A Dress for the Dreamers

When it comes to a heatwave, there's nothing that can compete with a little summer dress. I like mine simple and breezy, and recently have found myself gravitating towards black and white options that let me dress it up or down and play with accessories or add a bright lip. Perfect for work-at-home days, meetings or errand-running, versatility is key, and when the weather is as hot as it has been these past few weeks, I'll take as little fabric as possible, thank you very much. 

I connected with Sarah from Act Three Apparel a couple of months ago, and since I'm always on the hunt for new local lines to add to my wardrobe, I immediately fell in love with her romantic dresses designed for "the dreamers of the world", and the pretty little details that make each style extra special. 


I've been wearing this dainty floral print number regularly, and as I was playing around with ways to dress it up a little for a coffee date this past weekend, I decided to try something a little different. Enter one of my favourite sheer ribbons, which is a go-to for me paired with collared shirts and sweaters in the cooler months. With the recent choker trend and starting to see dainty scarves being tied at the neckline in place of jewellery, this is my take on that, which offers a bit of Parisian flair that I'm quite pleased with. 

Since I'm always curious as to the story behind a brand, I asked Sarah to tell us a little more about Act Three Apparel and share some of her inspiration and creative process with us. 


How would you describe who the ‘Act Three Girl’ is? 

I originally started Act Three in order to provide dresses to petite women (5’4 and under). I’m pretty short myself and I find it super difficult finding dresses that fit my proportions. After releasing my first season, I heard back from boutiques that taller customers were also interested in Act Three so I decided to try to make the line more inclusive for all heights. I’m continuing to make tweaks here and there with each new season. 

Really I see the ‘Act Three Girl’ as being anyone who loves to wear a dress once in a while - personally, I only wear dresses and never wear pants! Dresses are so super comfortable and easy to wear! But I also think my customer appreciates quality, well made pieces that feel unique and special. The collections are all ethically made in Canada by local craftsmen and I spend loads of time choosing unique prints from local fabric suppliers as well as delicate trim and pretty buttons for each piece. 

My hope is to make pieces that will become the favourites in women's wardrobes and be worn for years - so they are more classic and timeless in terms of design and not super trend driven. I would also say that Act Three Girl has a creative side to her personality and is a bit of a dreamer so she likes clothes which contain a touch of romance and nostalgia.


Where do you find inspiration for your collections?

I find inspiration from so many sources and I’m constantly on the lookout for a new source of inspiration. I love watching classic films and pulling ideas from them. The first collection was inspired by the style of 1960s French New Wave actress Anna Karina and the Spring Summer 2016 collection was inspired by surrealist films from the 1970s such as 'Valerie and her Week of Wonders' and 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'. The upcoming collection is influenced by an amazing ballet opera from the 1950s. I think it is the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen! I’m also very inspired by vintage garments and I look to lots of muses from the past and present to find ideas. I have lately been very inspired by art and vintage illustration as well.


Can you walk us through the process of designing a collection, from idea to production? 

In the beginning I try to fill up on inspiration in order to find a theme I’m really excited by. I watch tons of films and search through the library and online to find sources that will hopefully end up being the main source of inspiration. This phase takes about a month of work because it’s important for me to really be in love with the theme because it basically drives the entire spirit of the collection. 

When I’ve found a theme/inspiration, I then brainstorm what types of fabrics, colours and prints would suit the theme and visit fabric suppliers to source all the fabrics for the collection. Following this, I draw loads of dresses on Adobe Illustrator for each fabric type and eventually narrow them down to two or three favourites per fabric. The shapes are inspired by all the things I previously said, but I also try to design things that I really want to wear myself, but can’t find already in boutiques.

I then pattern draft the designs and quickly sew them up them in the sample fabric to test if they work. Afterwards, I make changes to improve the design and fit, remove styles that aren’t right and replace them with new styles and eventually decide on the final group. I then have a professional sample sewer sew the final garments which are used in the photo shoot and are presented to buyers. 

My favourite part of the process is seeing it all come together during the photo shoot. I work with an amazingly talented photo shoot team and feel extremely lucky to have found them. Every season I work with photographer Danielle Suzanne who also works at Elle Magazine and stylist Alexandra Spence who is a fashion blogger and buyer for a vintage clothing boutique in Toronto. Alex also modelled for the first collection as well as the Autumn/Winter 2016 collection which will be released this September. They are both crazy talented people and the photo shoots always end up a total collaborative mix of all our ideas and inspirations. 

After the photoshoot, I send the look books out to boutiques, wait for responses, make cold calls and then visit the boutiques to show them the pieces in person. Upon receiving orders from buyers, I order the fabric and trim/buttons/etc., make specification sheets which explain to the contracting company how to make each style, finalize the patterns and hand grade each one in the brand's size range. When the fabric arrives, I hand cut some styles and ask the contracting company to cut the more tricky fabrics and then the entire collection is sewn by the contractor. The final step is thoroughly inspecting each dress and tagging them before shipping them off to boutiques! 


Where does the name ‘Act Three’ come from?

The 'Act Three' name is inspired by the third act in film/play/novel. I love the idea that the third act is the most turbulent and intense time in a story, but by the end of the third act all conflict is resolved and the characters gain a greater sense of themselves and who they are. I see fashion as a way of expressing yourself and letting the rest of the world know who you are in order to form more meaningful, deep bonds with others. I also feel that Act Three is another act in my life, having previously worked as an Urban Planner, then choosing to follow my dream to work in fashion by returning to school and learning through working for other independent fashion companies and eventually starting my own little company. I have to say it’s the most rewarding act I’ve had so far and although it can be pretty challenging and tough at times I have never felt so fulfilled! 

Photos // Jason Matos