Canadian womenswear designer Jeremy Laing began presenting his collection in New York with what he calls an “on the fly” art project at Participant Inc., a Lower East Side gallery, in Spring 2005. Since the launch, Laing, who honed his design skills at Preen and Alexander McQueen, has garnered buzz for his lean, sculptural looks, volume play and unique prints.
Deanne Yee: Your biography describes your approach to fashion design as “self-taught”. Did you formally study fashion design?
Jeremy Laing: I did study fashion design but have been sewing since I was a teenager, so I came to the program with a lot of experience. I do my own pattern making, a skill I have honed over the years, and have developed ways of working—through experimentation—that I have arrived at on my own.
Deanne: Can you tell us a bit about your two recent collections? I notice that for Spring 2009, you were playing with fluid fabrics and volume, whereas for Fall 2009, you moved into more structured shapes and some really wonderful prints.
Jeremy: Spring 2009 was inspired by the slashed and punctured canvases of Lucio Fontana. I worked with some embroiderers in India to create a slashing effect that is reminiscent of his work, which was all about drawing attention to dimensions of a painting other than its surface. Fall 2009 started out with a visit to a NASCAR compound in North Carolina. I was fascinated by the car production plant, a vast state-of-the-art and spotlessly clean auto shop where the race cars are custom built from scratch. This led to metalwork, welder’s gear and to steel and fire prints, which I developed. I worked with Swarovski to create reflective strips of tiny spherical crystals mounted on a metal mesh and used their brand new Crystal Pearl studs to emulate spot welds. A lot of the structural shapes from Fall were created with a polyurethane coated wool jersey, a heavy cotton crocheted lace and a technical polyester jacquard that looks engraved.
Deanne: You are based in Toronto now. Do you draw any inspiration from that city? Would you ever consider working in another city?
Jeremy: I love living in Toronto, but I wouldn’t really call it inspiring. It is enabling—in that the cost of doing business here is not prohibitive for a young, self-financed designer—but also limiting as the market is very small and there is little developmental support. I’ve always wanted to set-up shop in Paris, to benefit from the centuries of skill and dedication to craftsmanship, but that seems a ways off.
Deanne: What inspires you as a designer? Are there any designers working today that you admire?
Jeremy: I’m inspired by material and by process. I don’t work with fantasy narratives about era-hopping princesses. I really admire the Belgian and Japanese schools, for their business models and the way they approach their work as much as the work itself.
Deanne: What plans do you have for your label in the future?
Jeremy: I’m planning on keeping it going. My next project is creating outfits for the Canadian delegation at the Venice Biennale. Then comes Spring 2010, which I’m just starting to think about. As for the future, someday I’d like to get back to doing some menswear, so that there’s something in all of this for me.