When he was a teen growing up in Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island, Warren Steven Scott stumbled onto a show on “Fashion Television.” Watching models stomp down the runway, at first he was a little confused. He was seeing people and clothing he had never encountered before — and he grew curious. Who were all these people in the audience? Who was actually going to wear these clothes? “I remember wanting to watch more and know more about those clothes and runway shows,” he says.
Today, he knows plenty. As the founder of the Toronto-based label that bears his name, he has built an entire world of colorful accessories, clothing and artwork, and a growing community dedicated to his bright creations. He recently made his first foray into yet another kind of fashion – eyewear – launching the collaboration Avenue x Warren Steven Scott with Canadian spectacles brand New Look, offering a collection that doubles as an ode to friends and community. (And bold colors, of course.)
Although he first fell in love with runway shows, his own initial creations were on a smaller scale: earrings. “They are a wonderful canvas to showcase art on,” he says. “The joy for me started in that duality of design; the balance in creating something beautiful and nuanced.”
Elisapie, an Inuk singer-songwriter stars in the Avenue x Warren Steven Scott eyewear campaign.
After attending design school to hone his craft, Scott started his line in 2018 with a collection of 12 pairs of earrings, which made its debut at that year’s inaugural Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival. For the first little while, the designer worked at a drafting table and sewing machine in the living room of his shared house. “It can be challenging to wear all hats when starting your business: design, production, accounting, management, time, calendars, cash flow. And it feels like everything is happening at the same time,” he says. “But as you grapple with each segment, you learn about it and become better at executing that area of work.”
Scott describes his style as a celebration of color, melding those mentioned traditional influences with contemporary finishes. His earrings swoop and swerve, cheerful in shades of coral, lilac and chartreuse. There are plump orbs, dangling blossoms and humanoid shapes, many stretched into chic oblongs. He also uses remnant materials to create unexpected pieces. One pair of recent earrings is made of matte black acrylic and walnut wood, coated with gold foil left over from Opelle, another Toronto designer studio. “This is something that excites me in creating: you don’t know when the idea for something is going to come,” he says. “But you just have to be open to the possibilities.”
In 2021, he branched out into clothing, presented nine new earring styles and introduced a collage artwork series. And, over the last few years, he’s hit a few more milestones. He moved on from that drafting table in a living room to his very own 900-square-foot studio space and has achieved a rare feat in Canadian fashion: working on his own line, full-time, with nary a side hustle. “That is very worth celebrating,” he says. “It’s important to have a check in with yourself and your business, to look back and realize where you were six months ago, one year ago, two years ago, and to realize all the work and achievements you’ve done.”
It’s especially meaningful for him as an Indigenous designer: “It’s so empowering to be included amongst this diverse group of Indigenous artists and creators, each finding the work we want to create and present.”
His latest adventure: designing spectacles. Scott had been approached to do collaborations in the past but turned most of them down. “The collaboration with New Look came about in a very respectful and professional manner, which I appreciated,” he said. “It also feels like a more natural extension of my work, with the overlapping of the use of acrylic and acetate in my practice and the eyewear field.” It was also a chance to increase the representation for Indigenous designers in eyewear: “I know since the collaboration there have been Indigenous folks happy to see Elisapie, an Inuk singer-songwriter, in the eyewear campaign and to be able to go to the mall and buy glasses from an Indigenous designer.”
For this project, Scott homed in on the core elements of his aesthetic. There are oversized pink translucent frames flecked with purple, and thin gold metal specs with small black horn rims reminiscent of cat ears. Thick science-teacher frames feature arms delicately tipped in red. Even his take on tortoise shell is unique, with a rose-colored base warming up the classic colourway.
Honoring loved ones and community members is an important part of collaboration. Some of them even star in the campaign, and Scott has given each of the 21 styles a name of personal significance. “Over the last four years, I have become quite familiar with many of my customers, the pieces they love, wear and share,” he says. “So naming the frame after friends, fans, supporters, mentors is serving as a thank you to them. I would design the pieces for the collection and realize, ‘Oh, this frame shape is very Tanya,’ or ‘These colors are Dimitar’s.’ In those moments, the collection also started to come together and hold its own through that idea, a thread connecting all the frames.”
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