A professional storyteller, creative director and curator, Azamit is drawn to the history she finds in vintage fashion. “The attachment is more related to the story on why and how I found it than the brand itself,” she says of her favourite finds, which include a collection of vintage kimonos she stores in traditional washi rice paper wrappers. Most of these pieces don’t have a label, but the 46-year-old Montrealer does have many fabulous vintage designer items in her closet: a red Gucci coat made of raffia, an oversized Comme des Garçons dress and Yves Saint Laurent platform shoes, to name a few.
The founder of Souk, a platform that showcases Montreal-based designers and makers, and visual storytelling firm In Toto, Azamit begins selecting her outfit by building a solid foundation. “The pair of shoes you choose can go anywhere from making you feel sexy to funky, low-key or on-the-go.”
She traces her love of fashion to the glitzy outfits her mother wore while Azamit was growing up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the 1970s and 80s. Today, she describes her feminine style as a combination of softness and structure. “I believe that wardrobe pieces need to be strong but simple at the same time. Not too loud, but powerful enough to have impact if worn on its own or mixed with a simple basic piece.”
At her Regina boutique, Seed Sustainable Style, Lisa Wicklund prefers a slow approach to fashion, offering a personal, one-on-one experience while “making connections to and for people, like an old-time atelier,” she says. To continue connecting clients to fashion brands that are Canadian, independent or take a circular approach to production, Wicklund is using a digital approach during the pandemic. “I love virtual appointments and the opportunity to meet like-minded people around the globe,” the 50-year-old says.
Growing up, Wicklund had a vivid imagination inspired by the landscape of the Prairies, as well as a mother whose talents as a seamstress brought these fashion fantasies to life. Her skill was passed on and Wicklund has been designing since her teens. Today, she describes her everyday look as eclectic Victorian grunge. “I guess it’s a little Tim Burton meets Victorian garden, but with some ease and humour,” she says.
Some of Wicklund’s favourite pieces include a pair of Yohji Yamamoto suspender pants, a black halter dress by Denis Gagnon and a pink ruffle coat dress Wicklund upcycled from her childhood bedspread. But Wicklund’s most treasured fashion pieces – her father’s old Lee jeans, his ID bracelet and her mother’s charm bracelet – are, like the goods in her shop, highly personal.
Allison Audrey Weldon
Bowen Island in British Columbia is known for its natural beauty, a quality resident Allison Audrey Weldon takes to heart. As the creative director and founder of Sangre de Fruta Botanical, a hair and skin-care company with a boutique on the island, Weldon channels that love and respect for nature into her products, which are made using locally grown plants, as well as her wardrobe.
Her favourite pieces feature natural fibres and are often purchased second-hand, like her colourful muumuus from the 1960s and 70s and the linen shirt dress by Mexico City’s Zii Ropa, which Weldon bought in both black and in white. “My sense of style developed as I became more comfortable with who I am and started dressing for myself,” she says, explaining that she’s mixing up past uniform of head-to-toe black with more sensual colours and textures.
The result is an earthy, modern bohemian vibe that’s currently tailored to her expectant status (Weldon was five months pregnant at the time of the shoot). When dressing for the day, the 36-year-old says she prefers to follow her mood. “My go-to is black and white with vintage accessories, but if I’m feeling a bit more energetic, I’ll wear something bright.”
Osob Mohamud takes an instinctual, highly personal approach to fashion, one that mixes feeling with faith. “I go with how I am feeling at the moment,” says the 31-year-old Toronto-based content creator and founder of fashion company Alene, which designs modest clothing. Like many Canadians, Mohamud primarily works from home these days, and says that comfort is key when choosing her outfit for the day. “I want to be able to move easily and layer different fabrics and textures. I look for clothing that will transition from indoors to outdoors easily,” she says.
That flexibility of dress mirrors the professional outlook she’s adopted during today’s uncertain times. “Being an entrepreneur during this pandemic has really forced me to become easily adaptable to change. In our current climate, things pivot in a moment’s notice and I’m proud of my ability to adapt to the new normal.”
Describing her sense of style as timeless, Mohamud favours looks that last over chasing the latest fads. “I focus less on current trends and more on things that make me feel like my authentic self,” she says. “My style is also a reflection of my faith. I look for items that are modest without sacrificing my personal style.”
Fashion influencer and YouTube content creator Laurence Fortin-Côté brings a European flair to the feeds of her 145,000 Instagram followers. Born and raised in Lac-Saint-Jean, Que., the 27-year-old left her day job at a fashion retailer in Toronto to pursue digital content creation full-time last year. It’s a step she says challenged her introverted personality, but has helped her grow her voice, especially during the pandemic. “It has been very easy to feel isolated and alone this past year but developing my social channels has allowed me to feel closer to my community and find different ways I can help people with my work,” she says.
Fortin-Côté’s day-to-day style revolves around statement pieces (old Céline rubber boots, vintage denim from Paris), which she incorporates to add an element of playfulness into her classic look. “I love to find new ways to wear the same piece,” she says.
All of her favourite items come with a personal story, like her collection of voluminous dresses by Denmark’s Cecilie Bahnsen. “I fell in love with her design after seeing her first runway collection back in 2017 and have been collecting her amazing dresses since then,” she says. “Frankly, I would wear them every day if I could.”
Like many of us, Anna Daliza’s relationship with clothing has been dramatically altered by our stay-home lifestyles. These days, the Toronto-based writer is mainly rotating through her collection of baggy T-shirts, some thrifted, some relics from summer camps. “If times were different, I might say my favourite piece is a pair of leather pants by Phoebe Philo for Céline,” she says.
