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Shining a Light on Notable Fashion Zone Creators!

Over the years, we at the Fashion Zone have witnessed and had the opportunity to support several amazing, driven members in the Fashion Zone family. This February, we wanted to highlight 5 of these talented and inspiring creators in our community.
February 08, 2022
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From student programs to incubators, the Fashion Zone has seen and proudly supported several notable individuals, teams, and companies throughout the past few years. We wanted to shine a light on 5 of these creators and share each of their inspiring stories.

Creator Spotlight

Imani Busby

Imani Busby of Toronto’s Manifesto

In the month of June, the RISE Program was launched for an 8-week period where we supported a diverse group of 10 teams and 24 students, who participated in 8 events and over 125 advisor and mentor hours. This virtual incubation program helped support young entrepreneurs to experience the journey of building a business in the creative industries. One of the notable participants of the first cohort is Imani Busby, a second-year Creative Industries student. Imani joined the cohort with Micaela Schaefer to create an ethical, size-inclusive, and sustainable brand that blends art with streetwear fashion called “Social Construct”. Social Construct, focused on a product line with sizes ranging from 0 to 40 that allowed for comfort and ease of wear regardless of ability. 

Imani’s work in and out of the RISE Programs Intersects Art, Fashion and Activism in work. While developing “Social Construct' Imani used the knowledge acquired from the RISE program (Specifically the Customer Discovery Leanings) to scale her other brands Toronto’s Manifesto and Curated by Imani. Co-founded with Chelsea Martin, Toronto’s Manifesto (external link)  seeks to uplift Canadian Black & Indigenous Communities, through sharing stories of BIPOC history and advocating for change. Her art brand, Curated by Imani, (external link)  has led her to collaborate with Fashion Zone graduate Wuxly Movement (external link) . She developed a custom design for their Doe V Parka - Imani Busby  (external link) where she focused on her Caribbean heritage and activism, quoting “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know that we were the seeds.” 

Imani continues to push the boundaries of the standards of Art and Fashion. The RISE Program was able to help her achieve “critical hands-on entrepreneurial experience and has allowed me to connect with inspiring entrepreneurs and artists across the GTA and country. I am so thankful for my experience with the FZ and for all the knowledge Zone faculty, members, and mentors have willingly shared with me. I’m so excited to see what the future holds for inclusive and sustainable fashion!”

Corrine A

Corrine Anestopoulos of BIKO

BIKO is a modern jewellery brand designed and hand-crafted with love in Toronto, Canada. Inspired by nature, contemporary art, architecture and travel, BIKO is known for its high level of craftsmanship, luxe materials and playful aesthetic. Corrine Anestopoulos, Ryerson alumni of the New Media Program (2005), graduated and built BIKO after one successful sample sale. Fast forward 16 years, Corrine & BIKO have collaborated with retailers such as Nordstrom and Hudson's Bay, celebrities such as M.I.A. and Bianca Andreescu, and international brands such as Mattel for Barbie's 60th Anniversary. BIKO focuses on giving back through partnerships with charitable organizations, such as Rethink Breast Cancer and is a three-time nominee for the Canadian Arts & Fashion Award (CAFA) in the category of Accessory Designer of the Year (2018-2020). 

When BIKO joined the Zone in April 2020, their wholesale business (70% of total sales) disappeared as the pandemic took hold of the world. With decreased demand, Corrine had to let their staff go and become a one-woman show. Still, Corrine took the opportunity to learn and grow by joining the Ryerson Fashion Zone to connect with like-minded individuals and work with business advisors. Corrine’s goal? To help further develop BIKO's digital marketing and overall growth strategy. Covid-19 became BIKO's opportunity to pivot and connect with their community in new, meaningful ways. Corrine launched a Daily Hero Instagram series highlighting the courage and strength of healthcare workers. The Daily hero campaign was covered by CAFA News & FASHION Magazine; this organic campaign focused on giving back; however, the authentic gesture from the heart increased both online sales and brand awareness. 

