When the Toronto Fashion Incubator hosted its annual New Labels competition this week, the whoops and hollers from the audience during finalist Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks’ show nearly drowned out the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack. The cheers belonged to the Ontario yarn farmers—key players in Deaven-Smiltnieks’ line of plush knitwear and cozy separates made with locally sourced textiles. You can image the noise levels when Peggy Sue Collection was awarded the title of best new label. “Thanks for making me feel like dreaming is ok,” said the teary eyed Deaven-Smiltnieks as she accepted her prize. We caught up with the designer backstage moments before the show, here’s what she had to say.

“The Alpaca is from Sault Sainte Marie and Palmerston, which is two hours from where I live in Milton. The wool in the collection is from Orangeville. I have a hand-weaver is in Toronto. It’s a pretty neat cross-section of our local artisans.”

“I had 12 looks and the judges layered everything up and whittled it down to 8 and a half. Their critiques freed up room for me to create some new pieces that I had wanted to do, but didn’t have room for. I was able to develop jumpers and some beautiful flared sweater pants. It was pretty serendipitous, actually.”

“The overarching message of the collection is ‘look what we can do locally and traceably!’ The neat thing is that a lot of the people who made this collection possible – the farmers and the weavers – are here tonight. They were a little scared to come to a fashion show, so I went to each of their houses and dressed them and helped them get ready. They’re totally out of their element but they’re braving it for me.”

“I grew up in L.A and studied at The Rhode Island School of Design. I graduated during the recession, at a time when nobody wanted to hire a fine artist. So I moved to New York and worked in mass market fashion, which was totally not creative. I got really good at spreadsheets! My husband is Canadian and we saw the way that Canadians are so willing to have conversations about traceability and protecting green spaces, I wanted to be a part of this voice. Our move to Milton was the best move we could have made. It’s the center from which I communicate with all of my farmers or go into the city. We couldn’t have planned it better if we tried. Sometimes you just luck into it.”

See every look from Peggy Sue Collection below:


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