Looking for a more glam alternative to athleisure? Espino is a new, Canadian women’s luxleisure label, handmade in Toronto, with a focus on expertly tailored, natural-silk wardrobe essentials. We chatted with founder Tara McCarthy about the launch of her line, and how she snagged supermodel Monika Schnarre as the star of her first campaign. —Noa Nichol
Hello Tara! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
I come from a family of artists and have made a living being creative and working with large brands in a marketing communications capacity. Art, in all its forms, is a big source of pleasure and inspiration. The pandemic has been challenging and isolating, and working on Espino gave me a creative outlet and a sense of purpose, which helped. I believe the closer we are to the artisans that make our clothes the better for everyone involved. The development of Espino introduced me to a world of artisans who are keeping the tradition of fine garment making alive—right here in Toronto. Their methods are the same as the ones my grandmother would have used as a master dressmaker starting in the 1950s. It’s an artform and their work really stands out in a fast fashion world. You can see and feel the quality.
When and why did you launch Espino (please tell us about your “quest for the perfect pant”!)?
My pandemic uniform was anchored by PJ pants. I loved the comfort but was sick of the aesthetic. I needed something more elegant to wear that would look more pandemic professional. I looked for silk PJ pants but they tend to be made with lightweight silk that can be a bit see-through and flimsy. I wanted a more substantial silk pant but those were priced high—over $600. I decided to make my own to fill the gap. Once it was done, I realized they were nice enough to wear out and I felt like I was on to a timely and relevant idea.
What niche in the fashion market were you aiming to fill?
Luxleisure comfy chic. Everyone got used wearing comfy clothes in the pandemic. As we emerge back into public, the comfort will continue but it’ll have to look more polished. Espino accomplishes this with the glamour of weighty natural silk and the comfort of loungewear, expertly tailored for a beautiful fit and drape. It’s also hand washable. Mass produced clothing made from synthetic fibres is a pet peeve of mine, so we’re all about small production, hand made and natural fibres. The world doesn’t need more—it needs better.
What does “luxleisure” mean?
Luxleisure is like an elegant alternative to athleisure. It’s multi-purpose, versatile, comfortable, and reads luxury. For Espino it’s centred around this incredible silk fabric that is so scarce in the market today—especially at the more substantial weight that we use.
Please tell us about silk, and its versatility in dressing. What silk essentials does Espino offer at this point, and can you give us some of your top styling tips?
Espino has four key pieces in hand-washable, sand wash silk with a touch of Lycra: a pant, shorts, cami and dress in favourite colours that blend seamlessly into your wardrobe. The sand wash has a low key lustre which increases the versatility because it feels a bit more relaxed. Silk is an interesting fabric because it’s cosy and cool at once. For wearing these pieces out—I like to mix textures. Silk looks great with contrasting textures. Layering with blazers, jackets, and knits creates more options. You can transform an outfit just by switching up the accessories. Belts shoes and bags—from sneakers and a canvas tote to heels, a belt and a clutch. These are foundational pieces that you customize to your own personal style.
What else makes Espino unique?
Espino is made by women, for women. We design for collectors—those who prefer to collect rather than consume. It’s more about personal style than fashion fads. We get the importance of fit in making women look and feel like a million bucks. We focus on very few items and our goal is to be the best at those pieces. We take the time to test the designs on different body types and revise patterns several times until they feel as good on as they look.
It’s very exciting that supermodel Monika Schnarre stars in Espino’s launch campaign! What makes Monika a perfect fit for your brand?
Espino is for women of all ages that have high standards for what they put in their closets. We’re so lucky to work with a legend like Monika Schnarre. She’s the nicest person and a consummate professional—she’s magic on set. At 50, she’s proof that women possess timeless beauty. My wish is to never again hear a woman, of any age, say she dreads her next birthday and brands have a role to play.
Final, tough question! What go-to piece from your collection will you be wearing on repeat this fall?
It all started with the quest for the perfect pant, so the Espino Rose pant (named after my grandmother) will be my go-to. It’s fabulous with the cami for lounging; layered with a T shirt, cashmere sweater and sneakers for an errand; or paired with a blazer, bodysuit and pretty flats for work. Throw on some sequins and heels and I’m ready for cocktails.
Win! A $385 Espino Luxleisure Set!
Congrats Christina K. of North Vancouver, B.C., who will receive a $385 Espino luxleisure set, including an Aster Cami and Shorts in their size and colour preference (saphire blue, gold or coral)! Please note: if you are the winner, you will receive a DM (direct message) in Instagram directly from @vitadaily.ca. Please be wary of fake accounts, which often use similar handles with an extra or missing letter, number or symbol. We will never ask for a payment or for your credit card number, and we will never ask you to click through a link. If you are unsure whether you have been contacted, via Instagram, by us or a fake account, email us before responding.