Curly Queen

Stephanie Wornette is crushing on Sandra Pittana

If you grew up in Toronto, you’ve probably already encountered Sandra Pittana. She is that curly-headed clothing genius on Cityline that can make a cheap and cheerful ensemble sophisticated with her accessorizing magic. She is also full of the kinds of fashion stories you wish were your own (stylist in Mod-era Britain please, with two lumps of sugar). But perhaps what makes her the most crush-worthy is her open-minded approach to fashion that encourages personal style for the masses, pulling off gems like a YSL Russian collection coat 20 years later…

WORN was welcomed into Sandra’s home for hours of fashion musing about her mom the stylesetter, jumping into rivers for British Vogue, and curly hair angst.

God save the Queen.

When did you know that you wanted to work in fashion?
Like so many of us in this business, I had a fashion icon in my mom. She had an innate sense of style that was remarkable to me, topped off by the fact that she was also a business woman, at a time when women weren’t in business. She taught me to sew from a young age; I remember she’d make me clothes for school and would sometimes let me sew a seam. She’d stay up until four in the morning to finish the item, so the next day I could wear it to school and say “I made this.”

I went to school in England and became inspired, especially in London where being an individual has always been really celebrated. There’s something about London that’s quirky, that’s a little more adventurous. I like breaking the rules; I’ve always liked breaking the rules for fashion.

The funny thing about fashion is that it sort of comes and goes in all its incarnations, but the reality is it’s a simplified form of the arts world. You’re basically talking about a torso and two arms and two legs in most instances, there’s only so much you can do with that format, you know?

I think uniqueness will be the new luxury.
North America is such a land of excess and most of us don’t need more stuff. It’s lovely to have fewer, more select, individual pieces, that embody you. I often find that the pieces I buy that are in season are unintentionally worn less then. I tend to wear them more a season or two later, just because it isn’t so expected. You get to morph it into something slightly different because of what you put it with. You’re not so influenced by all the visual tags you see in every magazine, or on every blog.

Turns into a semiotic game to me. You just read the clothes as symbols of what’s trendy when you see the same thing over and over again.
I have a coat I still wear today, that I bought from Saint Laurent when he was doing this whole Russian thing, and it’s probably 28 or 30 years old. And I love it. And is it a bit odd? Yeah, but it’s terrific and I feel great in it and that to me is something that’s withstood the test of time because it’s surpassed being in or out, and I love that.

You worked at British Vogue as an Assistant Fashion Editor in the beginning of your career. Did you find that there was less of an emphasis on trends, and more of an emphasis on personal style there?
As you can imagine, it was a really exciting time in London. We’re talking late ’60s, early ’70s, and there was an awful lot happening. We were dying our poodles to match our suits and parading ourselves on the weekends—not just the women, but the men too. It was a very creative period in fashion and was a great time for me to learn. I worked for a wonderful woman, Melanie Miller, who started by making tea for Diana Vreeland. Our market was exquisite, expensive, one-of-a-kind, high end jewelry—McGraph and Cartier, and Van Cleef and Arpel jewels. I used to cart them around for photo shoots inside my coat! It drew less attention if I walked around disheveled with all of the stuff on me, than in a jewelry store with all of the security one would need…

Melanie would sometimes come up with a story idea that didn’t exist on the market. She would decide that red was the story line and that she was feeling great about embroidery, so they would create one-of-a-kind pieces for her. She taught me that if you have a dress, a model, and a photographer, you never know what’s going to happen in front of the camera. She wanted to make sure that for every dress there were ten necklaces, ten pairs of shoes, ten handbags, and ten hats so that there was always a plethora of accessories.

You can study the history of fashion all you want, but it was often a lot more about hands on, on the job learning, so it was a pretty privileged start. I look back on it and realize how lucky I was to get that knowledge first hand.

Yes, lucky, but you have to be able to handle an opportunity like that too. Do you have any favourite memories at Vogue?
SP: We were photographing with Sir Norman Parkinson (Parks), and we went out to a country estate to photograph ballgowns. We found this meandering river with a lovely stone bridge and low wall, and Parks decided it would be absolutely wonderful if the model laid down across the arc of the bridge, with her gown trailing over the front and blowing underneath. So, we had this beautiful vision but Parks had to stand in the middle of the river to shoot it. He was a very tall man, so willowy and elegant that you felt like he was 6’8″, and he just told me to drag a bench into the middle of the river for him to stand on. Of course, I fell as I went to take the bench into the river, and had to take my pants off and work the rest of the day in a little short jacket with only my underwear on. But we got beautiful photographs and I went home, carrying my pants in hand, soaking wet in the cold English countryside. Some silly memories.

