An Interview with Toronto-based Designer
It isn’t uncommon for offices to be cluttered with paper, but Sid Neigum’s is swimming in a sea of origami. When the Toronto-based fashion designer was seeking inspiration for his spring/summer 2016 collection, he turned to his love of geometry and began folding paper. The blueprints have since come to life in the form of fabric, resulting in a cohesive collection that pulls from his science background and affinity for black, minimalistic pieces.
Neigum greets us at the Toronto Fashion Incubator in his typical uniform (black pants and a black T-shirt which he later admits he owns 15 versions of). It’s clear that he’s been busy with the final touches. On a table lies a sheet of fabric laser cut into shapes that will be folded to create his modular vision.
Just like patterns becoming wearable works of art, Neigum’s own career has taken an exciting shape in recent years. The Alberta-born designer studied at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and relocated to Toronto in 2012 after winning the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s New Labels award.
Over the past few years, he’s won several accolades including the Mercedes-Benz Start-Up Competition in 2014, which funded his fall/winter 2015 collection shown at World MasterCard Fashion Week.
Since launching his eponymous label, Neigum has won the hearts of buyers and critics for his impeccably finished, architectural designs. Perhaps what’s most impressive is his ability to sell some of his most unconventional garments in two major Canadian retailers: The Room at Hudson’s Bay and Toronto boutique Jonathan+Olivia.
We met up with the designer days before the completion of his spring/summer 2016 collection to talk about his alluring journey from wunderkind to Canadian fashion mogul.
Julia Eskins: Your previous collections were inspired by stem cells. Will we see those scientific influences again for spring/summer 2016?
Sid Neigum: Definitely. I was interested in geometry before fashion so it always creeps into what I’m making. We’re doing a lot of modular, origami stuff. I start with paper structures and create the same thing with fabric.
Is there a lot of trial and error with that process?
[Laughs] Oh yeah. We tried it with neoprene and jersey and couldn’t find anything thick enough. Then, we finally got it to work. Each side is a sheet of nylon and inside is polyurethane, almost like foam. Then, those three layers are heat-set together to create a double-sided, very structured piece. We laser cut everything and weave them into garments. There are usually a few months of trial and error. Sometimes you’re just folding paper and realize that you actually have to make clothes!
You’ve done some pretty unconventional designs in the past. What’s been the wildest piece you’ve ever created?
When I was in school we had a project where we had to use unconventional materials. I used car tires to make a several-tiered gown that weighed about 600 pounds. I had to move it in sections with a truck.
So I’m guessing you didn’t have a model wearing it on the runway?
No, you can’t walk in it. You set it up and stand on a stool inside of it. So if you want to go to party, you basically have to get there first and just stand there the whole time as people feed you and serve you drinks. Super unconventional!
Many of your pieces are also very androgynous. Is that something you’ll be continuing with?
I’ve been doing less menswear than when I started just because it’s a separate market. I decided to focus on womenswear, though I still use a lot of my men’s patterns. For example, I’ll do oversized pieces that can be worn by both men and women. It’s not an extreme focus of mine but it’s something I’m conscious of.
How would you describe your work in five words or less?
The love of black.
In your new collection for spring, I do see some blue. Are you starting to introduce some colour?
I figured it’s spring so a bit of navy wouldn’t hurt. There are so many retailers that look at my spring collections and think fall because I always make everything so dark. They want to see colour, so here it is!
It’s great that your pieces are wearable but also push the boundaries of fashion. Do you find you have to make compromises to make things wearable to sell in stores?
There’s definitely a huge range in my collections. There are pieces that I know buyers will like and then there are the pieces that I love to make regardless of whether they sell or not. But oddly enough, those pieces are often good sellers as well. The Room has been buying a lot of the laser cut stuff. I’m kind of surprised and happy about that. ■
*As seen in Volume One: The Toronto Issue