by Hélène Deconinck
There are designers who see fashion as something more than shoulders, waist and hips. Among them, the artist and designer Bisa Benett and her daughter Tijana, are determined to prove that quality fashion can be affordable ($20 for tops, from $100 to $150 for dresses and up to $350 for coats) with their Toronto fashion boutique, Notion Style. Their unique pieces inspired by European style, especially Italian and French, perfectly match Canadian fashion to empower the feminity present in every woman. MadlyJuicy met mother and daughter at their store to share their passion for fashion.
MadlyJuicy: What are your educational background?
Bisa Benett: I studied Fashion and Fine Arts in Belgrade and then, photography, graphic design and multimedia at OCAD and Seneca college. Both European and Canadian educational approaches are very different. In Europe, you learn more about old fashioned and traditional techniques, while in Canada, it’s more about freedom and self-creativity.
Tijana Benett: I studied Psychology. But, I’ve always been interested in fashion. I worked for a retailer for a while. Now, I am more into merchandising, buying and running a store. Later, I might consider doing some clothes design.
MJ: When did you start designing clothes?
Bisa Benett: I started sewing when I was 12. After school, I opened my first boutique in Belgrade and designed during 10 years in Europe. At some point, maybe because I am an artist, Europe seemed too small for me, so I moved to North America when I was 28. I wanted to explore different way through Art. I was in New York for a while exhibiting my paintings. But, when you are born with a passion, it always stays and so, I got back to fashion.
MJ: Who are you favourite designers and why?
Bisa Benett: Valentino is our favourite. The way he cuts and how he uses the fabrics is just amazing. We’re currently carrying European designers such as Paolo Cavali from Italy and Yumi from London. The young generation of Canadian designers are pretty talented as well. They use quality fabrics that give to their design a very organic cachet.
MJ: What inspire your creations? What is your creative process?
Bisa Benett: Fabrics; I love silk, velvet and lace. These are such a feminine, soft and sensual materials. Part of the upcoming collection will use lace with different fabrics so it can suit all occasions. The fabrics inspired me because it’s all about the feeling and how it flows. For our winter collection, I am thinking about combining leather and velvet.
MJ: What message do you try to convey through Notion Style?
Bisa Benett: Before, clothes were perfectly tailored and cut. As we believe that there are not 2 women with the same figure, we customize every piece to be unique and bring that uniqueness present in every woman. We carry maybe two sizes of each piece. Once, a customer came three times to try a Cavali dress. She really liked the dress but it didn’t fit her. So, I added two pieces on the sides. She loved it! Women who cross our doors can have different occupations, passions and lifestyle. We talk and it helps me designing clothes. It’s more personal. That’s all the charm of our boutique!
MJ: How do you differentiate yourself from other Canadian designers?
Bisa Benett: We have a European flavour that is bolder in the cut and design. Here, people are safer with clothes. For example, we carried a dress from the Italian designer Paolo Cavali and several customers were surprised trying it how their shape was empowered. It is all about the cut.
Tijana Benett: Also colors. For example, orange is big in Europe right now! They can live in a farm and wear an orange Versace purse with matching earrings and shoes! While here, people are ‘Oh my God! Orange!’
Bisa Benett: Sometimes because of work routine, women can be too conservative with clothes. We’ll show them that they can feel comfortable and empower their beauty with different fabrics, patterns and colors. We want to implement European style to Canadian fashion creating unique pieces. I’d also loved to implement my Art experiences, my paintings into my design. I am currently looking for partnership to print some of my abstract paintings on silk and then design dresses or scarves. I’d like my customers to buy because they want, they feel comfortable and they love clothes rather than they just need it.
MJ: For many designers, opening a boutique is a dream. How was the Notion Style brand journey from the drawings to your great launching celebration on September 14th?
Bisa Benett: Back in January, I was still working for an architecture firm but I wasn’t happy because I couldn’t express my creativity. I felt it was the right time to go back to fashion because Tijana just finished university and it required all of our energy. We started designing and creating our brand at home. We just opened August 7th and so far we get an incredible response. Big brands, such as Club Monaco, should believe in young designers. In the future, we want to carry more young designers, even recently graduated, and give them the opportunity to show their talent.
MJ: How do you build your customer base?
Bisa Benett: As an artist, I believe more in word of mouth but we also use our website, facebook page and twitter account. When mothers and daughters pass our door, we do believe that we can dress both. Three weeks after our opening we already had regular customers. Sometimes, they can come twice a week. They already renamed us ‘dangerous store’!
MJ: Notion Style is a family business as you collaborating with your daughter, Tijana. What does that bring to your style?
Bisa Benett: Tijana knows me. She knows my experiences. She brings a kind of youthfulness to my design. The age difference is actually very good, as that way, we can understand a wide range of women. I am a kind of old-fashioned. When you are older you care about the fabrics while young people are more about the look and the cut. So, we complement each other and it works out pretty well.
MJ: What’s next for Notion Style?
Bisa Benett: We are currently working on our next collection shooting for Notion Style website. We have a TV show scheduled in the next few weeks, and we are also collaborating with a designer to add some children pieces to our boutique…
Tijana Benett: And we are in touch with another designer for a yoga wear collection that should come in February!
Notion Style official website http://www.notionstyle.com/
Notion Style official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NotionStyle
Notion Style official Twitter account http://twitter.com/NotionStyle