How did you get to do Fashion Fridays on City TV Toronto?
I left Vogue and worked at Eaton’s doing market research and writing trend reports, but staying with the European market. I came back to Toronto and John McKay, the fashion expert on the Dini Petty show (today’s Cityline), was asked to find someone to give a female perspective. He originally recommended Jane Musset, who in turn suggested me. I took the position, and went on for what was really going to be a one-time thing—I’d have to say, after 23 years I’m the longest standing guest host! But the reality is that now I am the demographic of most people who watch TV. For a lot of younger people, TV moves way too slowly for them although we still do have our fair number of younger viewers.

A lot of people are on blogs, etc. but I think having something like Fashion Fridays with an expert stylist who will analyze a look and play around with it in real time still occupies a niche.
Often the stuff you see printed in magazines and elsewhere is not actually available. Buyers buy what will sell, editors buy couture. The one thing about Cityline is everything you see you can find in a store. Hopefully we are [instructive], because as we’ve talked about, you need to find your own comfort zone. Some people want to stretch a little while others want to play it safe.

One of our mottoes at WORN is “My style icon is anyone who makes a bloody effort.” – Isabella Blow

I love when someone makes an effort and makes a mistake, because at least they tried something outside of their comfort zone. But that’s just not the way it generally happens. Everybody just gets comfortable.

Issue 15 is all about hair. How do you feel about your curly hair?
I feel good about it. I straighten it occasionally, and I never feel good about it being straight, but I do love being able to put a comb or brush through. It’s a trade-off. I believe we should all embrace what we were given, because generally it tends to work the best for us. I look at a lot of people with curly hair who try to straighten it, and think, “Why don’t you just let it go?” But that’s me. I also think curly hair suits my personality while I’m not sure straight hair necessarily does. My daughter Daphne definitely agrees with that! She has curly hair too, and uses lavender oil and sea salt to take care of it.

Why do you think there is curl angst and this general movement to straighten it all out?

I think there is less curl angst now than before. But the strange thing about curly hair is that while I’m shopping when my hair is straight, I’ll gravitate to clothes that are quite different from what I’d try on when my hair is curly. You can’t exactly do a ruffle neck [with curly hair]. Whereas, if your hair is quite straight you can have some softness. So I like it better when your hair is almost the exact opposite of your clothing style. I think people aren’t as aware of that as they could be. The jewelry you choose with straight hair is different with curly hair. You have to look at it as part of the whole package.

Rumour has it you had little champagne pink highlights…
I had pale pink, but everyone thought I did it for breast cancer. I started experimenting with hair dyes when I was working at Vogue. I used to blow dry my hair out and would take water-based markers and put my hair on an ironing board and colour [my streaks] to match my outfits. I would do a lot of green and purple or red and pink. They looked a bit like feathers because of it being blown out soft. I had extensions for a while, but I never liked the feeling of the clip part. Today I don’t even think you hide the clip thing. Celebrities have made extensions the norm. It’s like you have a whole head of purple hair. That’s not punk; to me it’s just celebrating something being false. I don’t think it would be frowned upon today though. I was so conscious back then to make sure everyone thought it was natural.

That reminds me of the Hunger Games. The richest district is full of people with surreal hair celebrating the power of having no limits. Imagine Stanley Tucci with a blue bouffont! When your daughter was growing up, what did you want her to know about curly hair?
Celebrate whatever you have. It’s okay to embrace it. It’s fine. At first you braid it, to keep it under control, because the hair gets in your way. I watch Daphne now and she’s still always tying it up. And then she straightened it for a really long time. I celebrate the changes, but I also think you shouldn’t run away from what you already have. Experiment, have some fun, but don’t do it because of discomfort. Do it because you’re exploring the changes. I think that’s what I feel about fashion too. Just go with it, let it be, and see where it runs its gamut. Hate to think of what I’ll look like when I’m old. Curly hair and all the jewelry…

photography //Brianne Burnell

Seductive Objects and Smoky Scents

Crushing on Carly Waito and her profound love for perfume

Toronto artist Carly Waito is well-known for her dazzling paintings of mineral specimens. Each of her pieces focuses on one in particular, and is rich with detail and demonstrative of a creative mind keen to the wonders of the natural world.

