Wearing comfortable clothes is perhaps the single driving force in women’s fashion, says Canadian fashion designer Simon Chang.
Living in the casual society of today, the old fashioned rules are changing—how women wear clothes, the harmonizing of fashion to fit a variety of lifestyle settings, Chang says.
“It is a bit of a mixed mash today,” said Chang, visiting Kelowna on Friday at the invitation of Park Boulevard Fashions store owner Gloria Pietsch to talk about his fashion line with her customers.
“Lifestyle has changed so much. We live in a casual society today. We want clothes that are easy to take care of. We are less constricted than we used to be.”
“We used to have clothes for work, and clothes for church and clothes to go out to the theatre, clothes for this and that. Today, there is crossover. Women want to wear clothes to work, and be able to come home at night and wear the same clothes rather than change into something else. Rules change and as fashion designers, we have to adapt to those changes.”
That’s why Chang says making store visits to speak directly to customers is important to him, getting feedback on his clothes and taking what he learns to adapt to his next fashion designs.
Chang says many of his counterparts in the fashion world rarely get out and talk directly to their customers, something he takes a lot of pride in.
“I don’t design clothes for just one look. The reality is that women come in all shapes and sizes, and I want to design clothing lines that offer something for everyone to wear and get value from,” he said.
Chang says where fashion was driven visually by skinny models 20 or 30 years ago, today it is driven by celebrities.
“Driving the fashion industry images today are celebrities like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez…but the reality is real people don’t look like they do. As a designer, I feel it is important to understand the needs of real people, that one design profile doesn’t fit all.”
Chang says the new phenomena with change is how women are breaking out of the traditional moulds of fashion. “Thirty or 40 years ago, there was a role for how women looked who were single, who were moms, who were grandmoms. Now today, it is very crossover. Grandma wants to look good too. The generation gap between older and younger in fashion is getting smaller.”
Chang is also a big booster of accessories, for how a necklace or scarf can add a different look to an outfit and extend its shelf life.
“You may have a black dress you really like to wear, but rather than having to buy a new black dress to replace it, you can accessorize differently and transform it into a whole new look. It doesn’t look like you are wearing that same dress. Accessories change the outfit.”
For Kelowna, Chang says layering can also be an important aspect of any fashion wardrobe, again a reflection of the need for versatility and comfort in what you are wearing.
“With layering things, you can adapt to the more seasonless climate here, add something if it occasionally gets too cold or do the opposite if it gets too warm,” he said. “Again it is the comfort factor and the detail of the clothes. A lot of people go south here and they don’t want to be dragging three or four bags full of clothes with them, so you look for variations of layering with clothes that mix and match that you can fit into one suitcase to last you three or four weeks.”
Chang, the recipient of the Order of Canada in 2008, started designing his own fashion line in Montreal back in 1963. He says clothing fashion trends have also seeped into home interior design, one reason he opted to lend his name to a new line of Beauty Tone paint colours offered at Home Hardware stores.
He says the impact of fashion, adopting new colour combinations and accessorizing, has found its way into how we look at interior decorating today.
“You look at the colours that have invaded our clothing closets in the last 20 years, things like turquoise, pinks, yellows, teal, floral paisley. These colours are now being used to paint rooms in our homes, you see that crossover effect.”
Tips and Tricks
Some fashion tips from designer Simon Chang:
Neck: With sun comes crêpe-like skin damage and creases, and many women are conscious of this area of their bodies. They don’t want to be totally covered up with tight-fitting turtlenecks, so softer, breathable fabrics that hang beautifully in this area can address those concerns.
Arms: Even while women can maintain a youthful appearance in their faces, parts of their bodies may have sagging skin (raise your arms if this applies to you). Many women don’t want to expose their arms, but in warmer weather, it’s hard to stay covered up. Chang suggests avoiding sleeveless options, but going for a slightly longer sleeve in a lightweight fabric. Or pairing a cover-up to an outfit that emphasizes bare arms.
Waist: Some women experience a thickening of their waistlines as they age. If that is the case, clothes should not be too tight-fitting. Go for a relaxed rather than cinched shape around the waist. Instead of the chunky tight belts that you may have worn in your youth, a relaxed chain belt might be more flattering.
Knees: Even thin legs can reveal a woman’s age. Gravity works on the skin on the knees, dragging the whole leg down and making skirt length more important. But even if you want to wear a shorter skirt, it’s possible to still look fabulous if you pair it with leggings. Leggings help to flatter a woman’s body, so short skirts or long tunics can keep you looking current and fashionable.
Jeans: Women of all ages love jeans and want to wear them. Options like control-top jeans are flattering, comfortable, and offer a smoother look.
Under-garments: Under-garments like Shapers smooth lines helping women of any age feel more confident and less inhibited by little rolls. Chang recommends them for all women.
Fabrics: When it comes to fabrics, Chang can’t say enough about jersey. It is appropriate for older women because it’s comfortable, flattering, casual, travels well and isn’t fussy. Look for no-nonsense, easy-care fabrics that better suit your lifestyle.
Chang looks for seasonless fabrication. With travel, climate fluctuations and indoor heating and cooling systems, he tries to design adaptable clothes. Layers are the way to do this.
“I love stuff you can wear year-round and add to,” he said.
“It’s great to have things that you love to wear. Seasons don’t exist anymore, especially for people who travel globally.”
Layering is a more sensible way to dress. Lighter weight fabrics accommodate the climate and are adaptable to the environment.
Details: Most women don’t like pulling tight clothing over their heads. Tiny buttons aren’t practical. Some people have difficulty lifting their arms into tight turtlenecks. They find them suffocating.
Even arm holes have to be cut precisely and more generously. Beautiful sleeves that are not too short—sometimes three-quarter length—are the way to go. “I don’t design garments that need an instruction pamphlet to put the outfit together,” Chang said.