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Interview With The Editor…Lisa Drader-Murphy

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Designer of Turbine Fashion

Award-Award-winning Canadian designer, Lisa Drader-Murphy, has come a long way since sweeping the cutting room floors of garment manufacturers. Born to an entrepreneurial first-generation Canadian, she quickly realized her true passion was in design, and has systematically utilized her strong work ethic, sense of responsibility, common sense business practices, and giving spirit to make a difference here and across the world. Lisa recently talked to YMM about her journey, her style, and her impact on women.

I hear you are from Grand Prairie. What does being from Northern Alberta mean to you?

I am very proud of my Northern Alberta roots! My dad was a first generation Canadian born to Russian Mennonite immigrants and carried forward a strong work ethic and strong sense of community. I enjoyed the landscape, the lakes, my large extended family, and even the cold winters weren’t too bad!

When and how did you decide to become a fashion designer?

I made the formal decision while studying Philosophy at the Grande Prairie Regional College in 1988. One morning I rose early so I’d have time to forage through the pieces of fabrics stored in my closet and make myself a new outfit to wear to class. Proudly, I arrived at class in my new pants and top, only to realize that I’d completely forgotten that I had an essay due that morning. The light bulb went on --- Perhaps I should be doing what I was truly passionate about. I should at least give it a try! So I applied to Form & Function Design Academy in Calgary and began taking courses the following term.

Tell me about your design label Turbine? Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

The premise of the line is women empowerment. I am always in search of unique fabrics which I travel around the world to find. Maybe it’s silks from India or some great knits from Vienna; I seek out the best material I can find in corners most people often don’t think to look. That makes my pieces more difficult to duplicate. I like vintage materials as they provide a sustainable product that is unique and in limited edition quantities.

What should Fort McMurray look forward to in the fashion line you will be showcasing in fall and winter?

I will bring a selection of our easy to wear, easy to wash, versatile signature pieces in an assortment of knits as well as some of our limited edition dresses and leather handbags incorporating some hand-woven and hand-painted silks from India. I am looking forward to sharing the results of my inspiration and celebrating with the Festival of Trees in a town so close to where I grew up!

Your company started its own charity; tell me about the Turbine Fund?

The Turbine Fund is our charitable giving arm, with a mandate to “empower women through education, support, and example”.

In 2012 I embarked on a solo journey to India, where I stayed on the outskirts of Hyderabad, slept on a mat, bathed from a bucket, and spent long days visiting mothers and children in the neighbouring slums. Accepting an invitation to speak at a small paramedical college, I was touched by the young women and their desire to study. The hardships they faced were incredible. Many slept under tarps, with no running water or power, and some had suffered severe abuse from husbands and family members.

Upon returning home, I formed the Turbine India Project and began earmarking funds through donating speaking fees and proceeds from beautiful bangles that I discovered in the ancient market of Charminar. Last term The Turbine India Project provided full bursaries and room and board for 38 women from the slums who had never dreamed that a college education would be theirs. This has been an initiative that my entire team takes a lot of pride in.

From snooping your Facebook pages/websites, I see you brush shoulders with some A Listers; can you tell me about where you have taken your label and the best celebrity experience you have had yet?

I’ve been very fortunate to have enjoyed the support and soft endorsements of many celebrities including Jennifer Love Hewitt, The wives of William Shatner, and Dennis Quaid, Missy Pyle, and Keshia Shante.

One experience I enjoyed with a celebrity was while visiting with Adrien Brody at the Cannes Film Festival, we realized that both of us lived on apple orchards on the East Coast, me in Nova Scotia and he in Upstate New York. He continued by saying, “If you are ever in the area, drop by!” Wow!

You are described as a mentor and role model to many. Who has been a mentor or role model to you?

I consider so many people in my life to be my mentors. After 22 years in my industry I’m still constantly picking the brains of the people I meet. I didn’t just find mentors who were in the fashion industry: I needed mentors who were marketers, who could help me digest a complicated lease, or, knowing where I was heading, people who had been around the block and had started a business that was expanding.

I’ve also learned some of life’s most valuable lessons from “unlikely” mentors. My children Sam (21) and Sarah (16) have taught me so much about patience, prioritizing, work/life balance. My staff have shown me the importance of team building and loyalty. The women I’ve met through our Turbine India Project have taught me about perseverance and gratitude.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be honest, realistic, and irrationally passionate about what your business offers. Care about your clients and make time to balance family with your work. Give back often and the rest takes care of itself.

Don’t miss hearing Lisa speak at the Ladies Holiday Luncheon at the Festival of Trees on Friday, November 15th at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are available at