Being trans feminine and non-binary, the 24-year-old says her sense of style has gone through many phases. “At times, dressing how I felt was too complicated, so I relied heavily on trends to dictate how I should look. Then, when I realized that ‘trendy clothes’ were not sustainable, nor budget friendly, I began looking for classic pieces I could see myself liking forever.”
Her typical go-to uniform is a loose Christian Dior button-up shirt tucked into dark blue jeans by Christophe Lemaire for Uniqlo U. During the pandemic, Daliza and her girlfriend launched Oggi Home, an Instagram account selling stylish vintage homewares. “With all of us spending so much time at home, I think a wave of realization has washed over most of us that our homes should be a reflection of who we are, equal to the way we dress, and should be conducive to our lifestyles.”
As a hairstylist who runs a private studio in Charlottetown, Blake Caissie is very familiar with the power of personal presentation. “Being in the beauty business, I always pride myself on ensuring I represent the image of my workspace through my wardrobe,” he says of his uniform of fitted jeans and a turtleneck.
On off-duty days, the 33-year-old leans toward fun, fashionable ensembles for shopping and running errands. For lounging, you’ll find him in his relaxed island staples, including a wool sweater from east coast institution Northern Watters Knitwear.
To satisfy his eclectic tastes, Caissie frequents consignment and vintage shops such as Luxury Market Consignment Boutique and Tuck n Roll Vintage Clothing, which ensure he’ll always find something unique to the island. Lately, his eye has been drawn to the flared jeans, Cuban heel boots and heavy-metal T-shirts of the 1970s. It’s an era that gels with Caissie’s favourite pieces, including his collection of Saint Laurent boots and fringed denim jacket by Levi’s. “Something about wearing a low heel empowers me,” he says. “I’m a firm believer in mixing high and low items to give a really great outfit that pop it needs.”
For Vancouver’s Sue Randhawa, choosing an outfit is the best part of her day. A licensed optician and the owner of the Optical Boutique, Randhawa relishes the process of coming up with bold new combinations. “I adore reintroducing that forgotten jacket or blouse in the back of my closet into my wardrobe,” she says.
Growing up in a modest household with three sisters pushed her to develop that sense of sartorial creativity. “Simply put, we had to be imaginative and frugal when it came to our wardrobe choices, but this really allowed me to develop my sense of inventiveness with ensembles.” Over the years, that inventiveness has seen Randhawa, 52, step out of her comfort zone to try new silhouettes and patterns, with favourites that include a deconstructed Comme des Garçons men’s jacket she bought in Tokyo and a Dsquared2 military jacket from Milan.
While travel is still on hold, operating an essential business has given Randhawa the opportunity to reflect on the personal service that she offers. “The relationships that we have are based on honesty and years of trust with our clients and that trust has carried us through this pandemic,” she says. “In times like this, it’s not about increasing sales – it’s about taking care of one another.”
Uwakmfon and Mokutima Nyong
For 21-year-old twins Uwakmfon and Mokutima Nyong, fashion is all about playful experimentation, an attitude they hope to encourage in others. “Look at stuff that speaks to you and try to interpret it in your own way,” Uwakmfon says.
The Nigeria-born, Hamilton-based duo go by Whak & Mo on Instagram, where their posts reveal a close visual collaboration that has allowed them to nurture their creative fashion flow. “When the outfit hits, I just know,” Mokutima says. In October, the Nyongs took their career to the next level and signed with modelling agency Next Canada. They also offer creative consulting.
At the moment, their fashion favourites include Nigerian-British designer Mowalola for Mokutima, while Uwakmfon says he’s all about the colour red. For the most part, they fill their closets with thrifted clothing inspired by streetwear and high-fashion runway looks. “We couldn’t afford any of the pieces we wanted so we would go to the thrift store and try to find similar ones. Over time, you learn what works and what doesn’t,” Uwakmfon says. A blessing in disguise, this necessity nurtured an ingenuity they both appreciate. “Looking back, I’m thankful I couldn’t afford that stuff because my style would not have been refined as it is now,” Mokutima says.
When shopping for clothing at home and abroad, Nikole Herriott looks for items with interest, beauty and longevity. “I tend to keep items for a long time and [try] to buy responsible items,” she says of the collection she’s built over the years. One half of Toronto-based photography duo Graydon Herriott, she also runs housewares shop Herriott Grace with her father, who lives in Victoria.
Some of her favourite pieces include dresses from Mr. Larkin, jewellery from Laura Lombardi and a worldly pair of hats. “The first came from a small town in Japan called Kotohira, which is located in Japan’s smallest prefecture, Kagawa,” she says. “The other came from a vendor on the side of a country road near a vegetable market two or so hours north of Marrakesh.” And some other favourites date way back. “I still wear a pair of ankle-height black leather paddock boots from Grade 9,” Herriott says. “And my most cherished sweater is probably at least eight years old by Acne [Studios] from Mohawk General Store in Silver Lake.”
Herriott gravitates toward bright colours, interesting textures and vintage fabrics and, during the pandemic, she says she’s mostly worn comfortable clothing like loose dresses and soft pants.
HOW WE DID IT
To compile this list, a group of Globe and Mail editors and contributors (Caitlin Agnew, Benjamin MacDonald, Nadia Pizzimenti, Andrew Sardone and Maryam Siddiqi) reached out to their networks of wardrobe watchers, dug deep into their social-media feeds and surveyed 2020′s honourees to create a roster of candidates from across the country. After narrowing the nominees down to the final list, photographers in British Columbia, Regina, Toronto, Montreal and Charlottetown were commissioned to safely capture the subjects’ signature styles. Think we missed the mark and have a best-dressed suggestion of your own? Post a photo of your fashionable contender to Instagram and tag the picture @globestyle and #GlobeStyleBestDressed.