear based in Toronto?
AC: Some of the highlights about being a menswear designer based in Toronto would be the ability to create a great network of friends who are creative and passionate about their careers, and interesting in helping eachother go forward.
A low would easily be that the access to a broad variety of fabrics, trimmings, and notions, is not really an option. You’re reduced to whatever is available in a small selection of shops, and that can really make you feel like your creativity is stifled.
GC: Is your line unisex at all? Can the fits work for women too?
AC: Actually, it’s funny that you ask that. I always think about ways to make my pieces be as gender-flexible as possible, while still maintaining a “masculine” appeal, and it’s rather easy, since most garments that don’t have bust (and in most cases hip) darts are easily gender neutral. This collection is no exception. The jackets are cropped to a little higher than the natural waist on a man, which makes it different for a male silhouette, but fitting for a woman’s. The draped t-shirts are a lightweight jersey that can easily be worn by either gender, and a style trousers and shorts have an elasticized waistband in the back, so a woman’s hips can be accommodated.
GC: Can we ever expect to see Womenswear from you in the future?
AC: I really enjoy womenswear and I am tempted to say yes (let’s be real; I’m saying yes.) but in the meantime, I really think it’s important to solidify my brand in one arena, before branching out too soon, and over-saturating.
GC: Where and how can your new collection be purchased?
AC: I’m working on getting buyers at recognizable retailers interested in this collection, but depending on how that is received, I am highly contemplating a retail platform for international accessibility.
For more from Andrew Coimbra, visit his tumblr page HERE!