Notable Designer Profile: Cara Cheung

Toronto-based womenswear and jewelry designer Cara Cheung offers sleek modern dressing for bold beauties. From one-of-a-kind pieces worn by Keshia Chanté, PRTY H3RO, Olympic gold medalist Rosie MacLennan, eTalk hosts and MuchMusic VJs, her collection has become a Canadian success. Cara Cheung has been featured in various music videos and has been seen rolling down the red carpets. She recently launched her ready-to-wear separates that were shown at World MasterCard Fashion Week and is now undergoing her first production run, which is ready to hit the shelves for SS14.

How did you get started as a designer? Do you have any formal training or did it just come naturally to you?
I learned the technical side of fashion when I studied Fashion Design at Ryerson, but as far as starting my own venture out in the real world, it has gone far beyond what I learned in school. It wasn’t something I just jumped into after graduating. Instead, I took the time to learn about the industry and fine-tuned a brand concept I am passionate enough about to attach my name to.

What has been the most exciting part about your job?
The best thing about my job is that it’s always changing. Every ‘first’ is exciting for me and there will always be more. My first Fashion Week show, my first magazine feature, my first production run… every season involves new ideas, new materials and new people. It’s never the same thing twice. You keep learning and creating, and any opportunity you get to see your hard work pay off is exciting. 

What was the first item you ever made?
I didn’t know the first thing about constructing a garment until I applied for Ryerson. I had to learn very quickly in order to fill portfolio requirements and ended up sewing a bandana print dress with tiered gathers. My drawings probably saved me because it was hideous!

Can you tell us a bit about your jewelry line?
When it comes to jewelry, I’m all about bold statement pieces bordering on weaponry. It’s all handcrafted with heavy-duty chain, stones and sharp findings, but my next step would be to learn silversmithing so I can create more personal pieces.

What do you have in store for us for spring?
I will be launching my clothing for the first time at a pop-up event along with a new jewelry collection and selling through select retailers. It’s been a long journey to get to this point but I’m excited to see what kind of response it gets from consumers once it’s finally out there.

How do you differentiate yourself from other designers in the country?
I pride myself on the quality of fit, cut and detail that I offer for my price point, but as far as design, I feel as though it possesses a unique balance of high fashion sophistication and down-to-earth appeal. Fashion tends to be extreme. Not all, but some trends are hard to pull off, others will have your fashionable girlfriends telling you they love your look but are unofficial man repellers. Different trends essentially appeal to different people. But sometimes, regardless of a spectator’s gender or fashion background, a girl just looks undeniably good. It is not apparent what trend she is rocking or who she is dressing for besides herself; the clothes simply play up the woman wearing them and match her bold personality.

What is showing at Toronto Fashion Week like for you?
It’s stressful, fun, exhausting and rewarding all at the same time. Showing at Toronto Fashion Week brings credibility to any young brand and working with an established team guarantees a quality production for all your supporters.

Any tips for other designers or entrepreneurs?
Turning your passion into your work is the best part, but always be prepared for a roller-coaster ride. Things will go wrong along the way no matter what, but the more focused and organized you are, the less these circumstances will impact you. You constantly need to be adapting to new situations. Be self-aware when it comes to your strengths and weaknesses and find a business partner who compliments you because it gets overwhelming alone. My brother is mine!

What’s next? How do you plan on growing the company?
My next step with Cara Cheung would be to build relationships with retailers in both Canada and the U.S. and to slowly broaden my product range. 

If you could have any woman wear your designs who would it be?
Probably someone like Cara Delevingne. She’s so bold yet lovable at the same time and doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Would you ever consider doing men’s clothing or men’s jewelry?
I like to get really good at one thing before moving onto the next, so I will probably keep the next few seasons focused on womenswear. However, men’s jewelry wouldn’t be a stretch if I were to learn how to work silver.

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