From a haute romance to a fashionable affair

How the designer behind Toronto fashion label Narces first met and later married her husband and managing director


Nikki and Stefan on their wedding day

Austria-born power couple Nikki Wirthensohn Yassemi and Stefan Wirthensohn, of the Toronto-based womenswear label Narces, can trace their success in life and love back to their first date in Toronto. Nikki, the creative director and designer behind the label, has risen to the top of the fashion industry with her husband Stefan by her side as the managing director of her line. As the two gear up for Toronto Fashion Week in Yorkville (Sept. 4 to 6), where models will dazzle on the runway dressed head to toe in her cocktail attire and eveningwear, the two look back on their courtship and how it all started.  

How they met
Nikki: We met during our MBA studies at Schulich School of Business. Stefan was an exchange student from Austria, and I was also born in Austria. So we got into a lot of birth country debates at a university event that my closest MBA friend had begged me to go, which Stefan had organized.

The first date
Stefan: Soon after, we had our first date at a cool cocktail bar on College Street. Nikki was the one who initiated our first date and asked me out to tour around the city with its important sites to see. Conveniently it was reading week, which gave us a lot of time to spend together 24/7, and we started dating since that point on. This was two months before I had to go back to Austria!  

The proposal
Nikki: We loved a famous German kids book, Oh, Wie schön ist Panama, where a tiger and bear leave their home to find Panama, the best place in the world, to come back home and realize that home is the best place. So Stefan organized a trip to Panama in the summer of 2006 and proposed there. While in Panama, I realized soon enough what was about to happen, and he felt nervous and sick. So the proposal had to wait! Still Stefan pulled through, and I said yes!

The wedding
Nikki: We got married on Aug. 8, 2008, in the South of France at Chateau Dior. I designed both of my dresses, and none other than my mother made these beautiful garments. The first dress for the ceremony was a cloud of gathered mini tiers of tulle with 3D handmade flowers on the bust. The second dress for the evening was inspired by 1950s ballerina dresses and was made out of double-sided silk satin. 

The honeymoon
Stefan: We didn’t really have time for a real honeymoon and still are talking about doing one now. We went to Corsica for four days after our wedding, which we called our honeydays.

Home life
Nikki: We live and work in the most beautiful village, formerly known as Yorkville Village, established in 1830 and then annexed into Toronto in 1883 (the Rosedale-Yorkville area). Super central, inspiringly creative with beautiful art galleries, unique boutiques, beautiful parks, flagship stores for all major luxury brands, gorgeous hotels and restaurants, all within walking distance. Our house is also our design studio and is a heritage house from 1870, close to Yonge and Bloor.

The kids
Nikki: We have two children. Zoë is six, and Aryo is three.

Balancing careers and marriage
Stefan: Our life balance is not always easy because we are running our own company together, and the family keeps us very, very busy. We try to have at least one to two date nights a month to recharge and reconnect and try not to talk about business. But we just end up looking at pictures of our kids that we miss after a few hours.

Shared interests
Stefan: We both love film and music. So movie nights and concerts are on the agenda as often as possible. 

Secret for success
Nikki: Not sure if we have a secret that works for everyone. We do believe that all couples need to do it their way! One thing that we both believe is important is keeping in mind that, even though we are together in a relationship, we need to be happy individually! 

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