Shop Talk is written by OM senior editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Sarah Fischer, OM account executive and fashion maven.
This week in SHOP TALK, we chat with local singing sensation — and the new face of McCaffrey Haute Couture — Wallis Giunta. Not only is the young mezzo-soprano modelling bridal gowns and cocktail dresses for the ByWard Market couturier, but he will also design special dresses for her performances in Ottawa and abroad.
Despite the couture creations she’s rocking these days, there’s a hometown style to Wallis that’s all her own. Read on to find out more about her personal style, the life of an opera singer, and the trick to keeping grease off your jeans.
Where is home for you these days?
It’s complicated. I’ve been relatively homeless and on the road performing since the end of May — in Germany, Italy, and the U.S. I’m spending a month in Ottawa right now (which is a delight), and then moving to New York for the next two years. I’m a little bit excited.
What about when you are in Ottawa? How do you spend your time?
Mostly I’ve been rehearsing with Opera Lyra for our upcoming show, and visiting as many of my family here as I can. I’m fortunate that, apart from myself, my family have remained in the Ottawa area, so they’ve made visits very easy for me! Otherwise, I’ve been acting as a tourist, and exploring all the things I took for granted while growing up here, like the Mosaika show at Parliament Hill. I went tonight and was reminded of what an incredible place Ottawa is.
What’s it like performing and being on your feet in those McCaffrey dresses?
I feel like a goddess. I really do. I have never been dressed so well — not even in an opera costume.
What did you think when you first saw the photos of yourself in McCaffrey’s gowns?
Well, that was my first time in bridal gowns, and I really looked like I was ‘just married.’ I was giddy, actually. It’s something most girls fantasize about — what they will look like on their wedding day — and I had a whole collection of stunning looks to choose from. The irony is, I’ve never pictured myself having a white wedding. But maybe I’ll have to rethink that now…
What is the most exciting part of being the face of McCaffrey? What is the most challenging part of this role?
The most exciting part is imagining what the future holds, and how far we can go. It hasn’t even been a year, and we’re already rolling. There really are no challenges to our collaboration. It’s one of mutual respect and admiration, which makes it a total joy.
How would you describe your personal style?
My style is mainly defined by the fact that I’m always on a bicycle. My clothes usually have bike grease and rips on them somewhere. I’m OK with that — I’m a tomboy, and although I know how to put together a femme-fatale ensemble when the mood strikes, I live in more androgynous, edgy styles. I love simple lines in clothes, lots of colour, and vintage makes me very happy. If I wear jewellery, it makes a statement, such as my favourite peacock feather earrings. Essentially, my style enhances my ability to live the way I want to live, and indulges my creativity and my wild side.
Has your style changed since being in the spotlight?
Well, now I wear gorgeous designer gowns as well. Otherwise, nothing’s changed!
What are the go-to staples in your wardrobe?
My blue gingham western shirt with snaps that was 50 cents at a garage sale, my acid-wash denim vest, my black Levi’s that come in at the ankle so as not to get caught in the bike chain, my mom’s beaded leather belt from the 70’s, and my well-loved brown Blundstones.
Wallis Giunta performs in Opera Lyra’s production of Cavalleria Rusticana. Sept. 10, 12, 14, and 17. 8 p.m. $30 to $195. National Arts Centre, Southam Hall. www.operalyra.ca