Hilary Radley | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Hilary Radley

Hilary Radley, fashion designer (b at Yorkshire England October 5 1947). Raised in England, Radley began her studies in fashion at Sheffield College with a pre-diploma in Art and Design.

Hilary Radley

Hilary Radley, fashion designer (b at Yorkshire England October 5 1947). Raised in England, Radley began her studies in fashion at Sheffield College with a pre-diploma in Art and Design. Seeking to further her skills and experience, she attended Leicester Polytechnic where she graduated with a BA degree in Fashion Textiles (1969).

Following her extensive studies in design, Radley joined the Richard Roberts textile company in Leicester where she gained a deeper understanding of the market and back-end functions of an established firm. She quickly found that her skills in apparel design were her greatest strengths and took a position as a costume designer at Yorkshire Television. Although she found the pace to be considerably slower than at her previous position, Radley applied her expertise and added the experience to her growing portfolio. She also taught at the Chesterfield Art College in design before moving to Canada 1970.

Although Canada became her new home, Radley pursued several freelancing projects in New York before settling down. The emerging designer spent many years travelling to the Far East, to Japan for fabric sourcing and production in Taiwan and Korea. In the late 1970's Radley was approached by a small milling company to develop her own line and with its success she stayed with the company for 3 full collections.

In 1986, drawing on her wealth of experience and global connections, Hilary Radley began designing her first commercial line for the mass market. Her signature piece, the Sunburst coat, became her trademark and led her into the lucrative world of outerwear. After discovering this niche within the Canadian market, Radley began seeking financial backing for her emerging label.

In 1990, Radley and her design team joined forces with Utex Fashion Group, which launched her line across North America and within several new categories. The "Hilary Radley" brand established sales offices in Toronto, Montreal and New York with a primary focus on expanding the business in the American market. Towards the end of the year, Radley added menswear to her brand and began development in women's accessories.

Although Radley remained the principle designer behind the label, it was clear that the product and price-point diverged from its core values of fashion-forward, detail-oriented styles. With wider shapes fit for the mass market and comparable prices, Utex was able to expand the brands appeal across North America and recorded 80% of its sales in the U.S. alone.

In 2000, Radley was invited to participate in the Fur Design Symposium hosted by Denmark-based firm SAGA. The panel discussion focused on innovations within the fur industry and its close ties to fashion design. Following several years of development, Radley introduced fur to her collections in 2004 through strategic alliances with the North American Fur Association and Furworks.

As her business began to plateau, Utex launched "Hilary Radley - New York," a lower priced collection that incorporated the designer's signature colours and cuts made in affordable fabrics at competitive price points. Although the collection was well received, Radley severed ties with Utex and ended her 18-year relationship with the firm.

In 2009, Radley joined forces with Levy Canada Fashion Co, a partner with the Levy Group in America, and reclaimed the rights behind her namesake brand. The Canadian-based development firm placed Radley at the creative helm of the label and focused on the Fall 2010 re-launch. The seamless transition and high demand for Radley's creations allowed her to maintain key stockists in all markets with the heightened anticipation for the designers return.

Radley's coveted designs can be found in specialty retailers across North America and in leading department stores including: The Bay across Canada, Ogilvy's in Quebec and American retailers Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue.

With over two decades in design, Radley has been recognized for her contributions to fashion and awarded with prestigious titles including: Designer of the Decade for the 1990's by Elle Canada (2000), Woolmark's Design Excellence Award (1987, 1988, 1990), Concordia University's John H. Molson School of Business Leadership Award (2002), and the Best Designer and Best Outerwear Designer Awards from the Fashion Export Awards presented during Toronto Fashion Week (2004).

Among her many accolades, Radley has also invested a significant portion of her career to supporting and leading several philanthropic causes such as creating the "Canadian Anti Malaria Coalition," with the support of her husband, which raises awareness and funds for child welfare in Africa. Additionally, Radley sits on the advisory board of the YES (Youth Employment Services) and acts as a mentor to youth seeking employment in Montreal.

Radley remains the Creative Director of "Hilary Radley Designs" overseeing her namesake and commercial collections that are produced twice a year, as well as her multiple extensions in footwear, bags, scarves and optics. When not designing, the she seeks inspiration abroad with extensive travels in the Himalayas, China and Europe.