Corinne Monique: The vision and passion of a talented emerging Canadian designer
Corinne Monique was the only Canadian designer invited to participate in the 2013 Emerging Designer Showcase during Fashion Week in New York City. Her Fall/Winter collection entitled The Year of the Serpent closed the Showcase and brought on the runway garments imbued with exotic beauty and opulent elegance.
Corinne is young; she is still in her twenties. She is passionate about what she does, extremely talented, determined, willing to work hard and put in long hours. She is able to wear the many hats one has to wear when starting up with a brand new designer label.
Although Corinne’s demeanor is soft-spoken, sincere, and endearing, her garments tell stories of majestic women, coming from far away, and imaginary, exotic lands. Every garment in The Year of the Serpent collection was designed, cut and sewn by Corinne herself; every garment is a portrait of feminine beauty, power and strength as well as feminine fragility, vulnerability and mystery.
For her collection Corinne chose bold and seductive colours, rich and sensual textures, clean, at times geometric lines that create garments for the “strong, confident woman”.
We had the pleasure to ask Corinne some questions about her work and her experience. Her enthusiasm is infectious; her inner strength, a source of inspiration for aspiring designers and for all those who find themselves embracing the challenge of following their own dream and passion.
For your Fall/Winter 2013 collection you chose the theme of The Year of the Serpent. How did the idea come about?
Coming up with a theme for a collection is always different. For the NYC show there was a lot of thinking that went into the process. When you just think, it doesn’t look like you are doing much of anything: you are not cutting and you are not sewing. You are just thinking and absorbing, taking it all in. I had several ideas for the collection and they were all related to the theme of exoticism. I would see things that inspired me; sometimes images, songs and movies. After thinking about everything for a long time, it all seemed to come together under the single idea of The Year of the Serpent.
Could you tell us a bit more about the images, songs, and movies that inspired you?
As I explained in my blog, the collection was envisioned for a global warrior-empress of the future. I was inspired by everything from high fashion editorials based on the Far East and Nomadic cultures to the Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China, from foreign films such as Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers, Hero, Curse of the Golden Flower, Monsoon Wedding, and Baran, to the latest James Bond Movie, Skyfall, to Old Hollywood films, such as The Big Sleep, where Orientalism was strongly featured in the settings and costumes.
I was also inspired by ethnic or Eastern-inspired music, such as Rihanna’s Princess of China, which ended up being the opening song for my runway show, along with Grace Jones’ I Have Seen That Face Before (Libertango), Gotan Project’s Santa Maria, and Britney Spears’ Toxic.
How much time did you have to prepare for the Showcase in New York City?
I first knew about the Showcase around the end of November. I was also working at several other jobs at the time. The whole thing was put together in about a month. I did all the designs, all the patterns, all the sewing and did not have a lot of sleep!
What appealed to you the most about the image of the poisonous snake?
I loved the idea of the snake being a symbol of power. I think wearing my clothes is like wearing a protective shield: they are empowering and give the woman who is wearing them a sense of personal strength.
How did the image of the poisonous snake affect your designs and your choice of fabrics?
In the collection I did have a few snakeskin prints. But mostly, it was thinking about the way a snake moves and imagining the snake’s shimmering skin that suggested the fabrics. I ended up using a lot of metallics and brocades.
Could you tell us more about these imaginary, exotic places?
The collection is a winter collection; but in the garments there is a sense of escaping to beautiful, colourful, opulent and special, far away places.
If the women wearing your clothes were characters, what type of characters would they be?
These women would be strong and powerful, almost regal. They would be powerful in a uniquely feminine way. They would have an inner strength and not need to do anything “masculine” to bring that strength out.
What about the colours you chose?
The choice of colours came after looking at a lot of different things that I liked and that I enjoyed putting together. There is a lot of red, blue, green and gold. There are more than 20 different fabrics that have that colour spectrum. I also ended up using emerald for many of the garments that is now the colour of the year. Also, gold is in everything. It is the common thread that runs through every garment of the collection.
Corinne, you have also been designing for friends. Can you tell us about the process of creating a design for a specific person? Do you take into consideration their personality and their preferences?
Definitely. If I am designing a piece for a specific person, who that person is always comes through in the garment. I may have to take into consideration some practical aspects. For example, my sister is a cellist. She can’t have things that are tight on the bottom otherwise she won’t be able to sit properly. Their personality may also suggest the colour that I am going to use: if it is going to be flamboyant or not, for example.
What feedback did you receive from the women who wear your clothes?
People have told me that they like the feel of the fabrics and the way the clothes show off certain areas of their body. They have also told me that they feel very special when they wear them: nothing I made would go unnoticed. I think we all want to be noticed.
Tell us about running your business.
It is a lot of work. Sometimes you feel pulled in many different directions: you feel like you should be sewing something but you have to reply to someone about an order. You have to wear so many hats during the day that it can get a little overwhelming at times.
What is the hardest part of running your business?
Keeping on top of everything is definitely the toughest part. Designing is like being in a dream-like state. You think about things and go over things and redo them and draw them fifty thousand times: you really cannot put a deadline on that creative process.
The other part, the production, meaning the sewing, the cutting, talking to buyers, also takes a lot of times. It is important to be able to prioritise and to keep on top of whatever needs to be done.
Is being a designer what you do full-time?
No, I wish it were. I wish I were able to have staff. Eventually that will happen. Right now I am doing this part-time and I work at other part-time jobs as well, just to pay the bills.
What other jobs do you have?
Sometimes I work for studios. I worked as a production assistant for Wildhagen Hats and as an assistant designer for Greta Constantine, during the companies’ busy season here in Toronto. I also teach piano and sewing. Sometimes I play for weddings with my sister. I do whatever needs to be done.
On a personal level who have been your role models?
Diane von Fürstenberg. I love her as a person and she has been a true role model for me. She did not come from money and she had to work her way up. She created the wrap dress: it had never been done before. She is still very much interested in helping young designers and she is still very active in her profession. She is truly inspirational to me.
My mom. She is a very special person. I think if she had been given the opportunities that she gave me and my sister, she would have been a great fantastic artist!
Also my aunt, Dr. Ann Marie Long (my mom’s sister). She grew up believing she could do things beyond her circumstances and went on to become a doctor – kind of unheard of in our family. Together with my beloved mother, my aunt continues to be a source of inspiration and one of my biggest supporters.
Carolina Flaminia Perrone
Photos: Courtesy of Corinne Monique
To see Corinne Monique’s grand portfolio, her gorgeous fashion designs and her fashion illustrations click here.