When fashion and architecture collide

Photo by Sophia Loffreda

Fashion Week in September always seems to hold an unsettling feeling that comes with the change in season. Just as we are about ready to embrace our felted fedoras and wool ponchos, fashion designers tease us with next year’s spring/summer collection of bright colours and fresh fabrics.

With this seasonal change in fashion trends comes the wardrobe revamp — a process that could be both time-consuming and dizzying. Thankfully, there are designers who believe practicality does not have to suffer at the hands of style.

Toronto-based designer Rachel Sin understands this need for comfort and versatility all too well. Her eponymous clothing line is designed for the “want-to-do-it-all woman” — a woman in need of key pieces that will not only help her transition from one season to another, but more importantly, from work to cocktail hour.

Devoted to the vision of a confident and feminine woman, Sin’s spring/summer 2013 collection is flirty, sophisticated and tailored to a woman’s curves. She showcased her collection on Sept. 7 at the new home of Montreal Fashion Week, the industrial-chic Arsenal art centre.

Aside from seasonal body-hugging dresses that are naturally alluring, Sin has taken the pantsuit and pencil skirt and added a touch of flare that will surely make heads turn.

With the leading ladies of Mad Men in mind, Sin had her models dressed in ’50s-inspired style, strutting on the catwalk to Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking.”

While looking to trends from past decades is common among designers, Sin goes beyond fashion and taps into her architectural training, giving her a unique edge in the fashion world. With a Master’s degree in architecture from Carleton University, Sin searches for inspiration from eye-catching and elegantly designed architectural spaces.

“Careful attention to detail and precise tailoring comes from the natural tendency in architecture to make all things better with good design,” said Sin. “If architecture must always be functional, then fashion should be wearable.”

Sin spent her university years studying and interning as an architect by day and taking sewing classes by night. While fashion design was always a career she wanted to pursue, she did not think studying fashion was necessary. Sin gives credit to her architectural training and keen eye to detail for her success in fashion design.

“As an architect, you learn to open your eyes and pay attention to everyday details,” she said.

Photo by Sophia Loffreda

For her spring/summer collection, Sin was inspired by the iconic Farnsworth House designed by one of her favourite architects, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Built in the late ’40s, the house was ahead of its time, uncluttered and framed with glass and industrial steel. The idea was to allow the viewer to experience self-exposure to the outside natural world all the while feeling a sense of comfort and protection from the glass structure.

Sin translates the translucence and simplicity of the Farnsworth House with the use of soft and transparent fabric such as lace and jersey. Imagining what a woman would wear in such a modern space, Sin uses clean lines and neutral shades to complement the minimalist expression of the house.

While the colour palette of the collection may be simple with beige, black, grey and the occasional pop of coral, Sin’s attention to detail comes through the lace cropped tops, the ladder-back dresses and the Peter Pan collars.

Though balancing architecture by day and fashion by night can be time-consuming and hard work, Sin is a “want-to-do-it-all woman.”

“As a designer, you definitely have to be passionate about what you do because it is one of the toughest jobs,” said Sin. “I made the decision to become a designer, to create beautiful and well-designed objects, whether it be a building or clothing.”

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