FINESSING YOUR STYLE with Iconic Tastemaker Brian Winston

Tell us about yourself and how you got into fashion / retail.

I grew up in Toronto, watching my grandmother, Eva Taylor, run her own store. In 1932, at the height of the depression, she had opened a store in Lawrence Park. She was very hard working and quickly became the Lawrence Park style guru. I was in awe of her people skills; she was able to honestly give her clients style advice, help them develop their own unique style, rather than an iteration of hers. My grandmother taught me how to bring out the best of people’s personal style, mainly through listening. When I was 17 I decided to spread my wings, and got a job at Holt Renfrew. The international designers, and the clientele walking through the store transfixed me. It was pretty thrilling to be able to develop my own ability to do what I’d watched my grandmother do for so long; help clients discover their own personal style.

How long have you had your own collection for?

In 1984, I ended up opening my own store in Lawrence Park; it was here that I started designing my own collections, which I absolutely loved, and still do. It was amazing to be able to bring all of these ideas and inspirations I’d had in my head for so long into reality. After 10 years of having my store, and designing my own collection, I was approached to co-create a brand with Marisa Minicuci, called ZENOBIA. We ran this for 17 years, expanding internationally, and eventually selling to a global conglomerate. It was completely chaotic and wonderful. I got to see and learn the entire industry; from merchandising, to manufacturing to costs, margins and running a business.

 

What have been the biggest changes you’ve noticed in fashion since you started?

The biggest change has been the internet, of course. The internet gave rise to ‘fast fashion’, has accelerated trend turn over, and the speed trends are disseminated throughout the market. Fashion shows used to be really ‘exclusive’ and customers would have to wait to see the styles in that season’s magazines and in stores. Not any more! Instant access to shows has given instant access to trends – now before the designs are manufactured by the brands that create them, there are fast fashion outlets 'interpreting’ them, and putting them into their stores before the original designers can even have them made. The impact on the customer has been interesting to observe, a heightened sense of ‘need’ to have the latest item / trend piece. But at the end of the day, it is still much the same at its core though; fashion is about style. It is about developing a style of your own, that is original to you, that makes you feel good, which grows, adapts over time, depending on where you are in your life. And that has remained the same – from the time of my grandmother 's till now; people are attracted to fashion as something that makes them feel good, and something to enjoy.

 

What do you love about fashion, and what does it mean to you?

Fashion to me is about style. I love style. It is about the way you dress, but goes beyond that – style is about how you live your life. Your own style is more important than anything you read. I encourage my clients to be unique and true to themselves. That, to me, is Real Style. The key is to spark some sort of joy and bring pleasure to creating a style. I believe that you can, and should (!) get that Cinderella moment when you find that perfect shoe that makes your heart sing. This is what I love about fashion; the effect it can have on a person and the way they feel about, and see, themselves.

 

Why did you decide to open Winston? 

I decided to open WINSTON, when I realized I wasn’t ready to retire. I wasn’t finished with work; I have always wanted to bring my vision of ultimate luxury retailing to life so I created WINSTON to do this. With WINSTON, I curate my vision of style, bringing my discoveries to the store. I like to carry pieces that are not, or are rarely, found elsewhere in the city. I also love working with my clients and being in person with people. During the pandemic it has been challenging, but now that we are back in store, I am excited for people to experience what we have created. To me, luxury needs to include an unmatched service, and frankly I think this has gone somewhat ‘out of style’ with a lot of retailers. At WINSTON, we are bringing it back.

 

What do you find the biggest challenges are for women when they are looking for new pieces? 

There isn’t a hard ‘rule’ about the most challenging aspect, as every client is different, and has different needs. If I were to generalize finding the right fit can be one of the most challenging aspects. Traditionally, sizes are cut to a very specific body type, and there is no ‘specific’ body type out there, so clients can have trouble finding brands that fit them well. That is why at WINSTON, we have such a range of fits, cuts and designers. Every brand has a unique fit, and finding that right fit, makes everything look, and more importantly, feel better.

 

What are the 5 key pieces everyone should have in their wardrobe? 

If I had to limit it to just five I would say a pair of denim you feel amazing in, a well tailored pair of black pants, a classic crisp white blouse, a neutral coloured knit, and a fabulous jacket that can be worn with jeans and a t-shirt or a great sweater; let it be a bit of your calling card, look for texture, and an interesting lining. With these staples, you can mix and match, layer on top of other pieces, and have something for most daily occasions.

 

What are some of the most important things about building a wardrobe?

Invest in timeless pieces, have fun with trend pieces and make sure things fit!