Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Designer Michelle Turpin's *Karamea*

As a fashion design student at Ryerson University, we’re required to complete 400 internship hours with at least 2 different companies prior to graduation. This enables us to network with people in the industry as well as gain experience and insight on the fashion scene in Toronto (and beyond).

Karamea Fall08
Photo -Vincent Lions
Stylist -Marcus Tripp
Hair + Makeup -Minna Loponen
Model - Elise

Some girls choose to spend their time at a large companies, which I must admit will look great on their resume, but personally I like pursuing smaller, more hands-on designers. There is something quite satisfying about actually meeting the designer and seeing what you do has an impact on them in some way; as well as allowing for the blossoming of personal relationships.

<< Michelle @ work...photo by Shauna Eberle.
For the past couple summers I have had the great opportunity of interning with Toronto-based designer Michelle Turpin. Born in the city of Karamea, New Zealand, she has always been intrigued by the movement and texture of fabrics. Love for design and fashion has always been an integral part of life for Michelle, beginning in her mom's closet- where she used to play dress-up. Throughout school, Michelle says that her school projects always ended up being design related, but it wasn't until she attended AUT in Auckland, New Zealand, that she came to the realization that this was a viable career path.

In 2000 Michelle bought a one-way ticket to Toronto and never looked back. After travelling for a year, with nothing but a credit card to her name, she started working in the theatre industry. As much as she wanted to finish her degree, the more pressing issue at hand was her financial situation - so when someone’s aunt lent her a sewing machine to commission bridesmaid dresses, so began her new life.

Soon enough, the desire to return to the fashion industry caused Michelle's line "Karamea" to be born. After a period of time at the Toronto Fashion Incubator, she decided it was time to step out on her own. When I asked Michelle how she felt about the Toronto fashion industry, she replied "there are so many Canadian designers that I admire, Katya of Desperately Different and Veronica Milkovich to name a couple."

There is difficulty competing with larger brands, especially corporations, however. "When a brand dominates about 60% of the store's stock, even if my pieces sell first, I may not receive payment until after they have been paid. Those brands have the luxury of employing lawyers, debt collectors and such." Michelle realizes that although there may be struggles, especially
starting your own company with nobody to advise you, they are greatly rewarding and every day is a new lesson learned.


Photo - Vincent Lions
Stylist - Marcus Tripp
Hair+Makeup - Minna Loponen
Model - Mary B. from Next

Michelle's line is typically described as artisan, detail-oriented, a mix of femininity with a touch of classic tailoring. Karamea employs the use of luxurious, natural fabrics with a focus on chiffon, organza and light cotton voile. These feminine flowing fabrics compliment her love for bias-cut
dresses and her skilled hands finish them beautifully. The thing I love about Karamea is it's ability to be versatile while still remaining true to Michelle's personality. I can easily see myself wearing her clothes and my mom wearing other pieces. A business woman will appear polished and professional without sacrificing femininity; yet, the line still appeals to the plushanista who, by putting her own twist on it, makes the clothing a little edgier.

Karamea Spring/Summer '09 @ L'oreal fashion week...

To see more of Michelle Turpin's work visit: the Karamea website

(Above) Middle left: Judith Mcmillan -artist whose x-ray flower prints are featured on Michelle's '09 Spring/Summer pieces. Middle right - Designer Michelle Turpin

Bringing you PLuSH design news...
Written by Andrea Golberg.

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