By Olga Barsky
Photo by David Wile

While the Canadian fashion industry is bursting at the seams with talent, the rest of the world sometimes seems loathe to appreciate it. Enter Amanda Brugel and Gail McInnes, founders of the first ever showroom housing exclusively Canadian fashions – The Style Box . Fusing together their unique backgrounds – Amanda is an accomplished actor with credits that include CBC’s MVP and Paradise Falls, while Gail has over 12 years of experience managing and promoting Canada’s top fashion talent-there’s nobody who is better attune to the needs of each industry.

More than a showroom, The Style Box is devoted to not only helping Canadian talent look their best in homegrown duds, but also promoting Canadian style culture. We at She Does the City couldn’t be more excited about this venture and decided to learn about it from the trailblazing ladies themselves.

SDTC: How did you come up with the idea behind The Style Box?

Amanda: A beaver came to me in a dream and told me to self-appoint myself and Gail as the new generation champions of Canadian fashion.
Gail: Sounds cheese, I know, but it was almost as if we were guided to create The Style Box. Amanda and I instantly reconnected in March 2008 during L’Oreal Fashion Week. We had rarely seen each other since high school. I had veered off into the fashion world and Amanda’s busy acting schedule had her in LA for the majority of our twenties. Amanda was going to the Emmy Awards in the fall and needed a dress for the red carpet but insisted on wearing Canadian. I introduced her to Lucian Matis and Soos Jewellery.
From there we both found ourselves naturally as the bridge makers between each other’s industries, where Amanda would have her performer friends contact her about being outfitted for an event, and I would contact my designer friends. We were so busy connecting everyone we figured why not turn it into a business? With the guidance of Susan Langdon from the Toronto Fashion Incubator, The Style Box came to fruition.

SDTC: What were your criteria for deciding which designers to feature in your showroom?

Amanda: Diversity. Creativity. WELL-MADE products. We wanted to ensure that we cater to a broad range of dress codes attached to a variety of national and international high-profile events.
Gail: Aside from being Canadian designed, owned and operated, each designer had to present quality garments, a clear and distinct look, show they had an understanding of the Canadian entertainment world, and be aware of how beneficial endorsement from high-profile personalities can be for their brand.

SDTC: How do you see The Style Box evolving over the next year? 5 years?

Amanda: Year One: The Style Box Toronto. Year Three: The Style Box NY. Year Four: The Style Box Convinces Vogue to Launch ‘Vogue Canada.’ Year Five: The Canadian Style Awards. (If we have time during Year Five – The Style Spaceship and The Style Box Theme Park.)
Gail: Even in the short while we’ve been open, we’ve already evolved. Over the next year we plan to expand our designer roster. We’re looking to do Red Carpet Previews of fashion shows in cities across Canada. We’ll be doing satellite showrooms across North America. Perhaps develop a collaboration for a capsule collection for a national retailer.
In five years time, we’d love to have off shoots in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and maybe even New York – you’d be surprised at how many Canadian designers are now based in NYC. And everyone will naturally wear Canadian designers. We’re ready for anything!

SDTC: Are there are any up-and-coming Canadian designers that you are especially excited about?

Amanda: Psalms 91:1 is an incredible, incredible, incredible accessory designer. Midence Oilu Millinery makes the best hats/fascinators in the country. Magpie Designs (Queen Street) are becoming THE go-to resource for dressing celebs.
Gail: Knowing how many incredible talented designers there are all across Canada, it’s hard to pare it down. I’m more excited to see how each of our designers build their brands and to see more people wearing Canadian fashion overall, not just celebrities or public figures, but everyone.

SDTC: What are the biggest trends we’ll be seeing on the red carpets for TIFF?

Amanda: A lot of celebs have been requesting a more “rock n roll” edge for the film fest. We’re talking short, sexy, almost inappropriate little dresses. Some starlets have been thinking about rocking retro jumpers, some want exaggerated shoulder pads. It’s just been thrilling to see Canadians taking fashion risks and not seeing sexy, edgy or over-the-top as dirty words.
Gail: The current looks on the international runways always play a part for interpreting what will be worn on the red carpet. There will be a lot of 80’s influence with defined shoulders and sequins mixed in with the elegance of 40’s glam – and of course, more Canadian designs!