A made-in-London fashion label continues expansion and readies for the U.S. market
Photo: Carmina de Young design director, Donald Procunier, and founder, Carmina de Young
CARMINA DE YOUNG is making her Canadian dream come true, one step at a time. Since graduating from the fashion design program at Fanshawe College in 2009, the Mexican-born Young has been working towards realizing her goal of making the Carmina de Young fashion label a household name.
In 2011, Young was designing and sewing custom event wear in her living room. By 2015, she had secured a modest Impact Loan through Goodwill Industries and moved production into the organization’s Centre for Social Enterprise and the Environment on White Oak Road. A year later, she brought her first ready-to-wear collection to the London market—sold through pop-up stores and private shopping events.
Today, the Carmina de Young team includes business advisor, Lina Bowden, and design director, Donald Procunier. The business occupies space on two floors of the social enterprise space, including an office, showroom and large sewing and production studio. And the Carmina de Young label is found in more than 20 boutiques across southwestern Ontario and British Columbia.
“Consumers are becoming more conscious about the environmental impact of the clothes they wear. It’s why we believe so strongly in making quality clothing that lasts” —Donald Procunier
This spring, fashionistas will be able to purchase the latest collection online through the Carmina de Young website.
Young has achieved it all while maintaining her commitment to using sustainable, eco-friendly fabrics and manufacturing locally. “Creating a ready-to-wear fashion label was my goal since I began the program at Fanshawe, but I had to learn a lot to get there,” she says.
Working with Bowden and Procunier has been key to helping her crack the retail market. There are only so many hours in a day, Young notes, and as an entrepreneur and mother she couldn’t do it all and do it all well.
For the past two years, Young and Procunier have operated as a creative team. “Carmina and I develop and sketch the collections together,” Procunier explains.
A fellow graduate of Fanshawe’s fashion design program, Procunier is now based in Toronto and brings a decade of experience in the fashion and garment manufacturing industry to the Carmina de Young label.
While Young oversees production and manufacturing, Procunier takes the lead on marketing and works directly with sales representatives and retailers. “Each market is different,” he says. “What works in Ontario doesn’t necessarily sell in British Columbia. We take that feedback and translate it into where we need to go with the collection.”
Whatever creative tweaks are made, the Carmina de Young line is designed with the professional woman in mind. The focus is on quality, comfort and function, with a touch of contemporary flare. Individual pieces work together, allowing women to build a versatile wardrobe that can take them from the office to a night on the town.
It’s an approach that flies in the face of fast fashion. “Consumers are becoming more conscious about the environmental impact of the clothes they wear,” says Procunier, who notes that the average garment is worn only seven times before it is thrown away. “It’s why we believe so strongly in making quality clothing that lasts.”
Now that Young has realized her dream of seeing her designs in Canadian retail stores, her sights are set on the U.S. market.
Last fall, Young and Procunier presented the Carmina de Young label at Stylemax, an industry trade show in Chicago. “We opened three accounts,” says Young. It’s a small first step towards an even bigger dream. Nicole Laidler