Tinker, Tailor, Szoldier, Buy

Toronto-based designer Greg Blegoev finds welcoming home in the Exchange

“The Z is silent but you still kind of say it.”

So explains Greg Blegoev, a designer with more than 20 years experience in fashion. He’s the creator of Szoldier. That’s no typo: Szoldier is his brand of men’s and women’s high end, luxury street clothing, founded in 2010. 

“I like to push the envelope, but I don’t like to change my style too much,” Blegoev says, acknowledging that self improvement should be a never-ending process. 

“It’s like designing a new Porsche or Ferrari. They don’t change it that much, but it’s always advancing.”

As a Toronto-born teen, his interest in fashion was inflamed by vacations to Los Angeles, New York, London and Barcelona. After graduating from Ryerson’s School of Fashion, Blegoev spent a year working as a tailor, developing his technique. The Szoldier brand was crafted to evoke a detailed and timeless feel.

“I’ve become more knowledgeable and skilled with my designs and I definitely want the brand to reflect that,” says Blegoev, who uprooted his Toronto studio and relocated to Winnipeg’s Exchange District in 2010. The downtown neighbourhood has accepted Blegoev, opening his eyes to the creative potential of the community.

“The Exchange District is such a great, peaceful environment to create in,” Blegoev says. “There’s a lot of like-minded artists sprawled throughout the area. It’s like the creative centre point for the arts in Winnipeg.”

His move to the Exchange was spurned not just by a love of the city, but an intent to spread brand awareness in the region, as well. The key difference for Blegoev between the Toronto fashion scene and the local scene is the pace, which he finds much calmer in Manitoba. However, he confesses that making new industry contacts can be far more difficult in Manitoba.

“It’s a little detached here because the city’s so spread out,” Blegoev says. “Unless you’re at certain events, it’s not as easy to network on a business level.”

But business continues to chug along for Blegoev. In fact, Torontonians may currently be wearing his work, as he still creates limited edition pieces for a variety of Toronto boutiques. He also enjoys doing custom design work for musicians and DJs, while developing a future line, intended for wholesale.

When the topic of his upcoming 2015 collection comes up, Blegoev is reluctant to spoil any surprises, but mentions that he is working with a lot of leather and cotton.

This shift serves as a remarkable contrast to Blegoev’s previous brand, Snug, a popular Ontario-based rave wear line that he describes as “expressive clothing.” In 2012, rave fashion blog technosnobbery.com gushed that Snug “arguably established the look for the Canadian rave scene.”

As advice to aspiring young designers, Blegoev stresses that in the fashion business, the business is as important as the fashion.

“Always research your market and make sure the product you’re developing is built on a knowledge of what’s already out there,” Blegoev says. “If you’re a good designer, don’t neglect the business side of it.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 5, 2014)

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