Ever wonder what it takes to start up your own fashion company & what it’s like to delve into the business? We got to chat with designer Conni Zafiris, the founder of Zafira Apparel , about her recent art show and fashion incubator adventures as well as how Zafira came to be! Read on and prepare to be amazed with this Toronto-based designer, just as we were!Creative&Chaos: What really inspired you to get into the world of fashion, art, and designing?
Conni: I was always into arts and being creative. I grew up taking theatre and loved writing and telling stories and of course, fashion was always another creative outlet for me. In the first year of university I fell in love with buying second hand clothes. I decided to learn how to re work some of these pieces into more updated looks. From there, you can say things snowballed!
Creative&Chaos: Zafira pieces have a unique look that seem to draw inspiration from many different genres of clothing and styles – what are some of the different influences you feel inspire your work?
Conni: I love simple and smartly designed pieces. I strive to be classic and timeless but very “now” as well. I love masculine and feminine details and if I make a super sexy dress I am sure to give it a conservative detail. I am constantly inspired by colours and prints but could also wear neutrals or blacks and whites all day. I am so inspired by practically! I am usually on my feet a good portion of the day working and when I am out and about, I like to feel comfortable as much as I want to look good. I try to take that into consideration into every single piece. Even if it’s a tight little dress, it needs to be a comfy fabric and fit just right.
Creative&Chaos: It’s a cliché question that you probably get a lot, but how did the name Zafira come about? (We personally spent a good week brainstorming different names until Creative&Chaos became our title!)
Conni: I spent a long time thinking of a name as well! My first line was “Second Chance Couture”, which came to me pretty easily because I was working with second hand clothing. This time is was a lot trickier. I spent a lot of time throwing around names but I kept coming back to a variation of my own name. My last name is Zafiris, and my dad’s family is from Greece. Greece has always been a place I’ve been very inspired by so it felt right to include this somehow. Zafira is the feminine version of my last name, which felt perfect for a women’s wear line.
Creative&Chaos: Your apparel is branded as ‘designed and produced in Canada’; how did you go about producing your designs locally opposed to out sourcing? What inspired you to want to commit to the made local initiative?
Conni: Committing to producing locally was obvious for me because I am passionate about supporting the local community. There are so many horrific work conditions around the world, especially in the garment trade industry. It is something that I want to be as little a part of as possible. But let me tell you, there is so much more to it than just producing the clothing here in Canada. I hope to one day have a socially and environmentally sustainable line, but there are many steps for me to take before I can get there!
Creative&Chaos: You’ve visited the UK, France, Greece and so many other places – would you suggest to all aspiring artists to get out and explore the world? How do you feel these adventures affected your work?
Conni: Travelling has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It’s probably been the best experience for personal growth and I am still inspired by trips I took 10 years ago. I have always been drawn to prints and colour so exploring Morocco was really amazing for me. As well as living on the Greek islands for a summer with a bunch of Aussie girls I believe has truly shaped a lot of my style influence.
Creative&Chaos: You recently participated in the Spring One of a Kind show in Toronto – what was that like? How does this kind of art show compare to other events you’ve participated in?
Conni: The One of a Kind show is a REALLY big show! In size and in the actual pull of the show. This was a great experience for me to find some new Toronto customers as I participated at this show the first week that I moved here. I have never done a show this size and it was sort of an overwhelming experience, but definitely paid off. I hope to participate in it again.
Creative&Chaos: Tell us more about your involvement in the east coast’s Nova Fashion Incubator; what kind of opportunities does a program like this provide to you as a young, new designer?
Conni: The fashion industry on the East Coast is really starting to blossom. The Nova Fashion Incubator is providing a space for designers to learn and grow more after graduation and also is a resource for any fashion based company looking for aid or advice in their venture. It’s a great space for anyone looking to collaborate and bounce ideas off of other like minded people, or looking for a space to work in. I help spread the word of their work and also serve as a member of their board!
Creative&Chaos: What is one of your favourite looks, what piece really sticks out to you?
Conni: I would have to say that any jumpsuit I make in any season is usually my favourite piece. There is something so powerful about a jumpsuit! Another piece that stands out is my head immediately is the “Garden Maxi” from SS’14, and my Metallic Suit from this season. I also have some very exciting pieces I am getting ready to launch for spring and as well am currently working on my FW’16 at my art residency at the Nuvango Gallery where I am doing some new things that my customers won’t have seen from Zafira before.
Creative&Chaos: Young, aspiring artists read Creative & Chaos – what advice would you give up-and-coming designers and students in regards to building their own business?
Conni: Building a brand and running a business is tough work! You need to love it. It never ever stops and you need to be prepared for A LOT of unpaid hours. I really would suggest working for someone else first, before starting your own company. Gain any kind of experience or insight into your industry before you dive in and spend a lot of time and money. Find a mentor! And figure out why you and what you are trying to sell are different! You may think you’re special but there are a lot of people out there that won’t think that in the beginning, so you need figure out a way to make them see that.
Check out the line at ShopZafira.com