"She would make patterns, I would be beside her making patterns," she said in a recent interview, recalling sewing a dress cut from a pattern at age seven. "It's all because of her."
The Toronto-based designer behind womenswear line Narces has a background rich in international travels. Born in Austria, Wirthensohn grew up in Iran and the U.K. and said design, painting and drawing were a big part of her life from an early age. While living in England, her mother, Mitra, worked with British designer Victor Edelstein where she had a hand in crafting fashions for the Royal Family.
One of the memorable looks Wirthensohn said her mother helped work on was the famed midnight-blue silk velvet dress with off-shoulder straps worn by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, as she danced with John Travolta during a 1985 White House state dinner.
"My mom worked on a lot of dresses with the Royal Family. That was obviously one of the other influences — that I had a lot of glamorous dresses around me, a lot of embellishment, a lot of handwork that went in."
Early exposure to such luxurious style clearly left a lasting imprint on Wirthensohn, whose womenswear line Narces — which is her middle name — specializes in elegant eveningwear and after-five attire.
"I saw it as jewelry," Wirthensohn said in describing the appeal of eveningwear. "You put it on and it was something different, something that's embellished on its own. I really saw it as one piece that has many elements on it as far as accessories, the fabric and everything that goes on it rather than separates.
"A customer's going to come and look at one piece that's going to make the entire look. So I love that about it. It wasn't about a top and a bottom that's going to eventually make the look and you can be a part of that look — it was the full look."
Her collections for Narces have been featured in showrooms and events in London, New York, Paris and Toronto. On Thursday, Wirthensohn is poised to make her first appearance at Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week with the latest new looks from her label.
Wirthensohn described the theme for the spring-summer 2014 collection as an "an aquatic garden party" with a fluid aspect to the lush, textured garments which are rich with embellishment — the latter being a key feature of the brand.
"You've got your silk organzas, you've got your silk fabrics, they're all embellished. It's always a part of the line so the outfit looks almost like jewelry that you're wearing."
In 2011, Wirthensohn was a finalist in the Toronto Fashion Incubator's New Labels contest for emerging designers. Holding a master's degree in business, Wirthensohn balances the demands of design with day-to-day work heading up a buying and merchandising team. But she sees the importance in having the creative and business aspects of fashion well-integrated and to co-exist.
"Initially, I've always seen the creative part of my life as a hobby," she said. "I always wanted to establish myself on the business side and really get to know: 'What does it take to make a business successful?'
"There's always a market, there's always your customer. You need to respond to your customer. You can't just come up with a product for the sake of having the product — there's a huge disconnect.
"So, combining the creative piece and combining the business side, it actually allows your creativity to be sustainable, which is what was key for me."
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