Twice a year, we look towards the leaders in the fashion industry to embark on a path dictated by designers and buyers to help showcase our own personal style and prove our uniqueness to our fellow fashionistas. The fact remains that when we embrace the fashion industry, this does not necessarily act as means for true creative expression. I follow trends, and so do you. We just might pass each other on the street in the same bold horizontal stripe or nod at our matching neon runners. There are very few fashion designers that honestly march to the beat of their own drum; and Toronto, if you listen hard enough, you just might enjoy the rhythm and groove of Magpie Designs, located on Queen Street West. Cathy McDayter and Angela Mann have been dressing the strong and the brave under Magpie Designs for just under a decade, and it’s about time you paid them a visit.
“We dress a lot of the art community…musicians, designers…Prince wore one of our coats to the Grammy’s,” Cathy declared when I visited their store one Friday morning. Upon entering, it is obvious that Magpie is not your ordinary clothing store. With a limited number of pieces in their retail space, the store has a small, but rich collection of eccentric one-of-a-kind goods. They range from bold feather accessories (featured in PRODUCT Issue 4: Vamps Like Us), elaborately finished blazers, to long evening gowns – all made to turn heads. “Our clothing really is for strong men and women. You wear one of our pieces and you get stopped and asked where it’s from,” Cathy says as she moves around their studio space, garment in hand. “It’s an extra layer of confidence,” adds Angela. With such an extensive list of clients, Magpie has earned a niche in the broader fashion community, not only for their designs, but for how they make us feel. Every bag, necklace, belt, dress, and coat tells its own unique story that intertwines with the narratives of the community along Toronto’s Queen West. “With each client, it’s like looking through a great window into their lives. It’s remarkable.”
Although their garments are incredibly inimitable, the Magpie look is distinct and many pieces create a dialogue with each other. “We gather inspiration from anywhere and anything. The people on Queen West are a great source [of inspiration],” said Angela. No matter where their inspiration stems from, the team at Magpie is constantly adapting and expanding to meet the needs of their clients who come from all kind of backgrounds and who vary in size. Just behind their retail space lies their studio, where the team meets with clients, sews their garments, dyes their fabrics, and creates their stunning designs. “All of our pieces are made here or on my kitchen stove…We don’t really send stuff out to a manufacturer,” says Cathy. Their success has allowed them to whet their craft in every sense of the word, from conception to realization.