As you might expect of a line of funky long underwear, Sartoria had its genesis in the freezing cold.
Last year, when Canadian designer Sara Torrie was living in Montreal and bicycling all winter, she had a revelation about the warmth of merino wool and cashmere. “Winter does not fool around there,” she says by phone from Toronto, where she’s now based. “I discovered these are wools you can wear next to your skin without irritating it. They breathe but they also wick moisture away from your skin, and repel dirt and oil. These wools also have a lot of natural elasticity.”
Torrie already knew how to sew, so she set about crafting long johns out of recycled merino and cashmere sweaters. She used two arms for each leg—sometimes in contrasting colours above and below the knee. Items in the resulting cozy line, which will be showcased at the Circle Craft Christmas Market for the first time—at the Vancouver Convention Centre (1055 Canada Place) from Wednesday (November 17) to November 21—can be subtle in black and grey or eye-searingly bright in orange and pink or teal and blue.
At the top of each pair, Torrie has attached cotton, or for those braving extra cold, full wool underwear. Her products have proven so popular, she’s even started making cute all-wool briefs.
“Cashmere is pretty much the most luxurious underwear you’re going to wear,” Torrie says, adding that her parents recently travelled to Scotland and Ireland and found out cashmere underwear was once a staple there.
The best thing about Sartoria long johns, which she’s seen worn with everything from short-shorts to miniskirts, is that they don’t sag at the crotch the way old-school versions do. That means you can wear them under jeans—or even strut them on their own in the ski lodge. “That’s why I call it a ”˜superhero base-layer collection’,” Torrie enthuses. “You feel like a superhero running around in them because they fit so well.”
For an even better, second-skin-like effect, Torrie will custom-make long johns while you shop the craft market. “If your favourite colour’s purple, you can find a purple set of arms for the top and another shade for the bottom part,” says Torrie, who’s toting along her stash of sweaters.
Undies run $33 for merino wool and $36 for cashmere, long underwear is $69 and $90, and undershirts are $38 and $40. “Everything is machine-washable in cold water,” Torrie adds.
We like them layered with striped socks and either granny or saggy boots. And rest assured, worn under your rain pants, they’ll ward off Vancouver’s damp cold while you’re biking to work just as well as they did those biting blizzards Torrie faced in Montreal.
Sartoria joins a range of new offerings at this year’s Circle Craft market, which showcases about 270 artisans and their wares. Search out Montreal’s Jennifer Glasgow Design, a fittingly dramatic line of women’s clothing by a onetime Cirque du Soleil milliner and Banff School of Art grad. We also like Vancouverite Giulia Fatica’s reversible, kimono-style belts made from vintage fabrics, and the cool new vegan belts by Hogtown’s Truth. As well, look for handmade, beautifully structured purses, iPad sleeves, wallets, and more by Vancouver’s Zenok Handmade Leather.