The Toronto-based designer shares the inspiration behind her new pieces, and how she’s supporting frontline workers and the arts community right now.
Dance and design, what a match made in heaven; and the campaign for jewellery designer Corey Moranis’ newest pieces is heavenly indeed. Through the movements and gestures of Winnipeg-based dancer and choreographer Kaja Irwin, her Spring collection comes to life, and at a time when elevating experiences are most appreciated. Moranis will inspire you in other ways, too, through her donation commitments to COVID-19 relief—recipients change bi-weekly and have included Food Banks Canada and the Women’s College Hospital—and ways she’s staying connected to her community. We caught up with the Toronto-based creative to find out more details about the collection, her ultra-calming playlist, and what went down during the Scarborough Bluffs video shoot with Irwin.
Tell me about the new shapes found in the Spring collection. What were some inspirations you were working with?
The newest shapes from the Spring collection are all very loopy! I was inspired to come up with more organic and figurative shapes than [seen in] previous collections. Being able to produce a flower, for example, was really exciting, and the loop bracelet has an ornamental feeling inspired by the spiral on a Greek column. It’s fun and challenging to bend loops out of Lucite, so a lot of results come from experimenting. I’d love to expand on these shapes in the future.
What was it like working with Kaja for the campaign? Why did you decide to incorporate dance into the video?
Kaja Irwin is one of my closest friends, and collaborating with her on a project has always been a dream of mine. Through dance and video, it seemed possible to create a heightened experience for my audience. At the heart of the project was being able to show the jewellery come to life with movement—transforming in different light or from different angles—and also to see how it can magically transform you; putting on jewellery can make you feel like you have a superpower!
Working with Kaja and filmmaker Michele Ayoub was so much fun. Michele helped to really drive home the concept, the idea that Kaja would be having this moment of re-charge and transcendence through meditative movements and the magic around and on her; that she would be breathing herself into a dream like state.
Our question to Kaja was how would she, as a modern dancer, interpret breathing poses, Tai Chi, yoga, and facial massages into individual movements that could be repeated, like meditation. The movements that she came up with were so creative and beautiful. We were doing all of this back-and-forth collaboration over Google Drive, video, and the phone as the three of us were in different cities at the time. At one point, I sent Kaja a YouTube video of someone doing a stretch for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and she turned it into the most magical full body dance move. She can really turn the most ordinary movement into something so graceful.
Making it all come together at the Scarborough Bluffs on the day we filmed the video was truly amazing. We were all watching Kaja and falling in love with her. I should add that she is also very professional as there were lots of distractions at the beach, and she remained focused and composed the whole time! A few examples—people jet skiing in our shots, beach fights, and bonfire parties…. We have some hilarious BTS footage that we may share at some point.
How are you staying creative and optimistic during quarantine?
I am still working a bunch to keep things running at Corey Moranis headquarters, but I am focused on putting together content that will be fun and engaging for my community, like a playlist of songs that really soothe me. They’re small things, but they might be a point of connection with my customers. And I’ve been connecting with organizations who are working to support the Covid-19 response—it’s been inspiring to see how people are getting creative to help, and being able to donate even a little bit of my sales to their efforts makes me feel like the work I am doing matters, too, and keeps me feeling optimistic. If I think too far into the future, where things are a big question mark, I get anxious because I can’t control what is going to happen at the moment and can’t plan accordingly. So, I’m really focusing my creative energies on the present.
A couple of weeks ago, we put together a colouring contest to encourage art therapy and relaxation at home. One of my favorite illustrators, Alëna Skarina, designed a colouring page with a dreamy, sparkly girl to colour in and float away with. We had over 100 submissions and were blown away by all the talent and creativity. I’m using one of the winning entries as my Instagram logo for the next month! Included in many submissions were personal messages about how each person was doing and how doing some art made them feel. It was very heartwarming.
[And] we’re planning a live dance class with Kaja…. Stay tuned for more details on this. It’s going to be so nice.
Who are the recipients of this week’s donations from your sales?
One of my next donations will be to my friend, [clothing designer] Christine Alcalay’s fundraiser. She is making masks for Healthcare Professionals and donating them across the U.S. She has already donated around 1,500 masks and I want to support her goal to keep these amazing frontline workers protected. She gives me hope! Also, if you’re looking to buy a mask for yourself, you can do so on her site and the proceeds will go towards offsetting her material, labour, and shipping costs required to get these masks to health professionals.
The other place I will be donating to is a small art gallery in Winnipeg called Blinkers. Two of the founding members have helped out majorly at Corey Moranis headquarters over the last couple of years, and I am very grateful. They are incredibly hard-working and put so much passion into creating amazing opportunities for artists, which is so important.
What are you hopeful about when it comes to the fashion industry coming out of COVID-19?
I am hoping that this pause in the fashion industry will provide a moment to breathe, think, re-evaluate, and make positive changes. I think as terrible as it is, this situation is forcing some good soul searching.
I am currently evaluating my business and trying to get in touch with what really matters to me. I am looking at the whole picture on a business and personal level. Usually, the crazy fast pace of the fashion industry mixed with the level of multi-tasking required to run a small business is so intense, it doesn’t leave much time to absorb and evaluate. I am hoping to come out of COVID-19 with clearer business and life goals that stay true to my own set of beliefs and standards.
Everyone I know in the fashion industry is so incredibly hardworking, passionate, creative, and inventive; I know they are here to stay and will make it through COVID-19 and that gives me a lot of hope! We deal with a lot of uncertainty and challenges in this business and still make amazing things happen, so I know we will get through this and continue keeping it up. I also think that COVID-19 has really emphasized the importance of supporting small businesses and I am hopeful that this will continue and only get stronger.
What kind of interactions have you been having with customers since self-isolation started?
I have had many kind and supportive interactions with my customers and community since the start of COVID-19. With the stores I work with, there has been a lot of understanding, support, and flexibility going both ways. Even if an outcome is undesirable for me, I know that each one of us is losing a lot right now, and that we are doing the best that we can to get through this time. We all want to see each other on the other side!
With my direct customers and community, I feel lucky that I share a special connection with them, which is part of being a smaller business. The support I’ve gotten has lifted me up and made me feel that I will be okay. I really am just wishing everyone the best, and sending waves of strength and love.