Saturday, January 16, 2010

Where Are They Now: Erin Keatch, Las Valentias

Art of Fashion recently caught up with Erin Keatch, owner of the Las Valentias clothing line, and winner of the Art of Fashion: Hollywood show in 2004. Erin’s participation in the 2004 show helped her get her foot in the door and jump-start her career. Here’s what Erin had to say about her experience with Art of Fashion and the state of the fashion industry in Canada:

AoF: ”How did you first hear about Art of Fashion?”
Erin: “I first heard about it through Toronto Fashion Incubator, when I was just starting out in the design world and still working in the display aspect of the fashion industry. The opportunity to participate in the 2004 show came up and I decided to give it a shot.”

AoF: ”How would you describe your experience with the show?”
Erin: “The experience was a lot of fun, because I was using models I knew, and most designers there were at the same stage in their career as me, which made the experience very welcoming. It was a great atmosphere.

“At the time, I was doing more one-of-a-kind pieces. In doing the show, I created 10 pieces for my line. I’ve also kept in touch with a lot of the designers I met, too, and other opportunities presented themselves afterwards through the contacts I met during that time.”

After the show, Erin got a job as a knitwear designer with a small company in Toronto that allowed her to travel the world for work, and exposed her to more of the business side of fashion. When she decided that she was ready to work on her line full-time, she did the new labels collection with Toronto Fashion Incubator. She launched Las Valentias with a friend from school, Tara Kelly, in 2007. They are now in their fifth season.

“I think it is an exciting time to be a Canadian designer. Recognition has typically been a problem for Canadian designers because Canada is quite a small marketplace compared to the U.S., for example, and Canadian fashion tends to be sold to a limited, niche market. But things are changing, thanks to events like Fashion Week, and with the growing awareness among consumers about the importance of buying locally and sustainably, more Canadians are turning to Canadian brands. Canada has always had a good reputation of manufacturing high quality clothing, and it’s a point of pride that our label is completely Canadian-made.”

As a designer, Erin aims to produce collections that are not trend-based, with pieces that could be worn season after season. Las Valentias focuses on silhouettes over trends, although it’s not a “classics” line, per se.

AoF: ”What do you think it takes to succeed as a designer in Canada? Is marketing crucial?”
Erin: “Marketing is crucial, absolutely. It’s helpful if you know who you are selling to, and how to reach your audience.”

But the only sure formula for success, she says, is having a great product that’s going to sell.

“Getting an agent can be helpful. Their role is to take your product to their list of retail stores and boutiques for you. They make appointments with the boutiques and do a lot of trade shows, like Trends, The Apparel Show and 100% Fresh. They also have access to the Ontario Federation of Exhibitors, which is only available to agents.”

Most of all, though, it comes down to making the best possible product, something Erin says Las Valentias is committed to doing.

The Las Valentias line will be available at in March, as well as Pho Pa in Toronto, Espace Pepin in Montreal, and 4 new stores will be carrying the line in Spring 2010. To contact Las Valentias or Erin Keatch, call 416-465-4604, or email

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