Amber Watkins is a name circulating heavily amongst the Ottawa fashion scene and for good reason! Watkins’ swim wear line Amber Watkins Swim debuted this past season at Ottawa Fashion Week, before and after her debut, her line was garnering attention. I sat down with Watkins to ask her a few questions about her emerging line, how she got started and what’s next!
I had always loved learning how to sew and use patterns as a young girl, and I had the good fortune to be in a family of creative women. My Oma grew up learning how to sew and knit from her mother, who was a designer. I suppose it’s in my genes. I began to pursue designing even more during university and it became a creative outlet that complemented my academic studies.
What made you take the leap and introduce your first collection at Ottawa Fashion Week?:
My decision to take my hobby and turn it into a fashion design business came up this past Spring following the loss of my job with the federal election. I had been working for 2 years for a Member of Parliament and we lost the riding to another party’s candidate. I decided to use my severance package to start my business and applied shortly after for OFW. When I was chosen to show, I knew I had made the right choice.
What is the theme for your current collection?:
I can’t say there’s a specific theme to my first collection. On the OFW runway, I had the models done up like modern day Bond girls. I thought it fit well with the vintage lines of my swimsuits and I wanted to project confidence and strength.
What has the reception been like since showing?:
I received a lot of positive feedback both, before and after showing at OFW. I was fortunate to gain quite a bit of media exposure as a local designer and I was also able to make a number of new contacts and prospective clients who were interested in purchasing my designs. Showing at OFW was not only a huge goal of mine that I was able to achieve, it also provided an invaluable platform from which I could launch my new line.
I was asked about 2 years ago to design and produce a swimwear line for a charity event and I had never tried it before so I wanted to challenge myself. I ended up really enjoying it and decided to concentrate on swimwear. It turns out it’s also very memorable since there aren’t very many swimwear designers in Canada, and certainly very little in the Ottawa region. It’s a good conversation piece and it allows me to stand out a bit from the pack!
Who is the Amber Watkins Swim client?:
She’s confident, knows herself and which styles suit her body type. My swimsuits are different from the basic bikini, so my client is looking for something different that will make her stand out from the rest.
What is your favorite part of your job?:
My favourite part is definitely seeing my design on someone else, whether it be for a fashion show or a happy client! Being able to view it come to life on the female form is incredibly satisfying!
Most stressful aspect of your job?:
Right now, my learning curve for starting and managing a new business is essentially at 90 degrees. The first year is always the hardest, including finances and tough decisions and trying to stay organized and focused. I receive a lot of advice almost daily and it’s all about taking note of what can be used without losing your primary vision and goals.
I want to see my line progress in the Canadian retail market. I hope it can eventually be featured in a few magazine editorials and maybe even worn by a celebrity!
What’s next for you/your line?:
I’m trying to be realistic but also to challenge myself. Right now, I am excited to get my first order of swimsuits back from the manufacturer and begin the retail process. I’m hoping to receive that before Christmas and begin selling in the new year. This will be still a bit of a trial period for me, to see which styles seem to be the most popular. Once I have that information I can use it for subsequent ordering and in my next collection which I have already begun planning!
Anything you’d like to add?:
Amber Watkins SWIM is made in Canada! That was extremely important to me when I began looking for a manufacturer.