If you ask Bojana Sentaler about the projected legacy of her eponymous high-fashion label, her answer is impeccably styled. “The master of outerwear on a global scale,” she says, “is what I want Sentaler to be known for.” In many ways, it’s a vision that has already materialized.
Since launching in 2009, the line of luxurious garments that exudes a timeless aesthetic has been worn by a roster of famously chic women. Most notably, the Duchesses, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, have stepped out in Sentaler, each time raising international awareness for the Toronto-based brand. Currently available through an e-commerce site (sentaler.com), as well as in North American boutiques such as Holt Renfrew, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, the label has also recently expanded into Hong Kong.
And 2019 may bring it to other department stores around the world. To date, the label has stuck to its winter-wear roots, offering elegant, high-quality coats made from Peruvian alpaca hair that’s sourced using cruelty-free, sustainable and fair-trade practices. However, upcoming seasons could see an embrace of additional textiles. “I want to be the best at one thing rather than be good at many things,” says Sentaler. “I do outerwear well, and I feel like there’s so much more to learn and grow within the category.”
Curiosity led to discovery.
Often designed around an hourglass silhouette accented with a belted waistline — perhaps featuring a dramatic collar or signature ribbed sleeves — there are many elements that come together effortlessly to create a Sentaler coat. The label’s history is similarly structured — pieces of a pattern that came together just so.
“I have loved fashion my whole life, but when choosing a university [to attend], I thought it would be a smart decision to graduate from a business school because it would open up my opportunities to be able to do anything I wanted to,” says Sentaler.
After graduating from the Schulich School of Business at York University, she went on to pursue a career in the corporate world. “It was interesting, but I am a born entrepreneurial spirit, and it was difficult for me to work in an organization and only do one job because I had so many ideas.”
In 2008, she left her nine-to-five job and moved to Dubai. While working there on a media project, Sentaler was responsible for interviewing prominent figures, including Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic fashion visionary and creative director of Chanel. “Afterwards, off the record, I let him know that it was my dream to be a fashion designer and how I would love to have my own label one day,” she says. “Basically, I was questioning if I could do it because I didn’t graduate from a fashion school. His advice to me was: ‘You either have it or you don’t, and if you have it, go for it.’”
Taking Lagerfeld’s words to heart, she left the Middle East, made a brief return to a cold Toronto winter and then headed to South America. “I ended up in Peru. And Peruvians are very proud of the alpaca fibre that originates from their country. Everybody was asking me, ‘How do you like alpaca? Did you touch it? Isn’t it the most beautiful fibre in the world?’ So, I was intrigued.”
Besides a plush feel, the fibre also provides incredible warmth while being surprisingly lightweight, and it boasts a hypoallergenic quality. Sentaler had a lightbulb moment and ended up spending nearly half a year in Lima, conducting research. “There was the fashion-dream aspect of it,” she says. “And then my business hat recognized, at the time, there was a gap in the market for coats that were beautiful and feminine but at the same time functional and warm. I jumped at the opportunity and launched Sentaler to fill that gap.”
From any angle, the Sentaler label has become a fashion success story.
While having her coats appear on best-dressed women around the world provides welcome buzz, the president and creative director finds the bigger picture most rewarding. “The highlight has been to watch it grow,” says Sentaler. “I didn’t launch until everything was perfect, from the coats to the packaging to the branding. I really took care to initially identify and determine who the Sentaler woman is. All the things I wanted it to be known for [then], and represent are the same things now.”
Branching out to create a charitable program has been another exciting win. For the third year running, Sentaler will donate proceeds from the sales of winter accessories to the SickKids Foundation. This season, gloves join the offering of a hat and scarf available in neutral essentials (and fresh colours like periwinkle) that customers can shop for individually or buy as a matching set. “I became passionate about children’s health when I became a mother — going through everything and understanding motherhood and how precious children are,” says Sentaler, who identifies her biggest challenge as becoming a working parent.
“I’m running a booming business, and I’m also the mother of two young children. It’s very difficult to be able to manage both well and, to me, both roles are extremely important,” she says. “I can’t sacrifice one for the other, so it’s just really about managing my time wisely and then prioritizing everything every day.”
To make it all work, the self-proclaimed perfectionist delegates. “I wanted to do everything, but I’ve learned to have trust in my team that they’ll do it just as well as I will.”
Remaining committed to a calendar is also central to her self-care routine.
“One of the things that’s in my schedule are my workouts,” she says. “I’ve learned that unless it’s scheduled, it won’t happen.” Meeting with a personal trainer several times a week, Sentaler enjoys an early-morning session that focuses on weight training. “You work out every single muscle in your body — it’s wonderful!” she says, “It’s really a meeting with myself — it saves me. It’s the only time in my entire day that I free my mind and focus on me.”
With a 10-year anniversary around the corner, Sentaler has worked to define achievement on her own terms. “Success for me is freedom — being able to choose to do what I love every single day or night.” she says. “I design in the evenings because I don’t have the day-to-day interruptions. I’m in the creative mindset when it’s very quiet and I’m in my own thoughts. Usually those turn into very late nights because once the ideas start coming, I can’t stop. I can’t go to bed until I do something with it!”.
And in the new year, she’ll be focusing on a new passion: appearing as a motivational guest speaker to share her experience and advice with aspiring entrepreneurs. “I’m especially excited about motivating women to follow their dreams and do what they love because you only have one life. If I can change the future of even one person, then it’s worth it.”