Ms. Emma Designs originated in 1973 when Sofia Verna and two business partners opened a small shop on Queen Street West in Toronto – a trendy area today that was a down-market mix of used bookstores, pawn brokers and greasy spoon restaurants in the early 1970s. The first shop was open concept, with sewing machines and a cutting table visible to clients who had come in for custom work and alterations.
By 1975 when Ms. Emma was incorporated, Sofia’s partners had left for other ventures. The boutique soon became known for its distinct look of hand dyed, painted and quilted clothing made from Belgian tapestries, Indian tussahs and Italian silks and wools. At its height, there were nine Ms. Emma locations in Toronto. Although times are leaner now, Sofia Verna’s handmade fashions continue to have appeal for a loyal following of clients.