If you’re a fan of Project Runway, ever watched Drag Race or stay current with the Canadian fashion scene, then you are no stranger to the name, Evan Biddell. Notorious for his tendency to colour outside of the lines and beat to his own drum, Biddell knows who he is as a designer and refuses to live up to anyone’s expectations but his own.
A self proclaimed awkward kid growing up in Saskatoon, Biddell found a creative outlet in sewing at an early age. Since it was the first real interest he had shown in practically anything, his mother supported the hobby from the very beginning. Like most teenagers do to earn extra money, Biddell got a job as a dishwasher but quickly realized it wasn’t for him just after a few shifts in. With no established fashion scene present in the late 90’s, Biddell found a way to make money on his own by selling his designs to his friends. Raves were the rage and with no where to buy appropriate outfits, he began making pants and selling them for $40-60 a pair. It’s an unusual prologue when compared to most designer’s stories. While no one’s journey is without strife, Biddell’s talent was nurtured, encouraged and supported early on, giving him the confidence he needed to leave home and move to British Columbia to open his own stores in Fernie and Victoria.
The Runway’s Calling
At 23, Biddell went into the the first season of the Canadian version of Project Runway with never the slightest doubt that he wasn’t going to come out on top. Mindfulness combined with skill is rarely a losing combination and apparently, neither was he. In 2007, Biddell was crowned the first winner of Project Runway Canada along with a $100,000 prize to begin his own line, a portfolio photo shoot with L’Oreal Paris and a spread with Elle Canada magazine. Dubbed as one of the country’s most promising designers, Biddell left the show on a high, riding the wave all the way to Toronto where he would begin his next chapter. Producing six consecutive Ready to Wear collections for Toronto Fashion Week, Biddell was adored by the media and the crowds, but surprisingly received little attention from the retailers. After his Kingdom show in 2013 (a favourite in his career), Biddell found himself emotionally and financially exhausted from the impossible demands of fashion’s seasonal calendar, and made the decision to step away from performance-focussed runway show to focus on the creativity, wearability and presentation of his pieces.
In 2017, Biddell was approached by Value Village with an opportunity to return to the runway in a greener capacity. 81 pounds is the average weight of discarded textiles per North American, per year. It’s a terribly shameful but sobering reality. Biddell’s challenge? To create a complete collection using the equivalent of one person’s waste. For the first time in years, Biddell felt inspired. There was an excitement behind the ability to re-think, re-use and re-fashion so many incredible textiles and pieces. Heavily inspired by modern surrealism, Biddell created an Eco-collection that incorporated an array re-purposed furs, leathers and suedes. The show was a success, but far more importantly, it was impactful.
Second Time Around
In 2018, Biddell was invited to return back to where it all began, and be a contestant on the final season of Project Runway All-Stars. He was undoubtedly humbled and honoured to be included in the cast, but having now had experience in reality television, the knowing overshadowed the novelty and the excitement was subdued. The days were going to be long, the expectations high and all the energy once possessed by his 23 year old self was all but a distant memory. In true Biddell fashion, he made it to the finale, finishing third and receiving the utmost praise from the judges. It was certainly a full circle moment and he was grateful for every second of it.
All Work, All Play(suit)
While Biddell’s overt confidence has always been apparent to those who know him, he left Runway with a newfound certainty of his craft; and for the first time a concrete plan as to how he was going to monetize it. It was during this time that the Playsuit was born. A simplistic, jersey-knit, two-piece pattern, priced at $148, was going to become his signature item. Quite the contrast for someone known for his beautifully crafted, avant-garde and almost costumey designs; but Biddell had come to recognize that what made him so unique, had also made him largely unaccessible. With the world months away from shutting down due to COVID-19, this realization could not have come at a better time. Up until now, nothing he had been making would or ever could have been deemed as “essential”. The playsuit however was versatile, wearable and sized by height, extremely inclusive. With the perfect balance between styleand comfort, it has quickly become a quarantine favourite for his customers.
The Future of Biddell
When asked, what’s next?, Biddell laughs and mutters “Your guess is as good as mine”. What he does know for certain is that whatever it looks like, the Playsuit is going to be a big part of it. Like he has as a designer over the last few years, it too will evolve. Luxury fabrics, linings, zippers and collaborations with artists for limited edition prints, are only a few of the ideas that he shared in our interview. “I find that the people who wear the Playsuit best are the ones who don’t take themselves too seriously. They have fun in it, and for me, that’s what it’s all about”. Loving the clothes, but more so loving how they make you feel.
Biddell is currently living in Montreal, but he’s considering the possibility of heading back out west to be closer to his family. Self-isolating tends to put life into perspective like that. And now that he has an established online presence, the business’s where doesn’t seem to really matter as much as the what. As for the how? We are hopeful that that never changes; a bit bold, a little loud and likely against all the rules. Whatever those are anyway.
Kristen Vizzari is a freelance writer and resident fashion and lifestyle contributor for STYLE Canada. She works as a private events coordinator and has been in the hospitality and customer service industry for more than twenty years. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling, running, wine tasting, and vintage shopping. Keep up with her new projects and daily adventures on Instagram.