By Helen Fylactou
This is the first in a series of articles that will follow Toronto’s 2009 [FAT] Alternative Fashion Week.
With uncompromising style, Midence Oliu designs haute couture hats that are unique, fierce and exquisitely crafted. This radical designer’s pieces can easily be compared to sculptures. Weaving between Victorian to 1930s to post-modern designs, Oliu has capture the imagination and the interest of both the editorial and commercial world.
MONDO: How did you get into fashion?
Midence Oliu: It was a natural progression. I have been drawing the second I was able to pick up a crayon. My first memory of fashion was watching an haute couture show on Fashion Television and not understanding it at all. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. It wasn’t until recently, about a year ago, that I started to really appreciate high fashion and started to follow it. What drew me in was the glamour, excess, and the drama of it all.
MONDO: How did you get into designing hats?
MO: I was fortunate to have taken a materials class in the program I was in at George Brown college. This was the turning point in my professional life. [Designing] was something I wanted to do for a while. I asked myself, how can I get into a Paris fashion show? I don’t know how to make clothes, so I thought perhaps I could make a hat. At the time it made sense, but as time passed I found out that it was a difficult process because of the proportions of materials. The reaction to my first hat exhibited at the Paramnesia Mass Exodus show (Ryerson) was amazing. I made it into fab magazine. At that point, I thought I might be onto something.
MONDO: Does the city inspire you? If yes, how?
MO: Toronto is very young in terms of design and fashion. You can make a name for yourself here, and I’ve found there’s a lot of support in this city. However, it’s still very conservative. I want to push the envelope of fashion here in Toronto. Late legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland said it best: “Give them what they didn’t know they wanted.”
MONDO: How will your style help differentiate you from other designers?
MO: Oh trust me, you know when I have had my hands in a design. People say, “Oh, that’s definitely an Oliu.” I’m known for lots of drama, people know I like big and things that make them go “Oooooooooo,” while maintaining a sense of elegance and class. Plus, I’m “fierce” personified, honey. I’ll probably be living on the streets, but at least I’ll be known for the most ferocious hats around!
MONDO: What’s next for you?
MO: It’s time to put my designs to the test. I’ll be starting to sell less theatrical pieces, and get some recognition for myself. Through word of mouth I was recommended to a fabulous Toronto-based milliner — David Dunkley — and he has given me an opportunity of a lifetime: to collaborate on some projects. My dream would be to have my own boutique here in Toronto, and design hats for the runways of New York and Paris.