What most Waito fans don’t know is that this talented painter comes with a very discerning nose. Which is to say: Carly Waito loves perfume. She really, really loves it.

WORN had the privilege to chat with their Toronto-art (and perfume) crush Carly Waito about falling hard for fine fragrance, letting her nose travel, and the scent gurus that have been her guide.

When did your interest in perfume start?
I didn’t really think I liked perfume in general for most of my life (I still dislike plenty of it). I had been half-heartedly searching for a signature scent for a few years, and finally found one that really clicked in 2011 (Terre d’Hermès). Then, about a year and a half ago, while browsing at the Hermès counter at Holt Renfrew, a conversation with a salesperson about Terre d’Hermès led to him showing me some other fragrances by the same perfumer (Jean Claude Ellena) and the Frederic Malle line. It was revelatory. Down the rabbit hole I went. I started reading perfume blogs and ordering samples online. The more I’ve tried, the more curious I have become. Now I can’t imagine my life without fragrance.

What about perfume appeals to you?
On one hand it functions as an extension of your personal style, adding an aura to your presence. But it can be so much more than a fashion accessory. The perfume you wear can change the way you feel. Smell is such a powerful sense; the way it connects so intimately to our memories and emotions. To be more actively conscious of scent adds a whole other dimension to life. I get so much enjoyment from just smelling different perfumes, even without actually wearing them. Good perfume can be as interesting, beautiful and moving as visual art or music.

What’s your favourite perfume to wear and why?
I have a few favourites, but I think my ultimate cool weather perfume is Cuir de Lancome (which seems to have been discontinued before it even made it to the stores, but can be found online). It is a slightly smoky, cozy, but sophisticated floral-leather scent. In the heat of summer, I adore Carnal Flower from Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle, which is a sensual and glowingly fresh tuberose.

You have a collection of vintage and dead-stock perfumes, where have you found these and what drew you to them?
I kept reading about these classic fragrances, and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. In some cases it cost about the same to get a vintage mini bottle on eBay as to get a sample from a decanting website. And once you start browsing on eBay for this stuff, it can get dangerous. Vintage perfume bottles are such seductive objects. Add to that the possibility of the bottles containing gorgeous scents, and they can be hard to resist. Luckily for my wallet, my vintage perfume phase was pretty short-lived. Some of my favourite acquisitions are an exquisitely packaged trio of Balenciaga perfumes from the ’50s, and an adorable mini of Mitsouko by Guerlain.

What perfume is on your current wish list?
I’ve cut back my perfume budget significantly since my initial rush of buying last year (which was a little insane, to be honest), so I’m being super picky about what full bottles I invest in. Frederic Malle just did a lovely, cozy sandalwood and saffron fragrance for Dries Van Noten. I’m also contemplating Seville a l’Aube from L’Artisan Parfumeur, which is a gorgeous, sultry orange blossom and incense fragrance. But I might not buy any more full bottles this year, if I can help it. There are a couple of online shops where you can order small decants of just about anything, so I’ll be going that route for the most part. There are entire lines that I haven’t even tried yet, and so many notes I want to explore in more depth (tuberose, tobacco, saffron, iris, orange blossom—the list is endless), so I’m excited to do more sampling.

If you could make your own scent, how would it smell?
It would smell natural, yet sophisticated; sensual, but smart; slightly sweet, warm and cozy, with a slight edge and a quiet strength… woods, smoke, skin… Actually, Cuir de Lancome comes pretty close to fitting this description.

Have you found anyone else in the city who shares you love of scent?
I have a few friends who appreciate perfume, who I’ve been pulling into my obsession with me. It’s so fun to play fragrance consultant to friends, either with my own collection or in a store. But, the best way to indulge my perfume nerdiness is chatting and sniffing with my favourite sales guy at Holts. He’s hardcore.

photography // Paige Sabourin

interview // Emily Whalen

Four Eyes

Crushing on Lauren Archer, Toronto eyewear designer

A pop-punk song once taught me, “If you’re bored, then you’re boring.” If that’s the case, Lauren Archer is the most interesting woman in the room. She is a history buff, working in historical preservation for the City of Toronto by day and maintaining many hobbies by night. When she isn’t making robots, casting metal, or creating dry ice milkshakes, Lauren designs custom eyewear. She talks to WORN about her prototyping process and her love of glasses and mixing old techniques with new technologies.

