Crushing on Audrey Cantwell

Audrey Cantwell portrait by Yuli Sato

Montreal designer Audrey Cantwell stays true to her own vision. From her line Ovate, which she designs and makes, to the goth, grunge-inflected vintage finds at her online store Tarantula Sisters, she keeps things dark but simple. It’s a vision that extends to her blog and her latest awesome project, the Tarantula Sisters zine.

Tell me about how the Tarantula Sisters Etsy store got started.
I had an Etsy store way back called Black Market Baby—but it was mostly stuff I didn’t want to wear anymore. Then a year and a half ago I decided I wanted to try it seriously. Originally, it was me and a friend but it’s hard to be a partner, especially when money’s involved and you have different aesthetics. I was all, “No cute sweaters with puppies!” So we went our separate ways. I’ve always really loved vintage clothes and I like the idea of not buying new stuff. I like vintage that doesn’t look like vintage, nice fabrics, nice cuts, classic things. I also have a soft spot for ’90s grunge.

How did you come up with the idea for the zine?
I’ve made zines in the past for my friends, like an Iggy Pop fanzine. I had the idea about six months ago to do a zine that’s all collaborative projects. It was a reason to get to know people who I would otherwise have no reason to contact. There’s an endless number of people in Montreal I want to work with. I’m into fashion big time, so for sure it’s a fashion zine—I styled some shoots and did an interview with my friend Maude Nibelungen who’s an awesome knitter—but I’m also into punk in Montreal and illustration and comics, so it’s got that too.

From Tarantula Sisters Zine #3

The fashion shoots are very professional. Is that hard to pull off?
The only thing that’s hard is trying to find people who are down to do it for fun, because there’s no budget. But I’ve got some wicked friends like makeup artists and hair stylists, who are always willing to help. My friends model, or I’ll model. And often agencies, if they have new models, will let you use them for free. I usually work with all girl teams, which I feel is a bit unusual in Montreal. I’m all about the girl teams for fashion shoots; we have fun. We smoke a joint, we drink some beer, eat snacks, and do a shoot.

Kind of like the ultimate sleepover.
Yeah! And then we stay up all night and go through, like, 3,000 photos. I would do a shoot every week if I could.

You mentioned that you don’t like the idea of buying new clothes. How do you reconcile that with the fact that you’re also a designer?
I like the idea of handmade. Everything you can buy used, buy used, but I’m a kind of craftsperson and I like artisan things and I think that’s important to support. I mean new things in the way of going the mall, and buying a bunch of crap. For the most part, I only wear used clothes except for a few special things that my friends made, or I made. But I’m not going to lie, I’ve got a few things from Zara.

Audrey in her studio by April Lea

Is this a new realization?
Yeah. I worked at Urban Outfitters and H&M during school and I was all over that shit. After two or three years of working in retail, I realized that after every year I’d have nothing from the year before. It wasn’t worth anything to me; it wasn’t worth anything to anyone. I felt like I wasted so much money and was impulsive on trends and I just ended up wearing the same thing as everyone else. After I stopped working there, didn’t have a good discount anymore, and only bought stuff at the thrift store, I felt like my style was much better. I felt cooler and looked better trying to be creative with second-hand things.

Are you aware of that when you’re designing? Making something timeless?
Gosh, I don’t really think about it too much. A lot of people say my stuff is goth, and I guess goth is a trend, but there are pieces that people would wear for many years—at least that’s what I hope for.

interview by Sacha Jackson