Published in the Edmonton Journal Blog on April 4th 2016. Published in the Edmonton Journal print paper April 5th 2016. Written by Julia Lipscombe.
Image by Breanne Marie Photography. Model Poppy Del. Makeup Ashley Skrocki.
When Amy Skrocki and Tanner Wilson-Skrocki put on a fashion show for their leather and metal wearable art, it’s doesn’t just consist of a few models traipsing down a catwalk.
The latest show for their brand, Paragon of Design by Skrocki, during Western Canada Fashion Week in March, was a fantasy drama, complete with an imagined world, stunning visuals, a synopsis for the audience, a whole cast of characters and a smoke machine.
“We write stories together and character sketches, and we try to develop pieces that we feel embody those characters,” says Tanner. “We gave everyone on the runway a little bit of an idea and insight into their character.”
But even with all of the fanfare, the show’s standout element was the clothes: the nine individual looks lovingly — and rather painstakingly — brought to life.
Paragon of Design’s immaculate and towering headpieces, elaborate painted masks, precisely laser-cut tops and cuffs in-laid with gems and crystals, and lavishly adorned corsets stand out for the quality of design, materials and craftsmanship.
“We actually calculated it out — the nine outfits took close to 1,300 hours to make,” says Amy.
The couple have been together for 16 years, and making the line for nine. Tanner used to have a day job as a film liaison at the City of Edmonton, but after he went on paternity leave for their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Seraphim, he never went back. Now, they both work full-time (sometimes around the clock) on their costumes, filling orders for their popular 3-D sculpted and leather-bound books, or making metal accessories.
Both quote history and travel as major inspirations. Tanner adds fantasy and sci-fi flicks like Lord of the Rings and Alien to his list; while Amy cites religious iconography, Gothic cathedrals and Byzantine artwork.
Amy does the bulk of the design work. Tanner apprenticed under her to learn the 35 of 40 steps necessary to make a necklace, a pair of cufflinks or earrings — items that make up a large chunk of their business.
The pair’s home garage workspace already looks like a behind-the-scenes studio of a movie set, but Amy’s dream for the future is a larger studio and more employees as they shift their business model.
The couple used to sell their designs at craft shows, sometimes at the exhausting pace of one show per week, but that didn’t leave much room to display their larger-scale, statement wearable-art items — nor was it really the market for that type of work.
So how to show off those fantastic belts, corsets and masks? They’d been aware of WCFW’s Costume Design Competition for a few years, but Amy always put off entering. That changed when she had her daughter, which reminded her that life is precious and anything can happen.
“After that, I thought: if something ever happened to me, I’d have all these designs, and nobody would ever have seen them. So I said, ‘I’m going to enter that competition.’ And I did.”
They won. That was in 2015, which makes this past fashion week a year since their first fashion show.
In the past couple of years, they’ve been approached by theatre productions and publications that want to borrow or buy their big-ticket items. Those worlds — as well as film and television — are where Paragon of Design would, ideally, like to head.
“We had never considered it before, which is crazy,” says Amy. “It’s like a whole new world opened up. It was like an epiphany: this is where we should have started.”
Now, the pair does most of their sales online. They also fill lots of custom orders and sell their items wholesale. Their only “storefront” is the St. Albert Farmers’ Market — which they love.
“We really have an inventory of about 400 items, but anything can be customized,” says Amy. “So, if you see a dragon on a pair of cufflinks, we can do that dragon on anything — a purse, an iPad case or a pendant. Each store can have their own customized line of items exclusive to them.”
Paragon of Design has also been commissioned to make art for the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, and to create custom leather books and iPad cases (complete with the Alberta crest) for the Government of Alberta to give away to foreign dignitaries and delegates visiting the province.
One of Paragon of Design’s corsets won an international wearable art competition, and their work is on display in places like the Saskatchewan Craft Council and the Alberta Craft Council. They’ve also been a presence at two Golden Globes gifting suites in Los Angeles — no small feat.
Extra exposure comes with some risk, but they don’t mind. “We’ve had our designs stolen and made in Bali or China, but you know what? Was it better to just keep it in the garage and never show anyone? I don’t think so,” says Amy.
Amy and Tanner are keen to keep building their profile, but not just for the benefit of their own brand.
“To have Edmonton named as one of these places that makes cool handmade things that are sent all over the world? I would love that,” says Amy. “That would be just awesome.”
Paragon of Design by Skrocki is available online atskrocki.ca. Amy Skrocki and Tanner Wilson-Skrocki will be at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market, in front of St. Albert Place at 5 St. Anne Street, every Saturday from June to October.
To view the article click here.