Profile: Ovate

Black Magic
Audrey Cantwell isn’t afraid of the dark—in fact, she embraces it.  

Photographer / Yuli Sato

Ovate isn’t for everyone. Browse through the images of the Montreal-based fashion brand, designed and created by Audrey Cantwell, and you will quickly realize the garments and accessories are tailored to a specific type of customer—most likely someone who finds comfort in simplicity, in basics. In her latest collection La Grande Noirceur, Cantwell has continued to stay true to her style by creating dark, minimalistic pieces fit for those looking for staples that are sure to transcend time.

Jesica Hurst: I often refrain from asking designers how they came up with the name of their brand, but I’m curious as to why you chose Ovate. Could you please explain?

Audrey Cantwell: Mythology, mysticism and paganism have always been a huge influence and inspiration to me. An ovate, in ancient times, was a seer, diviner, healer and prophet. Ovates understood the mysteries of death and rebirth, could transcend time, read into the future, and communicate with the Ancestors.

JH: How long have you been building this brand?

AC: Ovate is still quite new—the first collection was launched for fall 2011. The ideas started forming and I started working on the collection about one year prior to that.

JH: Judging from the garments you create, as well as the images of your collections, it seems as though you channel your inspiration from things of a darker nature. Why?

AC: That is definitely true. For as long as I can remember I’ve been attracted to darkness and mystery, to solitude and isolation. I can’t really explain why but I’ve always felt like my imagination ran much more wildly in darkness than in light.

JH: Leather seems to be a staple in your latest collection, La Grande Noirceur. Before you designed this line, how did you choose what materials to work with?

AC: Nature is also a huge source of inspiration for me, so it’s no surprise that I am very attracted to natural fibers and materials. As much as possible I choose to stay away from synthetics and artificially manufactured materials. I love cotton, linen, wool, silk, leather and fur. I think nothing we can produce is as beautiful or durable as what Mother Nature has created. Leather may be my absolute fabric material to use, I love the look and feel of washed leather—it’s so raw and primitive and ages beautifully.

JH: Because Ovate has a very specific style, how do you balance your own vision for the brand and what your customers want?

AC: To be honest, I haven’t really felt that I’ve had to compromise my own vision at all. I am aware that the Ovate look is quite specific and not for everyone, but I’d rather have a very small group of loyal clients than try to please a larger group of people by making things I don’t truly believe in or love.

JH: Ovate is currently based out of Montreal. Do you believe your online store takes care of customers outside of Quebec?

AC: The online shop is definitely my main priority at the moment [as] I do love having that personal connection with buyers. Up until now, every single garment with an Ovate label on it has been entirely by me, as well as packaged up and dropped off at the post office by me. I have yet to find a shop in Toronto, or Montreal for that matter, that is the right fit for Ovate, but I am always on the lookout as I do feel like it is important to have Ovate in a few shops in different areas.

Are you currently working on your next collection? If so, what can customers expect?

I am working on the new collection right now. I’m experimenting with creating my own printed fabrics using the digital method, which I’m very excited about. Customers can expect more of the same dark minimalism, draped jersey tops and dresses, sheer silk pieces, leather accessories, linen jackets, lots of black as well as some dusty whites and greys.