From the Beginning
Like many teenage girls, I grew up loving clothes. But always frugal, I quickly realized that I could have a much larger and more exciting wardrobe if I sewed the clothes myself. I started designing my own clothes, and casual interest soon turned into passion.
After graduating high school, I took a teacher’s advice, and found myself living in Toronto studying fashion design at Ryerson University. It was there that I developed a solid base in art, art history, technical sewing, pattern drafting, and design.
I graduated from Ryerson University in the early 80s, into a growing fashion industry in Toronto.
A silk kimono that I hand painted during my third year at Ryerson.
It can now be seen hanging from the rafters in my boutique.
The First Coat
One winter, while working as an assistant designer for a company in Toronto, I decided I wanted a full-length leather coat. I experimented with scraps of leather off the cutting room floor and slowly pieced together a design. At the time, I had no idea if it was something good or if it was junk.
I started to wear the coat around Toronto. To my surprise, women would stop me on the street and ask me where I got it. I even sold a few coats right there on the street. After this initial – if unexpected – success, I continued to play around with my new style.
One day, having arrived late to work, I threw my original coat on the rack, where it sat next to the door. By luck or fate, a buyer from Vancouver was visiting the studio that day to view her new line of clothing. She noticed my leather coat and asked the designer – my employer – if it was a new collection she was creating.
The coat, as we know, was my own creation. The buyer was Rokie Bernstein, an upscale boutique owner with stores in Banff, Vancouver, and Whistler. Bernstein placed an order on the spot, and I did business with them for the next 30 years. Just like that, Strévé Design was born.
Toronto was a good incubator for me in my early years.
I soaked up the city and the culture like a sponge.
Photo: Cheryl (left) with a model.
Opening Strévé Design
In 1987 I began creating my own line of leather coats and handbags to sell to boutiques across North America. I relocated back to Lanark County to begin my design business.
Soon, I began selling my designs in upscale boutiques across North America, from Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa, to New York, San Francisco, and Santa Fe.
In July of 2009 I opened the first Strévé boutique and studio in beautiful downtown Perth. Ten years later, I relocated the boutique to its present location. The building is a stunning retrofit of a former feed mill. It now houses my boutique, studio and a second level art gallery that represents established and emerging local artists.
Photo: The boutique is always stocked with local hand weaving, locally made jewelry, and Italian Murano Glass jewelry.
In a world of fast fashion, I practice the opposite.
As an independent Canadian designer, I feel it is my responsibility to create carefully and sustainably. At Strévé, we never overproduce or end up with leftover inventory. Instead, each garment is hand-cut and sewn, and I work with suppliers to find the highest quality leather, suede, shearling, silk, lace, linen and wool.
For over 30 years, I have focused on creating beautiful, sustainable clothing.
I believe that when you value your clothing, you learn to respect each piece and take care of it. Instead of designing for trends, I create classic silhouettes that are made to last and can be worn between seasons.
In this ever-changing world, I try to make the best choices I can for myself, for you the customer and for the planet! The result is ethical and environmentally friendly clothing and accessories. Strévé is quality that lasts.
Photo: The original coat photographed in 1986. I still enjoy wearing it to this day.