NAMESAKE is the latest Toronto atelier you should know about. The brand creates custom jackets that speaks to your sense of style, all made by designer Rosa Halpern. HOLR Ch



What inspired your interest in fashion?

I have been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember! When I was a little kid I spent HOURS making my own paper dolls, and later learning to sew and do basic pattern-making.  I also was very into fine arts — painting and drawing –and as I grew up I saw that these two interests could be intrinsically linked through the fashion industry.  Fashion is the only art form everyone participates in when they get dressed each morning.



How did this lead to a career in the industry?

I started interning for local designers as early as grade 10.  By the time I graduated from college I had already been working in one capacity or another within the industry for 7 years — and I loved every aspect I worked in. From customer facing, on the sales-floor, to assisting styling shows, to pattern-making in a back room in the New York City garment district. Most people in this industry are stuck working within one position (patternmaker, sewer, buyer, etc.) but I am so lucky in what I do now as I get to do it all.


How did the Namesake come to be what it is today?

Namesake has grown incredibly organically. In fact, if you had told me 5 years ago that this is what I would be doing I would not have believed you.  It started by a friend asking me to make her a leather jacket because she couldn’t find one that met her specifications. From there, I began to notice a space in the market and made a few more… it has totally snowballed from there!



How did you come up with the branding for Namesake?

I am named after Rosa Parks and Rosa Luxemburg, and have always been fascinated with the power of our namesakes to influence the sort of life we want to lead.  I also have always been interested in making something that is more than just another piece of clothing in the closet.  By assigning meaning and a story behind each piece we make, our customer is able to attach to, and channel that energy when wearing their jacket. Every Namesake jacket is named after a woman who has changed the world in some significant way. When our customer slips into their second skin they can be as badass as Grace Jones, as creative as Yoko Ono, as courageous as Emmeline Pankhurst, or whatever it is they may need!


What sparked your interest in working with leather specifically?

This happened very organically as I saw a need for it in the market and aimed to fill the void.  I adore working with leather as there is a very physical aspect to it and also that you have to be very precise.  Unlike wool, which stitches can be ripped out of, with leather you get one shot because when the needle pierces the skin of the leather that’s it — no mistakes possible!


Can you tell us a bit about the creation process, as it is a customized business model?

We work in tandem with our customers to design together.  It is always a conversation: What style is most flattering? What particular leather skin will best suit their lifestyle?  What embellishments can we do to make the jacket one-of-a-kind?


What are some of the challenges you have faced heading a leather focused brand?

Our main challenge is that our business is very seasonal.  Especially being based in Toronto, “leather weather” only exists for a few months of the year.


What are some of the challenges you have faced as a female entrepreneur?

As a woman in fashion, I often feel I am not taken seriously. Entering financing pitches and business meetings there is often a “isn’t that cute” attitude. I assure you there is nothing “cute” about our hustle or about the process of making leather jackets!


How do you scale a business?

You constantly have to be 10 steps ahead…. Planning what your next move is and how to be ready for it before it is even there.  It’s a challenge, but also thrilling when your plans come to fruition.

Do you have any advice for any up and coming entrepreneurs?

My biggest advice (particularly in today’s social media world) is to not compare your business to anyone else’s.  You are on your own path and it’s not a race to the finish line.  Instead, it’s a matter of carving your own path with intention, integrity and grit.  Enjoy the ride!