It’s safe to say that Amanda Gorman is having a moment. The 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate captivated people worldwide with an inspiring appearance at U.S. President Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration ceremony. Clad in a marigold custom Prada coat and ruby satin headband and earrings gifted by one Oprah Winfrey, the young writer recited an original poem entitled “The Hill We Climb.” Shortly thereafter, the Harvard graduate signed a contract with IMG Models and now, she appears on the March cover of Time Magazine—wearing a sunny yellow creation by Canadian designers Greta Constantine, no less! (To make the cover even more compelling, Gorman converses with none other than former first lady Michelle Obama about art and identity in the accompanying feature.)
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To say this is major would be an understatement. We caught up with one half of the Greta Constantine design duo, Kirk Pickersgill, who started the brand in 2006 with Stephen Wong, to get the inside scoop on how this milestone unfolded.
Congratulations! Tell us how this happened.
From start to end, the process was truly organic. We received a note from our showroom team in Los Angeles that a stylist we often work with, Jason Bolden, was in need of a pair of dresses from our Spring 2021 collection for Amanda Gorman. The dresses were currently in production but how could we say no! The garments were packed and sent overnight to Los Angeles and we were crossing our fingers that — considering the ongoing situation and the challenges so many of the couriers are encountering — it would even arrive in time. Once we saw the package was signed for, we knew the first hurdle had been crossed but the next hurdle would be even tougher.
Fast forward to the day of the shoot and as we were packing up to leave the studio, an email came through sharing that the garment had been photographed. Exciting, but as the team pointed out, this was no guarantee of inclusion in the publication. That evening, I had ordered pizza and with RuPaul’s Drag Race in the background, I received a text message from Brooke, the founder of our LA showroom, asking me to call her. Seconds later, I had a trio of calls coming through: one from my colleague Jesse, who oversees our communications and sales, another from Brooke herself, and a third from an unknown number which I assumed (correctly) was the pizza delivery driver. Priorities being priorities, I grabbed the pizza and dialled the other two back.
“It’s official,” Brooke said. “You got the cover.” I was speechless, and in a way, I still am.
Can you describe the dress in your own words? That yellow is so joyful.
The dress is from the Greta Constantine Spring 2021 collection. We began designing this collection in August 2020. After months of panic and fear brought along by the ongoing situation, we wanted garments that excited us — styles that evoked a sense of hope. Sweatpants, for all their comfort, don’t inspire you to begin your morning on a high. Somber colours don’t inject your afternoon with a smile. And by committing to producing bright, structural garments, we were looking to bring a smile on the face of both the wearer and the beholder.
If you look at the look book image itself (below), the model is also smiling. After months where we had no choice but to take everything seriously, this was the dress that would invite you to let your guard down and simply be.
What was your reaction to finding out that Amanda Gorman was wearing Greta Constantine on the cover of Time?
Truthfully, I grew very emotional. It was a gush of excitement. The accomplishment was a testament to our hardworking team, from the pattern drafter to the cutters, sewing, quality controllers, and packers. That garment was the product of not one but many.
It was also validation of our brand. It was recognition of our Jamaican roots and Canadian upbringing. It was an approval to be and look different in an industry that has a tendency to look very much the same. And what excited me most was that this photograph was so much more than the fashion. It was about capturing a moment in history that celebrates Black creativity in all of its beautiful, challenging, inspiring forms.
How are you going to celebrate this moment?
In all honesty, the celebration is the image itself and the fact that we are all part of this historic moment. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming in the best way. Seeing the faces of our team light up at the recognition tastes so much better than Champagne ever can. That’s not to say, of course, that there isn’t Champagne to be had.
What’s your mood after experiencing this milestone and as we enter the second month of 2021?
I am elated. I am proud of the resilience we have shown to find ways to survive at a time when our industry, from independent designers to retailers, is hurting. There is so much more we must do to get through this but this photograph will keep me pushing, creating, and dreaming.
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