By Andréa Rojas
While many other burgeoning Calgary designers are presently immersed in the blur of runway shows and after-parties that is Alberta Fashion Week, Kirsten Summersgill, the impetus behind the locally-based line Pout Clothing, has a clearer goal in focus.
The 22-year-old couturier and graduate of Lethbridge College’s Fashion Design and Marketing program, currently working on her fourth collection, is at a later career stage than most of Calgary’s budding designers. With stores in Calgary, Chestermere, Vancouver and Toronto to be carrying her Fall/Winter 2011 collection, she is currently combining her fashion-industry savvy of three complete seasons with an innovative re-branding of her line to reach a wider demographic.
Like many of her industry colleagues, however, Summersgill’s first season debuted at AFW, which was created in the wake of the 2008 demise of previous industry staple event Calgary Fashion Week.
“The fashion industry here started picking up right when I had graduated . . . [AFW] actually had a lot to do with it. People were working to rebuild [the industry] after the whole Calgary Fashion thing happened. It just seemed like that at the same time, at the tail end of the recession, everyone was starting new businesses.”
Since the industry boom, Summersgill has remained loyal to Canadian-made and Alberta-born fashion.
“I’m very passionate and pro-Alberta. Kind of the way I see it is later down the road, all the people that I’m meeting that are newer to the industry, we’re the ones building it,” she says.
Furthermore, Pout is 100 per cent Canadian-made, another unique feature of Summersgill’s line.
“I don’t want to manufacture out in China . . . all the fabric is Canadian, I sell to Canadian stores, I’m supporting the Canadian economy, and I’m supporting young entrepreneurs [with] the stores I work with.”
She has her own reasons, both practical and personal, for not participating in AFW’s all-Canadian spring event, however.
“This season, they’re doing it really, really late. Like [for] buying season, order cutoff is April 30th, and most stores have already spent their budget, so I don’t know why people would
. . . pay all this money to be in a show when you’re not really going to get that much back from it. I probably won’t even do it next season either.
Summersgill says that she would rather wait until the bi-annual fashion production “work[s] out their kinks.”
“I find that it’s just an expense that I don’t get anything back from . . . I’d rather take that money and invest in hiring PR, [and] getting some better-quality fabric. I think that’ll take me farther.”
Summersgill still attests to AFW’s pioneering work in the Calgary fashion community, however.
“They do a lot of things right. If you’re a brand-new designer, Fashion Week is great for you, because you go out, you meet people, and then you get media attention for it . . . I’m not going to be like, ‘I’m better than Fashion Week,’ because I’m not. I just don’t need their services anymore,” she says.
“I want [AFW] to work; I want them to be successful even if I’m not part of it because it’s such a big part of the Calgary industry and I think it had a lot to do with building up this industry. I wish them all the best, but I don’t think I’ll be showing in it,” says Summersgill.
That said, Summersgill has plans for Pout that reach beyond the confines of Alberta Fashion Week, and even beyond the borders of Alberta.
“I want to put on my own show, maybe with a couple other designers . . . I don’t want to charge designers to be in a show [as AFW does].”
This collaboration would take place in October 2011 in anticipation of her Spring/Summer 2012 collection, one month after she plans to travel to Vancouver and Toronto to visit stores carrying her line.
“I think with Pout I’ve made it very ‘Calgary,’ but I think if I was to move somewhere else I’d probably start another line, and then do it out of Toronto or Vancouver,” says Summersgill.
In this way, Pout Clothing has outgrown Alberta Fashion Week. But at the end of the day, moving up a dress size is never the end of the world. In some cases, it might even let you breathe a little easier.