7/31 is something Toronto needed for a long time! 7/31 is a high end clothing line for ambitious, energetic and daring people with strong personalities and sophisticated sense of fashion! 7/31 is a brilliant tandem of two amazing ladies: designer, Defne Husrevoglu and marketing director, Maiko Suzuki. The exciting news is…. 7/31 will be opening a new studio in downtown Toronto location in February 2014! Defne, the creative soul of the company kindly agreed to share some "behind the scenes" stories about wonderful world of fashion!
Defne and Maiko at the trade show in NYC
Where are you, ladies from again?
Maiko is from Japan, I am Turkish and Dutch, but I was born in Canada.
Oh, this is a dangerous combination!
Yes, my Mom is Dutch, has blond hair and blue eyes, my Dad is Turkish. I’ve been to Turkey a few times, we actually did one of our seasons there. It was quite a challenge, trying to find a manufacture in Turkey. We arrived in Turkey, not really knowing too much about the country, we rented a car and for four days we went to different manufactures, just pretty much knocked on doors with our collection. A few doors closed and all we heard was: “What are you guys crazy?” But few doors opened and people were actually talking to us. We did pretty well in Turkey for our first time. We have tried producing our samples in France and Turkey. All those countries have great qualities. Soon after that we found Canada. We are currently manufacturing in Canada. We are happy to be producing in Canada. Being from international multicultural family is a benefit to me, and our company, because we have a chance to experience countries and see what they have to offer.
Your Dad is living in Korea, how about the rest of your family?
My Mom lives in Brantford, my sister is in California and my brother travels a lot – he just came back from Australia, he works as geophysicist. He is always in all those unusual places searching for gold. He is also a sailing instructor – so pretty cool guy. My sister is a lawyer. We all love outside and nature and exploring.
Are you the youngest?
I am the youngest.
Baby of the family is dressing everybody up!
You are the creative part, and Maiko is more organizational?
We do a lot of things together, because both of us are still learning. Her background in fashion comes from being an assistant buyer. And this is how we met – we met in Paris. I wanted to start my own company, she wanted her own company as well, and we are both in fashion, birthday on the same day. We both are learning a lot along the way. I love to design, pattern draft and I sew. We usually do a trip somewhere together, get our inspiration, then I design our collection, sew it up, show it to Maiko and we start thinking together – What we can do here?, What we can change there?, What can we do to make it more wearable? She is more of a technical aspect of things. Sometimes it is hard for her to draw her ideas down, so I do that for both of us. We are a growing company, we are starting to get more and more orders and are lucky to have a manufacture here, in Toronto.
Is everything you do unique?
I draw the pattern, give it to the manufacture and they make it exactly how I want it and multiples of it.
Depending on your orders?
Yes, we take orders first, and we are growing, our orders are getting bigger and bigger, this is very exciting. It is a lot of work you don’t see, for people to see your collection for just a few minutes at either the runway show or trade show, in a picture. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes. I think its also important for designers have good sense of business behind them. I am learning that part as well and having a business partner away on maternity leave, does not make things easier. But I am happy to do it. I am just building myself stronger. During production, I go to the manufacture every day and when the collection is being made, I practically live there, day and night. I stay there until everything is finished, just so if there are any problems I can fix them.
Trade show in NYC
Do you have any other hobbies outside the fashion design?
Yes, I love cooking. I love trying new things. I make really good humus. If you have any parties, I can make this for you. I love experimenting with foods. Even if I am not either of this things, I've been trying vegan diet, or raw. When you are in a fashion, you do a lot of entertaining, you are constantly meeting new people and you never know when you are going to have a next dinner party. You have to be aware of how other people eat, what they like, so when you do invite them over – they can eat happily. I noticed, this is so important, it is one of the joys of life – eating with friends and having a good time. And you know, if you go to a party and you can’t eat anything, it won’t be a good party.
There is a saying that you can make the best friend or the worst enemy with the dinner you serve.
Oh, for sure!
Was becoming a designer your child dream or was it something else?
I think, this was my dream for a long time. My Mom would not me use the sewing machine when I was younger. So I used to staple my Barbie clothes. I used to make new clothing and instead of sewing it, I would staple it all around. I had to try different venues before I finally decided to be a designer. I did a Police Foundation course in college. I went to Alberta for a little while to see my sister and it clicked that I needed to follow my heart.
I have to admit though, my Mom was really supportive, I feel it all the time, when I am from one country to the next. I moved to Paris to start my own company, and this is what I did. Sometimes they are like: “Ok, Defne has an idea, watch out!”
Do you ever have doubts whether you are doing the right thing?
You know what, I think you always have that kind of feeling, I was just thinking about it the other day. But you have a goal, and whether I am doing it right or doing it wrong – I cant stop. Sometimes, I am doing something and it does not make any sense, but it feels right. My business partner is away for a while – this was the worst possible thing that could happen to me. She is like a sister / business partner. Dealing with manufactures, having spring-summer and fall-winter back to back all by myself is hard, but I have a plan, and I follow it and I am happy doing it. A lot of people don’t know how we survive, like myself and Maiko, but we just decided to go for it. Just like we decided to go to Turkey – not knowing anyone, living in a car for four days, we parked along the ocean front, had a great view – this is the positive side of things. And even though she is far away – she is still the best motivator I could possibly have. And you need that – especially when you have a lot of things to do. She is always like: “You are my number one designer!” And you need such things, when you are feeling a bit down. But then, you have those few people that always keep you going and saying that everything is going to be fine, when things seem going really wrong. And all of a sudden good things happen.
