After a cold and windy walk, we were greeted by Alexandra Twohey, designer of Mira & Belle in her warm and cozy Yaletown apartment last week. After saying hello to baby Mirabelle, we sat down with her to ask a few questions about Mira & Belle and her life as a designer. One of the things that we enjoy most about fashion blogging is that we get to meet people like Alexandra. She was very welcoming, bubbly, down-to-earth and passionate about her fashion line.
Mira & Belle is a knitwear collection that encompasses split style personalities for women with two separate lines. Mira represents the sexy and edgier side of a woman whereas Belle caters to a soft and pretty side. Alexandra explained that she was not formally-trained at any fashion institute, and she had very little experience in fashion. She admitted that she self-learned how to use her knitting machine by reading library books and watching YouTube videos to learn different knitting styles and patterns! Yet we were blown away as we were sifting through her unique collection and admiring the detail in her one-of-a-kind pieces.
Alexandra striking a pose with her Mira & Belle knits
S&M: What inspired you to start the Mira & Belle knitwear line? Was it an “ah-ha!” moment or was it something you’ve always dreamt about?
A: Doing a line of fashion was always something I’ve wanted to do as a teenager, around the time when I started to knit and crochet. I used to work full-time and then come home to knit a couple of pieces and sell them to a local boutique or craft market. But I’ve always really wanted to do it full-time. I’ve always told myself that once I go on maternity leave, I would focus on an actual name for my label and just have a more aesthetic idea of what I was trying to accomplish.
S&M: How did you come up with the split personality/style idea for the Mira & Belle line?
A: It’s the way I design. I didn’t design with a collection in mind. I would always have just an idea and my aesthetics were always different, as most women are. Sometimes you want to look and feel pretty and sometimes you want to look and feel sexy. So although they both make you feel good and strong, they look very different and I was trying to figure out how I was going to start a line that would encompass all of that within me. Rather than pigeonholing each piece into this one big collection, we can say we all have split fashion personalities and that’s how I came up with Mira & Belle.
S&M: Where do you get your inspiration from when designing or constructing Mira & Belle pieces?
It can come from a variety of different places. Usually what ends up happening is that I have an idea in my head of a piece, whether it be a sleeve, a neckline or a drape to a piece, and then from there I start constructing a piece in my head as to how the whole look should go together. Then I actually start making and inevitably I start editing it. It’s almost like a painting. I start off with a canvas. I kind of sketch out my idea in pencil but the paint and the picture that ends up on the canvas isn’t always what I originally had in mind.
S&M: What would you say is the biggest distinction that sets the Mira line apart from the Belle line in terms of style? (Colour, cut, embellishments etc.)
A: The Mira is more of a tough, sexy girl and Belle is more of a frilly, pretty girl. They can also cross over. For the Mira collection, the blue is darker with some black thrown in, while the Belle is a soft sky blue and the gray is more of a dusty colour. My next collection for Fall is going to be similar in the contrast of colours. With Belle, there are a lot of oatmeal and neutral colours, whereas the Mira line is going to have really dark, thick black and charcoal knits.
S&M: What is a Mira & Belle bestseller at the moment?
A: I would say the Mira Dusk Crop Top, and it’s made out of 100% bamboo and it drapes very nice. It’s a coffee colour that tends to go well with everyone’s skin tone and it looks like a nude. They’re all one of a kind, so it’s hard to say which one the most is sought after. Once a piece is sold, no one really knows about it!
S&M: Can you describe the Mira & Belle Spring/Summer 2011 collection? Also, what trends do you see being big in Spring & Summer?
A: They’re easily wearable. I’m not much of a fitted knitwear person, I tend to go oversized so there is definitely an oversized feel to both of them. Also, drape is very important because especially with knitted pieces, it can look very stiff and chunky. We don’t want a chunky sweater, we want it to drape nicely on our bodies.
I would say the oversized look is still carrying over from last season. The crop is still in, but more of a layering piece whereas last Spring we saw a lot of bare midriff.
S&M: How would you describe your own style personality? Are you a Mira, Belle, a bit of both, or neither?
A: I’m definitely a bit of both. I have my days where I want to spend 3 hours getting ready. I want to have full makeup and hair and stilettos, and then there are days where I want to be in jeans, a cardi and flip flops and feel just as good, but it’s a different look altogether. I’m a Mira & Belle and everything in between.
S&M: What are your own fashion and cultural influences?
A: I wouldn’t say I have any fashion icons or influencers. I look to women in general. I almost see myself as more of a stylist before a designer in a sense that I’m always thinking, how is this going to look on a woman? I think about how she wants to look and feel. The everyday woman is my influence.
S&M: According to your own journey and experience in the fashion industry, what advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers?
A: I would say the number one thing is to find out what your vision is. I think with being an artist, it makes it very easy to be distracted by your own ideas. Although ideas are what fuel your passion, it can also lead to your destruction in a sense because you can get so consumed by your ideas that you forget about the marketing, getting into stores and the business side of things. If you want to be successful in fashion, you need to have an understanding of the business side as well. Don’t give up, but when you have the idea, know what you want, know what your end goal is and don’t ever forget about the business side.
Let us know if you’re a Mira, Belle, or a little bit of both.
Look Out for Mira & Belle,
Sellina & Melissa