What inspired you to make glasses?
It all started with a laser cutter class at Site3, a collaborative makerspace at Bloor and Ossington full of strange, creative people making awesome things. They offer a series of classes that give you access to a bunch of really neat tools, including a laser cutter. I made my first pair of glasses on a whim shortly after that. I knew fairly early that I wanted to make a functional pair of frames, something I could get optical lenses made for. Eyewear straddles this really neat intersection of creativity, engineering, design, tradition, skill, and practicality that I am really attracted to.

You use some unconventional methods to construct your frames. What steps are involved in the process
I have a pretty extensive prototyping process. I steal guitar boxes from behind Long & McQuade so I can cut test frames out of the cardboard until I get all of the sizing and styling right.

Then I do the design on a computer-aided design (CAD) program called Rhino, which I then export directly to the laser cutter. This ensures my final frames stay true to the original design. Then I cut the shape of the frames with the laser. That part’s pretty cool.

When it comes to the hinges, I use a type of traditional rivet hinges that you only really find in vintage frames and traditional glasses. Hinges are typically heat sunk or ultrasonically inserted, and I don’t have the equipment to do that so I’m basically using the Victorian method of smashing metal on metal.

How did you learn to do all of this?
Pretty much through experimentation and observation. I have found a handful of promo videos online that give the briefest of glimpses into the mysterious innards of eyewear factories. Other than that, it comes from a billion eclectic Google searches, guesswork, and many, many failed attempts.

I wasn’t able to find any books or classes on designing eyewear. People who make glasses professionally are quite close-lipped about their methods. I guess this sort of secrecy makes sense in the high-tech industry where every new innovation means a patent and a fortune, but framemaking has been around for hundreds of years. You’d think there would be at least one good book on the subject.

What kind of responses have you received for your handmade glasses?
After I finished my first pair, I took them to optical shops for lenses. Some opticians thought they were vintage frames. This was a huge compliment. I had a few opticians suggest I sell my frames. One even offered to sell them for me. This was super encouraging, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet, skill-wise.

How do you feel about people wearing non-prescription lenses as an affectation?
I don’t really see any problem with it. Glasses are cool. There was a significant and intentional shift in the eyewear industry in the ’40s and ’50s that took glasses from medical device to fashion accessory. There’s really no going back from that.

What’s the next step with your venture?
Eventually, I would like to sell my frames. One of the hazards of having a strange, uncommon hobby is that the tools and materials I need are expensive, so selling the finished frames will help. When I tell people that I make my own glasses, they usually ask me how much I sell them for or if I do this for a living. I really like the idea that people find enough value in what I do that they want to pay money for it. Also, the finished frames are kind of sad without a purpose. They’re made to be worn!

In the new year, I plan to run a class on glasses making at Site3. It’s open to anyone. Everyone who participates will leave with a pair of frames they’ve handmade themselves, as well as the knowledge to design more. There are so many talented and creative people out there but there are so many boring glasses. I blame this entirely on the inaccessibility of the eyewear industry.

Who are your favourite eyewear designers?
Xavier Derome of Derome Brenner, an independent French eyewear brand that does really brilliant original things with cellulose acetate.

Jesse Stevens, an independent eyewear designer who has worked with Cutler and Gross, Oliver Goldsmith and Claire Goldsmith, Prada, and with Victoria Beckham.

Elena Doukas, who does Design and Development at Garrett Leight California Optical. I really like the branding and dedication to quality she has, but GLCO is also known for their experimental approach to design in general (they post pictures from inside their labs, and it makes me happy.)

