Eco-friendly chic

“The use of natural materials and being eco-conscious has always been a preoccupation of mine,” explains Sylvia Cohen, a Concordia graduate who recently started her own signature company.

Her simplistic collections are environmentally friendly, as the designer favours the use of eco-fabrics like organic cotton, bamboo, tencel and silk in her garments.

Cohen’s first collection came just after graduating from Concordia with degrees in both visual arts and fashion design.

“My experience at Concordia was great. These were the best years of my student life,” she explains. “I started with a BFA in visual arts, my first passion, then I went back to study fashion design, which had always been a great interest.”

Cohen says she chose to study fashion at Concordia rather than other fashion schools, “because I thought the approach was smarter and more relevant to the real fashion industry. There was more content and less fluff.”

Eco-friendly designs have always been important to her, but Cohen found that environmental awareness in fashion was less important to her employers. “I tried to convince previous employers to use eco-fabrics, but price and availability made it difficult to remain profitable,” she says.

So she decided to start her own company that would highlight the use of environmentally-friendly materials. Her label is now based in Montreal, she has a sales office in Toronto, and all of her designs are made and produced in Canada.

“The aesthetic of my brand is laid back, avant-garde chic, feminine but not girly,” she says, describing the designs as “fluid shapes that enhance the body while always comfortable.”

The wearability of her garments is a key component to her collection, along with her use of colour. The autumn/winter 2012 collection deliberately employs classic and neutral tones to pay homage to the Earth as our natural creator. But, to add a unique flare to the collection, “volume is created through fabric manipulation, pleat work and mixed media. Delicate surfaces, lace and flashes of leather and sequins are blended with soft jerseys” says her website.

And, in standard Cohen fashion, all of the clothes are made with a perfect symmetry, balance and with organic fabrics.

Like many artists, Cohen finds inspiration in everything she does. Life itself provides inspiration for her garments and collections, with everyday and extraordinary things, finding their way into her brain and sticking with her through the creative process of designing her clothing.

“I find inspiration on the street, on the Internet, couture runways, movies [and] blogs,” she says. Her designs reflect the everyday woman in the sense that they are ready-to-wear for many occasions, but also reflect a woman who is environmentally conscious, body conscious and style conscious.

“Highly functional, yet effortlessly edgy wardrobe items include feminine tops and asymmetric dresses in body skimming jerseys and silks. A combination of soft and hard result in pieces made to be worn,” she says.

For example, the most recent Sylvia Cohen collection is “inspired by organic shapes and ‘90s minimalism, the collection is influenced by Japanese design with an urban edge,” according to her website.

“My clientele is a confident woman who likes to stand out in a quiet way, and who appreciates quality and sustainability,” says Cohen. “Finding the balance between fabric, form and advocating pure style while maintaining a sense of well-being is the delicate motivation behind the Sylvia Cohen collections.”

Looking to the future, she hopes to continue to bring her environmentally friendly and fashionable label to even greater successes. In five years, she says, “I hope to find the right customers for my products and possibly the right partners to help with distribution and financing.”

With a style that ranges from edgy to sporty, Cohen creates clothes to feel free and comfortable in, while making a visual impact.


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