Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I find inspiration from the natural world and the lifestyle I live in my community of people and neighbourhood. Functionality is also inspiration, with the vision that the clothing will be worn in everyday life and reflect the personality and beliefs of the wearer.
When did you begin designing clothing?
I began designing 28 years ago when I was fresh out of design school but didn't do it seriously until 2001.
Where do you find materials for your designs?
I find my materials at a rag factory here in Ontario.. I visit twice a month and hand pick materials. Takes most of the day and it's very physical work, a lot of climbing, pulling, lifting and bundling. I still get excited about finding good wool material and the process. It's a nice change of pace from sewing and cutting.
How long does it take you to design a collection from start to finish?
I'm constantly designing, I do small runs so it is a continuous cycle. I add new pieces in every season and keep some of my more popular pieces in the collection that have become a staple.
What is your design process like?
My process starts with a small idea, maybe a sleeve or neckline that I've been loving, then I build on that based on materials I find and the vision of my clients wearing it. I make a sample for myself and if I find I wear it often then I include it in the line. I also use the parameters of the design style I've become known for as a guide for the base look of the garment.
How has your process evolved over the years?
Designs always changing even if it's small changes, making them more streamlined and functional. I've experimented a lot with other recycled materials but always come back to using recycled wool, I find I get the best results and maximum creativity.
How have your designs changed since you started Susan Harris Design?
It's important to change and grow but also not to stray too far from the original magic that you felt when things really started to take off. I try not to get to distracted or off track.
What are your favourite kinds of pieces to design?
My favourite pieces to design are the accessories, fun to sew and you can really play with colour on that scale. Shawls are also one of my favourite because you are assembling blocks of color opposed to drafting a pattern and grading etc. The kids sweaters are really cute in the small scale.
What is your studio like? Is there a certain environment that you find you work best in?
Studio is organized chaos. There is no way to work with that many pieces of recycled fabrics in a minimal way. Need a lot of space and storage - sorting, washing, hang to dry, sorting, cutting, sorting, printing, assemble and sew...
Click on the image below to see a gallery of Susan Harris' designs and studio space!