Local clothing designer Lennard Taylor came into the fashion world by way of passion and an injured knee.
“I did everything from the ground up,” Taylor says. “I started off just making stuff for myself … I was overseas playing soccer. I hurt my knee, and then I loved the way that clothing transformed my mood.”
After more than a decade in a warehouse in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, he’s moved – down the street, that is.
Walking into Taylor’s new studio feels like a brief escape from Winnipeg. Outfitted mannequins dangle from a brass ceiling chain. Artwork made from recycled Converse sneakers and repurposed denim line the walls, each echoing a cohesive message: clothing and consciousness must go hand in hand.
And then suddenly, you’re in the midst of where the magic happens: a row of emerald sewing machines, a photo studio and aisles of handcrafted garments set the scene.
“Everything is all open concept like it was before in my stores, but it’s even more so now,” Taylor says. “You get to see everything in production in real time.”
Taylor has been making a name for himself in the low-waste textile movement for 17 years. After being forced to end his sports career, he worked part-time stints as a server to juggle his passion for clothing design with paying the bills.
Eventually, fashion became his fulltime job, something he doesn’t plan on changing.
Taylor jokes that he’s been called the “Andy Warhol of Winnipeg” by those who walk into his store. He describes his regular clients as “wonderful, bright spirits,” often spotted wearing wide-lens statement glasses.
His zero-waste philosophy manifests in various ways in the studio. A (surprisingly comfortable) couch made entirely from recycled textile waste sits near the dressing room. Scraps of fabric are refurbished, not wasted.
“Getting into the industry, I knew it was one of the worst polluting in the world,” Taylor says. “I wanted my actions to speak louder than words and to be a company that was sustainable and zero-waste.”
The price mark of Taylor’s goods is higher than many mass merchandisers. But every piece of clothing that comes out of the Exchange District design studio’s doors is meant to be timeless. When it begins to wear and tear, take it back for a refresh.
“I always say to people, if you rip, tear, break or stain my clothes, don’t throw them out. Bring them to me, and I can paint over top of the stains. I can mend the rips,” he says.
“We need to think a bit further about where our dollar is going. How much is the cost per wear? If you’re going to wear a $20 shirt once, (that’s a) $20 cost per wear. If you buy a $300 garment that you wear 300 times, it’s $1 per wear.”
Exiting Taylor’s studio, one leaves with a sense of responsibility and agency about the clothing on their back.
“Clothing gives us our power. It gives us our strength to go and achieve,” Taylor says.
Drop by Lennard Taylor Design Studio on the fifth floor of 290 McDermot Ave.
Published in Volume 77, Number 06 of The Uniter (October 20, 2022)