Kathleen Todoruk of Todoruk Designs didn’t name her design company after herself for reasons of vanity. It was simply what was in style at the time.
“When I got into the industry, having a different brand name wasn’t in vogue. It was about having your own name. It seemed like a stronger way for people to recognize it and identify you with the brand. The logo, to me, was a bigger deal than the brand name,” she says.
Todoruk says she was always a creative kid but that she didn’t plan on going into fashion. She started her time at the University of Alberta in the faculty of science and her parents would often talk about her becoming a lawyer or doctor. But she decided to switch faculties and graduated from the U of A with a BSc in Home Economics in 1992.
Now, her parents joke about how going into one of the professions would have been easier on Todoruk than pursuing a career in fashion. “It’s very risky and difficult,” Todoruk says of her career choice.
After graduation, she worked at a kid’s clothing store, then moved into ready-to-wear. “When I came out of university, it was like, anything we could do to survive, we did,” says Todoruk, adding that there weren’t a lot of fashion industry jobs in Edmonton at that time.
She continued working in ready-to-wear design but her mentor, Sig Plach of Sig Plach Couturier & Fabrics (now closed), warned her that the market was already oversaturated. “He said, ‘Why are you doing this?'” says Todoruk.
But she was always working on her knowledge of couture, even as she continued selling ready-to-wear in Edmonton boutiques for seven years. “My ready-to-wear did well but there was still something calling to me,” she says. “Getting to know the client and knowing where the clothes go was important to me. I gain greater satisfaction working with clients.”
Todoruk Designs moved into the Mercer Warehouse almost a year ago, bringing with her lots of fabric inventory from her mentor’s shop, which is now closed. She says her client base – previously ranging in ages from 45 years old to 65 years old – has increased quite a bit since she moved into the Mercer, expanding to include 30-somethings.
The couture process to create one of Todoruk’s flowy, long dresses includes a consultation, sketches, measurements, occasionally prototype designs and fittings. “There’s a lot of control on both sides and ultimately [in addition to] great fit and beautiful textiles, you’re meeting a customer’s need.”
While the process usually takes a few weeks to a month from start to finish, Todoruk can do one of her colourful cocktail dress in as little as 48 hours if necessary.
While some people shy away from the idea of couture, Todoruk says it is more approachable than people realize. “I don’t want people to be intimidated by the word couture. It’s the female counterpart to bespoke,” says Todoruk.
“Don’t assume it’s going to be atrociously expensive. Everyone’s got a budget. It’s the first thing we discuss. I also show them what we can do a little past that. There’s always room for negotiation.”
Todoruk Designs’s next show will take place April 15 at the Mercer Warehouse.