An afternoon with Jessica Biffi

"I love sneakers!" Jessica Biffi goes shopping at
"I love sneakers!" Jessica Biffi goes shopping at Livestock (116 Spadina Ave., Toronto, livestock.ca)

With great talent and a whole lot of personality, Jessica Biffi became instant BFFs with fans of the hit reality show, Project Runway Canada. For this promising designer, reality beyond TV only gets more exciting. In addition to working on the launch of her private label, she is dreaming up some ambitious endeavors to tackle both the plus size and menswear markets.I caught up with Biffi over Italian soda as she prepares sketches for her upcoming spring collection. Between fans snatching photos on the street, we shop for sneakers, try on makeup and talk fashion.

On launching a private label in midst of a recession: Will style triumph over economics?
Women still like to look good–even during a recession. But I mean, when is it ever a good time to launch a fashion label?

On the woman who wears the Jessica Biffi label:
She’s an original! She likes to be different and take risks. With appreciation for great craftsmanship, detailed design and tailoring, the Jessica Biffi woman is confident, sexy, bold and polished.

Are there pieces from the collection that you’re super excited about?
The spring collection is in the works. I’m just getting ready to make samples.

On the fashion love affair:
My mother was a seamstress growing up so I was exposed to fashion from early on. Though it wasn’t until high school when I started drafting my own designs that I fell in love with making clothes. Since then I’ve grown into my style and my craft.

Left: Biffi tries on some blush. Right: Sketching on the deck at Red Rocket Coffee

On fashion heros, inspirations and influences:
Visionaries like Galliano and McQueen because their designs transcend pieces of sewn cloth. It’s theatre and drama. It’s funny, the more immersed you are in the creative business the more you tend to stray from being influenced by your contemporaries. It’s inevitable that ideas are recycled and borrowed but you always want to try and bring your own unique ideas to the designs.

What inspires you?
Old Hollywood. I love Greta Garbo. And hip hop, of course! Everything from the music to the message and the attitude has this amazing unapologetic presence and confidence. My frequent playlist has everything from Common to Kayne West, Lupe Fiasco, Kid Sister and Janelle Monáe. This season I have gotten really into graffiti too.

On being uninspired: Routinely squeezing out collections on tight deadlines can be exhausting. How do you cope with moments when you’re creatively bankrupt?
When I feel uninspired I try to step outside of myself by diving into adventures with my best friend to explore forests and new parts of the city. And music always help to get creative juices flowing.