Nadya Toto is the living embodiment of her designs: pretty, self-possessed and laced with refinement. She is a full-time fashion designer with a wide-eyed young daughter to raise and still exudes quiet serenity.
After a half hour chat, it dawns on me that Toto’s secret is to productively channel her stress. Toto is of the breed of creative working mothers and smiles when she speaks of 6 a.m. gym trips.
Her unassuming ease comes through in her designs. Toto has released over 50 collections since launching her label 25 years ago. With her new F/W 2015 collection, she brings to the fore signature dress designs, handmade lace and elegant zipper-less ease. To scan her latest catalogue is to absorb an aesthetic of beauty without edges or angles. Toto’s dresses are for the effortlessly feminine woman with little need for excess.
“My main focus is the fabric itself, because my cuts are very simple,” Toto explains. “There is nothing really complicated; it’s more about the shape, the fit and the quality.”
“I work very closely with some Italian mills… but I don’t just buy fabrics, I also create fabrics.”
Descended from an Italian lace maker, Toto remains loyal to her creative European roots. She is a lifelong Montrealer who has been living and working in Beaconsfield for over a decade now. My conversation with her reveals she has a predictable fondness for swanky Italian restos and unwavering respect for pure and soulful designers.
How would describe your own style?
I wear black! And I’m behind the camera, backstage. Believe it or not when I have to go out, it’s like I’m blocked. Like my head is just not there. I guess I’m there to design for the rest of the world.
Where do you shop for clothes in Montreal?
Honestly I don’t shop much… Cabinet Éphémère is great to explore though. There was a selection made with a jury that chose the designers and the most beautiful thing about the concept is that it’s clothing that is all made here.
If you look around you have the best of the best for everything. Like I didn’t know there were these designers like CANTIN doing these incredible bags. And shoe designer Anastasia Radevich. We have so much talent in Montreal, and it’s important to buy items made here.
I had a lot of sales from tourists there. Because you know the tourists, when you go to a certain country you like to buy something from that country.
Who’s your favourite Montreal designer?
Interior designer Eva Mazur. First of all as a person I find she’s so down-to-earth and has a human touch. Because in design there are different kinds of people… She actually worked on my house so that’s how I know how she works, and she revamped a lot of houses in Westmount and downtown Montreal. Unbelievable transformations and beautiful work.
She’s very pure and elegant in her design, she sort of believes in “less is more.” She also studied fashion so she has a sense of that too, everything has to do with upholstery.
Of course, she has to respect the theme that the client gives her. My theme was “beach” because I just want to be at the beach! I think the challenge for an interior designer is that people have fundamental things that they don’t want to give away. As a designer it’s a challenge when the client has sentimental things, so she’s very good at incorporating those things from everyday life, like things that my great-grandmother gave to me.
Which Montreal designer do you think deserves to be better known?
Renata Morales! She is super talented. She’s a designer, but she has stopped doing fashion week in past years. But she has a lot of talent. She is a true artist, and not afraid to put her imagination into action. For me I wish I could hear her name a little bit more.
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