Since its founding in 2012, Canadian fashion brand Horses Atelier has covered the pages of Vogue, the silhouette of singer-songwriter Feist, and many a television screen via HBO’s hit show Girls. It’s a long way from the house’s origins, which all began under a bridge.
Claudia Dey and Heidi Sopinka, friends and writers, were out on an unassuming stroll, passing under the dingy arch in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. “[We were] pushing strollers, both finding it hard to finish our novels, when we lighted upon our love of design,” Sopinka explains. Enthusing over their respective collections of vintage wear, “We floated the idea of making something ourselves, and within half a block we had [decided on] our first collection and our name.”
“We feel that fashion is a signpost to the interior, it is a personal autobiography. We make clothes that women can work and move and feel good in.”
The moniker was inspired by Patti Smith’s album Horses, the clothing itself by humble values of utility, beauty, wildness, and endurance. These ideas are still central to the kind of pieces you’ll find at their downtown Toronto bricks and mortar store today: structured and feminized workwear, vibrant prints on timeless designs.
Described by the co-founders’ friends as “soft armour”, the clothing is certainly loved for its clean lines and quality fabrics, though the appeal is more than skin deep. “Clothes are just clothes, but they can be profound,” says Sopinka. “We feel that fashion is a signpost to the interior, it is a personal autobiography. We make clothes that women can work and move and feel good in.”
Horses Atelier also makes clothes that women can feel good about. “We take putting another thing into the world very seriously,” says Sopinka. “Everything is sewn within a mile of our studio in Toronto by adult women who are paid well. The clothes are not cheap, but they reflect the true cost of what it is to make something in Canada with quality fabrics… clothes that last.”
The company is working hard to combat the kind of fast fashion that has come to dominate the industry in recent years, even donating a portion of their profits to the Clean Clothes Campaign, a global organization set to improve working conditions in clothing industries around the world. “When you buy something cheap, someone else has had to pay a price for it,” says Sopinka.
Behind every silk slip dress and velveteen cropped jacket, Horses Atelier’s conscience shines through, at once dreamy and down-to-business.
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