Ah, the many joys of fashion! The fun frivolity of it all! Don’t you just love it? Haute couture can be really entertaining, especially when you’re watching from the sidelines. But when it comes to wearing it— wild flounces, stiletto ankle boots and shiny hot pants—well that’s another story altogether, isn’t it? If you agree, then you need to get to know Malene Grotrian, a Danish-born Vancouver-based designer who makes clothes for women. Clothes that will make you feel and look your best.
“I love the hour-glass shape,” Grotrian says. “And I love to see the spark in a client’s eyes when she sees herself in the mirror, when she feels pretty. I say, ‘Let the clothes work for you.’ Take a look at this jacket here with a peplum, for example. If you have no butt at all, it will give you the illusion of one, and if you have a big butt, it will hide a bit of it. Clothes can be beautiful but it’s how you carry them that counts. My clothes are very versatile.”
Grotrian is in New York where she made a splash with her one woman show during Fashion Week. One of her pieces, a tweed bustier with a flowing taffeta skirt, was whisked away immediately by one admirer to be worn at the next Oscars.
“My very first Oscar dress!” Grotrian muses. “It happened so fast!”
Indeed it did. Grotrian grew up in a small village on Jutland, Denmark, and was also educated in design in Denmark. She says the famous simplicity of Danish design is an important element in her clothes.
“When you are in Denmark, you hardly reflect on all the great design. But when you take a step back you see it, and you realize the quality of it. In Denmark we’re so surrounded by beauty and design, we sometimes take it for granted.”
Grotrian came to Canada on an internship and decided to stay, when she was offered a job for a tailor. Eventually she settled in Vancouver, where she feels right at home.
“I knew I needed a place where I could be creative and where I could receive clients, so I opened my own studio in downtown Vancouver last December and created my first collection. My studio quickly grew.”
Grotrian got a standing ovation during Vancouver Fashion week and was later invited to do the New York Fashion Week as the only Canadian designer. A prospect she first felt intimidated about.
“I wanted to make it right. Thanks to a tremendous team that helped me, we managed to re-brand everything and got it leveraged to where I wanted it to be. So I felt ready for New York. And it was good; I got a lot of publicity. I think my product fits well here in New York!”
Her clothes are, as she describes them herself, sophisticated, European and timeless. Her colors are the rich intense colors of fall—you won’t find much pink here—and she works a lot with contrasts.
“Unlike many other designers, I like to begin the process with fabrics, and the fabric shop is my playground, it’s very exciting. I drape fabrics around myself to see where I want it. Do I want it around my face? Do I want a little or a lot? The thrill of bringing two different fabrics together and looking at the composition, for example. For me it’s all about balance. But being with the fabrics at that stage is an intimate process for me. I need to be alone when I do this, because I don’t want to be influenced by anybody else.”
Fit is important to Grotrian and when you look at her clothes you realize just how crucial the cut is: Her clothes are very tailored, very structured and also very well thought out. There’s a lovely sand canvas sleeveless dress with black piping that looks innocent enough, but look at it closely and you will see it is quite flawless. Pair it with a jacket and you can wear it to work, add a gold bracelet and you’re off to a cocktail party. But don’t ever throw it away: It will be just as exquisite today as in twenty years and any woman of any age can wear it.
Grotrian’s centerpiece is definitely the bustier. A wearable bustier—who’d have thunk it? But her bustier never reveals too much and you won’t lose your breath wearing it.
“I don’t want my clothes to be too revealing. After all, you have to carry yourself with pride, with dignity. It’s important that a woman feels good. You know the feeling when you’ve just had your hair done? I see it when I work with my clients. I see their eyes spark. Every woman who has tried my bustier comes back for more!”