Staying Visible with Style: Q&A With Fashion Designer’s Twiss and Weber

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Tonia Weber (left) and Laura Twiss (right), designers of Twiss & Weber, bike all around Ottawa while fashionably showing off their dandy digs. 

Photos by Zara Ansar from XOVelo.

Staying Visible with Style: Q&A With Fashion Designer's Twiss and Weber

We spoke to the ladies behind Twiss & Weber, designers of the bee dress from the fashion spread in dandyhorse's new issue, about some of the things they love most about cycling, the environment, and fashion. They gave us the rundown of how they cycle best, stay visible by looking great, and rock heels while riding to fashion galas.

What is it about bees that made you want to design a dress with them?

Each season we look for a fantastic print. Previous seasons we've had flamingos, unicorns, peacock feathers, etc. When Tonia and I saw the bees we knew immediately the bee fabric would suit our Paper Bag Dress. The print and the design were complementary with the simplicity and elegance of what the bee represents. The bee is elegant. Royal. Feminine. Hard working. Great characteristics for our ladies who are royal, feminine, and hard working.

Plus there are the elements of the bee that are so integral to our ecosystem and food chain. Combine that with the threats the insect is experiencing and we are all reminded of the bee's importance. It's kinda' like wearing a t-shirt that says, "good manners are sexy".

Do you consider sustainability when making clothing?

We do our best to throw away as little as we can. We recycle the loads of paper we use. We give our fabric scraps to whoever wants them. We use as much as we can and throw very little away.

We always consider sustainability and we do our best.

Each season we up-cycle a group of items. That means we take second hand clothes and modify them to make them wearable and stylish for today. Previous seasons have included camouflaged items, bleach out denims, and converted prom dresses. We always have something in the works; right now we are bleaching out denim skirts, coveralls, and dresses. These pieces are always well received because they are one of a kind and hit the trend of eco-fashion.

Another point about sustainability: we ask you to "take command of your own style" which could be interpreted in a few ways:

  • If you like a piece of clothing (for us but [this practice] could be [applied to] a drawing, a song, a story or anything) listen to how that piece makes you feel. Make it yours. Make this piece a part of your personality. And take care of that piece; nurture that piece into your personality.
  • In a town of filled with bureaucracy, having the support to explore your individual personality and style can be difficult. T&W is a safe place. We accept your style and the choices you make. That's why we have a Girl Gang
  • Be responsible with your shopping. Buy what you like but use the shit out of it! We don't scold our customers for buying made abroad items. From time to time we do ourselves. It is almost impossible not to buy from abroad. But when you do, we simply ask you to use that item well. To buy quality when you can and to not use it for disposable reasons.

To our detriment, we make quality clothes. We've threatened to add expiry dates, as so many clients have said to us that their T&W pieces are their favourites and that they're still in good condition - the difficulty is that they don't need to replace them! Which makes us proud.

What is the ethos and design focus for Twiss & Weber?

Our ethos is to have women feel confident in our clothes through deliberate line, quality sewing, and the best fabrics available. And we succeed in that. Our focus in design is to achieve proper fit for many body types in as many styles as we can. For instance, we achieved good results in the Jack Dress - so many body types look great in this dress. Good thing we customize at our boutique and at trunk shows (Freedom Clothing Collective in Toronto or Poeme in Montreal) allowing our customers to have their garment fit them just right. It's a new service for us but we've noticed so many take advantage of having something fit...especially the tall girls.

Is cycling and comfort a consideration when you design?

Comfort is always a consideration when we design. Do we consider cycling comfort - no, I'm sorry we do not. Mostly because we design clothes that are wearable and which are also cycleable...is that even a word? It is now.

We just ask those who cycle wearing our clothes to cycle safely. Do you have control? Are your loose ends tied up ... scarf, skirt, long cardi? Are you stable on your bike? Can you dismount easily? Is your helmet on right? If you say yes to all these questions, then feel free to wear what ever you want to wear cycling. Besides, the more stylish you look, the more easily you will be seen by drivers and pedestrian--that's cycling safety!

Have you designed for any celebrities or politicians? We heard rumours of Catherine McKenna, who will be in our new issue of dandyhorse.

