Canadian Outerwear Designer Natasha Patten on the Importance of Shopping Local
"When we shop local, it helps us all."
Natasha Patten, founder and creative director of Toronto-based outerwear label mycoatisblue, has adopted many modern ideas into her business since launching it in 2016, like direct-to-consumer sales and virtual appointments for her out-of-town customers. But Patten’s interest in crafting clothing goes back – way back – to her elementary school days.
“In grade seven Home Ec class, I made a pair of shorts and I got an A+,” Patten recalls. “I thought, I’m good at this. I started sewing from there, using store-bought patterns.” She also had a home advantage, literally, when it came to the skill, thanks to a seamstress aunt and a New York-based uncle who worked as a tailor at the department store Lord & Taylor.
“He was the epitome of excellence in fashion,” Patten says, adding that he taught her a valuable lesson when it came to friends and family asking her for discounted prices on her creations. “He told me never to cheapen my work for anyone, because somebody will love what you do and pay the full price. I learned a lot about sewing from him, but also about business.”
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Patten says she never strayed from her dream of being a fashion designer, taking a placement in the studio of local forward-thinking designer Izzy Camilleri while in high school. “She’s amazing,” Patten says of her time working with Camilleri, whose label Iz Adaptive was at the forefront of accessible design when it launched over a decade ago. “She really taught me the fundamentals and the importance of making things of quality and not cutting corners.”
Going on to train in the fashion program at Ryerson University, Patten eventually decided to take the leap and launch mycoatisblue four years ago. Her latest collection includes trim, elongated silhouettes and contrast collar details for men’s pieces, and a knit scarf-neckline style on the women’s side. Patten says anyone could wear any of her styles: “I don’t judge.”
At first glance of mycoatisblue’s array of pieces, a striking sculptural quality is noticeable in how hemlines are seductively curved, and sleeves descend into graceful bell-shapes. “I get my inspiration from architecture,” Patten divulges. “For a brief time when I was younger, I wanted to be an architect.” Now, she studies buildings wherever she is, and also looks to books about modern architecture for new aspects of influence.
“Architecture and fashion are really closely related,” she notes. “A pattern is just a blue print that you see in 3D when it’s finished. I love the way angles and shapes and lines coexist. Every piece I [design] is the combination of those things, to make a person feel something when they put it on…. They feel more confident, more powerful–whatever that feeling is, it’s like how you feel when you walk into a large space that’s sparse. You might feel small and insignificant, or you might also feel like you can breathe. And when you walk into a space that’s small and crowded, some people might feel claustrophobic while others feel safe and comfortable. It’s a feeling you get in a space that I try to create in my garments.”
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Patten strives to add even more power to how her customers feel in her coats by offering customization options on her pieces, like hem lengthening or shortening; and she will interact with clients about sizing to ensure a perfect fit. She says that operating as an online business has been beneficial during the COVID crisis, adding that a recent virtual presentation of her new pieces was a great chance for clients across the country to learn more about her brand. “When you’re small, you can do these kinds of things,” she says, going on to highlight the importance of supporting local labels whenever possible.
“I pay my taxes, and that helps everyone,” she notes. “When we shop local, it helps us all.” Patten adds that she was inspired to make masks earlier in the pandemic as she had a roll of breathable Italian scuba fabric at her studio. “I gave some to my family and to front-line workers that I know. A lot of people have asked me if they’ll go online, so I might do that soon.” Mycoatisblue also offers a selection of bold graphic shirts, hinting that there’s always room for the brand to expand as time goes on.
In addition to Canadians sporting her creations, Patten says there are a few fashionable State-side celebs she’d love to dress if ever the opportunity arose. “Tracee Ellis Ross – she’s my style icon. I’m not very quirky as a person or designer [but] she does classic tailoring and she can mix it with quirky. And honestly, Barack Obama. He’s the quintessential cool guy now. I even know which one I’d give him – the Justi style, with the two-tone colourway. He’s conservative but he’s cool, and it’s a blend of the two.”
When the idea is floated that Obama will need something to wear to the upcoming inauguration, Patten doesn’t miss a beat. “If COVID wasn’t happening, I would fly to Washington to try and make this happen. I’m not even joking.” Luckily, you don’t have to travel to get a piece of that quintessential cool for yourself.