We believe in supporting Canadian products, not for the sake of it, but because our nation boasts some of the most top-notch brands and designers in the world. This week, a Toronto-based denim company is elevating a classic.
Former stylist, Tahnee Lloyd-Smith is tired of the casual and basic denim the “Jans” in the office wear.
An unlikely person to start a denim brand, Lloyd-Smith admits she rarely wore jeans growing up. At a young age, she was a quick study of her stylish grandmother who believed jeans were inappropriate, only to be worn as outdoor play clothes.
Born out of her own experiences, Lloyd-Smith soon identified a gap in women’s wardrobes: elevated denim pieces that could be worn for every occasion. She launched Pretty Denim’s inaugural collection in 2018 to breathe life into the world of denim and bring elevated denim into the market. As a stylist her previous clientele were men, but her label is for women. Lloyd-Smith’s brand is proving that denim can indeed be crisp, sophisticated and not just the casual option in your wardrobe.
Evolution of the Brand
Made in downtown Toronto, Lloyd-Smith does small runs of high-quality pieces and the evolution of her brand is clear on the clothing rack. The debut collection, HER, undisputedly contrasts the new collection.
HER, highlighted embellishments of sequins, custom dyed fringes, and decadent metal button finishes. Each piece is named after a powerful woman she admires from Frida Kahlo to Donna Summer.
While, HER was pretty in a ‘conventional’ way, Lloyd-Smith wants to redefine what pretty means. Her definition: simplistic and powerful. A form of expression that goes beyond what you’re wearing — she wants to design clothes that make you feel good too.
The undisclosed name of the new collection boasts a more lucid yet robust line of luxurious wardrobe staples that are simple, but to be clear not basic. The line consists of pieces inspired by traditionally ‘masculine’ wardrobe essentials: pants, button-up, vest, blazer.
These are highly tailored fabrics that create shape and structure while incorporating feminine details. It’s the female power suit, pieces assembled together as your armour or worn separately to always look elevated and put together in your modern urban life.
So, what has changed between the old collection and the new? Lloyd-Smith isn’t designing for fast fashion. She wants impeccable quality that finds a permanent home in your closet, staples that work individually or as companion pieces.
The new collection is meant to form the basis of a capsule wardrobe of your favourite staple pieces in coordinating colours including black, white, olive, and caramel. It’s encouraging women to reduce the amount of pieces in their closet and limit fashion fatigue.
The choice of fabric for the new collection is natural brushed bull denim. Brushed is a technique that’s used to basically make it feel worn-in.
Bull denim is truly where luxury meets durability. When touched, it’s as soft as cashmere, but has a deceivingly tough exterior just like a bull (thanks to its 3×1 twill construction).
This fabric is commonly used for upholstery and has historically been worn by factory workers because it holds up to the rigors and wear of everyday use, is great at resisting tears, and is uniquely very easy to clean and care for.
However, working with denim can be tricky, there are so many weights, dye colours, and textures. “Learning the malleability of different weaves of denim was a massive education,” said Lloyd-Smith.
While, Lloyd-Smith has chosen luxurious Mokuba ribbon, whose original ribbon designs are manufactured in Japan, as trimming to certain Pretty Denim garments.
An element of surprise, custom painted denim pockets by artist, Jacqueline Poirier, a very good friend of Lloyd-Smith, they have known each other since they were 14 years old. Poirier, otherwise known as the crazy plate lady is famous for her eccentric custom painted plates. She is the Resident Artist in the Ritz Carlton where her plates are showcased throughout TOCA, the hotel’s signature restaurant.
Sustainability in the world of denim is a loud conversation. Finding ways to reduce the harsh footprint denim can leave is critical to brands appealing to customers in the wake of the climate crisis.
Pretty Denim chooses to use fabrics that are all sourced from North American mills. While, bull denim as a fabric itself has no sustainability benefits, the durability of bull denim means pieces last longer in your closet, maintaining Pretty Denim’s slow fashion position. Denim also has a healthy circular market, by prolonging the life of your denim garments, they don’t end up in the landfill.
Pretty Denim also supports high-end fashion manufacturing in Canada, by having a local production pathway in a non-factory setting in downtown Toronto’s bohemian neighbourhood, Kensington market.
“I think every luxury denim store should carry a luxury denim brand that was made in their own country,” said Lloyd-Smith.