Canadian Designer Jessica Kerr Of Leisure Tells Us About Her Label’s Global Influences

Photo: leisure_thebrand on Instagram 

When we meet Jessica Kerr at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto’s Yorkville area, we immediately feel transported to another land. The Victoria, British Columbia-based designer’s pieces are all proudly homegrown, but there are also exotic details that have come into play in her Fall 2017/Winter 2018 lineup. Fresh off a recent trip to Japan, Kerr has woven Japanese prints and textures into her latest collection for her label, Leisure. From soft silks to delicate watercolour florals, her newest pieces feature fluid fabrics and understated patterns. Real Style sat down with rising Canadian talent Kerr to ask about gathering creativity, her favourite design icon and her winter wardrobe must-haves.

Real Style: A lot of your pattern making inspiration comes from various cultures. Tell us more about your influences.

Jessica: Every season, I start with my inspiration and then we develop a print around it. Either I design the print or I work with an artist and we collaborate, and I tell them the vision. We move forward on developing different prints that we can apply to different textiles.

Real Style: Are there any particular global destinations that have inspired you?

Jessica: I love Japan. I love the history, art and the aesthetic, which inspired the Fall/Winter collection. What I took away from it was I loved the clean lines and the textures, and so we tried to apply that. Also, we included subtle nods to traditional Japanese clothing, such as the obi or the kimono. We infused it with our classic Leisure looks.

Photo: leisure_thebrand on Instagram 

Real Style: What have been some of the biggest challenges of being a Canadian designer?

Jessica: I think the biggest challenge for me has actually been where I live. I live in Victoria, B.C. and there is no real fashion industry. We don’t have a garment district, so all of my sourcing of materials has to come from elsewhere. So I spend a lot of time on airplanes, travelling to and from, a lot of time back and forth to New York, where I can meet reps for mills that are based in Italy and France. I see why it’s a lot easier if you live somewhere with a garment district, whether it is New York or L.A. I just have been very lucky and found very talented people.

Real Style: You’ve done your MBA and your undergrad in East Asian studies in history. You came from such a different world, how did you discover fashion?

Jessica: I started in economics and I couldn’t do that for four years, and then I found East Asian studies. I thought it was so interesting, and the history is incredible. I finally made it to Japan. Then I did my MBA. That was a natural fit, because I always thought that no matter what, there is a business to something. Whatever I get into, and I always wanted it to be something in the fashion world, I wanted to do something in a creative realm. I always knew that I had to have a good understanding of basic business skills, in order to run my own company or work for another company. That was getting my foundation blocks to my next step, which ended up being my clothing line. I did a stint of design school (until they cancelled the program), so I got halfway through design school, which was also crucial.

Real Style: In terms of your Fall/Winter collection, do you have a favourite piece? What makes it special to you?

Jessica: The black silk sheer chiffon turtleneck, I love it. It looks amazing with jeans; you can wear it out to dinner. You can wear it with a tank top, or some people will just wear it with a bralette. You can adjust just how high up you wear the turtleneck to go, so I put three buttons on the back. You can go high neck, mid neck or you can wear it open. I love that we put the seam down the centre front, because there is something very alluring.

Real Style: What are some wardrobe essentials that everyone should have for Winter 2018?

Jessica: I think everyone should have an amazing silk T-shirt. I like mixing. A nice silk shirt can do wonders for a pair of jeans. I like the laidback look, but it’s still always elegant. I like simple cuts in surprisingly luxurious fabrics.

Real Style: Do you have any style role models, whether designers or celebrities?

Jessica: I love Valentino. I like the old and new designers who have worked with Valentino; I just really love their look. I like everybody’s different style.