More than a decade after moving to Milan to pursue a career in fashion, Canadian designer Christopher Bates has built an impressive resumé, landing partnerships with the likes of Harry Rosen, Nordstrom and even Paramount for a line of Top Gun merchandise. In late 2020, he realized his long-time dream of opening a multi-purpose space that functions as an office, showroom and content studio in the Toronto Eaton Centre.
“When I came back to Toronto from Milan, I knew I wanted to get set up with a space, so it’s been a long-term goal,” Bates says. “We use it as an office, retail space and a place to produce content — it has a 40-foot runway, which is great for video and photo shoots.”
Nestled in an off-the-beaten-path location above Zara and reserved for appointments only, the space is private and purposeful, just as Bates had envisioned it. The space also serves as a home for much of the designer’s inventory including his spring 2021 collection, set to roll out over the next few weeks.
Known for his sleek menswear designs, Bates is branching off into womenswear for the first time with his latest collection, which blends a tailored style with hints of comfortable athleisure.
“I’ve always loved menswear for women,” he says. “Suits, tuxedos, blazers — they all look really great on women. So for this collection, I’ve drawn upon my vast experience in menswear and applied it to women.”
With fabrics and materials as his biggest source of inspiration, Bates says he was glad to have squeezed in one last trip to Milan for a fabric fair in February 2020 before the pandemic hit. Once the world transitioned into lockdown later that spring, the designer says he had time to slow down and focus on dreaming up his next collection.
Now, Bates says he’s optimistic about the future of fashion, and predicts we’ll see more of a focus on the kind of personalized shopping experience he offers at his flagship.
“Private shopping will be big,” he says. “It’s a much more exclusive experience, it’s personal, and you get the benefit of working with the designer or a stylist because they can add a lot of value by helping you put together outfits and pieces.”
Given his relationships with retailers like Harry Rosen and Nordstrom, Bates is hopeful malls and department stores will bounce back post-pandemic, but he’s also taking advantage of the opportunity to build up his own sales channels like his website, the new studio space and potentially more private retail spaces in other cities. Above all, the designer says it’s his fearlessness that has gotten him this far and will take him into the future of the industry.
“When I was starting out I was lucky to sit down for a coffee with John Fluevog, and he said ‘I only have one question: how brave are you?’ and I said, ‘John, I have no fear, I’ll do what it takes,’ ” he says. “I think that was really relevant. You have to be tenacious, believe in yourself and have a vision.”
To book an appointment with Bates, visit christopherbates.com.