With megastars and socialites clamouring for Mikhael Kale’s creations, the Canadian-born designer is sitting pretty among the ranks of Toronto’s fashion set.
But despite the demand – and an impressive roster of A-list clientele – Mikhael remains steadfastly involved in every step of the painstaking process, a labour of love that is motivated by the innate “relationship” he feels with each and every garment he makes.
“To make someone feel beautiful is the most amazing thing in the world,” he says, a statement that neatly sums up Mikhael's raison d’être.
As he gears up for Toronto Fashion Week, HELLO! Online caught up with the designer to ask him about his upcoming show, his dream celebrity client and what it's like to work with one of the world's biggest stars: Beyoncé.
Last season, you told HELLO! that your Spring/Summer 2014 collection was inspired by geometrics, angles, lines and shadows. What is your inspiration for Fall/Winter 2014?
I went a lot lighter this season. I started playing with organza. I went into it thinking about napkin folding, because I’ve gone to a couple of dinners and saw some really beautiful napkins and the way they were folded. From there I thought it would be really interesting to start playing with the notion of pleats, folding or draping. So we started experimenting and we started cutting up the organza, folding it, twisting it, creating these really strange, ornate patterns. That’s where it started.
‘Napkin folding’ is probably one of the most interesting answers we’ve ever had for that question.
It was interesting when we were going into it, but by the end, everyone who works with me probably hated me! [Laughs]
Why do you like working with organza, despite it being known as a difficult fabric?
I actually haven’t ever worked with organza in the past. I know a little bit about it, but I never manipulated it in this manner before, so it took some time to create that relationship. I generally gravitate towards harsher fabrics and things with more structure, but there’s an elegance in using organza. It’s super feminine and so pretty, but without being too pretty – it still has a harshness to it because the texture is matte.
Why is hand sewing and sewing technique so important to you?
I think that fashion gets really boring if you’re not doing anything new and exciting. It's really easy to lose momentum as a designer unless you’re really involved in the actual making of things. So it’s very much the intimacy I feel with the garment. It’s a strange relationship. It’s hard to explain, but I love it.
You’ve been based in three fashion meccas – New York City, Milan and London. How do think the three cities differ with regards to street style?
Milan is very classic, beautifully tailored, elegant and sophisticated. There’s not very much experimentation when it comes to street style in Milan. But in a city like London, people are far more into experimenting and tearing off the sleeves of a garment – or wearing something from a market and pairing it with an Hermès belt. There’s a lot of mish-mash. I found that New York does a bit of that, but it’s a lot more basic. There’s a great reliance on the torn t-shirt, the perfect jeans. It’s far more urban, whereas I think London is more experimental.
Priyanka Chopra wearing Mikhael Kale. Photo: © Getty
Your designs have been worn by the likes of Ciara, Beyoncé, and most recently, Priyanka Chopra. What does it feel like when you see celebrities wearing your clothes?
When you see that picture from the red carpet or from an event and they’re wearing your garment, it’s magical. You think, ‘Wow, they chose to wear this dress.' You feel like your work is being appreciated. It’s cheesy, but I work really, really hard because I think women deserve it – I’m not really involved in anything else in this industry. At the end of the day, I just think that women are incredible and they deserve these amazing garments that feel incredibly special.
My mom was committed to that. She immigrated to Canada and we have that advantage in life. To be able to do that for somebody, to make someone feel so beautiful, is the most amazing thing in the world.
How does your mom feel about all your success?
I think she’s pretty happy with it. She’s quiet, but in my absence I think she talks me up.
What was it like working with Beyoncé?
She likes to tweak things. We’ll take the original idea that was on the runway and we’ll change it up to fit her, like a bit shorter, or a bit of a longer sleeve, or a bit more fitted.
And as a person, she’s amazing. Three years ago, when she came to Toronto, her stylist contacted me and said, ‘Beyoncé would really like for you to be there at her concert.’ They had me in the front row, and then she asked me to come backstage. She said, 'Thank you so much, you’re so talented,' and I was like, 'Are you kidding me? You’re phenomenal.' I couldn’t believe she would say something like that. It was so gracious.
If you could dress any star, who would you most like to dress?
I’d love to do Natalie Portman. I’d love to play with more red carpet.
What would you put Natalie Portman in? What do you see her wearing?
Well, it would have to be appropriate for the event, so something a little longer, with colour – something feminine.