A fixture on the Canadian fur scene, Carol Grant Sullivan, Company founder, talks inspiration,
what's behind the Caroline label, and her collaboration with Hudson's Bay.
Q. Before starting Caroline, you spent 20+ years consulting to VISA and the major Canadian banks. What ever led to Caroline Furs?
A. Well it was serendipitous in an odd way. I'd taken some time away from my work at VISA to recover from a skiing accident I had in the Andes. I'd written a book and was trying to figure out my next move. It was a very difficult time being under the care of Neurologists for complications resulting from the ski crash. On the strength of their advice that I retun to work, I started to consider my options. I'd been around fur all my life and for sometime had been designing pieces for fun. I'd made up a few patterns for vests, hats, and mittens. It was a secret passion of mine I guess. Anyway, I was in Aspen for a book talk and the young owner of a store in town asked if I could arrange to get his store some fur just like the pieces I was wearing. He gave me my first order on the spot. Aspen Magazine called shortly thereafter requesting I loan samples for a 6 page fashion shoot they were planning. Nobody was more shocked than I to see Caroline Furs featured alongside global brands Louis Vuitton and Prada in that glossy. Caroline Furs had launched!
Q. How did the HBC collaboration come about?
A. In the early days I was focused primarily with putting out a collection of fashion accessories and luxury fur blankets, mainly backed in cashmere. I was intent on expanding my collection to give my customers more selection. I turned to Hudson's Bay because I've always loved their iconic 4 pt. blanket and decided to put together a group of fur samples to approach the creative directors at HBC. This led to a meeting with the President of Hudson's Bay. Bonnie Brooks saw the potential immediately. She loved my idea and bought the entire collection for the HBC stores.We have enjoyed a strong collaborative relationship ever since. The product anchors the Collections dept at HBC and the airport stores. We are continually adding new products to the collection of fur blankets and pillows. Watch for the new baby blanket!
Q: Ski or Snowboard?
A: Ski only—I have never considered going to the dark side.
Q: Beaver or mink jacket?
A: Cropped sheared beaver jacket, dyed navy blue.
Q: Favourite ski Aspen moment?
A: Stepping off the plane at the beginning of every ski season. I pause for a moment to take in the sweet taste of the mountain air, the colour of the blue skies, and the site of the surrounding peaks. I have a close emotional connection to this area. I immediately anticipate the great skiing ahead. I have come home.
Q: Steeps, bumps or powder?
A: I prefer steeps and occasionally a few race gates. I love the rhythm of the turns. It feels like I'm in a symphony. I love opening up my speed, getting over on my edges, and trying to lay down my best turns. It's a wonderful feeling. Nirvana.
Q: Godiva or Guittard's chocolate?
A: Neither—I've given both up for the Delicious Chocolate layer cake at Bonnie's on Aspen Mtn.
Q: Best/Dream ski trip
A: My family would vote for St.Anton-St.Christoff-Zurs-Lech, Austria but most of all I love the Pyrenees- Cortina d'Ampezzo for it's European lifestyle. I am holding out for Japan next year.
Q: Most treasured possession?
A: My engagement ring.
Q: Trait most valued in others?
A: Strength, kindness, character
Q: Favourite day of the week?
A: Winter ski season- Fridays. I feel game on, most relaxed.it's the end of the work week, there are fewer crowds on the ski mountain when compared to the weekend.
Summertime- I love Sundays at the Farm or up at the Lake. It's the one day we relax and enjoy the gardens and everything that surrounds us.
Q. You have 2 children with your husband of 30+ years. Are they involved in Caroline?
A. Yes, we are a close family. They all provide a great source of inspiration- sharing thoughts on strategy, trends, and input into new more contemporary product ideas. I love weighing in on their thoughts about the new younger customer. They have such a wide range of interests business, sports, music, art, and fashion to bring to the discussion.
Q. You have designed custom fur blankets and fashion pieces for many customers at home and abroad including celebrity designers and Hollywood stars. What is your favourite project?
A. I still get a thrill every time I am asked to do any sort of special commission. I love the pressure and the intensity of designing and dreaming up the most exciting plans for custom, one of a kind,'front-row worthy' pieces. I want my customers to feel they have the most divine things ever. Some of my most memorable projects would have to be:
- The unforgettable Wedding Jacket created in White Mink for my son's beautiful bride to wear on her Wedding Day.
- The extraordinary set of Christmas Stockings embellished with White Arctic Fox trim, created with the most precious silk satin textile. Made for the family of a Southern USA state Governor, the stockings had to be monogrammed by hand. We had 24 hrs. notice to design, handcraft and deliver to the mansion, in time for the Annual Governor's Christmas Party.
- The coolest set of jet blankets in luxurious sheared Beaver to match the company logo of a Wall Street businessman.
- The cosiest, custom designed collection of luxe lodge pillows, blankets and floor rugs for Bison Heli-skiing Lodge Revelstoke, Canada.
- The luxe Caroline / HBC coyote blanket given to Kanye West on the occasion of the birth of his firstborn, North.