Written by Andrew Seale
Despite winning the Suzanne Rogers award for most promising new label, Miriam Baker still faced some criticism for her bustier designs, with some on the judging panel calling it a “niche market.”
Whether her designs were niche or not, for Baker, a petite but bustier woman, it felt natural to create something that aligned with her own needs. And it paid off. Her uncompromising approach to designing first and foremost for herself, has earned her accolades including a mention as a designer to watch by Flare.
Womenswear on the market right now is all made to fit a woman who is a B cup,” says the Toronto-born entrepreneur. She decided to buck the trends and start her designs with a D-cup. It seems like a simple change – adjust the standard – but Baker’s timeless, bust-friendly designs set her apart from a sea of other designers moving within the conventional standards.
And it’s been the philosophy she’s maintained since she clinched the most promising new label award with her fall collection, “inspired by memories of a wedding at a regency estate in Hampshire, England.” Along with the honours came a $25,000 cheque.
“With the money I won, I started up,” says Baker. She was able to rent a space within the Toronto Fashion Incubator. “(It’s) the least expensive rent I'm going to find anywhere in the city for my studio space.”
With her 90-square foot office set amongst the predominantly shared space, she’s found herself involved in a tight-knit community atmosphere, one that Baker’s creativity has fed off of.
“It’s certainly very small, everybody knows everybody,” says Baker. “We're always interacting, asking each other for help, looking after each other.”
TFI has been home since she jumped into entrepreneurship after graduating with a bachelor in fashion design from Ryerson University and winning the new label competition. Since then she’s continued to build on her earlier ethos of old-world meets modern, debuting her Fall/Winter 2017 collection at Toronto Women’s Fashion Week in March which paid tribute to palates of Paris during the Belle Epoque.
TFI has proven to be a bastion of support in an industry where there are no easy days. The fashion industry can’t tap into the type of grants typically earmarked for others in the arts and culture, sphere, says Baker, so funding continues to be a challenge for young designers.
However, Baker did receive support through Enterprise Toronto’s startup company, a mentorship, training and funding program for young entrepreneurs. “I found that super helpful.”
While Toronto is home, Europe has continues to be a muse for Baker, a place she some day hopes will play a bigger role in her Made in Toronto label.
“My dream is to be able to source in Europe, but I'm not there yet,” she says.