A Passion For Lace
by Lisa Wong
Photography by Fred Fraser - www.fredfraser.com
Styling - Charlotte Stokes - www.nobasura.com
Makeup/hair - Liz Dungate - Judy Inc.
Model - Natalie Jean - John Casablancas Modelswww.jcvancouver.com
Christine Morton's enthusiasm for beautiful textiles is contagious. "I guess I always had a passion for lace," says the founder and designer behind the luxury lingerie line Christine Vancouver. This passion harkens back to her design student days in the 1970s, when the fashion industry in Vancouver was small to non-existent and the city was considered a sartorial backwater. Morton was one of 20 people enrolled in the first design school in Vancouver. As the term progressed, enrollment dwindled to ten.
In her student days, she frequented estate sales and began collecting antique lace. Her collection became the basis for a small collection of camisoles, tap pants and teddies--dainty pieces that featured Victorian pintucks, antique styling, luxurious fabrics, and handmade rosebud details. Morton's creations were a novel departure from the utilitarian "heavy duty" undergarments of the 1950s and the "braless" movement of the 1960s, and she soon attracted a devoted clientele. "[My customer base] wasn't huge, but it was enough." Success brought her to Toronto, Montreal and New York for meetings with buyers and illustrious potential retailers like Bergdorf Goodman. Through all of this, her passion for lace never wavered. Once, she flew to Toronto to meet a client whose father had owned a 1930s lingerie factory and whose garage was crammed with "old dirty boxes" of unused vintage lace and appliques. Giddy with excitement, she packed the dusty boxes into cab after cab to be transported back to her hotel room.
Today it's unfeasible for her to use antique textiles in her designs and she sources antique-inspired lace from other places. For example, for several years, a longstanding lace company in Switzerland reproduced its archived vintage patterns in colours to match each collection. However, all pieces are still produced in Vancouver, a fact that Morton is very proud of. "Some of my employees have been with me for twenty years. I love Vancouver and I find I can be very creative here. I've been very fortunate and quite blessed to work with great people." The company has flourished in the last three decades and its lingerie continues to attract new fans. Christine Vancouver lingerie is carried in high-end boutiques and luxury department stores like Neiman Marcus. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek, Oprah Winfrey, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Diana Krall can't get enough of her sensual creations. Despite the success, Morton's perspective on the appeal of her designs remains simple. "My pieces are for a woman who loves beautiful fabrics and appreciates the feel of silk and lace, and understands quality."
For spring/summer 2010, Christine Vancouver is releasing the Santorini collection (lingerie separates in shades of dusk and amethyst), the Riviera collection (separates in papaya pink) and the Bijoux glam collection (a bridal line featuring pieces in pearl white and black). But it's the fall/winter 2010 collection that Morton is most excited about. Described as "one of the hardest collections they've done," the patterned silks used consist of a lace motif inspired by a skirt from Morton's own closet as well as a painted motif by Morton's sister, artist Linda Stanbridge. The collection's colour palette ranges from pearl white to shades of dusky and pale blue. Morton's future plans for Christine Vancouver include looking at different markets and further developing the label.
So, what advice does she have for aspiring designers? "Remain true to yourself and what you love. Focus on what you're good at. It's the designer's creativity that sets him or her apart. Keep the essence, the initial idea, true." Wise words from a woman who has always followed her passion.
Christine Vancouver can be found at La Jolie Madame, Diane's Lingerie and Holt Renfrew in Vancouver. Their design showroom is located in West Vancouver and will be open for a Special Olympic Sale during February from 10am-5pm, Monday to Saturday. For more information, visit http://christinevancouver.com.