Next up in my inspiring women series, meet Barbara Starr. One thing I have learned in starting up COKANNA is it takes a village to create a fashion brand.

How we met

I met Barbara about a year ago now. She is one of the manufacturers I work with in Toronto. She develops patterns, creates samples of new designs, and sews up small runs of my pieces.

From the first time we met, I liked Barbara’s down-to-earth, straight forward style. Not only is she super talented with tons of experience, she is generous with her knowledge and time, and a pleasure to work with. Plus, she is in my target market of women over 40. She gets what I’m trying to do, has great feedback, and can try on samples to see how they fit.

Who she is

Barbara is a woman of many skills and talents. She is the product developer for several fashion labels like Miik and 49th Apparel, a production supervisor, an award winning designer, a mentor to emerging designers, and she has her own Terra Cotta clothing line.

She started her Terra Cotta brand in Los Angeles but now calls Toronto her home. Her studio is in the up and coming Triangle Junction neighbourhood in the Dupont, Lansdowne, and Dundas St West area.

Tough times

This pandemic has been a challenging time for small business. Since quarantine began in mid-March, Barbara has been working away, on her own, in her studio. She has been fervently sewing face masks and can’t keep them in stock. In between, she has been doing work for me sewing samples and producing the Carolyn Reversible Sundress.

Inspiring Women Series: Meet Barbara Starr by Colleen Kanna

On the cutting table

It’s such a delicate balance right now. A fine line to walk. I want to keep Barbara busy enough and give her some cash flow but not overload her with work during this stressful period. At the same time, I’m trying to create some cash flow on my end to be able to produce the new sundress and provide some work for Barbara. It’s a domino effect.

Inspiring Women Series: Meet Barbara Starr by Colleen Kanna

In production

So, thank you from the bottom of my heart to my valued customers who have pre-ordered the Carolyn sundress. I deeply appreciate your faith, support, and patience. The first small batch of dresses have been delivered. Thank you, Barbara. The next batch is in the works.

To learn about how the Carolyn sundress was named, check out last week’s blog post in my Inspiring Women Series: Meet Carolyn. To pre-order the sundress and get 10% off: SHOP NOW.

Until next time, stay safe and well.

~ Colleen

Colleen Kanna, Photo by Anna Epp Photography


Colleen Kanna is a recovering Chartered Accountant and Breast Cancer Champion turned Fashion Designer.

She is the creator of COKANNA Canadian made bamboo clothing for women that’s all about comfort and style.

Colleen supports Rethink Breast Cancer’s metastatic breast cancer support, education, and advocacy work.