Halifax: Happy accidents

Katie Tuttle never went to design school—and she’s proud of it. For this 20-year-old designer—half of Halifax-based fashion label Tuttle & Leonardo (tuttleandleonardo.com)—all the technical training of a classroom would just slow her down.

Instead of obsessing over sketches, hitting roadblocks when the 2D won’t transfer to the three dimensional, and sticking to a set design from start to finish, this fashion duo (made complete with designer Karen Leonardo) begins with a hint of inspiration and lets it develop organically.

A bottle of soap becomes the catalyst for a series of raw silk pieces, track pants trigger the lines, pulls and gathers of an incredible coat, the buckle of a shoe becomes the belt of a dress—every colour, shape and idea is a starting point. And what happens after, when Tuttle and Leonardo forget the limits of their medium, swap sketches for draping, and approach each design with a “let’s just do it” attitude, is a series of “happy accidents,” says Tuttle. Accidents that result in a unique, bold and gorgeous line that’s heavy on colour, fresh on style and dipped in classic allure.

Karen Leonardo comes to the table with a spice of logic and a load of experience to complement Tuttle’s “it’ll work” naïveté and business-minded passion. A couple decades her partner’s senior, the designer snatched up a fashion education from Toronto’s Seneca College, has spent years working for top Canadian labels and is equipped with a killer set of sewing and pattern-making skills.

The two strike a perfect balance, one that has given way to a self-sustaining label that takes part in every step of production: from inspiration, to draping and pattern making, sewing, styling, photography—to everything. And having just landed on the scene in March 2007, the pair are now working overtime to get to L’Oréal Fashion Week in the spring. The dynamic and surprising duo of Tuttle & Leonardo are creating one hell of a happy accident that needs anything but luck.

Photography by Katie Tuttle

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