The word “armed” may have negative connotations to most people, but to self-taught Toronto-based designer and conceptual artist Desiree Girlato, it represents empowerment. Founded in 2011, Desiree’s jewellery brand, ARMED, is not only unapologetically bold but beautifully handmade.
Having grown leaps and bounds from her mother’s dining room to her flagship store on 1024 Dundas Street West (which is packed to the gills with impressive pieces all made by Desiree herself), Desiree is constantly pushing boundaries. Non-traditional material is sourced globally from places such as Tuscon, Arizona and Chennai, India and quality material combined with impeccable workmanship make for pieces that are notably unique, whether she is working with horse hair, boar tusk or fossilized shark teeth (as shown in her Spring/Summer ’14 collection). Regarding her style philosophy, Desiree says, “I like the idea of merging apparel and accessory and making it more wearable like in the sense of ‘armour’. For me, what ARMED really encapsulates is being positive and strong, with great characteristics mixed with style and attitude. It does have a bit of a negative connotation (people think like, “armed” and guns, etc) but for me it has such a strong powerful meaning – we’re all about girl power and feminism!”
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Desiree’s Fall ’14 Collection Launch Party at trendy art gallery and event space, Milk Glass Co. Packed with beautiful people and even more beautiful designs, I got to see first hand the incredible work that went behind each piece and witness more of Desiree’s fun, flirty aesthetic. “Fall ’14 was pretty exciting, I did pearls, I’ve always wanted to tackle pearls. Everyone is trying to recreate their own version of it but I’m not used to working with such typically pretty and classic materials. I really liked the idea of re-inventing it – it was kind of like finding a new form of something that is so traditional.”
It’s not only her fresh perspective that makes Desiree a stand out but her philanthropic values as well. When asked about her work with Project H.O.P.E., her eyes lit up and she had this to say, “I work with women in the Dominican. I was brought on by these ladies to help with this organization to essentially give women work. They need a place where they can earn income and also bring their children because a lot of women there can’t afford childcare. So they make these beads out of paper, and I got on board and designed something with the beads, and then those designs were brought back to the Dominican where they could produce them in large quantities. I thought that was great, because I think I’m unbelievably fortunate to be able to do jewellery as a woman in Canada and have success in this and be able to do what I love. And so having that connection with these women who are in the Dominican and are now afforded the same opportunities is kind of nice and jewellery is a connecting line. It’s great to help other women out, they also go on to do great things.”
It is clear that the underlying theme behind ARMED is the motivation to empower women to “seek their fullest potential by seizing every day.” Whether it is chic young girls
looking for a great new accessory or women looking for work in another country, everyone is armed and equipped to take on the day with one of Desiree’s amazing pieces of jewellery.
See more at upandarmed.com
Story and photos by Dayana Cadet | CITYGUIDE, KA MAGAZINE