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Brian A. Richards

As he prepares for Toronto's bi-annual fashion event RE\SET in early September, the city's best dressed man and co-founder of THE COLLECTIONS, Brian A. Richards, takes time out to tell us about his vision for a Golden Age in Canadian fashion.
Tell us where you are as you answer these questions.
Unfortunately at the moment I am terribly boring; bogged down in administrative duties like writing contracts, agreements and emails so most (all!) of these questions have been answered from my in-home office, so sorry! Nevertheless, I can assure you that my answers will not be any less colourful!

How would you describe yourself?
I would describe myself as a chance entrepreneur, part of a group of three who share and have come to represent the greater vision (and work) of legitimizing Canada and Canadian fashion on the world stage. This stuff markets itself.
 
You’ve been described by others as Toronto’s best dressed man. Have you ever had any fashion disasters?
Too tight low-waisted faded skinny jeans, too tight acid-washed band tee, vintage pinstripe vests, fuchsia handkerchief around my neck, and moccasins. 2007 was a bit of a disaster I think.

"Too tight low-waisted faded skinny jeans, too tight acid-washed band tee, vintage pinstripe vests, fuchsia handkerchief around my neck, and moccasins. 2007 was a bit of a disaster I think."
 
Do you have a signature look and what does it say about you?
My trifecta: sunglasses, hat, prints; print typically falls on something Hawaiian.
What my trifecta says about me: I’m a joker and fun-loving, but you have to warm me up first…

Describe a typical day in your life.
Currently… coffee! A lot of emails; running around downtown Toronto; lunch meetings with photographers, videographers and graphic designers; in-studio visits with designers, viewing collections; exploring the city and visiting modern and historic venues in search of perfect locations for major and micro fashion events we’ll be producing in Fall 2017. Busy, busy, busy…  

What did you want to grow up to be when you were a child?
As a child, I always pictured myself being a hard-hitting journalist. Like the “makes you cry or incriminate yourself in a television exclusive your first interview since the scandal broke” kind of hard-hitting journalist…

What was your aim when you founded THE COLLECTIONS, your fashion production and marketing agency that has become renowned for producing many of Toronto’s top fashion shows and nurturing the best emerging Canadian talent?
Same then and now: legitimize Canada and Canadian Fashion on the world stage. Help establish a sustainable market here for Canadian designers.

Is it hard for a Canadian designer to make a name for themselves on the international stage?
Currently yes, it’s a bit difficult for Canadian designers to succeed solely by way of the Canadian market; we’re sparsely laid out across the country with extremely different climates, and Canadian fashion has yet to be recognized as an art and cultural signifier of Canadian identity and therefore lacks any federal support. So yes, it’s difficult.

Nevertheless, we still possess international standard photographers, videographers, producers, digital content makers, events and together they help designers compile a portfolio that is accepted abroad as tangible experience and presence within an existing and relevant market. That should be valuable to a new designer.

"it’s a bit difficult for Canadian designers to succeed solely by way of the Canadian market; we’re sparsely laid out across the country with extremely different climates, and Canadian fashion has yet to be recognized as an art and cultural signifier of Canadian identity​"

What advice would you give a designer who is just starting out in the industry?
Know your aesthetic, think about economic strategies to support your vision, and allow yourself time to journey. Don’t overcompensate, be ubiquitous.

Which emerging designer on the Toronto fashion scene should we all have our eyes on?
Definitely check out Sid Neigum, a national fan-favourite who has actually shown in London. Beaufille is another brand from Canada making waves abroad, spotted on more and more celebrities each month, from Lady Gaga to Kendall Jenner, and is definitely evolving into a burgeoning powerhouse. Www.collections.ca is always up to date with info, images and links of Canada’s coolest.  

You’ve been credited with shaking up the Toronto fashion scene. Where would you like to see it heading in the coming years?
Because of the talent we consistently produce, a short-term goal would be to have the International fashion media re-focus its attention to what’s happening in Toronto, and Canada in general.
 
"Because of the talent we consistently produce, a short-term goal would be to have the International fashion media re-focus its attention to what’s happening in Toronto, and Canada in general.​"
 
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I actually don’t know, because I didn’t see myself here 10 years ago, but I guess, still in fashion, most likely still focused on championing Canadian fashion and the Canadian market, hopefully with more ease and support from the government here. But I expect to still be living in Canada in ten years. I love Canada.

You’re one of our favourite Canadians at the Toronto store and you rock our shades so well! What was your first pair of Cutler and Gross frames and why did you choose them? 
Aw, thank you! Well, my first pair of C&G glasses are those fabulous heart glasses and I was instantly attracted to them because I liked the juxtaposition of the intimating nature of shaded/mirror lenses with the rather fun shape and colour of the frames; playful and a little ominous. I also took it as an opportunity to express a ‘softer’ side; all men could benefit from fashionably exploring theirs.

What attracts you to the brand and what does it mean to you?
I love a brand with a good back-story and though fashionably understated, the quality is apparent, especially when you put on a pair. Oh, and the options! I’m like Veruca Salt in the Willy Wonka factory. I want it now!
 
Do you have a motto in life?
‘Save your last words’. Keep your most precious thoughts to yourself; always stop short of saying everything.

How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as having been the catalyst to a Golden Age in Canadian Fashion.

"I would like to be remembered as having been the catalyst to a Golden Age in Canadian Fashion."

Where is your favourite off-duty hangout after a long day’s work?
After a long day’s work, I love lying on the couch. It’s velvet and down-filled (need I say more?).

Can you share any hidden gems in Toronto where you love to go?
I love taking advantage of our city’s green spaces. I live in mid-town in Rosedale and there’s an amazing ravine in the neighbourhood. It leads you to different parts of the city, including the Brick Works, which is another great green space, where you can find farmers' markets on the weekend. I also like walking along our lakeshore, it’s so calming. When I have the time, I love to visit Toronto Island. It’s such a great out-of-city experience, in the city.

Where do you go to find inspiration?
Inspiration tends to find me; through people I meet who tell me their tales and life-stories (I encourage it!). Whether it’s something they actually say or suggest, or something they say that makes me consider something. Meeting people, new people, in social settings is where I go to find inspiration.

Who or what makes you happy?
This will sound so lame, but nature genuinely makes me happy. Like a perfectly open green field set against a sapphire blue sky; or a forest of trees swaying to a summer breeze; or a dramatic thunderstorm and storm clouds at night. It’s all so fascinating to me. Lakes, mountains, plants, clouds... Lame, I know.

"nature genuinely makes me happy. Like, a perfectly open green field set against a sapphire blue sky; or a forest of trees swaying to a summer breeze; or a dramatic thunderstorm and storm clouds at night.​"
 
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Junk food and Archie Comics lol.

Shades indoors? Yes or no!
ALWAYS!