In fall 2020, Biko was accepted into the Creative recovery cohort Accelerator program, where she worked on a fully-realized digital marketing campaign and online marketing plan of action. Here, Corrine met weekly with nine other start-up founders, received over 30 hours of strategic business advisory from the program lead, attended over 25 one-on-one sessions with our Digital Marketing Entrepreneur in Residence and spent countless hours prepping for not one, but two investor pitches! Fast forward one year, and e-commerce now accounts for 70% of BIKO's sales, and they are well on the road to recovery. The Fashion Zone community helped Corrine gain confidence in their pitch and better understand their business from the inside out. Corrine's future goals are to continue to work on the business and less in the business, to re-hire a studio team and individuals to continue optimizing for strategic growth, and to grow further into the American wholesale and DTC markets.

Christine T

Christine Tienkamp of SS River Designs

Christine Tienkamp is a member of the first cohort of the Fashion Zone’s Indigenous Fashion Support (IFS) program. She arrived at the IFS having started SS River Designs; offering Art-to-wear beadwork printed clothing to the Métis community in St Louis Saskatchewan.  Christine sought the help of Fashion Zone to grow her business by expanding her offering and extending her reach. 

SS River designs start with traditional hand beadwork inspired by the local landscape. Christine uses photos of this work as the basis for prints applied to premade garments and to develop custom printed fabric for Cut and Sew clothing. The fabric would be printed using dye sublimation. She has found two firms willing to print fabric; one in Korea and one in Vancouver and is leaning towards the latter. Working with Christine was an early test of whether the Fashion Zone could deliver product development support virtually and an opportunity to extend our reach geographically. Pattern making at the Fashion Zone usually starts with members’ patterns, which are then digitized, revised and graded using PAD System (computer-aided design software for apparel). With SS River the pattern work started with a Zoom chat and an email. Our digital pattern technician worked from Christine’s scanned sketches to create a pattern using the software. Revisions took place by video call, and the patterns were delivered using a Canada Post fixed rate box. 

Christine enjoyed being part of the Fashion Zone community and appreciated being in a space where everyone could share ideas. Working with advisors Andrea Romero, Justine Woods and Riley Kucherian she developed a Brand Story, learned about product categories and worked on defining her competitive advantage.

Nadine W

Nadine Woods of Mayana Genevière

Mayana Genevière is a fast-growing luxury lingerie start-up that’s powered by a small and passionate team. Women-owned and operated, this social enterprise produces all of their undergarments ethically using sustainable fabrics in their own factory in Toronto.

Nadine Woods, founder of Mayana Genevière believes their company has effectively pivoted in such a short amount of time, adding masks along with their ethically made line of luxury undergarments to their product list. Featured in our Lemonade Cohort 2, Nadine explains her perspective of how the pivot has changed consumers' buying habits, “People are really starting to wake up with everything that's happening in this world right now. People are really focused on overconsumption at this time, and I think people are really recognizing that they can edit how they consume, whether on social media or how and where products are produced”. 

Having a story to tell for these products being produced is crucial and what consumers are starting to look for. Moving forward, Mayana Geneviere would like to prioritize brand awareness and relationship building. With everything being virtual, there is this automatic disconnect where we may not feel the same energy we might from an in person panel. At Mayana Geneviére, their ethically made luxury undergarments and focus on postpartum recovery, is the story and purpose that drives their business!

Emefa K

Emefa Kuadey of israella KOBLA

israella KOBLA was launched in 2019 by British born Ghanaian designer Emefa Kuadey, the luxury made-to-order clothing and accessories brand redefines minimalism through structure and bold femininity. Prior to the pandemic, israella KOBLA was occupied with setting up their wholesale business, meeting with manufacturers, and was getting ready to launch. This was their first reveal to the world, and founder Emefa was beyond excited to debut their collection on the runways of Vancouver Fashion Week. Previously, the brand focused on special occasion garments, but this pandemic encouraged Emefa to take a step back to re-evaluate her business model. Upon this re-evaluation, israella KOBLA has pivoted into a made-to-order business in order to increase their sustainability and create a more organic connection with customers, and also to add face masks to the product line.

In September 2020, israella KOBLA joined Recovery Cohort 1 & 2 in January 2021. According to Emefa, the main appeal of the Recovery Cohort program was being provided with different input and insights about how to rethink your business during a time of uncertainty. Having this access to programming, advisors, and a welcoming community of entrepreneurs allows for exposure to different perspectives that can contribute to israella KOBLA growth as a company. 

Since joining the RC1 & 2, israella KOBLA have participated in several pitch competitions, are now sold on The Bay, and have dropped a new collection.