client karma – Adrienne Butikofer

I met Adrienne Butikofer way back in 2003, when she was a fashion student at Fanshawe and I was in second year at Ryerson.  We were both interning very briefly at Pat McDonagh, and she hired me to do some sketches for her.  She still keeps those sketches around and occasionally threatens to put them on the internet.  By my current standards, they aren’t very good at all.  But at the time Adrienne was happy with them and I was just thrilled to be able to make a few bucks drawing.

Adrienne Butikofer Fall 09
Concept drawing of Butikofer Fall 2009 – click image for big.

Adrienne contacted me again in summer 2007 as she was preparing her entry into the TFI New Labels competition.  I helped her with the illustrative part of the entry, and once she was a finalist in the competition she hired me as a studio assistant on an as-needed basis to help meet the deadlines.  Since then I’ve had the chance to work with her off and on for various projects.  Its a lot of fun to work with Adrienne in the studio, often doing cutting and patternmaking, and working on samples.  For me, its a counterpoint to the more solitary, less physical work I do in my own studio.  Our collaboration reached its apex (and the end, at least for the time being) when we went to Las Vegas with her Fall 2009 line.  She’s about to have a baby and take a well-deserved haitus.

Even on maternity leave, she still has a lot going on.  She’s currently delivering her snappy Spring 2009 line, and she’s having a sample sale on her website with a ton of terrific deals on favourites like her reworked menswear and skinny sweats.  I am very excited to be reading her brand new blog – I love her writing.  She has a great sense of humour and a compelling candour about her life and her business.

I’ve learned a lot of things from Adrienne about being a fashion designer, and also I think I better understand my other fashion designer clients because of her.  They are a hard-working, ambitious breed of individual who ride the seasons like waves.  From a world of possibilities at the beginning of the season to the rock solid delivery deadlines at the end, its a cyclical path that requires incredible determination, resources and support.

Above everything, designers are driven to do what they do.  Just as it seems that the demands of the current season are overwhelming, Adrienne is always finding fabrics and inspiration and enthusiastically making plans for the next one.  Amazing.  Having had the great luck to work with her in person many times, I am filled with admiration her as a designer and a human being, and feel great affection for her both as a client and as a friend.

I asked her a few questions about her career and her plans.

Why did you become a fashion designer?

I think I originally went to fashion school because I love to sew, and I expressed myself creatively through clothing and how I dressed. It wasn’t until I was at the University of Western Ontario studying science that I realized it however. I think starting my own label kind of just happened. I have always been driven to make clothing, pretty much since high school. I started selling one offs and small runs through little boutiques here and there in Toronto after graduating college. Eventually, I used the New Labels competition as a way to finally catch up with the fashion calendar, and turn my passion into a career. (Hopefully)

What do you love about fashion?

I am really inspired by technique and I love that fashion is a learned trade- skill level and design ability often go hand in hand. I love being blown away by something, when it takes longer than 5 seconds to figure out how someone achieved something with fabric. I find it really intriguing that it’s a necessity of life, and how that may or may not affect someone’s fashion choice. I myself am drawn to functionality, and when pieces have more than one personality. I get really excited by something making sense, with a complex idea but a simple execution, or the other way around. On the other hand- sometimes it’s just about making something cool, or interesting, or comfortable, or necessary. Like skinny sweats– all of the above.

When was the proudest moment of your career?

I don’t think there is one singular moment, but collectively the past couple of years have been great. I’ve worked really hard, pushed forward, and learned a ton. My trip to Las Vegas didn’t turn out that well, and I’ve been on a bit of a downer since- but I am still proud that I did it. The whole experience made me learn how to package myself and my brand professionally, and I really love my collection. There is a lesson in everything, and all these little experiences are making me a better, smarter designer. Unless I fall and hit my head and get amnesia, it’s almost a guarantee that I will never regress into a worse, stupider designer. Everything happens when it’s supposed to.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, I’m eight months pregnant right now. . . so who knows? I can’t possibly pretend to know what my life is going to be like in a month. I’ve pretty much made the decision to skip Spring 2010. I want to spend the summer doing all the things that I’ve put off over the years because I’ve been working 7 days a week- day trips to the country to look for farmers markets; going to the beach on a whim. I’d love to try my hand at canning, I’d love to succeed at gardening. I want to make frivolous things for the baby- like rhinestone encrusted silk dresses. I am hoping for a simple, non stressful life filled with pioneer-like activities that I can do with a baby on the hip. And I shall blog all about it.

But, back to reality, I’ve got my eye on Fall 2010-11. So, I am also going to spend the summer studying technique, researching inspiration and sourcing for it. It’s beginning to brew already.

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