Lorianne Hawdur and Jamieson Nesbitt were friends before they became business partners.
So when they were trying to come up with a name for the fashion line they were dreaming up at Nesbitt’s cottage, the design and merchandising duo just pulled out their middle names, which had that perfect balance of quirkiness and tradition: Bernice & Barclay.
Now they’re bringing their first collection of gimmick-free staples to Ottawa Fashion Week.
Hawdur’s inspiration for the line was the feminine simplicity of Kate Middleton’s style. Nesbitt’s was ’80s vintage punk rocker Debbie Harry.
They were both surprised how easy it was to meet in the middle. The dresses in the collection can be worn long and sleek or pulled up for a ruched look.
“You can wear them with biker boots and a jean jacket or dress them up for a cocktail party,” says Hawdur, who is a senior clothing technologist with the Department of National Defence, where she develops and tweaks clothing for the military. She graduated from Montreal’s LaSalle College and spent about two years as a designer for Mexx’s Canadian line.
“We call it rock ’n’ royalty,” says Nesbitt, has studied couture and merchandising and still occasionally works as a freelance stylist.
“Fashion should be approachable. It’s fashion, it’s supposed to be fun. You should be able to style it any way you want it.”
The 26-piece Fall/Winter 2013 collection features body-skimming knits and jerseys in a palette of black, charcoal, true red, teal, dark brown and cream with a few pieces in a zigzag print as an accent.
The “Debbie” dress has dropped shoulders and sleeves long enough to be pulled beyond the wrist. The “Kate” has a boat neck and a slight dolman silhouette. There is a pegged skirt, a straight skirt, cotton-spandex stretch leggings with a soft leather-like finish, slim T-shirts in various sleeve lengths and a tank top that can be worn as a layering piece.
The pieces are all machine-washable and low-maintenance — even those with a bit of wool in the mix. The line, which will be ready in time for fall, is manufactured in Toronto and made with textiles sourced in Canada. Dresses are priced between $90 and $160, and smaller pieces between $40 and $90.
Hawdur and Nesbitt aim to sell through their website and want to have their clothes available in three boutiques in Ottawa,
Montreal and Toronto, and possibly a few in Western Canada.
The designing duo already has an eye on a collection for Spring/Summer 2014 with supersaturated colours inspired by a trip to Italy.
Hawdur and Nesbitt originally thought their market would be women between
25 and 40 who want clothes that can transition from work to an evening out. But to their surprise, their samples have been a hit with women both older and younger than that
The teens who model the clothes love them, says Hawdur. Women 45-plus like the cuts, which are forgiving rather than clingy.
“I have been through a few body shapes,” she says.
“I know what it’s like to have a bit of a body.”