I may not be the tallest chick out there but I do have some long legs, which can be an annoyance when looking for sweatpants – which I do wear from time to time. A couple month’s ago I was introduced to the gorgeous (and very tall) Canadian Designer Adrienne Butikofer at a TFI (Toronto Fashion Incubator) Pop-Up Shop at the Reel 2 Runway Season 2 Launch Event. Her line, Skinny Sweats is definitely a departure from your average joggers and offers a wide range of styles to chose from. The cozy collection has everything from sweats (ultra edgy and basic skinny’s) trousers and leggings. Adrienne had her line on display that night at the event and I not only had to get my hands on a few pieces but I was also intrigued to hear more about Butikofer’s design background and how Skinny Sweats was born. Lucky for me, she allowed me to fire away questions one hot afternoon over Starbucks Refreshers…
SS: When was the first time you realized you wanted to become a Designer?
AB: I’ve been sewing since about 9 years old and started making clothes for myself in high school to contribute to my mostly thrifted, free spirited and often outrageous personal style. I went into Sciences at University of Western Ontario though, as it never occurred to me to make fashion my career. Not against the student body at Western in ’99 but everyone looked and dressed exactly the same. By October of first year, I knew I had a unique point of view and that I should pursue fashion. I stayed in London and enrolled in Fanshawe College for their 3 year Fashion Design program and graduated in ’03.
SS: I read somewhere that you previously designed a contemporary Womenswear line? How was that?
AB: Yes, it was called Butifkofer and it was my first “real” collection which was for the TFI New Labels Competition for Fall 2008. From 2004-2007 I had been making one-off’s and selling them under the label Butikofer and also Adrienne Butikofer…I also had a winter accessory line called Caninja and sold pieces at various Toronto indie boutiques.
SS: What key learnings did you take from the experience of those collections?
AB: Well I hadn’t ever done a full collection when I did New Labels – I’d been a pretty scrappy designer up until then, just making whatever I felt like. So the New Labels judges really whipped me into shape. I pursued the Butikofer label for three seasons and it taught me so much, since I’d been so DIY up until then. I learned about developing and manufacturing a collection, locally on a small scale. I went to The Pool trade show in Vegas with my Fall 2009 Collection, which turned out to be a bust because of the recession, but the experience taught me about branding and how to package myself. And it was also great to see what other successful indie designers were doing at the time. I think New Labels kind of pushed me in this very serious direction with my work, which is maybe not so much me. Through the experiences I’ve had (good and bad) I find that now every decision I make and risks I chose to take are very calculated. I’m still learning though, believe me!
SS: What was the inspiration behind the birth of Skinny Sweats?
AB: I’ve been making the basic Skinny Sweats since about ’06 or ’07. I sold them online a little, to friends and also through the Clothing Show. They were also surprisingly a popular product that appealed to many different women. I took a step back from designing the Butikofer line to have 2 baby girls between 2009-2012 and I wanted to come back to work designing something product focused and Skinny Sweats was an obvious choice. I called the line Skinny Sweats because that’s what they were. Honestly, nobody ever knows how to pronounce my last name and I was just kind of over it. Skinny Sweats was the absolute simplest and obvious name for the brand, especially since it started with one thing – the basic skinny sweat. I’m not super attached to the name emotionally, because it’s so basic – however it’s proven to be an auspicious choice for Google.
SS: How has the line changed from season to season?
AB: Initially I thought I wouldn’t do seasonal collections…at first I had one product…then I added Trouser Sweats and Leggings the next year. Then I thought that I needed to do the seasonal collections just for interestes sake, and it was an app to be more creative with the brand, so I created a specific collection for SS13. I skipped FW13 and now refocusing again for my SS14 collection, which will focus on just a few key designs and perfecting the product. I’m also developing my own fabric right now and moving to a garment dye production. This means I will sew most styles in “griege” (undyed beige fabric) and will be dying small lots in more interesting colours for each season. I’m really excited about this because I love colour.
SS: Since you are blessed with height, do you always make the pants with taller women in mind?
AB: I’ve always made them long! They actually used to be even longer when I first started making them – like a 36″ inseam. I made them this way because yes, it is hard to find long pants for tall girls. And the sweats still look cute when they bunch up on the bottom for the shorter girls. But I get requests all the time for shorter lengths so I will probably start offering those pretty soon.
SS: What inspires you? Both in general and when you are creating a new collection…
AB: Outside of my private life, everything is fashion to me. I kind of see the world through a fashion filter – so anything that turns that on is automatically created into some sort of fashion design idea. I have no control over it…I generally feel it out and it forms itself with little effort. I have a Tumblr (skinnysweats.tumblr.com), where I pile up images that give me a thrill or appeal to the sense I have of my brand. I became a designer because I loved to sew (as opposed to shop or draw) so when I go looking for inspiration for a specific piece I generally look through textbooks on construction methods, books that show more details about how clothing is made and fit. Historically, I love the period during WW1. The clothing was really utilitarian with details that were feminine without being precious.
AB: Well, I am going to be adding a few more tops to the next collection – continuing with the OS Sweatshirt, but likely slice that one size fits all into two sizes fits all. I have a Pop-Up in September 23rd-30th at Oz Studios on Ossington and I will be making a lot of one offs for that – statement sweatshirts and hand dyed pieces. I am working with a local manufacturer on a printed legging program, so I will be continuing with those but will be designing my own prints. For SS14 I will be making a couple editorial pieces loosely based around a yacht club on the dark and cold shores of a Northern lake. There are lots of ideas in my head as always, but I do have a four year old and a two year old to take care of so my ambition is often greater than what I have time for.
SS: How would you describe the perfect sweat pant?AB: The Basic Skinny Sweats are pretty perfect, dude. I’ll always add new styles to the line but those ones are never going to change.
When originally deciding which pieces to shoot, I thought for sure I would rock heels with both but then these sick Nike Dunk Highs came my way and I just couldn’t resist. It’s a bit unexpected (for me anyways), more fun and definitely more easy on my feet. The Slash Sweats and the OS Sweatshirt were the first pieces to catch my eye…the latter has batwing arms and is made with the softest cotton. Totally reminds me of that boyfriend’s sweater I would perpetually wear around the house during the Winter months. Other faves of mine; the Basic Skinny, the Tuxedo Sweats and these Woodgrain Leggings.
Photography by: Tiffany S www.tiffanysphoto.ca // Make-up By: Zenah Masri www.zenahmasri.com // Hair by: Sharon www.mizshaaz.com
Enter to win your choice of any one piece from the Skinny Sweats Collection on www.skinnysweats.com. It’s super easy, you must like Skinny Sweats on Facebook, follow on Twitter and leave a comment on the blog post. Contest ends Monday August 5th at 7pm and the winner will be announced on Tuesday August 6th at 10am.
*Contest Open To Canadian Residents Only*
Use the promo code: sosasha from now until August 5th to receive 15% off your online purchase