STYLE

Fashion line born out of necessity has personal ties for sportscaster Hazel Mae

10/08/2014 03:27 EDT | Updated 12/08/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Hazel Mae never had her sights set on becoming a designer, but after failing to find the ideal dress to wear on-air, the sportscaster wound up creating her own.

"I actually started doing this line because it was filling a need for me," the "Sportsnet Central" anchor said in a phone interview.

"When I came back from Toronto having worked in New York City, I really gravitated to a certain type of dress that was comfortable and contemporary; and because I'm on television, I'm always looking for a lot of colour. And I found that in shopping in different places, there was a lot of navies and greys and you always see blacks and browns. There wasn't a lot of colour out there."

After initially dismissing her husband's suggestion of creating her own designs, Mae seized on the idea. She researched fabrics and flew to New York to purchase material which she brought back to Toronto to have a dress she had in mind made. After wearing her custom creation to work and on-air, Mae received compliments and feedback from female colleagues who also lamented the lack of classic yet comfortable style options.

"It's amazing. You'll go to a store, you'll find a dress you absolutely love, but there's like 18 buttons on it or 300 bows on it or a bunch of zippers in places you don't want zippers," Mae said with a laugh. "Women are (saying): 'I just can't find that one very slick-looking solid pink dress or red dress or colour-blocked dress where it can be a blank canvas and I can just accessorize it myself.'"

Mae's initial foray into fashion has since evolved into a full-fledged, eponymous line sold on The Shopping Channel. The Hazel Mae collection features items that carry a deeply personal connection to the broadcaster, as she pays homage to female family members and close friends by naming designs after them.

"I know it probably sounds cheesy to a lot of people, but to me, it was just my way of thanking (them). And I think women have to do a better job in really supporting each other and honouring each other and paying tribute to the women that have been good to you in your life."

The washable, wearable collection is comprised largely of knee-length dresses awash in deep jewel tones and colour-blocked patterns. Offerings span from sleeveless sheaths, feminine fit-and-flares, pleated skirtdresses and crisscross creations to sleeved sweatheart neckline styles. Scarves and a range of jackets to complement the dresses or to be worn as stand-alones are also in the mix.

"I'm in my 40s and I love to still be trendy and fashionable, but some of the trends out there like the big cutouts ... I just can't. It's just not age appropriate for me," said Mae.

"A lot of the styles and trends may look great on supermodel types, but I'm an average woman. I'm 5-3, I'm curvy, I need something that just fits my lifestyle. And that's what I've tried to create."

Mae works side-by-side with her manufacturer as she outlines her vision for the made-in-Canada line, like detailing the type of sleeves and other stylistic touches she wants incorporated in the garments. Designing her own line has given her newfound respect for the challenges faced by those in fashion full-time.

"I'm doing this while trying to juggle the lifestyle I have, and I just can't imagine people that day in, day out, this is their bread and butter," said Mae, who is mother to a toddler.

"I'm just lucky I've had wonderfully generous people around me that have really helped me along the way as far as where a particular dart has to go, where a seam should be. I've had really, really wonderful people to help — and you don't always get that when you go into this business."

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Online:

Hazel Mae collection: http://bit.ly/1rXfZwk

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