Summer is approaching which means it’s time to take a look at the lighter, brighter items in your wardrobe.
Now how many of these pieces are sustainable?
An increasing number of designers are making the move to cruelty-free, sustainable, and vegan clothing. One of them is Canadian Hilary MacMillan. The Toronto-based womenswear designer has a studio and showroom housed in a Victorian building in the city’s historic Cabbagetown District.
MacMillan cares about the footprint her designs leave and her label’s new S/S19 collection is their first fully vegan season. Two years ago, the label experienced a huge shift when they decided to become a vegan company, something they have been continuously working on.
“We transitioned fur, leather, and feathers, in 2016, and this past fall was our last season using silk and wool,” says Hilary MacMillan.
The contemporary designer cites Stella McCartney as a huge role model, “for me, she is the pinnacle of high fashion, extremely wearable, cruelty-free clothing.”
MacMillan’s S/S19 collection is packed with pastels, prints, ruffle details, and expert tailoring. These affordable pieces are the kind that you can mix and match to take you right through summer.
When it comes to the creative process, MacMillian says that every season, something new piques her interest. “The past couple of seasons, the 70s and 90s were heavily influencing my designs,” she says.
In terms of overall style in Canada, the designer believes that it’s eclectic.
“Canada still has crazy weather with very different seasons, and it really brings out an eclectic mix of fashion: dressing for -20 degrees in December looks very different than dressing for +30 degrees in July.”
Being a designer in Toronto is amazing and challenging at the same time, according to MacMillan. “Toronto is a hub for fashion in Canada and our close proximity to New York makes it easy to do business like attending fabric shows.”
She explains how the design community is quite small in Toronto but it’s also supportive. “There are so many great people and organizations that are helping Canadian designers grow, for example, The Collections, TFI, FGI, and CAFA.”
It would be a misconception to think that designers have an easy job. MacMillan’s workday is dependent on where her label is in the season, noting how “the beginning of developing a season looks a lot different than the end result.”
On a typical day, MacMillan can be found at her studio with her employees who each specialize in different areas of the business. She oversees all departments from pattern drafting to sewing on the first floor, to the offices and showroom on the second floor.
The designer could be developing their new season, managing manufacturing, building out a marketing plan for the year, or shipping e-commerce or wholesale orders — it all changes from day to day.
MacMillan’s design career has “morphed” over the years. After graduating from Blanche Macdonald in Vancouver, she moved back to Toronto to help her sister operate a jewellery store.
“We were visiting vendors, going into different markets (Paris, NYC) to buy collections, and attending various fashion weeks. loved seeing what everyone was creating. I felt like I was missing out on what I wanted to do.”
In 2012, MacMillan began to explore the idea of creating her own line. She created a capsule collection of 12 pieces and very limited units, to see if her designs would be well received. And in 2014, she decided to make a go at it, branched off to grow her line, and worked at her company full-time.
The designer recommends that fashion students go to “work for someone” before launching their own collections. “It takes a lot of money to be able to put out a full collection and there are so many mistakes I wish I had avoided in the beginning, and connections I wish I had gained before branching off on my own,” she says.
Today, MacMillan’s work takes her travelling for trade shows, fabric shows, store and factory visits.
The Hilary MacMillan label has also had the opportunity to be been part of unique collaborations. This includes a colab with Hudson’s Bay and Barbie, in which four Canadian designers made capsule collections to celebrate Barbie’s 60th anniversary.
See more from Hilary MacMillan’s S/S19 collection on her brand’s Instagram account.