The designing sister duo of Louanna and Hilary Murphy from Prince Edward Island watched for the first time as models strutted their Dreamboat Lucy stuff on the runway during Toronto Fashion Week recently
© PHOTO SPECIAL TO THE GUARDIAN BY MEGHAN WITTON
The Murphy sisters, Hilary and Louanna, got to showcase their 2013 spring/summer line for Dreamboat Lucy at the recent Mercedes-Benz Start-Up Show at Toronto Fashion Week.
They may not be twins, but sisters Louanna and Hilary Murphy are practically joined at the hip with their clothing and accessories company, Dreamboat Lucy.
And this dynamic duo did some major forward design thinking for its 2013 spring/summer collection, which had a big debut on the runway at the recent Mercedes-Benz Start-Up Show at Toronto Fashion Week.
The reality of this surreal moment didn’t really hit until they saw their line going down the runway on a huge backstage monitor.
“Usually, we’re backstage and we don’t even get to see our stuff going down the runway because we’re dressing all the girls. So we’ve never actually watched one of our shows (before),” says Hilary, who is the jewelry designer of this tag team.
“That was pretty awesome,” adds Louanna, who is the clothes designer in the designing duo.
Growing up in Kensington where fashion choices at the time were few and far between, the Murphy sisters learned how to make due with what they had.
“We did a lot of thrifting — we still do,” Louanna says.
“Especially in junior high and high school,” Hilary adds.
“We were so sick of everybody having the same stuff at school and we just wanted to be a bit more unique.”
Their unique fashion sense would serve them well later, but first they had to learn the skills of the trade.
Louanna, who was enthralled by the clothing aspect of the fashion industry, enrolled in the Costume Design Program at Dalhousie University in 2004.
“I started it and realized, ‘Wow, this is a really intense sewing program.’ But it worked out in my favour because I got to know those basics in order to understand how to come across with your line. You have to know those basic skills in order to execute it,” she says.
She continued her studies in fashion at La Salle College in Montreal in 2006 where she obtained diplomas in both fashion illustration and computerized patterning.
Meanwhile, Hilary had started at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax, majoring in jewelry in 2006.
“I really like fashion as well, but I like working small and I like working with the metal, soldering stuff. I feel like Louanna is more like the girly one of us, with the clothing features, and I’m about getting my hands dirty, so the jewelry fits me more,” Hilary says.
Her sister joined her in 2007 to study fashion.
“Louanna was starting to make a collection while I was still at NSCAD. I was working on my own jewelry, but they always seemed to go really well together. And so whenever I graduated we thought, ‘Well why not? Of course we’re going to have something together.’”
They started their joint business venture when they returned home to P.E.I. in 2010.
“We spent so much time (prior to that in our living room in our Halifax apartment) — that’s where I had my studio at the time — bouncing ideas off of each other. That’s also where the company started. It’s not that she was intentionally picking out fabrics that would go in my collection, it just ended up that they went perfectly together,” Louanna says.
“And I think also because we have different mediums we bring something different to each of our crafts. Hilary might think of something to add to a design that I’ve been struggling with that someone with a sewing background maybe wouldn’t have thought of.”
Not one to sit on their Dreamboat Lucy laurels, they applied to show their designs at Toronto Fashion Week.
Their first task was to think of a catchy name for their fledgling company.
“We just started writing down words that we liked and dreamboat was a phrase that we used a lot to describe anything that was cute or attractive,” Louanna says.
“We just thought that it really suited our personality and something that was a bit more original . . . ,” Hilary adds.
“And Lucy was just a name that we both agreed on that would be a good representation of a girl that would fit our brand and wear our stuff.”
“It’s kind of unusual, so I feel it sticks in people’s minds,” Louanna says.
To their delight, they were accepted, which was confidence-boosting to say the least.
However, after some soul-searching they decided to put off Dreamboat Lucy’s debut at that venue until they had fine-tuned their company to perfection.
