i.I work as an…
Accessory designer, working with 100% recycled luxury materials including cashmere and leather.
ii. I do this creative work because…
I have been an artist/designer since 1998, so when I decided to switch from making my line of bags (Astrosatchel) to my winter accessories line (Winterluxe) in 2010, I wanted to use exclusively “used” materials.
I feel it is the role of the designer to consider the ecological impact of their products before they even reach the customer as the fashion industry is the second highest polluter after oil, so I feel a responsibility to tread as lightly as possible on the Earth. I think it is easier for smaller businesses to make changes as we don’t have the same supply chain systems and overhead, we can just say ‘this is what I’m going to do, and this is how I will do it’.
iii. Personal qualities that help me in my work are…
I’m driven by purpose. I can’t just do something half way, that’s not in my nature. I want to create change, and make things better. I’ve been at this for almost 20 years so I have always been committed to my line, as well as being community minded, either through promoting shopping local or by organizing events such as First Pick Handmade or Shiny Fuzzy Muddy (which I co-organize). I am resilient, and always try to do better, to be better.
As a designer, I design from the standpoint of “use” rather than fantasy, so everything is made with practical purpose (as well as intent). I have Aphantasia (which is basically Mind’s Eye blindness) so I need to actually create through working as I don’t just visualize something in my head the way other people do. I don’t think of it as an impairment (in fact I only found out about it last year as I thought everyone’s brain worked the way mine does) as it means I create things that are practical and highly thought out as my brain thinks in terms of concepts rather than images.
iv. The greatest challenges around doing this work are…
I find gathering the fabric resources to be challenging, as I can’t just order up a bolt of something off Amazon and have it delivered: I need to seek out my materials, so it is a very different approach. I feel it is worthwhile however, as every year I recycled about 250-300 lbs of sweaters.
I always have eyes peeled for what I see coming through that I could use, so if I notice a lot of something, I’m able to incorporate it into my line for either that season or in future. I also don’t have nearly enough hours in the day, but I think that is a given with any creative person.
v. Creative childhood hobbies
As a kid I was drawn to sewing and drawing, building things… My father was an upholsterer so I have always been fascinated with the inner workings of objects in a functional way. Seeing everyday things stripped down to the framework and put back together again has always really inspired me.
vi. Other creators who inspire you…
I love Instagram, peeking into the worlds of fashion and art in a behind the scenes way is more satisfying for me than seeing a finished piece sometimes, as I am always conscious not to draw directly from what I see. Fashion always proves inspiring as I look at what I design as an answer to clothing; how do you make something from the runway “work” in everyday life, since it’s often theatrics that “make” the show.
I feel my work is a response to the work of other designers, as part of a conversation. Currently I’m ‘in conversation’ with Rick Owens, Demna Gvasalia, Umberto Boccioni, and independent creatives Jeanie Andronyk (jeweller), Claudia Schulz (hat designer), Carla Peterson (stylist) and Katie Huisman (photographer).
I also draw heavily from my thrifted finds, as I have an entire wardrobe of impractical things that we too great to leave behind but have issues: too short, needing creative repairs, etc.
vii. Training that has helped me succeed in this career…
I have had 20+ years of practical on the job training, and I’m still learning and improving. I’m self taught so I always feel like playing around in the studio is valuable, I just wish I had more time to spend doing that.
viii. The biggest myth about this type of work is…
That anyone can do it. People often say “oh, you just cut up old sweaters” but there’s so much more that goes into my process: the finding of materials, the combining of colours and matching of material weights, the pattern making, the sewing, and finally the laundering, which I like to do last as a form of quality control.
I think it’s awesome if people want to try their hand at what I do, but I also operate on a business model generating as little waste as possible, which means I also use my offcuts… So it’s not as cut and dried as hacking up old sweaters and the actual construction is only the half of it as far as I’m concerned.
ix. If you want to work in my field, I suggest that you…
Sew everyday. Get to know the qualities and limitations of your materials. Think about colour theory, design, working with purpose.
x. A professional goal I have for the future…
I would like to experiment more with over dying, printing and further manipulating my fabric to get even more out of it.
xi. If you want to see my work, go to… Shiny Fuzzy Muddy! I prefer to sell mostly through shows, as each item is unique. I do about 11 events a season, from Vancouver to Toronto (and points in-between) so a quick follow on Instagram is a good way to keep in touch with where I’m at once show season hits.
Katie Huisman – Header Photo, Red toque, Working with fabric, cushion, beach, red hat and striped scarf, blue and black mitt.
Janna Hurtzig – Accessories on marble, rolled scarves.
First Pick Postcard Design – Apollo Nine Design