By Christopher Turner
Photo by Naomi Finlay
A white button-down shirt drapes over a wooden hanger in a clothing boutique on Dundas West. There’s nothing flashy about it. On closer inspection you see the cotton shirt has a raglan sleeve, a twisted seam running from shoulder to cuff. These soft, curvy lines are a liberation from the straight-edge structure of a traditional men’s dress shirt. This piece perfectly represents Metsa, fashion designer Markus Uran’s label, and demands attention from those attracted to construction. You know the guy, the one who stops to consider the underside of a bridge.
Uran was always that guy and his clothing designs are strongly influenced by childhood memories. “Metsa” comes from an Estonian phrase meaning “my little house in the forest.” The slogan was hand-painted on a sign outside a fort Uran built with his grandfather at the family’s cottage in northern Ontario.
“I was encouraged to make anything I wanted,”says Uran about the experience. “And that’s what I’m doing now. I learn the mechanics and make what I dream.” Clearly, his imagination is full of organic materials and subtle details.
Cotton shirts are hand-dyed in his Harbord street studio using natural indigo harvested from South Indian shrubs, while woven tees with unfinished hems are sewn by a team of seamstresses near Kensington Market. A shawl collar shirt is finished with jean-like seams and brushed metal buttons. On another button-down, the front is folded origami-style to create a hidden placket; underneath, mother-of-pearl buttons are sewn upside down to expose their unprocessed surfaces. His mother helped him hand-roll, pierce and fire the porcelain buttons that adorn many of his other tops at her pottery studio.
For all his use of natural materials, Uran’s affinity with the man-made and built environment is also evident. Cotton scarves are woven with steel to withstand crinkling, and silver-backed pearl earrings are reimagined in hand-cast cement.
The learning and dreaming continues as his collection grows to include housewares like baskets and lunch sacks reinforced with galvanized steel. He makes both from offcut fabrics and then coats the finished products in beeswax. very Metsa. Doubtless, his grandfather would approve.