Q&A with Jana Hanzel and Emilia Torabi
Designers Jana Hanzel and Emilia Torabi met four years ago at one of Hanzel’s fashion shows at the Slovak Embassy. Their appreciation for each other’s work lead to a partnership in 2010. Jana & Emilia Fashion Design Studio creates one-of-a-kind designs for demanding clients, according to their requirements, lifestyle, taste and figure.
Ottawa Citizen Style: Who are your style icons?
Jana Hanzel: Nobody in particular, each style is becoming, if used properly. I find beauty in many ways and styles. I like diversity. It’s about finding what’s the best for you to feel good without trying too (hard).
Emilia Torabi: I think style is not what you wear, but how you wear it. You have to have confidence in what you wear and be aware of what it does for you. I like John Galliano and Alexander McQueen; I admire their creative minds, which travel so far beyond a normal imagination.
OCS: What’s on your bedside table?
JH: My favourite perfumes, my wedding ring, resting there for a night, and wrist watches.
ET: A modern glass lamp and a 15-inch ceramic fish looks like as though it is jumping out of the water.
OCS: Best home accessory?
JH: No clutter.
ET: A smiley cat with shiny gold face that I bought in Merrickville.
OCS: Best recent fashion find?
JH: Deep purple jacket — it seems it goes with everything in my wardrobe.
ET: A pair of red high heel shoes with leopard accents.
OCS: Whom would you invite for dinner if you could choose anyone in the world?
JH: My parents, who live in Slovakia — I miss our family dinners and big family gatherings so much, it’s always a lot of fun.
ET: Someone with a great sense of humour, who makes me laugh and really have fun.
OCS: You can see the debut of any piece of music in history. What would it be?
JH: I’d like to see Carla Bruni performing together with Leonard Cohen.
ET: The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi.
OCS: What’s your earliest memory?
JH: A suitcase full of candy that my grandma brought from a trip. I was maybe two years old.
ET: Our family cat giving birth to 6 little kittens. I was 4.
OCS: Your biggest fashion faux-pas, when, where and how?
JH: When I see our old pictures from late 70s and early 80s — how we have to dress as children in Eastern Block that time — no imagination and no selection in stores.
ET: At age 21, I designed and made a reversible bright colourful checked jacket with bright yellow inside. I had so many admirers every time I wore that jacket.
OCS: Proudest moments?
JH: When I became a mother, to my son and my daughter. These moments can’t be compared with anything else.
ET: When one of my clients called me with excitement to tell me that she got bumped to the first-class of the plane because she was wearing a classy brand new suit that I had just designed and made for her.
OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?
JH: Recently purchased a light turquoise corner sofa — so pretty, stylish and comfortable.
ET: A modern white leather chair. I use it for photo shooting.
OCS: Qualities you most admire in a person?
JH: Strong character and reliability. They are strongly connected.
ET: Honesty, humour.
OCS: Who would you most like to dress?
JH: I’d love to design for Meryl Streep. She is not only a great actress but she seems to be a wonderful person who can separate her professional and personal life.
ET: I like to have the opportunity to dress TV reporters, (to find) the most suitable style and colour for them.
OCS: Describe a perfect day off (it can be anywhere in the world).
JH: Browsing the streets and markets in Jakarta in the morning, then having lunch, and reading a good book by a pool, close to my open-concept Indonesia home (it’s all just a dream!)
ET: Having breakfast on our deck while hearing the sound of water falling from the fountain into the pond, biking on a bicycle path with trees on both sides, along the water; having a light lunch with Champagne at a fine restaurant.
OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead?
JH: Alfonse Mucha (Art Deco-period multi-talented visual artist) and Albin Brunovsky (the Slovak visual artist; unfortunately he passed away too soon, in 1997).
ET: Gail Johnson, primarily known in the Canadian art scene as a “colourist”.
OCS: Favourite local artist?
JH: Chantelle Wilson. She is Toronto-based accomplished singer, the founder of the Maisies and a very talented jewelry designer.
ET: Shiva Gupta. She is a talented interior designer whose beautiful modern arts complement her interior design projects.
OCS: Best book you read in the past year?
JH: Jorgen Lykke, the Last Knight of Denmark by Danish author Thit Jensen. I’ve read this book several times.
ET: The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach.
OCS: Favourite food?
JH: Fried cheese with salad.
ET: I enjoy any food that is prepared with good-quality ingredients.
OCS: Most-oft-played song on your iPod or MP3 player?
JH: Everything from the Cirque de Soleil to Metallica. Playing a simpler/smaller selection would be boring.
ET: Persian songs, they take me away to those happy and care free day s of my earlier life.
OCS: Wine, beer or both?
JH: Wine, red wine.
OCS: Mac or PC?
OCS: Fine dining or plain old diners?
JH: Fine dining.
ET: It depends on the mood I am in.
OCS: Best restaurant in Ottawa?
JH: I like Le Café at the NAC. Food combined with culture is best.
ET: There are many good restaurants in Ottawa (Restaurant E18hteen, Fraser Café, Black Cat Bistro) but I can’t say which one is the best.
OCS: Person, place or thing that makes you proudest/happiest you live in Ottawa?
JH: My friends here that I can count on anytime. People and relationships are what matter the most in life.
ET: The downtown market, the canal, boating in the summer and skating in the winter, museums, art galleries, bike paths. And of course, friends and family.
OCS: Fave blog or website?
JH: style.com – it’s an eye candy!
OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?
OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?
JH: Occasionally spending time and money only on myself, mani/pedi included!
ET: Just relaxing in the backyard, among the flowers, listening to the waterfall, sipping wine and doing nothing.
OCS: Favourite place to spend time?
JH: I don’t like routines — I’d rather explore, a different place each time.
ET: I love fabric shops; I can browse for hours and hours. Unfortunately, in Ottawa, there are not many of them. Also, anywhere around the water, as long as I can see and hear the water, it’s very calming and peaceful for me.
OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?
JH: As a style guru who helped women (starting in Ottawa) look their best and feel good in their own skin. But by my kids, I want to be remembered as their mom who always loved them.
ET: I like to be remembered as a kind, trustworthy and caring person among my friends and family, and as a fashion designer, I would like the be remembered as the person who helped women find the most suitable style for them, that makes them comfortable and gives them confidence they need throughout the day.