Mel and Shilo Rapp of Rapp Eyewear, a Toronto-centric brand that is designed and made in small batches in Toronto, and sold at optical shops all around the world.

photography // Claire Ward-Beveridge

Crushing on Moon Moon

Spreading music and love to infinity—and beyond

The last time I saw Moon Moon live, I left with a tattoo—literally. While I’m sure not everyone who sees them rushes out to get inked the very next day, the impression left by this sprightly duo is more permanent than the buzz of a needle and ink breaking skin. Lyrics and vocals haunt their audience, while stop-animations of pressed flowers project over a white canvas of lace and linen garments. I’ve been lucky enough to know June (who, along with partner Conor make up Moon Moon) and her closet for several years, as she has brought her message of “More Love” from Toronto treehouses, to her native Newfoundland, Montreal, California, and now a cabin in Vancouver where the two reside. More than geographically, Moon Moon is spreading their mantra of “More Love” to bodies across Canada, committing themselves, and encouraging others, to recycle clothing and remove themselves from the grips of Fast Fashion.

How much thought do you put into getting dressed in the morning? Do you put more or less effort into picking clothing for daily life than for stage?
June > I keep my wardrobe small. I like to repeat outfits. When I find something I can move in, it stays with me for days.
Conor > Getting dressed in the morning I think mostly about what I’m doing for the day… it’s a question of function mostly. For the stage, it’s a totally different thing; we discuss with each other and endeavour to create a unified stage picture.

From stamping the wrists of the audience, to carefully crafted projections, it seems like in your live shows you try to generate an overall aesthetic experience, rather than just a two dimensional, flat performance. How important does clothing/costume rank in creating this experience?
June > Live music is a sacred thing to me, it brings people together; an opportunity to create community. To honour the experience I want the performance to be special, magical, and all inclusive. Costumes are an important part of the aesthetic that is fun to play with.

Lately, you both have been wearing white on stage. Was this a conscious choice? If so, why white? Is there some sort of significance behind this color for you as a duo?
June > We have been playing with live projections, and wearing white helps to reflect the images. Plus, white is a serene box to put yourself in.
Conor > White reflects all the colours of the spectrum, like the face of the moon reflects sunlight back to earth, our bodies on stage reflect our video content back to the space.

Much of my wardrobe is filled with castaways from June’s wardrobe, which she almost ritually gives away the majority of each year. June, what have been your reasons for purging your closet in the past? Do you think you’ll continue to do so in coming years? (A girl can only hope.)
June > There is so much abundance in the world! This practice of release is integral to make space for the new. I only keep things in my life if they serve me. If I’m not wearing that dress anymore, I’m going to give it to someone who will, and Casie, you always get first dibs.

Tell me about your initiative to not buy new clothing. Conor, is this something you are doing as well?
Conor >Yes, absolutely. I love thrift store shopping, especially in small towns where the store hasn’t been picked over, because I find the craziest pieces. I feel like at this point the world is so saturated with garments it just makes sense to recycle whats already there.
June > I believe in More Love and less waste. I try not to buy clothes and when I do, I shop consciously, and second hand. I chose to be resourceful, especially when the alternative to shopping is an adventure benefitting me, and the planet. If you have never been to a clothing exchange, host one now. It’s brilliant. Trade your clothes! These threads have stories, these clothes have soul.

This one is for Conor. Sometimes I feel as though for women, the possibilities for reinvention through clothing are infinite. As a male, and particularly as a performer, do you ever feel limited in possibilities for stage wear compared to your counterpart?
Conor > The simple answer is no. I have always been drawn to “costumish” clothing, I love to feel the way people’s perception of me changes along with my wardrobe.

What is your favorite piece of clothing you’ve ever owned and why?
June > I have a grey sweater that’s been living on me for about five years. SO COMFORTABLE.
Conor > I have a black felt fedora that I bought with my very first pay cheque. It has traveled all over the world with me; it has been worn by so many people I love and quite a few that I will never see again. I feel like the value of an item of clothing can best be measured in stories.

What is your favorite item that you’ve given away?
Conor > The first time I went to a thrift store I was maybe 17 and I bought this amazing leather bomber jacket that had a map of the world pattern on the lining. I recently left it for a friend when I moved away from Montreal. It shall be sorely missed.
June > Once upon a time I bought a beautiful winter jacket, made in Canada, from 69 Vintage in Toronto. It swept around my ankles and made me feel all Hollywood ’20s. Sadly, there was no room for it my latest move. Someone please go find it at Local 23 in Montreal and love it and love it and love it…

photography // Allison Staton