Christine Morton launched her silkwear brand Christine Lingerie half a century ago. In the 50 years since, she’s kept the production of her line right here in Vancouver, she’s sold her product both locally and to big-name stores like Neiman Marcus, and she’s endured decades of changes to an industry that loves to chew entrepreneurs up and spit them out. With her production space and showroom located in East Van, Morton, now 72, still shows no signs of tiring.
What do you do?
I design and manufacture silk lingerie and loungewear in Vancouver. I’ve been in business for 50 years.
Why was it important to you to manufacture locally?
Oh my goodness! It’s really the essence of the brand; we want to be hands-on from start to finish. The quality is extremely important. I’ve had sewers that have worked for me for 30 or 40 years.
It’s amazing to be able to see a garment made start to finish with one seamstress rather than have a factory type of operation. And it’s really important to me that the quality is excellent. So that’s the reason I’m still here, I believe—because of that.
What made you decide to create this company 50 years ago?
I was really passionate about lace; I had started collecting antique lace, and I wanted to put it into a garment that I could sell. I was taking a course on design, so I kind of knew that I wanted to be a designer; some of my first things early on were little lace camisoles and that kind of thing, which was back in the ‘70s.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned over the decades?
I think for me it was finding something I was passionate about, which was silk and lace, and really sticking to it—really believing in what I was doing and continuing to have that grow. I was told that I could do so much more in polyester; I tried some things and it just didn’t work. It’s not my brand and it’s not what I believed in. So I feel it’s very important to find out what you really love and then stick with that.
It’s also important to bring around excellent people who are capable, talented, and good to work with. That’s been a huge lesson, too. And learning how to work with different personalities and to hopefully bring out the best in people.
What keeps you inspired these days?
I still get excited about looking at prints and choosing colors and laces, and then designing them. I work with incredibly creative people, so it’s a very collaborative process. And I think that’s all part of it: everybody gets involved and excited. I would say that’s where the inspiration comes from now.
Recently I went to Belize [and was struck by] the colors there—just the effect of the layering of colors. It’s almost like an ombre: the ocean changes color so much, from beautiful turquoise to dark blue.
So I came home and did a Belize print, which is coming in my Spring ‘24 collection that we’ve just finished. So [inspiration] all comes from all different places.
Do you keep an eye on larger fashion trends or stick to what you know your customer likes after all these years?
Certainly there are trends that we follow. Right now the big trend is slip dresses; we’ve done slip dresses for years, but we’ve added a few different styles, and we do them in maybe 10 different colors or patterns.
And with the collections that I do, I’m always thinking about how people could wear them as ready-to-wear, as outerwear, because they’re beautiful silks and gorgeous prints—one-of-a-kind prints.
They’re like works of art, some of them, so you hate to think that it’s just going to be in the boudoir.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
Well, I have recently been getting up at 6:30 and swimming in the cold water every morning—for the last three or four months.
It’s been amazing. I have a group of women that I swim with; we go to Ambleside. The other women are from their 30s up to their 50s or 60s. I guess I’m the older one!
It’s been really fun getting to know them and sharing a little bit of their lives.
I also love gardening, so I have a beautiful garden that I really enjoy.
And I have a family: three grown children, and one grandchild. She is the apple of my eye.