In the meantime, they were selling their designs at a Halifax boutique called Biscuits General Store and online at a crafter’s website, Etsy.
They slowly built their brand and clientele and worked at making Dreamboat Lucy more established as a brand name.
“We always say that our (trademark style) is feminine with an edge and a retro feel, so (we’re) trying to really incorporate that into every collection so that our (creations are) recognizable,” Hilary says.
Dreamboat Lucy then won the regional Mercedes-Benz Start-Up competition in Halifax, which meant they had earned the chance to show at Toronto Fashion Week in October 2012.
“We were so ready. I think I didn’t sleep for two months, just thinking this is so cool. We’ve gotten our chance and we just wanted to put everything out there,” Hilary says.
“We went to Toronto Fashion Week having no regrets in our collection, we were so happy with it.”
They had 10 looks prepared for the runway show, but were told when they got there that they had to pare it down to eight, which forced them to really focus on their strongest creations.
Being behind the scenes at Toronto Fashion Week was a dream come true for the two of them.
“It was really busy. Backstage was crazy. There were a lot of volunteers and there were six or seven shows the same day we had ours so those designers were all coming in with their racks of clothes at the same time we were,” Hilary says.
“Right before we had our show we basically had 10 minutes to dress these girls. There are a lot of people helping, but they don’t want people in their clothes too early . . . . So really you can’t start dressing the girls until crunch time.”
Their spring/summer 2013 collection was inspired by sea glass that Hilary has recently collected.
“We wanted to do something that connected us to P.E.I. . . . and we wanted to represent that at Toronto Fashion Week in a really modern, not-so-obvious way,” she says.
“So we used a lot of shells and sea glass in the jewelry and in the clothing we used airy light breezy fabrics to reflect on the beaches in the summertime here and also the colours — the rusty reds of the beaches and the purples of the sunset.”
The aim was to also have a line that was versatile.
“I like to make pieces that you can mix and match, not necessarily just the one look that went down the runway but that you can play around with different pieces in the collection,” Louanna says.
Buyers are in the mix of people who attend, so that can open doors to new markets.
“Just the exposure. There is so much press surrounding the whole fashion week and that is really what’s going to build your career,” Louanna says.
“You have to be seen. You have to see, you have to be in people’s blogs and magazines. You want to be all over the Internet basically. And I think showing at Toronto Fashion Week is a really good way to get into that.”
Their spring/summer line will be avaiable at Biscuits in Halifax again, as well as at a location in Ottawa and possibly some Toronto locations. Their jewelry is available at locations in Summerside.
Their story has also appeared in various fashion blogs and magazines.
“I think we got a really good reaction. I think people appreciated the fact that we used bolder colours and patterns in our collection because right now a lot of people are doing super minimalist designs . . . and so we are bringing something a bit different to the table. I think that caught people’s eye and attention,” Hilary says.
“I think another thing that people noticed is that it’s all very wearable, which is something that we strive for,” Louanna adds.
“I think it’s extremely very important. You want your clothes to translate from the runway into everyday life . . . .”
- Dreamboat Lucy is a clothing and accessories company created by sisters Louanna and Hilary Murphy of Prince Edward Island.
- In the spring of 2006 Louanna completed the Costume Studies program at Dalhousie University. She then continued her studies in fashion at La Salle College in Montreal in 2007 where she obtained diplomas in both Fashion Illustration and Computerized Patterning. In 2008 the girls were reunited while both attending the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design — Louanna in fashion and Hilary in jewelry. While at NSCAD the girls began to collaborate their designs which led to the creation of Dreamboat Lucy in 2010.
- Dreamboat Lucy is a line of finely constructed pieces with the aesthetics of a figure flattering silhouette, a rock ‘n’ roll edge and a retro feel. Their use of bold, bright colours and prints is a design staple seen consistently from season to season.
- For more information, visit their Facebook page or www.dreamboatlucy.com.