Just having fun and loving 7/31
Well, creative people do need a lot of support. Somebody, a friend, who would always be by your side, give you a pat on a shoulder and say: “Screw that, I would have done the same thing!”
Exactly. Maiko helps make things happen for both of us. When you start something new, and you always have so many people saying: “Oh you are not doing that? How come? Why?” Well, we are learning. And there is no book on how to be a great designer. We are writing our own book. Some people are truly trying to help and some are just being mean, so you just have to take the best out of everything and stay strong.
Would you say this is the biggest challenge for you, dealing with mean people?
I think everyone has their opinions. Sometime people don’t see what is happening behind the scenes, sometimes we don’t sleep for 3-4 days. We work really hard– they see the good parts doing the trade shows, being in magazines. But, at the end of the day, this is me and Maiko, and we believe in what we do, and we really need each other to grow. I am pretty sure her friends are thinking, like: “Why are you working with this crazy person?”. But we do a lot of things together, we are meditating when things are rough and crazy, we can just hold hands and close our eyes and think about what is really important. And this is what a lot of people don’t do – they listen to the words, but not feelings. And we are just learning, and trying, we are two and a half years in our company and we still have a lot of growing and learning to do.
What is your favorite part?
I think, the trips that we do before our collections – we can just be ourselves and be free and do things we like to do and inspire people along the way. For example, we went to my old home town in Lakeside, Michigan for one of our trips for last collection. I lived there from grade 3 to grade 7, this is a pretty big chunk of growing up and every time I come back, all my friends get excited. They are all willing to help and they give me great love and support I need to keep on going. They have see me grow and follow my dream So, I think the biggest thing is hoping to being able to inspire someone in any way.
Inspirational trip for Spring/Summer Collection 2014 in Lakeside, MI
Where is your idea of “no zippers, no buttons” coming from?
We just wanted something really free and nothing too complicated. We use magnets – you can see magnets here in my jacket. So, you can open and close it easily. I just did a jacket for one of my friends using magnets. When I was at their place just doing the last touch ups, her Mom asked me if I can do the same thing for her husband’s jacket. He’s been sick with MS for a long time, now doing up a jacket a bit easier. It closes up easily, you just snap it together.
You, guys, just got a studio, what did you do before?
My sister left for California, so I was using my sister’s living room floor and then my Mom’ dining room floor, my friends floors. Now, we have our own space and it means a lot for me, our own little studio for 7/31. It is a huge step for us. We never even had a permanent address, so this would be our first 7/31 address. We can still travel, we can still go globe-hopping, but we know our stuff is safe, we have our home little studio.
When are you opening?
Hopefully in February.
What are you trying to achieve in a long run?
Just to have a growing company, inspire others. 7/31 is our clothing line, but our company is Two Loving Lions. Under Two Loving Lions we have more opportunity to grow and grow and grow, and not just necessarily a clothing line, may be catering, may be something else.
Do you have a funny story to share?
When we just started, our first atelier was in Paris. And this guy, we got him through a friend, he designs for a lot of top small houses in Paris, he just doesn't take anyone off the street, and he is a bit wild. I love him so much and I am pretty sure I will have a good laugh about this in a future since we are growing and maybe run into him again. We showed up at his place, we haven’t been sleeping for days to make all of the patterns. This was the first time we were giving our patterns to somebody. We were trying to make sure everything was perfect. We went there, meeting was good, so we went again the next day to see how things were going. I think there was a misunderstanding and he took our collection, the suitcase, and threw it out of the door. But he is really good, he did a great job. But, till this day, we can’t forget. Maiko had this look on her face, like: “What is going on?” But I am used to some Turkish heat in a family, so I said, its ok, hes just throwing some things around.
So, did he end up taking the collection?
Yes, he did. I calmed him down.
What other countries are you trying to visit?
We really want to go to Africa. We will be going to Japan shortly. I am pretty excited to go.
Do you find it is more difficult to promote fashion design in Canada as opposed to Europe?
The fashion industry here is small and growing and I really want to make a difference and be part of this industry. But also, because it is easier to make an impact here, then, let’s say in New York. And even though we do sell in New York, Kuwait and Japan, we can’t wait to break into Canada. I am pushing myself to make a name in Canada, this is my biggest ambition. And our styles are a really good fit for Canada, free comfortable and fun. It is not easy but I am not going to stop until I get “on top” of Canada’s skin.
If someone is looking to buy one of your pieces, when can they get it?
We are working through our on-line store. It will be up and running shortly
Do you have a professional message?
Yes, just keep trying and never give up. And as long as you have at least one good friend – you can do anything.
Thank you very much, Defne! Wishing you all the best and good luck with your new studio, keep up posted, I am pretty sure quite a few people would love to attend!
Visit 7/31 on line – click here!
Photographs compliments of Defne and Maiko
Story compliments of Marina Gavrylyuk
Real Estate Agent with Sutton Group Summit Realty
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