In 2010, Canadian designer Christopher Paunil founded his eponymous label, which has since become synonymous with ethereal bridal gowns and graceful eveningwear. Paunil established his Toronto-based studio with his business partner Chalo Hancock, who handles strategic development for the brand. Recently, Christopher Paunil presented their latest Spring 2017 collection on the catwalk at the FashionCAN showcase at Yorkdale Shopping Centre.
Real Style chatted with the dynamic duo backstage about their candy-coloured and breathtaking new line. From their luxurious tastes in fabrics to their biggest designer role models, Paunil and Hancock discussed everything from challenges to chasing their dreams.
Real Style: What was the inspiration behind your stunning collection?
Chalo: I think colour is a big inspiration for us. Fabrics are a big inspiration; we use 100 per cent silk wool. It’s an amazing, luxurious fabric. Ultimately, the vanilla sky inspired us.
Christopher: I was taking photos of the sunset one night and I thought “Oh, these are pretty colours. Let’s use this as our inspiration for the next collection.”
Real Style: You’ve mentioned your usage of fabrics. Why are these your favourite materials to work with?
Christopher: Silk wool is one of our recent loves. Recently, we discovered this fabric called horsehair, but we are calling it translucence, which we love. You may have seen it in our floral dress with the sheer skirt. But we also love working with a lot of natural fabrics.
Real Style: Do you have any favourite colours?
Chalo: All the colours from [Christopher Paunil’s FashionCAN show] are our favourites. Jewel tones, like a deep red, deep purple and fuchsia. They just really pop.
Real Style: As a successful Canadian designer label, what have been some of your biggest challenges along the way?
Chalo: From our perspective, it’s all about enjoying being slow and enjoying the process. When you’re not a huge global brand, there’s a lot of pressure to move very quickly in fashion. I think when you really stop to enjoy the creative process and the whole business, then that resonates through the design.
Christopher: I agree. I think it’s all about growing organically without letting outside voices influence the direction of your business. I think it’s really up to us- how we want to grow, where we want to grow and at what pace. Sometimes, it’s a little bit of work trying to filter out all the outside voices, because everyone wants to do one thing, but it isn’t necessarily what we want to do.
Real Style: What is a particular fashion memory which stands out in your mind?
Chalo: The Yorkdale FashionCAN show, a big retailer seeing us really put a limelight on Canadian design. I think it is already a memory!
Real Style: Who are your fashion icons?
Chalo: For me, it would be Vivienne Westwood. I love her political take on the whole industry and the de-militarization of fashion. For Canadian icons, Wayne Clark.
Christopher: I love Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Valentino and Dior, sort of the classics. Ralph Russo is also a more recent designer. There’s just so much saturation of fashion and social media than right now. It’s hard to pinpoint just one or any particular designer or brand. I really love the classics.
Real Style: Tell us about future designs and collaborations we can expect from Christopher Paunil.
Chalo: I think more shows, more dresses and we’re going to be focusing on direct to the customer and direct to online, as well as wholesale expansion where we are right now with Kleinfeld. We’re looking toward places like the Middle East and Asia, but staying rooted in Canada.
Photos: Paul Ross for OPIQUE / Top of the Runway