Sisters and design duo, Parris and Chloe Gordon were recognised by their self-titled Toronto-based label Chloe Comme Parris, pre-2013. But it didn’t quite incapsulate their vision. Renaming their label Beaufille meant it became less about them, and more about who they were designing for… their handsome girl, their Beaufille.
When pronouncing Beaufille, Chloe and Parris are quick to highlight it is pronounced: bo-fee. As well point out – for those who can’t speak French – the translation: handsome girl. It could not be more fitting. While their minimal garments may boast ruffles and flares, a girl donning their cropped, wide-belled trouser wouldn’t be described as pretty. But, handsome, that does the trick.
Autumn/Winter 16 marked their New York Fashion Week debut with MADE – and it could not have been any bolder. The drastic bell-flare featured on the cropped trousers and the sleeves of black coats, has been something Chloe has been perfecting since a child. The first garment she ever made was a pair of bellbottom jeans with a leopard print godet in the side, and now she’s mastered it with AW16. Some other key pieces that require some background are the oxblood trench coat (appearing to be patent leather) that was made from boiled wool that had been coated in polyurethane, as well as a creamy knit sweater and skirt made by the extensive use of embroidery on a water soluble bag that was later dissolved. There is more to Beaufille than meets the eye.
Wonderland teams up with photographer Wally Sparks for a closer look, exploring Beaufille’s Toronto based studio with Chloe and Parris.
I previously knew you as Chloe Comme Parris, but in 2013 you relaunched as Beaufille. What was the reasoning for this?
Chloe: We started our brand while we were both attending art school, so much changed about our approach and what we wanted to say once we graduated and started working in the industry. We strategically rebranded to take ourselves out of the forefront and to use a word that felt more descriptive to what our line was all about in a more abstract way.
Parris: Rebranding helped us to streamline the vision and identity of what we make; less about “Chloe and Parris making clothing and jewellery,” more about a concept and distinct vision.
You now show during New York Fashion Week. Why did you make the decision to show in New York when you did?
Chloe: We have always wanted to show in New York and it is closest geographically to us, which makes it a bit more manageable. We had been applying to MADE for a few seasons and finally got accepted for the AW16 season. We thought it was a natural next step and something we needed to do to reach a broader audience to take our brand to an international level.
Parris: As designers not based in a fashion capital, it’s essential to find a way to establish yourself with the media in the big markets, to have a presence if at all possible. Having a good vehicle to show in fashion week is really essential for that and we were so, so lucky and grateful to have been given the opportunity.
How do you feel about there being no more Toronto Fashion Week?
Chloe: To be honest, I think it’s a blessing in disguise for emerging Canadian designers. It’s a great way to get your name out there locally but it does not generate notable press nor attract international buyers, which designers need to survive and grow their businesses.
Parris: Toronto as a city is in a very interesting place with lots of hype and international press compiling. It’s a really good opportunity to re-evaluate our industry here and have the top heads in Toronto fashion put their brains together to really take advantage of the playing field now opened up. It’s a blessing in disguise for the industry – when a door closes a window opens up!
What are your views on existing in Toronto’s fashion scene? Do you think your brand could be stronger in cities like London?
Chloe: Toronto doesn’t necessary have a thriving fashion scene, but it’s an amazing city with lots of creativity. Canadians are typically more conservative when it comes to fashion. We are in Toronto for economic reasons at the moment. We would love to be in London or Paris but for a small growing company the only way we are able to operate is in Toronto. With more growth and more sales comes more possibility.
Parris: Totally. You’ve got to work your way up! We dream of other cities but are just focused on growing out business to a point where we do have option.
What designers/artists/etc inspire your silhouettes, jewellery, etc.?
Chloe: Salvador Dali, Horst, Man Ray, Martin Margiela, Phoebe Philo, Rei Kawakubo
Parris: Claude Lalanne, Alexander Calder, Joan Miro, Gustav Klimt, Alberto Giacometti, Eve Gordon (mom J)
You’re not just a design duo, but actually sisters. You come from a creative family; your mother is an artist. Can you tell me more about your childhood?
