Jennifer Waters, 36
Toronto native Jennifer Waters doesn't have any formal fashion training, but that hasn't kept her from pursuing her dream. Last year, she launched her first clothing line, House of Groves. She named the line in honour of her grandmother, whose maiden name was Groves.
Pursuit of happiness
Groves' equestrian-style collection, called Pursuit, blurs the lines between masculine and feminine as Waters pairs top hats and tailcoats with ruffled lace blouses and full pleated skirts.
A novel idea
"I pictured all the pieces being worn by Linda Radlett, the main character in Nancy Mitford's novel The Pursuit of Love, during a weekend house party in the English countryside."
"An old T-shirt that I have had since I was eight. I can't get rid of it!"
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Hayley Gibson, 31
Victoria-born Hayley Gibson never liked to shop for new clothes or follow the trends. In fact, she planned to exit the fashion world in an anti-fashion blaze of glory by presenting a graduating collection at Ryerson University that she felt was not very commercial. But fate intervened after Holt Renfrew offered to display that same collection in its Bloor Street store window in Toronto. "I never thought I would continue," she says.
Cotton-twill dresses in muted colours dominated the collection's catwalk debut. The finishing touch? Rouched stockings and bowler hats with chin straps to hold slackened jaws closed. "The collection is a requiem for teenagers who died in car accidents."
For the birds
Her line, Birds of North America, is serious yet quirky - like her! "I name each design after a bird," she says. "So far, I've managed to avoid the hoary redpoll and the booby."
Fashion faux pas
"One-size-too-small MC Hammer pants."
Paris Li and her line, She, on the next page...
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Paris Li, 29
Paris Li was going to be a painter until she fell under fashion's spell while at Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in China. "The passion overtook me," she says.
Called She, Li's collection is an ode to the Hollywood heroines of the 1940s, with a little medieval military thrown in. Picture sleek, fur-trimmed dresses, shiny poly pencil pants and structured metal-buttoned jackets. "The woman who wears my clothes is strong and independent, has confidence and wants to wear something unique," says Li.
"A woman should make sure that one thing she is wearing stands out. It could be her shoes, her glasses, even her eye makeup - something strong that attracts attention."
"Traditional Chinese pyjama pants in red floral cotton. I loved them!"
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Justine Diener, 26, & Kristin Poon, 28
Justine Diener and Kristin Poon became fast friends at university, where they discovered a shared love of vintage lingerie. This served as the foundation for a contemporary underwear-as-outerwear line called Diepo - an amalgamation of the pair's last names. "We aim to create clothing that makes women feel empowered and sexy using classic feminine shapes that flatter a large range of body types," says Diener, who hails from Regina, Saskatchewan.
True to Diepo's credo, the daywear collection showcases lingerie-inspired looks in chiffon and silk, complete with garters and bust-shaping bras. "It's for the woman who is comfortable with her body," says Poon, who's originally from Mississauga, Ontario.
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Fashion faux pas
"A red fluffy dress. It makes me look like I¹m on Dancing With the Stars," says Diener. Adds Poon: "Lime-green fake-crocodile pointy pumps."
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