It’s been a busy week for Evan Biddell. The 29-year-old designer, who burst onto the scene in 2007 as the winner of Project Runway Canada, has been occupied by a number of commissions for Bonnie Shore, a fashion plate and socialite (and Biddell’s personal friend). One is a meticulously detailed lambskin motorcycle jacket. Another is a platinum cocktail blazer trimmed in the skin of a python.
Shore is running late for her final fitting and, when she arrives, she takes the mohawked designer in her arms like a long-lost son before discussing the possibility of a matching lambskin skirt—one, perhaps, with less “shit going on” than the jacket.
“Don’t you think it’d be too much?” she asks, fingering the reptilian breastplate on her new jacket’s front.
Biddell shrugs. “I don’t believe in too much.”
It would seem that after five years of doing things decidedly—even stubbornly—his own way, Evan Biddell has finally made it. He has high-profile clients, like Shore, who seek him out and let him play. His brazenly futuristic collections have been well received. Some even liken him to the late British designer (and Biddell’s personal icon) Alexander McQueen.
Just don’t call him a fashion person.
“Fashion people are hilarious,” he says after Shore has left, breaking into a spot-on mimicry of certain characters from scene. “’Ew, that person’s super not thin. They don’t do nearly enough blow.’”
“I’m just…I’m very much on the outside of that.”
Biddell’s first design was a pair of overalls at the age of 15. “I had a girlfriend who was making clothes for a bunch of our friends so I was like, ‘Make me some overalls!’ We were at a rave, and she was like, ‘totally.’” Biddell compensated her with a half-tablet of ecstasy (“so, like, 20 bucks”) and, after that, had her show him how to make things on his own. Within two years, he was designing and selling “fat raver pants” on a nearly full-time basis. Eventually, he expanded into womenswear.
“There’s an alien aesthetic,” is how he describes his work today. “There’s always a softness, and then she’s got a sort of tough exterior. That tough exterior is softening as I get older, though. I don’t need to be as protective.”
As for the “she” he designs for? “Probably myself,” he laughs. “The ‘she’ inside me.”
Biddell estimates that it takes him about two days to put a piece together, on average, though custom work will take longer. He constructs every item himself in a modest Leslieville workspace with a roomy drafting table and two sewing machines. It’s what he thinks sets him apart from other designers, who may employ a team of staff to see their creations through.
“When you hand-make something, it’s really hard to duplicate,” he explains. “You can also guarantee a flaw.” He likens his work to Persian rugs, which are individually made over the course of years. Their blemishes guarantee their authenticity.
But this is part of the appeal. Today, Biddell’s typical clients range from “outrageous performing types” to fashion veterans like Shore, who will approach him with an idea and give him free reign to produce one-of-a-kind pieces that will stand out in the mass-produced crowd.
“I don’t have a clothing line that I wholesale, or chase boutiques around to pay me,” he says. “That whole system of fashion doesn’t work for me. I do special projects, I do clients. I do what I do with my own hands, and not a lot of guys do that anymore.”