Updated: Feb 1, 2020
Words by Amy Ryan
For Canadian fashion designer Lesél, a scrap of fabric is never just a scrap of fabric. Since she could remember, Lesél was tearing apart her closet and reconstructing its contents according to the designs she envisioned. The Mississauga native has been fascinated by designing clothes since elementary school, telling everyone and anyone of her plans to be a fashion designer one day. Fast forward to 21 and Lesél is doing just that and more.
Earlier this year Lesél debuted her first complete line in her first show. Taking cues from both her Trinidadian background and current Canadian home, Lesél explains that the line was inspired by an “island girl kind of vibe transported into a Canadian setting". Keeping the Trinidadian feel, Lesél used island patterns and colourways but altered the physical design to work with the Canadian weather.
To create the line from scratch, Lesél began by taking note of what women are actually wearing in Trinidad for inspiration; picking apart the different cuts, styles, and colours and later altering them to fit better with what women are wearing in Canada. Lesél describes the process as, “very experimental, it was kind of a mesh of everything.”
Creating the line was stressful for the designer as she’s previously only focused on individual pieces, so constructing multiple components simultaneously while making it all work together was difficult, but nonetheless “extremely rewarding” says Lesél.
Lesél also finds herself turning to books to gather inspiration. The designer explains how she likes to read a lot of fiction. She draws much of her inspiration from magical genres and attempts to place them in the real world. Lesél also turns to anime for inspiration, a self-proclaimed “unhealthy amount” for that matter. The obsession seems to work for her though, as her clothes are a brilliant mix of whimsy and reality, bringing fantasy to the city.
A main focus in Lesél’s process is creating garments for the people she knows will actually be wearing them - a sort of backwards process. From this, Lesél already has her models envisioned long before the show planning begins. Designing based off who will be dawning the garments reassures Lesél that the pieces will fit their body perfectly. She explains that the pieces need to “highlight what needs to be highlighted and hide what needs to be hidden”. From there, it’s about trial and error; making a piece then playing with the symmetry and details. Lesél also finds herself designing for the current season she’s in - unlike many other designers - as she feels more inspired as the season approaches.
As for the current trends gaining popularity this season, Lesél isn’t necessarily impressed. Yes, fashion recycles itself - we see snippets of trends our parents once wore make a comeback, but usually they return with a twist. Lesél feels the current 90's dad trend is just too, well... 90's dad trend. Instead, the designer feels, "We should do more with it than just straight up wearing vintage clothing and incorporate what’s up to date or your own style.”
To nobody's surprise, Lesél’s closet is bursting with numerous different pieces, making it a little difficult to get ready in the A.M. Lesél dresses based on how she’s feeling that particular day. Monday it may be “really, really classy” and then midweek she may be rocking an outfit that is “straight up street”. Usually, for day-to-day, the Toronto designer likes to stick to something she can wear with sneakers.
In the odd moments that Lesél isn’t designing, she's teaching. She features sewing tutorials, lookbooks, and her design process online. The self-taught designer frequently uploads videos to her Youtube channel to teach other up and coming designers.
Looking towards the future, Lesél is thinking more summer-based designs for her new line. Although she says she’s not 100% sure what she will produce, she’s playing with warmer colours and "beach vacation vibes" for now, while focusing on clean hems and lines.
Lesél currently works on her next collection while simultaneously taking business and art classes. In five years, Lesél hopes to be getting prepped to open a brick and mortar building and be doing custom orders of her collections.
Make sure to keep an eye out for more of Lesél’s creative projects and upcoming collections. You can keep tabs on Lesél through her Instagrams @style_lele and @le_lesel , and website lelesel.com or learn some design basics from her Youtube tutorials at @lelesel.