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Canadian label Smythe revisits signature styles for 10th anniversary collection

Smythe co-designers, Christie Smythe, left, and Andrea Lenczner are seen in this undated handout photo. The Canadian label Smythe is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and is marking the milestone with its 10X10 capsule collection of their ten most timeless pieces. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Christopher Wahl

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Smythe co-designers, Christie Smythe, left, and Andrea Lenczner are seen in this undated handout photo. The Canadian label Smythe is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and is marking the milestone with its 10X10 capsule collection of their ten most timeless pieces. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Christopher Wahl

TORONTO - Smythe co-founders Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe have celebrated many notable milestones after a decade together in business, but having one of their famed blazers worn by royalty is a clear contender for the crown.

The Duchess of Cambridge was initially seen sporting the sleek navy blazer by the homegrown label during her Canadian tour in 2011: first as she boarded a Canadian Forces jet for Ottawa, then again on a visit to the fire-ravaged northern Alberta town of Slave Lake.

At the time, phones immediately began ringing off the hook at luxury retailer Holt Renfrew, which carried the blazer exclusively in Canada. The label's website crashed.

"It was a huge, huge highlight in the 10 years, for sure," Smythe said seated alongside Lenczner in their airy Toronto studio, where a large photo of Kate wearing their design alongside her husband, Prince William, was affixed to a nearby wall.

The Smythe garment has been a recurring item in the wardrobe of the royal recycler ever since, recently resurfacing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which Kate attended with William and Prince Harry.

"It's been years and she's still wearing it and that makes us feel very proud that it's still relevant to her and her wardrobe and for the events that she's going to — it's good quality to her," said Smythe.

"That's what we set out to do — to create a product that has that power. So it's the best compliment, really."

They've since renamed Kate's blazer "The Duchess," and the famed style is getting a reboot in commemoration of the made-in-Canada label's 10th anniversary.

10X10 is a capsule collection taking 10 signature Smythe silhouettes that have been reinterpreted for fall. The Duchess will get a country update with a new iteration in herringbone tweed, while a hunting blazer is a variation on the label's equestrian silhouette, said Smythe.

"It was a really natural, organic process for us. The way we develop our line every season has those pillars or foundational pieces within it, and it just came across very easily."

10X10 will land in stores this month through September. It will ship with Smythe's new fall line, which will include sweaters created in collaboration with New York-based Augden.

Lenczner and Smythe have expanded their brand to include blouses, pants and skirts. But it's the jackets and coats featuring razor-sharp tailoring fused with a bold use of rich colours and prints that have been hallmarks for the contemporary women's apparel brand.

"They're so transformative, to an outfit, to your body, to your mood. A jacket has a lot of power as an item of clothing and it all stems really from menswear," said Lenczner.

"Jackets and blazers are built so that a man's shoulders are broader, so that his chest isn't sunken in. It's a boldness. You can take that and apply it to a woman."

At the beginning of their business, Smythe said a big source of inspiration for focusing on jackets was the lack of styles available to women on the market.

"Women were wearing a suit jacket with their jeans instead of having a jacket that was singular and novel and individual, and we wanted that in our own closets."

Still, Lenczner said having a niche initially proved difficult.

"People walk into a department store and they wouldn't know where to put you," she recalled. "Nobody was doing a single category, everybody was doing a collection.

"It took a while for the Saks and the Nordstroms and those kind of accounts. Now it's the way of the world. It's just so hard to remember."

In addition to being carried in the U.S. and overseas, the label has earned a celebrity following with Kate Hudson, Sarah Jessica Parker and homegrown actresses Rachel McAdams and Ellen Page among the stars who've stepped out in Smythe.

Sharing in the creative process has made their collaborative foray into fashion all the more fulfilling for the childhood friends.

"We have a healthy friction — we push each other. We appreciate each other's esthetic,"said Smythe. "I have strengths that are different than Andrea's, Andrea has strengths that are different from mine. And when they come together, I think we make our best possible product.

"You feel supported and it becomes a shared experience working with another designer, so you kind of go through the whole thing together — and we like that. We've often said over the 10 years how nice it is that we're doing it together."

— Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter___

Online:

www.smythelesvestes.com

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