The rumours are true; Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, has been seen wearing the Twiss & Weber line. Follow her twitter feed; she has appeared often in heels and clever helmet on her bike —looking wonderful!

Amanda Rheaume, Ottawa singer songwriter is touring her latest album right now (get it on iTunes). We've designed the costumes in her video, Red Dress Song, all proceeds to that song go to the Missing Indigenous and Murdered Women and Girls and a part of the REDress Project derived by Jaime Black. Go see her live when you get a chance, she's been known to wear T&W on stage from time to time.

Ottawa It-Girl, heart + brain love specialist, yoga teacher, desire map facilitator, and wholehearted work-in-progress Kate Durie is also a collector of T&W. We dig her enthusiasm and wonderfully realistic outlook on life.

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Tonia and Laura staying visible by style on one of Ottawa's many trails. 

What are your cycling habits? What sort (or sorts) of bike do you have?

We cycle as much as we can. The bike posts in our neighbourhood of Wellington West are always full.

Tonia's bike is a Bobbin, purchased at Tall Tree in Ottawa—just down the street from us. Mine is a Grant picked up at FreshAir—also just down the street from us. We use them absolutely all the time. I have super long streamers on mine - the streamers are a theft deterrent—Tonia's bike is the colour of oxidized copper—mint. It's such a pretty bike. You'll see those details from XOVelo Vogue's photographs of us taken just around the corner from our boutique.

Our city is super cycleable (there it is again!) and a few of our city politicians are encouraging car enthusiasts that cycling actually brings more spending dollars and bodies into the neighbourhoods—so if cycling is easier and safer in the city there will be more cyclists, and hence more spenders. Encouraging cycling  makes a lot of sense—they do it all over the world for a reason!

What do you prefer to wear while cycling? Have you ever ridden while wearing heels?

We'll wear anything and everything. We'll be attending a fancy gala next week Stepping Out: Dressing for Success Ottawa-Gatineau and we'll likely be riding our bikes to this event. It's across town but I can visualize my route. Safely, in heels, of course.

Footwear doesn't hold us back. When we go for a spin class, we use the clips. That way we get a better workout. When we cycle, we cycle to get from one place to the next—not for exercise. The physical aspect to commuting is an added bonus to the lifestyle.

What is it like biking in Ottawa? (Have you ever biked in Toronto?)

I haven't biked in Toronto yet, but biking in Ottawa is a dream. There are paths all over the city. The routes and the attitudes towards cyclists are getting better every year. Each traveller simply can't take the other for granted. I think I'm vigilant but I've come super close to dooring a cyclist—and was mortified! I still feel bad for the close call.

Do you have a favourite Ottawa cycling route?

My favourite cycling route in Ottawa is along the Rideau Canal on the Queen Elizabeth Drive pathway through to Dow's Lake. The park along the path is so very lovely in the height of summer. Encrusted with rose bushes and well curated flower gardens. The east side of Dow's Lake at QED garden with those immense mature trees remind me of cycling in Münster, Germany in the summer of 2007.

What’s your favourite dress?

Tonia's favourite dress is Meg Dress. It's a One Size dress that is elegant, sexy, and easy to wear. My favourite dress right now is Delta. Based on a top Tonia designed a lifetime before we met. She had a successful line of club-wear called "Airline". We knocked it off this year and built a dress from it. I feel really sexy and much taller (trick of the eye) when I wear it.

Zara is an Ottawa born artist/videographer with a love for repetitive patterns and bright colours. She uses her camera to immortalize images of stylish people and their bicycles. It has become one of her major missions to document the  cyclists of Ottawa and the connection they have with their noble rides. She prefers to document them in as real a state as possible trying to incorporate where they eat, play and ride into each shot. The choices they’ve made in choosing their bike, what they wear and how they ride through their everyday is a big part of the portraits she’s trying to capture. It’s not only about the bikes and the colours, the baskets, the speed of the gears: it’s about the people who ride. XO Velo is the medium Zara uses to share and show off this everyday bike lifestyle in this new era of the ride around. (www.xovelo.com)

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Making art out of everyday infrastructure: Q&A on bike lock-ups with Marianne Lovink and Scott Eunson

Behind the scenes on the Bee Scene shoot

Cycling fashion spotted at the Spring 2014 One of a Kind Show

 

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