Local Love: Toronto non-designer friends create body positive clothing line Ninety-Eight


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Kimono dresses by Ninety-Eight

Who ever said that fashion designers get to have all the creative fun?

Following in the non-designer footsteps of Rihanna (or is it vice versa?) is Toronto’s very own Ninety-Eight. Brought to the world by a trio of pals with a bounty of retail knowledge — Shopgirls’ Michelle Germain and Maggie Murphy with Andrea McPhail — this local label is for, you guessed it, that other percentage of women. The majority.

Celebrate your figure this Valentine's Day (and beyond) with the brand's innovative shop-by-body-shape approach to clothing. We spoke to Germain about how it all came about.

You've been hawking Canadian goods to Parkdalians (and beyond) with your Shopgirls boutique for some time now. Why did three “non-designers” decide to start their own label, Ninety-Eight?Collectively we have 35-plus years of retail experience under our belts and are able to come at this with a retailers perspective in mind. Ninety-Eight was initially created as a necessity to add to my assortment at the shop. Since I only carry Canadian designers, I wasn't finding enough options when it came to office wear with a twist, clothing that was comfortable, easy to care for, manufactured locally —all at an affordable price point.

So why did you decide to call it Ninety-Eight? How long did it take you to choose the name of your label?
Only two per cent of women look like those we see on the cover of fashion magazines. And yet most clothing lines are marketed and designed with these two per cent in mind. Crazy! What about the other ninety-eight per cent of us? That's what Ninety-Eight is all about, creating styles that suit the other ninety-eight per cent of women who are perfectly happy with our imperfections.

The label uses a unique shop-by-body-shape approach, in which each garment is given a shape that corresponds with a different body type. Did this emerge from many years of dressing all the bodies?
After hearing day after day negative comments from my customers about things they hated about their bodies, I just couldn't bear it anymore. What about the “good stuff" — things that are great about our body shapes? We’ve all seen it or thought it. Ninety-Eight is designed with all of the body shapes in mind. It's an inclusive brand that provides options for everyone. So many times I've loved a brand but knew that I couldn't wear it because of who they were designing for. With Ninety-Eight, we will always have your body shape in mind when we design the clothes.

How important was it to you to have everything made in Canada?
It's a pillar to the Ninety-Eight brand. We support local, local supports us. It's something we are all very proud of.

Tell us a bit about the super wearable kimono dress. How do you envision your customer wearing it?
The Kimono dress is such a beautiful silhouette, particularly for those of us who have a small waist and want to show it off. I see this dress paired with a platform sandal and jean jacket for a casual look. It's so versatile, is offered in some great fabrics but most importantly, it's super comfy. If it's not easy and comfortable to wear, then we as designers simply don't make it.

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Karolyne Ellacott is senior editor at Post City Magazines. She can oft be spotted at Toronto’s most nostalgic diners wearing glittery heels and pink faux fur. Follow all of her eclectic writing interests on Twitter @kellacott and Instagram @itismekar.

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