Velvit Welcomes Ovate
Montreal native Audrey Cantwell of Ovate opens up about the origin of her line's name, her design editing instincts, and the challenges of owning her own business
Velvit met with Ovate's leading lady for a look into her inspirations, her love for leather, and her advice for aspiring artists.
Velvit: How did you choose the name Ovate for your line?
Audrey Cantwell: Some years ago, I became very interesting in mythology and paganism. I read a few books about the Druids and came across Ovate. In ancient times, Ovate was a seer, a diviner. The word and its meaning stayed with me.
V: Do you design your collections on your own or with any creative collaborations?
AC: I create the Ovate collections on my own. I have an assistant and two seamstresses who help with production, but as far as designing the collections, it's a one-woman-show. I do collaborate with a jeweler and we design the jewelry pieces together once a year. I have a massive support system of friends, collaborators, and creatives I've met over the years, all of whom inspire and encourage me continuously.
V: Were there any other careers or passions that interested you before you started designing clothes?
AC: I started making my own clothes around the age of 13 or 14. I've always been a very crafty girl; I love wood-working and sculpture, as well as garment construction.
V: When designing, are there any specific themes you focus on?
AC: Simplicity is always at the core of each collection. I love understated style. I like subtlety. I like clean, minimal design in elegant and interesting materials.
V: What is your design process like?
AC: I always begin with sourcing fabrics, leathers, and materials that inspire me, and I go from there. I don't reinvent myself every season, I just evolve, always moving in the same direction. I want pieces from past seasons to work with pieces from the current season. I work towards a seamless transition, a cohesive vision. I normally sample twice as many pieces as I need for a collection. The editing is instinctual: I try things on and look at the pieces together for months. What stays is what feels right.
V: What is the inspiration behind your new collection?
AC: I used to be more thematic in my collections, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm trying to focus on one aesthetic that is a blend of all the things I love, the music I listen to, the art that moves me, the architecture that inspires me. I want to create wearable garments that become wardrobe essentials, worn over and over again.
V: Do you design for yourself based on your personal taste, or for a specific audience?
AC: Lately, more than ever, I design pieces I want to wear. I don't really have a specific audience. Luckily my audience has found me.
V: What type of fabric or material do you prefer to work with?
AC: Leather is my absolute favorite material. It is unpredictable, natural, rough and soft all at once. I like washing leather, I like its aged patina, its durability, its smell. Really I love everything about leather.
V: What articles of clothing or accessories could you live in forever?
AC: I suppose a pair of leather trousers or leggings, a black tank and a black turtleneck, and a fistful of the Oxyde rings I made this season. This is pretty much my uniform these days.
V: What living artist inspires you the most?
AC: Richard Serra.
V: What is the most challenging aspect of owning your own business?
AC: I suppose anything that requires me to be in front of a computer: replying to emails, managing the e-shop, etc. I don't have the patience to be in front of a computer screen; I find it very difficult to concentrate and sit still.
V: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
AC: All positivity directed towards me, e-mails from clients letting me know how much they enjoy their Ovate pieces, this is all memorable to me. Nothing is more important or valuable to me than my clients.
V: Do you think it is important for consumers to understand the difference between independent designers and big brand labels?
AC: I like to imagine that most people are aware of the situation enough to know the difference between a mass-manufactured garment made overseas in horrible conditions versus a handmade garment made in a designer's workshop.
V: What is the best piece of advice you received when starting your line?
AC: A friend told me this well-known maxim, 'It is better to mean a lot to a small group of people than to mean little to a large group of people.' This has always stayed with me.
V: What advice would you give an aspiring designer?
AC: Be honest and kind to everyone you meet. I suppose this can be applied to anyone in any situation.
For more information on Audrey Cantwell and Ovate, visit our Artist profiles and shop our Velvit boutique.