Bojana Sentaler has barely had a moment to take in her overwhelming success – yet she keeps it all together with the style and grace that defines #goals for most women with big dreams and places to be.
The corporate-world-pavement-pounder-turned-fashion-designer has helped put Canadian fashion into the spotlight like never before thanks to a royal stamp of approval from Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton. Both have publicly worn one of her coveted SENTALER creations to high-profile outings, taking the Toronto-based SENTALER outerwear label to a completely new level on the global fashion scene.
The line of elegant and feminine yet functional and warm coats sold out after their royal and soon-to-be royal debuts (Markle wore one during a Christmas Day church service in 2017). Leading ladies like Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau and supermodel Gigi Hadid have also worn the stunning, conversation-provoking coats.
With global expansion the inevitable direction of the brand, SENTALER has recently partnered with Holt Renfrew, NORDSTROM, Neiman Marcus, BergdorfGoodman.com, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
I caught up with Bojana to hear a little more about her story – a dream come true for a Canadian designer.
What inspired your decision to get into fashion design and, more specifically, outerwear?
After graduating from Schulich School of Business at York University and pursuing the corporate world, I decided I wanted a different career path. I ended up in Dubai where I had the opportunity to interview Karl Lagerfeld for a project he was designing there at the time. His words inspired me to follow my passion, which ended up taking me to Peru – where I discovered and fell in love with the alpaca fabric. Growing up in Canada, I had recognized a gap in the market for luxury outerwear that was feminine and elegant but at the same time functional. With alpaca fibre, I could create luxury coats in flattering cuts and styles while providing consumers the warmth needed to survive our Canadian winters.
What does a typical day look like to you?
I don’t ever have a typical day. I travel a lot and as long as I have my laptop, my office can be anywhere. As a result, a large portion of my work is done remotely. One of the things I always ensure to do is to organize my day in a way that will allow me to be most productive as well as to ensure that I prioritize my time. My day is spent on calls or in meetings so the time I have in between is very precious. Something I have to do every single day is make decisions that lead my company one way or another. Making them fast is crucial for me to ensure that the time doesn’t eat up my day. I spend 9-12 hours working every day and rarely do lunches. Because I am the CEO as well as the designer of SENTALER, my day includes strategizing, planning, curating ideas, working with our retail partners, managing projects, managing production, managing the growth of the company, and guiding and working with my team to ensure things are flowing. On top of this, very often I will have scheduled interviews, segments, media previews, photo shoots, and many other things that just get added on the day-to-day work. This leaves evenings and late nights for designing and coming up with new concepts. Most of my creativity arises during off-hours when I don’t have the day-to-day interruptions. These always turn into late nights as once I have an idea, I cannot stop until I am at least able to put it into words or draw it.
Can you describe the new FW18 collection?
I’m incredibly proud of the SENTALER Fall/Winter 2018 collection. The collection of coveted coats showcases timeless and feminine silhouettes accented with retro styling influence and bold statement-making looks. Striking details such as the alpaca fur sleeves on the bomber Jacket and the brand’s signature detail, the SENTALER Ribbed Sleeve, create a love affair between contemporary styles and conversational pieces. This season, I focused on using rich hues of royal navy, violet, lilac and steel blue, which exude an air of regal elegance and femininity.
Could you have imagined that the Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle effect could have been so massive?
Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle publicly appearing in SENTALER coats have both been such a dream come true for me as a designer. They are the epitome of SENTALER and it’s truly incredible to see how they affect the global industry at large with their style.
What was the biggest takeaway from showing in London for the first time earlier this year?
Launching and showcasing the SENTALER FW18 collection in London this year has been so great. We were welcomed with such immense love and support. Seeing how invested the consumers, editors, and fashion industry is at supporting quality and cruelty-free fashion has been incredible.
Why do you think your coats appeal to the typical young professional woman?
SENTALER coats are classy and timeless. For young professionals, I believe owning a SENTALER coat aligns with the entrance into the professional field. In Canada, 8 months of the year is spent in a coat, and most of time, your first impression is made while wearing a coat. It’s important for young professionals to have a sense of individuality, confidence and style, even in outerwear, and that’s where SENTALER plays a role.
How do you find a sense of balance amidst the craziness of running a booming business?
Finding a balance while running a booming business and also being a mother of two young children is difficult and I have learned that you have to sacrifice and give some things up if you want to succeed in both roles. I have given up hours of sleep every night in order to have enough time in a day to be a successful businesswoman, and good mother and wife. I have learned to spend my time wisely and to prioritize because every minute counts.
What’s the biggest challenge facing Canadian designers?
Every company is structured differently, but I think more than anything, one of the biggest challenges for Canadian designers is global exposure and support. There are some truly brilliant designers here in Canada, that deserve to be recognized on a global platform. But first our consumers need to support Canadian by proudly wearing Canadian, and our industry as a whole needs to support and recognize Canadian potential.
What is next for you?
The plan for SENTALER is to continue to expand globally. Although we ship worldwide through our e-commerce platform www.sentaler.com, I am excited to see SENTALER in major department stores in fashion capitals around the world where the local consumers can touch, see and feel the quality and beauty of the coats.