Leonard Gorski keeps up with every movement in the world, big or small, and knows how to discern fashion palettes as well as the flavours of a dish. “When I design or create, I consider everything I see. I’m influenced by shapes and the play of colours in a wide range of fields, from architecture and interior design to art, language, and culture. We’re all the result of what surrounds and permeates us, so I often feel as if I’m a sponge. Everything I see and experience comes through in what I share and create.” For this incredibly creative and curious man, Gorski—the luxury outerwear and accessories brand he founded with his wife Karin in 1984—is the ideal outlet for his talents.
By reinventing its collections each year and constantly evolving, this Montréal-based family business—always sensitive to major trends without giving in to fads—has made a name for itself on the American luxury market and created its own niche. “We’ve established strategic partnerships with top international fashion groups like retail giant Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue online platforms where we have a substantial presence and following. Gorski core supply partners include renowned North American and European contributors. We’re probably the only Canadian brand with over 30 ‘shop-inshops’ at Neiman Marcus, in addition to having a very strong online presence.” Recognition of the Gorski label is also based on the company’s distinctive sustainable approach, which has characterized it from the very beginning. “Sustainability has always been at the front and centre of what we do. We work with natural, biodegradable materials and respect our supply chain by collaborating with designers and associates who share the same values. As part of our sustainability commitment, our facility in New Jersey services customer garments so they can be enjoyed for years to come. We’re not in the business of ‘fast fashion’; our creations are fun, but made to last,” explains Gorski.
Even though the brand is known primarily in the United States, it is 100% rooted in Montréal. “I’m passionate about Montréal—its cachet, its beauty, and its multiculturalism. Montrealers are elegant. It’s a unique city that inspires me. Our headquarters and design centre have always been here. Montréal is the fashion capital of Canada and the third-largest fashion centre in North America, after New York and Los Angeles,” notes Gorski, who just opened his company’s flagship store on Greene Avenue. An active member of the Canadian Apparel Federation and Vêtement Québec, Gorski works hard to enhance the city’s renown, even adding “Montréal” to his logo.
“People and fashion reflect their culture and are changing faster than ever,” notes Gorski, who has carefully prepared his successors to deal with this constant flux. “I have a young team of professionals who are managing this transition and the company’s growth. My daughter Lauren Gorski is vice president of merchandising and marketing, while her brother Bryan is vice president of business development.” This change of guard will enable Leonard Gorski to divide his days and evenings among work, community projects, mentoring, and charitable works supporting women and children, so he can continue leveraging his experience and creativity.
He has not stopped indulging his thirst for knowledge and desire to evolve, to better incorporate the many recreational pursuits that occupy limited but treasured free time. If you mention opera, he will tell you about the many times he has frequented La Fenice in Venice or La Scala in Milan. If you bring up art, he will discuss the work of painter Joan Miró and show you his collection of paintings by Brazilian artist Romero Britto, whose work combines elements of pop, cubism, and street art, using vibrant colours, freshness, and optimism. If you talk about architecture, he will describe the cut Indiana limestone selected and the efforts made to respect the building style in the Montréal neighbourhood where he set up his corporate offices and flagship store on Greene Avenue, Westmount. He can also speak at length about gardening and flower arranging.
However, it is the art of entertaining and fine dining that seem to stimulate his taste buds and neurons in particular. “My way to relax might look labour-intensive to some people. When I’m not working, I love to cook and have people over for gourmet meals and fine wine. Some of my favourite vacations have been working with chefs in some of the most beautiful villas in Barbados and Jamaica. I have great memories of wonderful formal dinners as well as many casual outdoor Caribbean dining experiences, which always include impeccable flower arrangements, memorable views, and guests to match.” He carefully prepares these trips, sometimes even selecting the menus one or two months in advance, a sign that he is both gourmet and gourmand. He appreciates Mediterranean and French cuisine as much as Mexican food, although he does admit he is quite fond of spicy flavours. “For me, what counts is the experience, not the price tag. I don’t need much, but I do appreciate the best.”
This epicurean with an incredible appetite for life is not likely to retire as he continues travelling the globe, looking for worlds of colours, flavours, and textures. There are still so many things to do, so many things to see, so many people to meet…