If Betsey Johnson dropped acid, she might hallucinate a vision that is the apartment of Toronto fashion designer Kirsty McKenzie. Like something out of the Gladstone Hotel’s annual Come Up To My Room, her top floor studio and living space is anything but the conservative west end street she dwells on. Although some might find her home to be a complete overload to the senses, Kirsty has clearly built the space to inspire, “It makes me feel creatively charged. It calms me. It’s a fake world I’ve created.”

Sometimes, as adults, we grow a little fearful or self-consious when it comes to letting our imagination lead the way, but Kirsty is defined by that child like wonder and fearlessness. Hippie meets Jem and the Rockers meets outrageous Drag Queen; safe to say, her personal style and fashion design is a walk on the wild side. Think the opposite J Crew.

Her latest collection, Year of the Tiger, shown at this year’s FAT (Toronto Alternative Arts and Fashion Week) received ecstatic praise and applause, it certainly brought colour and vivaciousness  to a catwalk typically dominated by goth. She always works with a variety of body types, which is in part a response to her dislike towards the size zero obsession in fashion “It’s so sad what has happened. People look dead.,” says Kirsty. Beyond this, she carefully casts her shows to include a range of different ethnicities and is always drawn to strong personalities that can move. In the case of FAT performance artist Lena Love crawled, with tape on her nipples and a cat on her head. Like the cats that decorate her apartment, each model had a feline – or plush tiger doll – perched on top of brightly coloured wigs, “I embrace craziness.” True dat.

Her bedroom is draped in vibrant prints, “I’m a pattern whore” she admits, and is automatically drawn to animal and tribal prints. Illuminating the space is a flashy buddha lamp and strewn Christmas lights that frame a retro love seat. The bathroom is a scene from Pan’s Labyrinth and feels like critters are crawling the mirrors. Down the dimly hit hall a larger space prevails  which is home to about a dozen freaky mannequin heads. Kirsty furiously sketches, cuts, sews and creates alongside them in this front room studio.

It’s no surprise that she’s a fan of John Waters, Andy Warhol and Divine but to add to the list are less known Queer culture favourites, filmmaker Gregg Araki, musician Jer Ber Jones and and transexual activist Calpernia Addams.
Although content biking around her Roncesvalles ‘hood, dropping in on a yoga class and returning home to create – her hope is to grow her label to become a recognized name amongst the colourful characters that inspire her work. Now, if only Lady Gaga knew, we think she’d love Kirsty McKenzie.

Check out Kirsty McKenzie on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/kirstymckenzie

Photo by http://www.zaiden.com/