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Local Portrait: Sylvia Soo

The effects of fast fashion on both the environment and garment workers worldwide are harrowing (and to be frank, a real bummer). So to increase awareness about these issues, we're asking local Edmontonians and fellow Canadians to come into our studio to chat slow fashion and learn more about the designers who are paving the way for the sustainable fashion industry.

Meet Sylvia Soo, a two-time cancer survivor and the designer and artist behind local brand, Sylvia Soo Leather. We've been big fans of Sylvia Soo Leather ever since spotting her impeccably crafted, minimal leather goods a few years back, so it was only natural that Sylvia Soo Leather be a part of the New Classics family. Scroll down below to read our conversation with Sylvia about her experience as a local #YEG designer, what inspires her, her advice for creatives, and more!

New Classics Studios:Tell us a bit about yourself!
Sylvia Soo: I am the creative director and designer behind Sylvia Soo Leather. These days I invest most of my time and energy into my craft. I absolutely love what I do, and I am working hard to make what I do sustainable. I am a voice in the cancer community, having gone through cancer twice. I have written a book and am the subject in two documentaries. I love traveling abroad and living like a local. Food plays a big part in my life.

NC: What inspired you to start making your own leather goods?
SS:Making my own leather goods seemed like the next step in my life. With many talents, I have found it difficult to keep my attention on one craft, so my twenties was a progression of graduating with a Bachelor of Education, realizing I didn't want to be a secondary school teacher, and then searching for a career which I was passionate about. I modelled, I acted, I worked for corporations, among many other things. When I was 25, I was diagnosed with cancer, and even then I persisted with finding a career. When I was 29, the cancer came back and I decided to put my career search on hold and allow myself the time to focus on healing. I enrolled in an art therapy course to create a leather journal. I thought that I would be able to make sense of everything that was going on in my life through this therapeutic means. During the course, I fell in love with working with leather. After taking the course two more times, I spent countless hours self-learning, and creating goods. I had always loved fashion. I grew up always doodling and drawing clothes, but I never imagined I would be designing leather bags and accessories! One year ago, I decided to take the leap and work full time on my leather goods. When I began working with leather, something felt different - it felt so right. Working with leather is quite the process, however there is so much about the hides and the process (of turning something into a bag) that relates to my life.

NC: Can you describe your personal style to us?
SS: My personal style is unique, versatile and is constantly evolving. My present day closet is a range of whites, nudes, beige, greys and blacks. I'm slow to jump on fads or trends and I don't wear a lot of color. My daytime look usually involves layers and one baggy element. I would define my night time look as elegant with (often) a red lip. I adore hats, but my head is very small, so it is difficult to find something that fits.

NC: Where can we find you online?
SS: Shop: Instagram: @SylviaSooLeather. Facebook: Sylvia Soo Leather

NC: Favourite local boutiques or stores to shop at?
SS: Who Cares and Gravity Pope for fashion. Otherwise, The Artworks and Ellerslie Greenhouse.

NC: Best binge-worthy show you've seen lately?
SS: Wentworth (Netflix) ... be warned.

NC: For many young creatives, taking the leap from part-time to full-time can be difficult. What made you decide to take that leap of faith and pursue your own passion full-time?
SS: I was finding it difficult to work a 9-5 job and come home and be creative. I felt that my business could grow exponentially if I invested in my creative energy full time. After all these years of searching for a career, I knew I didn't fit into the normal 9-5 and that I had found my passion. It was a scary decision, but after my contract finished, it felt like the right "next" step.

NC: What's your favourite thing about being a creator?
SS: As a creator I am free to explore, to learn, to innovate, to create. I do not have to conform to a norm, I can be myself. I am never bored. I don't sit and twiddle my thumbs when a task is completed, there is always something to do. My mind is sometimes like a scramble, and I'm allowed to unwind that scramble and create something tangible without decoding it to someone first. 

NC: Favourite city in the world and why?
SS: Barcelona - It's so beautiful! The architecture, the history, the culture, the food, the weather, the fact that you can explore so much just by foot... I can go on and on.

NC: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
SS: Yes - Homesense (isn't this everyone's guilty pleasure?) and poutine (yum!). 

NC: What's a fact about you that nobody knows?
SS: I have three dots tattooed on my body (for when I underwent radiation).

NC: Has your attitude towards fashion changed as you've aged? If so, how?
SS: Definitely. When I was younger, I was more wasteful. If I had an event I would wear a dress once and never again or I would buy things that I liked versus loved. I was also buying cheaper clothes and shoes. These days, I am more likely to buy pieces that I love and can re-wear. I am particular with my fabrics and the quality and workmanship of a garment which often results in a higher price tag. I am drawn to fashion that is classic and timeless versus trendy.

NC: What does the slow fashion mean to you?
SS: Slow fashion to me means being conscious about clothing choices. It means taking into account (when making a purchase) the fabric content, the cost of the garment, the country it was made in, and the values of the company it is being sold by.

NC: How do you plan to #WearTheChange?
SS: I currently use environmentally friendly cleaning products, and 70% of my laundry is air dried. I plan to continue to support local businesses and think quality over quantity.




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