Threads of Success

Does what you’re wearing fit who you are? Does it present the person you want to become? When you step out onto the street, what is your look communicating? The clothes you wear at this very moment tell onlookers about your personality, your values and your current mood, all without you uttering a word. “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language,” said fashion designer Miuccia Prada. 

The outside world is a catwalk and the right outfit can motivate you to embrace who you are and follow your ambitions, strutting across the stage towards success. Clothing that fits you just so has the power to make you feel unstoppable and light up the room with your unique personality, piquing the interest of your spectators. A great outfit can help you conquer your fears and elevate you to reach your goals.

“I truly believe style is a vehicle to help you get to where you want to go”

“I truly believe style is a vehicle to help you get to where you want to go,” says Angelena Satdeo, a vivacious designer, entrepreneur, flight attendant and teacher. Angelena runs a fashion line out of Toronto and manages a wellness centre in Edmonton, all while flying around the country with Air Canada. The clothing line that dons her name features mostly vintage clothing that Angelena has upcycled as well as silk dresses and organic hemp yoga wear designed by Angelena herself.

Photo by Alex Banman

As a teenager Angelena had a passion for vintage clothing and it quickly became a key part of her wardrobe. More than simply collecting pieces, she also bought a sewing machine and began altering, adjusting, affixing and adorning. “I’m very drawn to vintage because…it’s a different caliber of quality,” she says. She likes to work with natural fabrics (mainly silk, wool, cotton and denim) because they stand the test of time. She looks for pieces that are “timeless, that’ll fit well…that are calling me to be reinventive,” she says with a smile. 

“Some things are super bold, but some things are really subtle, so it’s kind of a fun array. I find that the pieces just add a certain texture to your wardrobe, just a little hit of unconventionality, the je ne sais quoi, a little edge.”

Her clothing is for the customer looking for something different, something unexpected. She describes her pieces as, “subtle but strong…conversation inspiring. Some things are super bold, but some things are really subtle, so it’s kind of a fun array. I find that the pieces just add a certain texture to your wardrobe, just a little hit of unconventionality, the je ne sais quoi, a little edge.”

“[My pieces are] subtle but strong, like for instance your jacket, you’d never know something’s going on with it, it’s just really cool, it’s contemporary, and [when you turn around] it’s like a party, a pearl party!” says Angelena of her pearl-studded wool moto jacket.

Photo by Angelena Satdeo

When Angelena first announced she would try her hand at starting a small business with her clothing, some of her family members were unsure of the idea. But, the doubt quickly left their minds when her first collection sold out. The Angelena Satdeo brand made its debut in 2002 when designer Jenny Yen featured Angelena’s collection at her fashion show in Vancouver. The exposure from the show helped get Angelena’s pieces into a small booth at a designers’ market and her first retailer. Following Vancouver, she sold in boutiques in Edmonton and Brooklyn; “I was really lucky to be supported by very good retailers,” Angelena shares. Then in 2005 Angelena transferred to Toronto with her day job at Air Canada. For a long time she was selling at Julian Finkel & Georgia Groom’s Model Citizen in Kensington Market. Since last year her pieces have been available at Toronto Designers Market on Queen West. 

Angelena is always on the lookout for new items that she can play with and redesign with her own flare. Thanks to her jet-setting lifestyle she’s able to sift through boutiques, markets, thrift shops, bazaars, fairs, brand launches and popups across the country; “wherever I think I’ll find peculiar, unique, amazing pieces,” she says. “You never know where you’re going to find something. You might find a collection of dead stock super cool hoodies somewhere so random, like in the back of a gas station marketplace,” she laughs. She’s very open to where she finds her stock.

Photo by Alex Banman

While it’s fun searching for new old accouterment, finding clothing that Angelena feels confident to bring to market is challenging. It’s not as consistent and straightforward as designing a piece, buying fabric, and simply sewing it. Sourcing for the purpose of upcycling is spontaneous and intuitive: it depends on what she finds and how she’s inspired by it. 

“Keep striving to…better yourself as an individual…Work on you, cuz the business is only as good as you are.” 

When it comes to fashion icons, Angelena is most inspired by Stella McCartney. She was one of the first designers to not make anything out of leather or fur and work with new materials that are cruelty free. “I like how bold she was with doing luxury fashion, but not the way everybody else did. …Her pieces are amazing, they’re so well made, they’re so unique, they’re whimsical, they’re classy. She’s a huge inspiration,” she beams.

Angelena’s future is studded with big goals. In Edmonton Angelena and her mom own an 18,000 square foot wellness and creative centre called Lumière Creative Incubation Space. Following a calming yoga class, patrons can shop for yoga wear at Angelena’s boutique, Merci Vintage, and listen to live music while sipping on matcha elixirs and turmeric lattés at Merci’s vegan café. In the future Angelena aims to create a market for creatives, much like the Toronto Designers Market. She wants to offer spaces to vendors, as well as bring in stylists and image coaches to add personalized services and create a comprehensive shopping experience. 

Photo by Alex Banman

Today Angelena sources the pieces on her own and has a seamstress help her with the sewing. Eventually she would love to upgrade to a small studio where she can have a seamstress work directly with her on a regular basis. Her goals for the next year include hiring interns, becoming more tech and social media savvy, focusing on digital marketing and improving her online presence.

To build on her success Angelena is constantly self-reflecting and self-improving. For fellow entrepreneurs looking to expand, Angelena’s advice is to “keep striving to…better yourself as an individual, cuz the more competent you are, and the more clear you are, the clearer your line’s gonna come across…Work on you, cuz the business is only as good as you are.” 

Good business is about presenting yourself with poise, authenticity and style. As fashion designer Alber Elbaz said, “Style is the only thing you can’t buy. It’s not in a shopping bag, a label, or a price tag. It’s something reflected from your soul to the outside world – an emotion.” The decision to becoming successful starts inside you: choose whom you want to become, dress the part, and it will happen. 

Photo by Alex Banman

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