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Joyce Ma is the founder and lead designer for Tension Clothing. Joyce founded the company in 2000, and since then has created not one, but four different clothing labels (including one of our favorites, Sweet Chemise). As all Tension fans know, the fit and quality of her items are amazing! So, even with her busy schedule of designing pieces for numerous lines, she found time to answer a few questions we've been dying to ask.

When did you realize that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I had thought about how much pleasure and joy I took in clothes and art since I was two but I think the reality came when I was in my last year of university. I was majoring in business and I thought, “Well, why not business and fashion?”

Where do you find your inspiration?
It is a daily process. My surroundings, a city, a woman I saw walking down the street in Paris, media, my mother, my daughter’s closet…everything in the modern woman’s life. Then I try to streamline that with all the buyers’ and customers’ needs into the beginnings of the next season’s wardrobe. Sometimes I feel a little crazy because I hear all their little voices in my head as I am sifting through designs and fabrics.

Describe the Tension/Sweet Chemise woman.
Modern. Real. She is an inspiration all by herself in her attitude, style and taste.

How would you describe your personal style?
A mixture of masculine and feminine elements adapted to my current life. I also love to step outside of my comfort zone and have a little fun. Currently I am mixing a lot of tough with my pretty in my wardrobe.

What are your go-to articles of clothing?
Our classic strapless for any special occasion. For everyday I’ll pair with flats and a cardigan or leather jacket. I do the same with our wrap dresses. In Tension I love our current ankle length slim crop. It is as comfy and versatile as my denim but it steps up on dressy occasions when I pair it with a great top or jacket. It is also perfect for showing off footwear and it works with all heel types and heights. I am also wearing our long boyfriend style jacket with everything. All the pieces that multitask work for me.

Which trends for spring 2011 do you like the most/least?
The colour RED! I love our red dress The Laurel. I love red but I don’t always wear red. This dress doesn’t feel overdone and the fabric makes it feel approachable. I could take it on my vacation to the beach or to a wedding. Editors keep featuring a lime coloured trouser. Hmmm…I don’t love.

What are your favorite fabrics and prints to work with, why?
I love watercolour florals for spring and anything that feels like I should be walking in a garden. I have no talent for plants so I try to compensate by wearing it! Jerseys are still my favourite fabric to design with. I can drape it and be really creative with it. On the other extreme I love menswear fabrics for tailoring.

Who is/are your style icons?
I still love Coco Chanel in her younger years. She was a risk taker and such definite ideas on style. I love the masculine edge that remained throughout all her designs. To this day I still like the covered knee and the black dress and the white shirt. Truly timeless!

What are your favorite things to do in Vancouver?
I love spending time with my two little ones. For mother’s day I asked for Thai food take out which we will eat on our balcony followed with a long walk around the seawall at Stanley Park because I love the ocean and salt air. It will be a perfect day!

Aside from clothing, what is your ultimate indulgence?
Ummmm…….purses….and more shoes. In that order.

Have your children inspired the way you design your clothing?
How can they not? There are the 101 designs that work for the nursing mom after I first had my baby. I had to get really creative with draping. And I never realized how many moms shop! Like really seriously shop! They have told me all the things they need in their wardrobe after they had kids. We are coming up with a new pant fit just for her!

What one piece of advise would you give to someone wanting to start a career in fashion?
Be in it for the love of other women because that is who you are designing for at the end of the day.  And trust me…I think women are really amazing!

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