“Joy was a big word for me when I was designing this collection.”
When Sammi Smith, founder of the Toronto-based loungewear label Soft Focus, began designing looks for the brand’s Fall 2020 offering, she didn’t know what kind of world we’d be living in today. But Smith–who was dealing with the burnout experienced by many entrepreneurs–was nevertheless in the right mind frame for conceiving of pieces that would hit the spot in our closets right now.
“Running a small business is a marathon and a sprint,” she says. “The year was winding down, and I had a cold. I literally designed this collection in bed.” The designs were “coming from an emotional place,” Smith says, and she was aiming to craft items that “what [would] make me feel whole.” That meaning, she wanted a wardrobe that suited her WFH lifestyle–one that includes days spent totally indoors, or that factor in a bit of socializing and “endless errand running.”
What she ended up with was an assortment of cozy attire that’s anything but your standard sweats; key pieces are separates that comprise the Terry Set–a boxy top and tapered jogging pants that come in an elegant cream colour, classic black and a few pops of brights. “I’d worked in primarily neutrals for the first couple of seasons of the brand,” Smith says of the three-year-old line. “I was growing tired of that ‘perfect’ Instagram minimalism that pervaded everything. I wanted a jolt of life. I was craving colour and a playful maximalist aesthetic, but rooted in the simplicity of my pieces.” She says that capturing the nostalgia of the colour palettes used by retro athleisure brands like Esprit and United Colours of Benetton drew her to use shades of yellow, red and purple.
An ‘80s mood is also highlighted elsewhere in the collection, like the robe-style jacket modelled after a blazer. Smith says the inspiration for it was “Melanie Griffith in the movie Working Girl, when she’s on her way to work and is wearing her sneakers but has her heels in her bag.” And there’s a belted jumpsuit that just screams ‘I’m comfortable but in control’–is there a better way to feel while navigating everything life is throwing at us these days?
There’s another important headspace Smith was channeling while working on the looks. “Joy was a big word for me when I was designing this collection,” she says, adding that she wanted the pieces to “become an instant mood lift when you put [them] on. Life is very hard and serious being an adult–I love bringing a sense of playfulness and a childlike quality into a sophisticated sensibility.”
Smith has also translated this uplifting appeal into Soft Focus’s holiday pieces (available in early November), which riff off the vibe of style icons like Bianca Jagger living it up on the dance floor of Studio 54. “[I was] playing around with the idea of fancy pyjamas that you can wear all day, anywhere,” she says. From a sultry jumpsuit to an easy-but-elegant slip, the pieces turn “every day into an occasion,” Smith notes.
In this way, Smith flips the notion of what a WFH wardrobe can be; while we’re all seeking out a sense of solace through our way of dressing, it doesn’t mean we can’t derive a bit of pleasure and power from it as well. “You need intentional pieces of clothing,” she says about submitting to a more relaxed silhouette that still has a structure and sense of refinement. “There’s an aspect of self-care to it.”