Growing up with a burning desire to enter the world of fashion, Stevie Crowne has unmatched enthusiasm when it comes to his creative endeavours. He has an impeccable eye for detail allowing him to craft his art consisting of reworking and upcycling thrifted garments. In this conversation with Stevie, you’ll learn of his incredible underdog story which is nothing short of an inspiration for the rest of us. Since starting out, he has showcased at various shows celebrating genderless fashion.
KC: I remember seeing your collection at FAT. I loved your set, the music and the entire vibe.
SC: Thank you so much, I feel like I’m about to explode with happy emotions right now. I put a lot of myself into it, I worked for months on end, busted my ass and did what I believed in. I’m so thrilled that my audience loved it and I feel so fortunate to have so many opportunities.
KC: How has the city inspired you?
SC: I moved to Toronto in 2016 with $100 in my pocket, a one-way ticket, and no sort of connections or friendships. But, if it weren't for this city, I wouldn't be close to where I am as a designer. Toronto is a very diverse, creative arts destination, you have to hustle and bust your ass for the first few years in order to reach your dream.
I have done most of my shows in Toronto actually. Initially, I got a job as a writer with an online magazine, I was couch surfing and attending a lot of events so I could make connections. It was great, everyone was so warm and welcoming. From that, I later got a job at a vintage shop which lasted about a year before I took the huge risk of creating a collection for Fashion Art Toronto. My goal was to make designing my full time gig. It wasn't easy but the amount of support I used to get and still get has been phenomenal. You’ll gain a lot of traction if you surround yourself with like minded people who constantly want to see you succeed.
"You’ll gain a lot of traction if you surround yourself with like minded people who constantly want to see you succeed."
KC: What made you want to step into creative customization and sustainable upcycling?
SC: I was born and raised in Saskatoon. When I was 16, I had a modelling agent and a childhood dream of being a Disney actor or model. Around that age I started to make my own clothes. I’d buy a leather jacket, spray paint it, add studs to it, stencil it and wear it to school. When I’d go to my modelling classes my agent would ask me what I was wearing. Wearing something that I created was such a big moment for me, I felt that I was able to express myself and truly feel like authentic.
From that, my agent then gave me the opportunity to do a 5 look women's trade show. I did a few of those small events before I moved to Vancouver in 2012 for fashion school. I kept doing my thing, wearing my creations, walking the streets and into stores in order to meet people. I had no idea what I was doing. I was very outrageous so it was hard to walk by me on the street and not look twice. I eventually dropped out of fashion school because I felt that it just wasn’t working for me - I thought my design career was over until I submitted an application for Vancouver Eco Fashion Week. The reason I stuck with upcycling was because that’s what I started off with and that’s what worked. This is before anyone thought twice about sustainability, so I’d say I was a little ahead of my time and in over my head. I always really loved the art of recycling. To find something that has been discarded, overlooked and revamp it and it's also cost effective. I still have my fast fashion clothing from a decade ago and I just rework it and re-wear it. Fast fashion in a vicious circle.
KC: How do you pick and choose what you upcycle and what you let go?
SC: It is very instinctual. I just know when I know, something will usually catch my eye. A lot of what I do is staple classics that I can always buy and rework a thousand different ways like denim jackets and leather jackets. It's so accessible and easy to find. I have been getting super creative lately when it comes to putting things all together. Like in Energy Never Dies, I put shorts and a jacket together to make a onesie. It's super campy and out of this world like something Gaga would wear. I guess I see the potential in everything at thrift shops.
KC: I’ve noticed the use of holographic panels, lighting, paint splatters and a cohesive play between baggy and tight silhouettes. What inspired your latest FAT collection “Energy never dies”?
SC: I always loved mixing opposites together, lights and the dark, happy and sad, masculine and feminine. This season was a game changer for me, it's the first time I ever used colors like this. I sewed LED lights into some of the pieces last minute because, if the collection is called “Energy Never Dies” I playing with lights was a necessity.
It all ended up working together. The LED jackets are now a hot sell through my custom orders. I love wearing my green LED light jacket (the last look at FAT) I wear it all the time around town. This collection was such an experimental and new way of thinking for me. It was my rebirth as an artist. You see a lot of hardships in this business in a short amount of time but you could also see a lot of success in a short amount of time. Energy never dies is an ode to who I was, who I am and who I always want to be. It's going to be a big variety from start to finish. I don't think the world needs another 20 look collection of T-shirts. I hold myself to a standard. If you're gonna come see a Stevie Crowne show you will know I put in 20 hours a day of work. The energy never dies between me and my audience. I’ll always fight for what we believe in. It's a motivational concept. It was a personal movement.
