As we continue to grow our in-house line, Citizen Handmade, we want to share with you the inspiration and process that brings the line to life…
Our handmade line started as a project to deal with scrap fabric. Each Spring we cut dozens of jeans into shorts and are left with boxes of jean legs. We hate throwing things away so we wanted to find a project for them. We worked with our studio-mate, Dylan Gallagher a tailor by trade, to create a backpack design, which got a great response.
We also come across a lot of vintage fabric while thrifting for the shop and when we find pieces we like it's hard to leave them behind, so by 2014 we had accumulated quite the collection and needed to develop another project to put it all to use. Working with Dylan was going well so we developed a skirt and tank top pattern with him that was launched in Summer 2014 and things have grown from there.
Each piece is handmade in an atelier only mere 2 kilometres away from our shops & studio. We started producing in our own studio in 2014, however, as our collections grew it was more than Dylan could handle alone. In 2017 we stared working with Amelie Bryson who is a pattern maker and seamstress. She now produced 90% of our collection at her studio on Parc Avenue.
We work alongside Amelie to create unique pieces, inspired by Vintage that we find. We are very inspired by vintage pieces we find while sourcing vintage clothing for the shops. When we find a piece we really like we take it to Amelie and discuss how we want to alter it and what types of fabric we see it being made in. Amelie then makes a pattern and a sample. We usually try 2 or 3 samples before the piece goes into production.
Fabric Sourcing… We started out only using scrap fabrics that we found while thrifting, however it was really difficult to produce a collection when the fabric pieces were all under 5 meters. A couple of years ago we discovered a few fabric warehouses around the Chabanel area that sell dead-stock fabrics. These places are basically treasure troves for us; aisles of huge shelves stacked with rolls upon rolls of fabric. These are fabrics that were produced for manufacturing over the last 30 years but were never used and left to sit in various warehouse. If these fabrics are not bought they are eventually sent off to a landfill. This is a different process to most fashion companies who order fabric from China or who get manufacturers to make custom fabrics for them. We can't always find what we're looking for in dead-stock fabric, which can be frustrating, but we're really committed to being as sustainable as possible and we feel we should use material that is already in existence instead of adding to our ecological footprint.
Environmental & Ethical concerns… Keeping things local is the easiest way to be an ethical company, we know exactly the working conditions of the people who are making our products and we know they are paid a fair wage. Not making fabric or importing it from overseas is a great way to keep our company as environmentally friendly as possible. However, doing things in a sustainable way can often increase the retail price of a garment, it's much more expensive to produce in Montreal versus Bangladesh, but we have noticed that our customer is slowly realizing that it is worth paying a bit more for a well made, unique pieces over something that is mass produced and sold by fast fashion companies all over the world.