Chloe: We grew up in a very creative household, and Parris and I were always very close growing up. Our mother is a fine artist and always got us involved in creative projects. I learned to sew from my mother and her good friend Myroula who was an amazing cutter and pattern maker. They were always making clothes in her bedroom and I was fascinated by it. I would use their fabric scraps and try and make garments for my dolls (unsuccessfully). I remember the first garment I made with my mother was a pair of flared bellbottom jeans with a leopard print godet inserted in the side seam, I guess in once sense or another I have some full circle back to my obsession with flared pants.
Parris: We’ve been heavily encouraged and supported our whole lives and I couldn’t feel more grateful about that. If we have a creative issue or block mom’s always to the rescue with like 120 images to help inspire. Dad is there for any business or personal problem with nothing but unconditional support. I think that foundation really has helped us have the confidence to take on a terribly difficult and fickle career path. They’ve allowed us to follow our dreams.
Parris, what does Chloe bring to the team?
Parris: Chloe’s eye is unlike anyone else I’ve ever met. Her visual strength is super human. Her dedication to her craft, our business, and doing the absolute best she can is the best example I could have and a constant source of inspiration. Chloe will always tell it like it is, even if you don’t want to hear it and that honestly is so rare these days.
What are Chloe’s weak points?
Parris: Her weak point would be her self-doubt or indecisiveness – I don’t think she needs to worry about either cause she’s got what she needs inside!
Chloe, what does Parris bring to the team?
Chloe: Parris and I have opposite strengths and weaknesses. I am incredibly indecisive, and Parris is very decisive so when it comes to making quick rational decisions Parris is the one that I look to. Parris is an incredible jeweller and she brings that knowledge and technique to our team, as well as a really good eye for detail. She also slays me in writing, so most written content is by Parris, she knows how to put it all together.
What are Parris’ weak points?
Chloe: I would say her weak point which turns out to be my strength is patience. It’s a blessing and a curse.
AW16 was voluminous with flared sleeves and trousers. Can you share the story and influences behind this collection?
Parris: For Autumn/Winter 2016 we focused not on sourcing specific inspiration, but following intuition. We design and create on a gut feeling for the brand direction, which manifests into an expansion of shapes and silhouettes that have been defining the Beaufille look. The collection is a continuation of branding Beaufille. This collection caters to a sophisticated tough girl aesthetic; the wearer is effortless, chic, and modern. The silhouettes are relaxed, but executed in powerful fabrics, which enhance more minimal designs.
Subtle detailing such as ruffles, flares, contrast stitching & oval grommets do not defame the flattering cuts and signature silhouettes. We once again explored our roots in hands-on material creation through a new hand-made fabric (created by abstractly embroidering wool), as well as hand-formed spiral shapes realised in earrings, bracelets, and choker necklaces wrap around limbs to complete the look. For Autumn/Winter 2016, we present a uniform for the non-conformists.
Parris’ background in jewellery and metal design has resulted in Beaufille incorporating metal hardware into your designs and launching a fine jewellery collection. Last year you won CAFA Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent (Accessories). What does the future hold for your jewellery line?
Parris: We established a fine jewellery collection for our brand after that award which we are working on continuing to grow. It’s a great product category for our customer, offering everyday wear luxury catering to our tomboy/romantic aesthetic. We’ve had some of our best selling items come from that collection.
We’re working on louder, more bold and artful fashion jewellery to really separate the categories of jewellery that we make. Ideally down the line we would translate the bold fashion jewellery silhouettes that do well and signify the brand into gold and diamonds too – a more haute couture line. I think we’ll always have our fine jewellery “basics” line that we’ve established, keep doing the fashion jewellery seasonally with the ready-to-wear, and eventually develop “classics” and “couture” lines.