Weekend Warrior: Fashion entrepreneur Christine Morton feels something in the water

Christine Morton, the owner of local lingerie brand Christine, gets deep about her love for swimming

Cold-water swims have been part of Christine Morton’s life since she was a child in Scotland. Her father taught all three of his daughters to swim in the North Sea, and Morton loosely held onto the habit even after she moved to Vancouver at eight years old.

But 2023 marks some big waves for her. Not only did she celebrate the 50th anniversary of her luxury lingerie brand Christine this year, she also became a certified scuba diver at 72 years old and made a commitment to swim in cold water every day.

“It’s just given me a whole different spark,” she says. “It’s rejuvinating—it sets you up for your day, like you can face those challenges.”

In April, Morton was coming back from a long swim at Dundarave Beach in West Vancouver when she spotted a group of women getting ready to go in the water. She learned that they  swim together at 6:30 a.m. every day. “I started swimming with them on May 1, and I’ve done it every morning since.”

Morton confesses that swimming has always been a personal experience for her, but diving is even more personal. (“It’s like an entry into life again,” she says.) Her husband David was a diver, and after he passed away in 2019, Morton wanted to learn the skill to be closer to him. In February, she booked a flight to Belize and got certified.

“The reef down there is so beautiful—it was extremely special,” she remembers. Two of her three kids were on that trip, and during their first dive together, Morton was following her son through the underwater channels in the Esmeralda Canyons, mesmerized by the fish and the 50-foot reefs on either side of her. Then she saw him disappear through some walls.

“It was very narrow, and I thought, Oh my gosh, am I going to be able to do that?”

That’s when a nurse shark swam up beside her, close enough for Morton to touch, and she was suddenly reminded of David. “Because he was such a beautiful swimmer in the water,” she explains. “And I thought, Oh, I’m going to follow. It took all the fear away of going in this little channel, almost like a cave, and I just followed him through and came out the other side. It was amazing.”

Credit: Adam Blasberg

She compares the feeling of being in the water to that of overcoming loss—both in her personal and professional life. Fifty years in business comes with its fair share of ups and downs, and she admits that it took a lot of strength and perseverance to build what she has now.

But Morton is one of those lucky people who always knew what she wanted to be, so she stuck with it. She remembers cleaning out her grandmother’s drawers as a child and being fascinated by all the lace in there—so much so that Morton started making her own clothes at 12 years old, completed a design course at 20 and launched her own company at 22. Lace was always her biggest inspiration, and through every new collection and add-on has remained one of the signature touches of the Christine brand.

“Everything is made locally,” says Morton. “We work with silk, we work with lace. We’re designing lingerie but also loungewear and outerwear pieces like camisoles, caftans, tunics and kimonos—all those pieces that cross over into day or evening wear. But we also have a full range of chemises, nightgowns and pyjamas that we sell for nightwear.”

Morton is now looking for an investor to help her scale the business, perhaps to expand it into Europe and Asia. That way she can invest a little more time in her personal life—and be able to swim more.

Her excitement is palpable when she explains why the cold water swims are special to her: “They’re just a group of incredible women, all different ages, from different backgrounds and cultures.” They even visited the Christine store on Powell Street in June to have a fun photoshoot trying on lingerie.

“Some mornings we swim out to the buoy and stay in the water and talk for a while. But to start, we stand in a row and we each have a word for the day. And when we come out, we do yoga poses or someone brings music and we dance. It just sets you off in such a different mood. Can you imagine? Would you like to join us?”

Warrior Spotlight

Because Christine Morton’s eponymous company was built on her love for lace (and eventually bridal wear, when she designed her own wedding gown in 1983), the brand’s 50th anniversary collection pulls inspiration from special pieces over the decades. Christine is known for its iconic prints (think peacocks and silky florals), and celebrities like Oprah, Chrissy Teigen and the Kardashians have publicly donned its pyjamas and loungewear. With a creative process that Morton describes as more of a “cottage industry” with “couture sewing,” Christine is supported by a team of 10 staff in Vancouver and an additional 20 people throughout B.C.