Bojana Sentaler is a true cosmopolitan. The Serbia-born, Toronto-based designer’s eponymous coat brand, Sentaler, has received a lot of international attention thanks to a couple of famous women. The craze for these elegant alpaca-fur jackets was triggered by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who wore a pale blue Sentaler coat with signature ribbed sleeves during her visit to the Yukon as part of her and Prince William’s Royal Tour of Canada in 2016. In addition, a white piece was worn by Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau for the swear-in ceremony of her husband, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In her spacious Toronto studio, the woman behind the outerwear discusses the importance of quality, the beauty of travel, and the power of Middleton.
What are the core values of Sentaler? How do you differentiate yourself from other brands?
Our three core values are high quality, luxury fabrics, and femininity. One of our differentiating points is the fit of our coats. We are not trying to just push fashion pieces—we actually put a lot of effort into how they fit a woman’s body. Our coats hug in the right places and complement a woman’s figure so that she feels beautiful and feminine. We probably are the only brand in Canada, that I know, that only focuses on luxurious alpaca fabrics. They are very lightweight, very warm, and extremely comfortable. When our customers wear our alpaca coats, it’s hard for them to go back to other coats.
How has your Eastern European background influenced your brand?
I grew up in Serbia, where we had access to European clothes from Italy and France. We are very focused on quality rather than quantity—buy less things, but high-quality. When I moved to Canada, that stuck with me. And that is the foundation of Sentaler. Especially in Canada, where you wear a coat eight months out of a year, we want our clients to buy investment pieces. Coats are a statement piece that most people see you in. I call it a candy-wrapper, where a woman is a candy and a coat is her candy-wrapper.
How have your travels around the world influenced your brand?
I have travelled a lot, and just from seeing fashion trends, architecture, people, lifestyles all over the world—all of that has influenced and shaped me.
When I was in Peru in 2009, I discovered the alpaca fabric and I automatically fell in love with the quality that it had. It feels like butter against your skin, which to me is so important. Also, the fact that it has microscopic air pockets and acts like a thermal insulator was a huge benefit. Living in Canada, where the weather is so cold, it is a perfect solution for women who want to feel feminine and beautiful, but also be warm at the same time. The fabric is beautiful, but also functional.
Do you go to Peru often now?
I do. I go there often to control the production of new collections.
You have said that Karl Lagerfeld inspired you to go into fashion.
When I was living in Dubai, I had an encounter with him for a media project that I was doing. He was the one who kind of initially inspired me to start thinking about designing my own collection. But then it was later on, when I was in Peru, that I discovered alpaca fabric and then decided to launch my own line.
How did you feel when you saw Kate Middleton wearing your coat? How dramatically has it changed Sentaler’s global brand awareness?
I was very honoured to see that she chose to wear my coat from Sentaler. It was amazing for the business, gave us world recognition, opened up a lot of doors—we were featured in media all over the world. A lot of people found out about our brand through her wearing Sentaler. And to me personally, it felt very rewarding.
Is it true what they say about the “Kate effect” in fashion?
It is. She is probably the biggest fashion influencer in the world, so people admire and love what she wears. For us, it was great. We felt the effect as soon as she wore a Sentaler coat; we were getting requests from all over the world. The coat that she wore sold out in every colour. So, yes, it is true.
Are you thinking of expanding your brand into areas other than outerwear?
Eventually yes, but Sentaler is about coats. We know them very well and we want to tell our coat story all over the world for now.
This interview has been edited and condensed.