KC: In line with my previous question, why did you opt for a rather futuristic vibe with your FAT collection as opposed to last year’s post apocalyptic theme?
SC: I think when I lived in Toronto, I had a lot to prove. So each collection I did was a narrative of my own life. My last collection- “underground monarch” signified that I came from nothing. With that collection, plenty of people made me feel like my ideas are worth listening to. There was so much regality mixed with streetwear. “Energy Never Dies” is a collection that expresses how I'm feeling now. Its cool that I can go back in my archive year by year and find what my story was at that point.
KC: How has your design process evolved since starting out?
SC: My design process all comes from me, it’s whatever I'm going through. I’m a very emotional artist and each collection I produce has a new storyline, a new reason for me to keep going. The industry is ego based, ego driven and I tend to challenge my ego every 6 months. I question my success and the reason why I’m designing. That's why each season I have a new narrative in line with the world around me. I create my own universe. I only started out 3 years ago where I really named a collection and put a real theme to it, so it has not been long. Before this it was very glam and punk rock. It was only 3 years ago I started to practice my tailoring and I started to put a lot more time into it and take it a lot more seriously.
KC: What have been some major roadblocks you’ve faced due to “Vintage” and “upcycling clothing” concepts?
SC: My thought process years ago was doubting that anyone would think I was original for taking someone else's work and reworking it as my own. My rebuttal to that is why would they allow their so called amazing garment to be thrown into a thrift shop for it to stay there forever. I never really faced many industry roadblocks. It's the Stevie Crowne train, you either get on or you get off or you’ll get run over and it’s not going to feel good.
"It's the Stevie Crowne train, you either get on or you get off or you’ll get run over."
I really put in the time and that's why I haven't had many roadblocks. It is really important to be honest with everyone, the producers, models, media and most importantly yourself. I come from a blue collar upbringing. I did not come from money, I remember cleaning houses with my mother when I was 12 or painting fences with my dad when I was 14. That could have been my life. I think it was the decision to move when I was 18 that let me make something for myself. The hardest thing was to leave everything I ever knew; but it was revitalizing to keep moving to major cities, selling at stores, work my butt off and make more collections. It's such an underdog story and I’m glad that I can share and I can talk about it in an unharmed way because I believe I made it. I like to talk about my story and my roadblocks to hopefully inspire those around me to follow their dreams no matter what.
KC: What’s next for you in terms of concept/ brand development?
SC: I have been moodboarding since February for my Fall/Winter 19 Collection. I have a name but it might change. It will be a movement I see in the world as opposed to a movement within myself. It’s an outward perception.
"It will be a movement I see in the world as opposed to a movement within myself. It’s an outward perception."
I will be calling it “Revolutions Per Minute” or RPM. it only made sense to do another acronym because “Energy Never Dies” was END. So there you go, I feel better now and you have my full support to publish that name. Its now or never.
KC: What is one piece of advice you’d give fellow entrepreneurs that you wish you knew when starting out?
SC: That’s a good question! I always had people telling me if I worked hard enough and put in time i could do it but I feel like i always had the knowledge within myself. I would say always know who you are, what you’re doing and the direction you’re going. The more you know yourself, the more you’ll know what you aspire to do. There are many ways to get ahead of any past you may have and execute your plan differently. My advice would be to know yourself, love yourself and trust your intuition every step of the way. In this day and age we tend to look to social media and our friends and family to know who we should be or what we should aim for; but I don’t agree with that. Everything will fall into place if you know yourself and surround yourself with good people. Put in a lot of WORK. I know so many people who go “I will be a singer or I'll be a designer”... some of the most talented collections I see are student collections. People don't want to put out a first collection that’s shitty but now that I look back I cringe at my first collection too. You just have to put out what you can, while you can, it does not matter how much money or connections you have. If this is what you really want you just have to start and never stop.
What is one of your favourite pieces that you’ve created?
The green LED light jacket. The last one in my FAT collection “Energy Never Dies”.
One person you’d love to work/collaborate with?
Rihanna. I’m so proud of her, she’s too good.
What would you say is an important quality for an entrepreneur or designer to have?
Are you working on any new projects?
Apart from FW19 I’m working on custom orders for people.