Toronto-based fashion stylist, textile designer, and costume designer Halle Turner is creating one-of-a-kind wearable art pieces out of reusable materials.
Growing up in Brampton, Ont., Turner always had an interest in fashion, sewing, and design. After graduating from an arts high school, Turner attended the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD) for design. Turner’s work has been featured in Vogue Italia, Flanelle Magazine and the 75th Tony Awards. while
Turner is dedicated to diversity in all aspects of her work. She highlights the lack of people of colour (POC) representation within the fashion industry through her projects and often collaborates with women of colour. It is her goal as an artist to use sustainable and reusable materials in all of her creations while being inclusive, which aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Responsible Consumption and Production and Decent Work and Economic Growth.
How did you first get involved with the fashion and styling industry?
Halle: It is kind of a long story but I've always loved fashion. When I was 11, I started to learn how to sew and my mom put me into lessons. Since then it’s been something I loved. I would sew bags and sell them to people in middle school and I sold them again in university. In 2019, enrolled in a program for a fashion business and I was set on being a bag designer. That's what I knew I wanted to do. But during that program, I discovered that the bags I was making didn't align with my values. I wanted to be a more sustainable business. I started pursuing styling and then I got my first job working on a TV show. From there I discovered there's a whole new world within the industry itself.
What project has been your favourite so far?
Halle: I worked on a garment of flowers with a photographer named Rachel Reid. Together we came up with this idea around florals and how to integrate them with fashion. I reclaimed cellophane from a birthday gift and I used that as the base of the skirt and for the top. Then I used vinyl and created it into a corset. From there we stuffed flowers into the top of the corset. That was one of the most fun and creative shoots that I had done. We submitted it to Vogue Italia. I woke up that morning and I got a text message saying that we had been approved. I was so ecstatic. For me, the main goal of a lot of my work is collaboration with others. So, when we got accepted it meant a lot because the whole project was a team effort. It is also important to me that my work is showcased in something like Vogue. The whole experience was quite an honour.
Can you tell us about your project, SEWN?
Halle: I was inspired by my friend, who had designed a burlap bag from coffee bean roasters. I thought it might be really interesting to play with reusable material and make a new garment out of it. I designed it as a standalone art sculpture. I like to make art-based pieces from alternative materials. When designing a look, I always think about functionality. But in this case, the design was purely for art, so I could create interesting silhouettes, like a high neckline. The garment was not comfortable to wear. If I were to make it something more functional, there would have to be a lining on the inside. So each garment’s practicality depends on its intended goal. In this case, it was art made out of recycled materials.
Why is it important to you to use sustainable, reusable materials?
Halle: For me as an artist, I think it's important because we have to be responsible for what we're putting out in the world. There are a lot of things you can put out. But we should always ask the question, ‘Why are you putting it out? What's the purpose of this? Who does it benefit?’ There is so much of everything in the world – a lot of bags, a lot of pants, a lot of jeans. Just a lot in general.
You have to ask yourself, ‘What is your fashion doing that is different?’ This is something that's been drilled into my work ethic. As artists and creators, we have to take responsibility for the materials and the resources we're using. Where do they come from, how do they get to us, and what resources are used even to produce them? It's something you should be thinking about while designing.
How do you feel about the diversity in the fashion industry in North America?
Halle: Well, there is still more work to be done. Some POC in the industry have been working for a very long time. But they had to work very hard to get where they are today. A lot of the time it depends on whether you know the right people — I met the right people and they helped me with my career. But if you don’t know the right people, it can be really hard. I have had acquaintances ask, ‘Where do I find the opportunities to get in? Or how do I even get started? And who do I talk to?’ And you know, my advice can only go so far. In film unions, you have to have a recommendation or a reference to get a job and that is just the way it is.
There is still a long way to go. This career is not accessible to a lot of talented people. The information and tricks on how to get started — it's not there. Diversity is important. If there's no representation on set then it comes down to hiring practices and knowledge of the right people. If you are not hiring a diverse team then there will be no diversity.
What is your goal as a fashion stylist and artist?
Halle: I have a lot of goals. But, my main one is to open up other opportunities for people. I feel that I have a responsibility to create pathways and I can bring people along too. I am at this place now where I'm able to help others the way others would help me and I’d like to be that person for them — if I can be.
Turner is currently working on upcycling fashion designs that she promotes on her Instagram. Her newest collection of sustainable fashions is made from second-hand jeans that have been transformed into maxi skirts. She also creates how-to sewing videos that show audiences how to upcycle clothes into one-of-a-kind fashionable garments.