Richard Simons knows a thing or two about trendspotting. As co-owner and vice president of merchandising at Simons, the 178-year-old privately owned family-run Canadian fashion retailer, he travels the world for design inspiration and the next big thing. With 15 stores across Canada (including Square One Shopping Centre, the only one in Ontario), it’s clear Simons and his brother Peter, who is CEO and co-owner, have stayed true to their roots, while allowing their fashion-focused empire to grow with a unique selection of merchandise. From cutting edge in-house private labels, like Twik and Icône, to international ready-to-wear designers, including Balmain and Vivienne Westwood, to Canadian talent such as UNTTLD and Denis Gagnon, this go-to shopping destination also carries modern home décor for your space. We caught up with Richard Simons to find out the latest trends and must-haves that you need this summer.
What’s the overall fashion message this season?
“We are going through a major brand renaissance; any hot brand from the 80s is back. Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Champion have been booming. Logos, messaging and writing on garments is also very important. Fashion is always changing and we are always adapting—that’s what makes Simons unique and different.”
Which key pieces will instantly update our summer wardrobes?
“Yellow is the hottest colour this season, and other bright colours like kelly green, hot pink and red are popular, too. Wide-leg pants and high-waisted trousers are a key look, and anything belted, like a belted pant or a dress. In terms of denim, an oversized jean jacket with a cropped pant is a very cool look right now. Jumpsuits are on fire, too, whether you go wide-leg, denim, striped or off the shoulder. You can wear them with a running shoe or a shoe that’s a bit dressier. The Western influence, with cowboy boots, jean shorts and boho tops, is great for festival season, and we’re still seeing the athletic influence, too, mixing sportswear with everyday looks.”
Accessories take any look to the next level. What are the latest must-haves?
“The banana belt bag—it’s great for travel; you can put your passport, money and personal objects in it so it’s very functional. Also, the bandana scarf is huge this season. We have lots of ideas on our website on how to style them. Cuba has been a big influence in fashion over the past two summers, so we have our Panama straw hat. Wear it with a pair of Vans sneakers—all of the models were wearing Vans this season, they go with any look.”
Summer wedding dress codes can be challenging. What are some no-fail looks for women and men?
“For women, the U.K.-based brand Self-Portrait specializes in a lot of crochet dresses, and the quality of their fabric is exceptional. Lace, eyelet and crochet are the best options for a summer wedding, and you can mix those with bright colours or pastels. For men, the bowtie is still a key piece for formal occasions. Pair it with a dusty pink suit from Simons private label or go nautical with a navy blazer and pants.”
When it comes to Canadian designers, who are the ones to watch now?
“Vejas Kruszewski, who won LVMH’s Special Prize in 2016, produced a brand under his first name, Veja, that we were selling exclusively at Simons. This fall, we will be featuring his first line called Pihakapi—it’s an extension of his first collection. On an international level I would say he’s the one to watch. From a purely Canadian label, based in Canada, I would say UNTTLD has received a lot of exposure at the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards (CAFAs), and we’ve been carrying them since day one. They are Montreal-based; we recognized their talents and have stuck by them. We’ve put an emphasis on carrying more Canadian labels, like Greta Constantine, Malorie Urbanovitch, Denis Gagnon and Sid Neigum. We produced a capsule collection with Xiaoyi Li, the winner of the Simons student design award at the CAFAs last year, which will retail in two of our locations this fall. Our customers love buying Canadian designers, there’s a good following.”
What’s trending in home décor this summer?
“There’s a lot of interconnectivity between design and fashion. Brightly coloured place mats and tropical print dishcloths will lighten up your kitchen. You could go nautical with a Hamptons look, like cushions with boats and seashells and lots of navy and white voile to let that summer air into your home. If you’re updating your cottage, natural elements like wood, checked pieces and Canadian red creates a rustic look.”