Fresh Collective Style Profile – Shelley Yu

Shelley Yu and I first met in 2011.  We had a meeting to discuss her selling her line, Kabuki, with us in our new Roncesvalles store.  She impressed me in many ways; her craftsmanship was impeccable, her drive and passion for what she does was clear and her willingness to learn and adapt showed me that she was going to be very successful as a designer.

Shelley has put her heart and soul into developing her line with us.  She spends time in the store to get to know what the customers are looking for.  She is open to feedback and ready to adapt, and she is always surprising me with how beautiful and marketable each new season is in her line Kabuki.

I am proud to have Shelley’s line in our stores, and impressed to see how much she has grown as a designer and as a businessperson in the 3 short years I’ve known her.  She is always an inspiration to me.
Laura-Jean – founder and CEO of Fresh Collective

Name: Shelley Yu
Occupation: Clothing Designer – Kabuki
Age: 44
Lifestyle: free, sometimes excited, sometimes quiet


Style Coach Notes: I love the subtle fishtail curve of this dress – it creates a very elegant shape. The top is very versatile – it looks professional paired with slacks or a skirt, but looks great with a pair of boyfriend jeans too! (Reggie Top/Reggie Skirt – Kabuki – available in purple/navy/teal – $139/$98; Necklace: Ch-ch-chains – BurfurART bracelet plus extender $45 + $12;  Bracelet- Ch-Ch-Chains BurfurART $45;  Shoes- Lonna T-bar – Hush Puppies $100  )

What’s a typical day like for you?  I had never worked out at all until I discovered yoga two months ago – I think I finally found the right exercise for me! Now I start my day with 30 minutes of yoga before I start tackling any work left from the day before. That, or I decide what to eat for the day (eating is our family’s common hobby)! On nice days I really enjoy spending time in my backyard. Continue reading

Fresh Collective Style Profile – Patti Loach

I first saw Shelley’s work at a fashion show that was curated last year by The Style Initiative. What struck me about Shelley’s dresses and skirts was her attention to detail: you can see her background in pattern-making in the way she cuts her dresses, and in the very feminine elements in her designs.

A few months after that fashion show, my son and his girlfriend announced that they were getting married.  I knew right away which shoes I wanted to wear – I had bought a beautiful pair of tango shoes in Buenos Aires the previous year – but I was going to need a dress to complement them. I didn’t want to go the “traditional mother-of-the-bride route”, I wanted something different: something colourful, a little flirty, and I wanted to be able to wear it after the wedding. Of course, I thought of Shelley. We exchanged a few ideas by email, then we met in her studio where she showed me some of her current designs and took measurements. We kicked around a few more ideas where Shelley was candid about colours and ‘looks’ (which I was so grateful for!), and the end product was not only perfect, it was extremely comfortable, and it’s timeless.

– Patti Loach

Name: Patti Loach

Occupation: Pianist

Age: 56

Lifestyle: Unique

Style Coach Notes: Patti is very friendly. When I first met her at my home studio, I immediately fell in love with her genuine smile and kindness. This dress is a great alternative for a home party. (Dress : Joanna Print - Kabuki $145 (now 40% off), Shoes: Lonna T-bar - Hush Puppies $100 (now 20% off)

Style Coach Notes: Patti is very friendly. When I first met her at my home studio, I immediately fell in love with her genuine smile and kindness. This dress is a great alternative for a home party. (Dress : Joanna Print – Kabuki $145 (now 40% off), Shoes: Lonna T-bar – Hush Puppies $100 (now 20% off)

What’s a typical day like for you? Because I’m a pianist and self-employed I don’t really have ‘typical’ days but every morning without fail, my husband John  – we’ve been married 34 years – greets me with a cappuccino and a huge smile. That’s a constant.

I bike the Martin Goodman trail every day until there’s too much snow or ice to ride safely. The rest of my day is filled with practicing, looking for new material to perform with the singers I work with, updating various websites I manage, shooting and editing photos, organizing music soirées we host in our kitchen, and hanging out with friends and family.

Continue reading

Guest Blog: Movie Inspired Style from Kabuki

Shelley Yu, designer and creator of Kabuki Designs shares the story of overcoming the early struggles of building her own fashion line and the chance inspiration that turned it all around….


For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved fashion. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother making beautiful dresses for my sister and I. When I was 10 years old, I decided my dream was to become a fashion designer.

Many years later, Tokyo opened the floodgates for me and I took my first steps in approaching this dream. Some years after that, in April of 2011, Toronto became the birthplace of my line Kabuki Designs (which means Beautiful Clothes in Japanese).


I found my first two years in business to be quite a struggle as I worked to define the Kabuki style. I had brought over my design and pattern-making experience from the markets in Japan, and initially brought the same popular style elements to my own line, but found the Canadian marketplace didn’t seem to quite understand it. It seemed the aesthetics of eastern women and western women were not the same. This I could clearly see, but just couldn’t figure out how to bridge the gap.

“Find a routine daytime job and your life will be easier!”

“Never give up as this is the only career brings you no regret!”

There were always these two conflicting voices in my mind and it was enough to drive me mad. I can honestly say I became afraid of a new season coming because I just didn’t know what to make next.

In March of 2013, my family and I took a trip to Taiwan. On the airplane, I randomly switched the TV channels – I had no interest in any shows – I was annoyed that I hadn’t made progress or had any ideas about the new collections I was to be working on. I turned on the classic movie channel and Audrey Hepburn’s “How to Steal a Million” caught my eye.


When I first saw Audrey’s photo many years ago, I was attracted to her beauty, her elegance, and her intelligence.  That’s about the time I started to believe that God is indeed making perfect humans! She at once became my forever idol.  While watching the movie, I imagined being her personal stylist – what I would dress her in…?

Then there suddenly an unexpected idea hit mind — why not consider my customers as my idols and style them?


After the vacation, a simple but classic new Kabuki style was born along with 2013FW collections. I named all the pieces after characters played by Audrey Hepburn. And of course, the Audrey dress became the biggest hit among them!


My pattern making master Sensei Kondo, who used to work for Cristobal Balenciaga in Paris, taught me that the first thing to be considered when making a garment is to make sure the person in it feeling cozy. The fabrics and the silhouette must be not only flattering but also comfortable. I must say I’m grateful to have studied human anatomy at the medical university so many years ago – it most certainly helps me in pattern-making, crafting pretty silhouettes that move easily.


Thank you all for supporting and encouraging me and Kabuki through the years!

(This is the first blog I’ve written in English. I want to thank Laura-Jean who helped me with writing and editing!)

Shelley Yu