Local Love: Bone & Busk designer Katharina Mior chats corsets, creativity and David Bowie

This week in Canadian fashion, all eyes are on the west coast. Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) has set up camp in downtown Van City and is celebrating a casual 18 years of success. Compared to Toronto’s still somewhat scattered fashion offerings, things are different out west. First of all, the fashion week is, in fact, a week in length. Secondly, while there are 24 Canadian designers showcasing their goods, the platform is far more global, with designers hailing from 15 countries.

We chatted with Katharina Mior, designer of Toronto’s gothic Bone & Busk label about why she opted to show across the country, how her latest collection is an artist’s reaction to our go-go-go culture and the transformative effect corsets possess.

You’re based in Toronto and have shown at Fashion Art Toronto here — why hop across the country to show in Vancouver? I have performed all over the world, so a quick trip to Vancouver wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for me. (I actually rejected a gig in Dubai for the same week, so it’s saved me from a long flight!) Getting into the fashion week circuit has always piqued my interest, as first and foremost I am an entertainer, and I enjoy being able to produce an experience with clothing. Fashion is just an extension of my overall artistic vision.

What can we expect from your most recent collection — what was your creative jumping off point? Lately, I have been reflecting on the current state of artistic development in the world, particularly within the performing art and music scenes. The deaths of David Bowie and Prince in particular felt devastating. We are losing artists from a time where art was given room to breathe. We are never going to see that ever again. Today, we embrace everything that is fast and easy to consume. So much art that is created today feels like a first impulse — not a refined and calculated decision — because the need to produce content is at an all-time high, thanks to social media.

The subcultures being created are actively rejecting the values of creativity that we upheld. It’s a difficult time to be an artist. I try to focus on my work to reflect the tenants of slow fashion: ethically sourced textiles, locally produced in small batches, in-house bespoke couture creation. This year’s collection is a tribute to those artists that inspire us. Maybe inspire us to take control over our own work and do better. Expect a lot of rich velvets, sequins, new coat styles and corsetry that can be integrated into street wear.

So what did first draw you to architectural corsetry? There are many points of intersection to my fascination with corsetry: from 15 years of professional experience working as a street performer alongside top notch sideshow artists who value the discipline of body modification, to my obsession with collecting antiques that stems from my childhood interest in numismatics and memento mori, to the DIY culture of the goths and punks from the late ’90s. I love the architecture and engineering, the physical and biological. Transformative art has always been my modus operandi: from transforming streets into a stage to transforming a body through dedication and a well-made corset.

How long does it take to craft one of your most intricate corsets, from start to finish? A fully bespoke corset can take anywhere from 16 to 100 hours depending on the complexity of the garment and embellishment. We service a wide range of clientele who have a variety of demands, everything from simple tightlacing pieces to finely hand stitched chantilly lace appliques.

What tends to be the reaction when a customer first dons a corset? How do you find their attitude shifts? One of the most common refrains we hear is how comfortable the corset is. A well-made corset should not be restrictive or hurt: it should feel supportive and comfortable. It is impossible to deny how impacting a corset can be for an individual: from the trans clients whose eyes light up to see the body they always knew existed, to the plus-sized client who expresses relief to never have to wear an underwire bra again, to the bride crying at the sight of their finished garment, to person suffering from back injury who feels instant relief. We are grateful for all of our clients that choose us to work with them in whatever capacity they require.

Vancouver Fashion Week runs until March 25; Bone & Busk will also be showing at Fashion Art Toronto, Apr. 17-21

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