Stylist Seeks the Supremely Talented
A stylist gives her opinions about finding Canadian designers.
What’s the secret behind the clothes adorning the good looking hosts of Entertainment Tonight Canada? The “what” is actually a “who” and her name is Alicia McNamara. Brilliant as she is, Alicia holds a bachelor’s degree in education, a masters in teaching and has an established career in TV, working as a costume designer/supervisor for the series Beauty & the Beast. For just over a year now, Alicia has taken on the laborious task of dressing the hosts of ET Canada. Cheryl Hickey, Sangita Patel, Rick Campanelli and four other members of the ET team, owe their dazzling duds to the sharp style eye of Alicia. As someone who has interned alongside her, I’ve done all I can to become a sponge and soak up her wisdom when it comes to the Toronto fashion community and working in show business. Her dedicated work ethic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen; putting in incredible amounts of overtime, always finding solutions to the many obstacles of styling and yet still managing to show up to the office every day looking her very best.
As I talked with her on the phone about fashion life within the 6ix, we began to discuss the scope of it, which she described as “small but accessible”. Toronto-based designers may be challenging to seek out, but the majority of them are more than happy to let stylists such as Alicia borrow their garments, in exchange for some brand promotion. I asked her what she thought about the discovery of Canadian labels and she explained, “affordable fashion is so accessible that it’s hard to encourage people to seek out the Canadian designers, learn about them, find out the stores that are selling them, and that’s why it seems to be a small community of people who are aware of and support these labels.” She went on to explain that one of the great things about working for ET Canada, is that she can encourage the hosts to wear Canadian designers and then promote them on social media. Cheryl Hickey has over 36 thousand followers on Instagram, Sangita Patel has over 35 thousand followers and the official ET Canada page has 33 thousand. Every OOTD - (outfit of the day) worn by each of the hosts gets mentioned on ET’s page and then the hosts themselves frequently post a thank you to whoever’s outfit they happen to be wearing. In addition to the social media, the brands worn on the show are also mentioned in the end credits. So through the show, Alicia is able to showcase the talent of Canadian designers such as Alexa Pope, Eliza Faulkner and Lucian Matis, (all worn this year).
“I encourage people to attend the fashion shows, to come to fashion week… we need more of a group effort in our community to get people interested. Past the people who wear the fashion, past the people who study fashion… how can we get every day Canadians interested in Canadian Fashion? By promoting them. It’s great when labels such as Greta Constantine become such an international sensation, showing at Paris fashion week and such, it does make the rest of the world look at Canadian Fashion.” I asked her what she thought Canadian brands should do in the future in terms of promotion. She said that the answer lay in showrooms; making Canadian apparel more accessible to other parts of the world, especially more in the US. Menswear line Indochino has opened a showroom in Los Angeles to show off their Canadian style and it would be great if other brands were able to leap over there as well, since LA is such a fashion leader. Another avenue for promoting brands currently lies in Yorkdale with their FashionCAN pop-up shop which features exclusively Canadian designers to celebrate our great white north. Some designers you can expect to find in there now include Bustle & Bustle, Sprouts, Christopher Bates, The Feral, Grayes, Jennifer Torosian, Lamarque, Mikhael Kale, and Sosken Studios.
At this point in our conversation, Alicia’s son walked in the room needing help with something. He’s 4 years old and already he’s taking after his stylish mother. He says when he’s older he wants to be a dress maker so he can make pretty dresses for his mum and other people to wear. Many times in the past Alicia would tell me about funny instances when he had pointed at women on the streets and said, “Oh mummy, I don’t like her clothes.” She also told me that he loves to pick out his own clothes in the morning; his favorite t-shirt being one with a large graphic of a heart and the word “mom” inside it.
I asked her, “Who would you consider to be one of your favourite designers here in Canada?” Already having a guess of who she was going to name, she said, “Stephan Caras”. Those who have had the privilege to view some of his gowns up close know just how exquisite every detail is and how beautiful his garments are. Alicia explained, “It’s a family run business and they’re all such friendly people… they’re authentic, they have integrity and they hold the highest quality of craftsmanship. They’re definitely a go-to, and probably the best, in terms of high end couture in Canada. It’s all art.”
Fast fashion is so accessible these days that I think a lot of young Canadian designers are afraid to take the plunge into the saturated garment industry. But Canadian fashion is dependent upon new faces emerging who are subsequently more likely to become successful and represent Canada on a global scale. We have talent and we deserve to be recognized. Alicia is one stylist who will continue to promote Toronto-based artists and she hopes that more people will do the same.