Sister act: Chloe Comme Parris
November 9, 2011

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Some of the Victorian-inspired looks of Chloé Comme Parris's spring collection at Toronto Fashion Week.

It’s all so glamorous: the sold-out runway show, the magazine shoots and the rave reviews.  Chloé Comme Parris—the label created by NSCAD University grads Chloé and Parris Gordon—was attracting all the buzz during Toronto Fashion Week.

Some reviews of Chloé Comme Parris’s spring line:

  • “Understated sophistication and uber-cool separates make CCP the ideal luxe-hipster uniform.”—Dressed to Kill
  • “I shouldn’t pick favourites, but I’ll do it anyways. Maybe it’s because we share a fondness for all things Victorian, or maybe it’s just because the clothes were that good, but halfway through LG Fashion Week, I was already utterly spellbound by Chloé Comme Parris Spring 2012.”—Randi Bergman, Fashion Magazine
  • “The sibling design duo’s show was impeccably styled reflecting how real human beings wear clothing, and still, without a doubt, stood out. There’s something to be said about that.” —MTV

After the smoke had cleared from Toronto Fashion Week and the sisters had the chance to catch their breath, they took the time to talk to their alma mater about making it in fashion, living up to the hype and their NSCAD education. Chloé graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree majoring in Textiles while Parris graduates this year, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree majoring in jewelry.

The secret to their success so far? The sisters don’t hesitate in crediting their NSCAD education and their artist-mother’s influence. But it also helps that they’re a team of two, both of whom are bringing different talents to the table. They also act as each other’s sounding boards.

“We have fed off each other’s creative energy as far back as I can remember,” says Chloé, 23.

“And the fact that we have the same educational background brings a cohesion to our work,” adds Parris, 21.

In designing Chloé Comme Parris’ spring line, the two hit the history books—Chloé in Toronto and Parris in the NSCAD library. “In fashion, so much of what we wear relates back to things that have come before,” says Chloé. “Knowing that history is so important in making a modern product; it gives you the context for what you create today.”

They chose to evoke the Victorian era in shapes and silhouettes, but without the fussiness, the volume and so much sobering black—Queen Victoria’s mourning for her darling Albert permeated an entire era. Instead it’s all in the details: the raised necklines, the strands of pearls, exquisite handmade buttons and subtle pleating. Notably, it’s in the sumptuous fabrics, which were hand printed.

Chloé started her university education at Dalhousie in costume studies, but switched after a year to NSCAD, eager to experiment with her own design ideas and to learn as much as she could about fabric. She credits “amazing” teachers including Nancy Price, Toshiko MacAdam and Gary Markle for getting her excited about fashion—“and making me feel so many things were possible.”

Parris, then still in high school, was interested in going to a visual arts university too—OCAD University was a possibility as was ACAD and Concordia. And then Chloé invited her for a visit to Halifax and gave her a tour.

“I kind of just fell in love with it,” she says. “I loved the environment and the authenticity.”

As a student, she learned to appreciate how important it was “to create from scratch”—acquiring basic skills and learning how to safely use specialized equipment so as to be able to execute a design vision.

“It’s important to us to know how to make everything from start to finish,” says Parris.

“We’re craftspeople before fashion designers,” adds Chloé. “We believe in the from-scratch approach and it shows in our collections. We can make and print our fabrics and sew every garment and even make the details—belt buckles, buttons, necklaces. I think you can say we’re not debutantes—all this is character building.”

Now that the spring collection has been sent down the runway, it’s time to think about fall—fall 2012 that is. This is the fun part: the Gordons are doing their research, choosing fabrics and starting to drape and design.

As well, they’re filling orders and keeping up with demand. Chloé Comme Paris designs are available through their online shop at http://www.chloecommeparris.ca/ and through three Toronto boutiques. Their growth means they’ve been able to hire two other NSCAD grads, Kathy Marsh, a textiles major, and Joe Fougere, who majored in jewelry design and metalsmithing, as well as a team of interns.

“We’re loving what we do and it’s great to have a team of people behind you,” says Chloé.

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 Parris and Chloé Gordon of Chloe Comme Parris.