She is a country girl come fashion designer.
Here is my interview with Carissa McCaig owner and designer of Copious Fashions.
Owner/Designer of Copious Fashions
I think there is a misconception that starting your own fashion line is easy – when in fact – it’s the furthest thing from the truth. You worked as a freelance artist in the fashion and retail industry before launching your own line. How did those experiences prepare you for becoming an entrepreneur?
I was extremely lucky to work with not only incredible Canadian companies, but ones where I had female mentors at most of the jobs. These experiences were invaluable to my continued education in the Fashion industry during and after I graduated. There is a reason why most Fashion programs require you to have internships, you can’t be taught everything in school. It’s not like other programs where there are exact rules you must follow, when you are in a creative field you have to hone your skills of trusting your gut and designing for your customer. Seeing these women run their companies, making decisions and working with a team, these were all invaluable experiences that help me start Copious.
You studied at the International Academy of Design & Technology. What did the curriculum for these programs entail?
We studied the foundation of pattern making, drafting, grading and sewing patterns. Our goal was to design and create a final collection. Although I loved my school, my internships were my real education in the Fashion Industry.
What inspired the name of your brand and what does it stand for?
I have always loved words that start with C, because of my name, one day my beau was joking that I had Copious amounts of clothing and honestly I just loved that, so Copious was born.
As well as being the creative hands on person behind Copious Fashions, you also run the day to day operations. Has the business part been a challenge for you or do you embrace both roles?
YES! I did not come to the business part of it naturally. At the beginning I relied too much on creativity with Copious, assuming that because I loved a design others would. But like anything I learned and reached out for help from women I had worked with. Also starting to do the One of a Kind Show in Toronto I met so many incredible women who were designers but also business women! They taught me how to value my work and how to charge for my creative labour.
I think in any profession it’s important to know the fundamentals. I was a little surprised to find out that not all designers can construct a garment from beginning to end. Is pattern making a dying art in the fashion industry?
No, I don’t think so. First off, it’s not that hard to learn pattern making if you have the mind for it. You could pay a sample maker to do up samples and you both would work through the process of designing it together. For example I used to make patterns for a company called Encircled, Kristi is the owner and has business over fashion training, but working with her I saw that you don’t necessarily need the fashion training. She runs an incredible company with beautifully made clothing, we would work together to create new designs for her company. I think we both learned a lot from each other, I know I learned how to price my pieces better. She was one of the first women to tell me I wasn’t charging enough for my work! I think what you really need to run any company is passion and a willingness to learn and adapt.
I love the idea behind The Femme Sweater. Can you share with me what inspired the campaign?
I was raised by a strong woman so being a feminist has always been part of my identity. Over the last three years the world has seen women stand up and tell their stories in a new and honest way. I really took that to heart and started speaking out more vocally on my platform, with my friends and family. I wanted to showcase incredible women who came before us, who fought for our rights, who inspire and empower us. This edition I wanted my customers to have the power to pick their people, the ones who empower them, so this time around it is completely customizable.
If you had to pick three women who inspired you in history – who would they be?
Activist Gloria Steinem all the way. From the beginning she has been a woman who stood for ALL women’s equality not just white women. Feminism only works if we are fighting for all women’s rights and equality.
Author Lynn Crosbie, her books are some of my favourite I have ever read.
Artist Frida Kahlo, what she overcame in her life and still created artwork that was so beautiful, she is an inspiration!
I watched a documentary called The True Cost on Netflix a few years ago and it changed my view of fast fashion forever. Is being environmentally conscious as possible important to you and your brand?
Yes. I was lucky enough to go to the Canadian premiere of The True Cost, it was so powerful to see everyone’s eyes open to something I have known for years. Honestly I struggle with my love of Fashion all the time, it is one of the biggest pollutants and the rise of fast fashion in the 2000’s is a huge part of that.
For me clothing has always been special, I have loved thrifting since I was a teenager and my mom and grandma made clothing so I’m not sure if it is because I have seen the love and labour that goes into well-made pieces from a young age that has impacted me to look and make well-made clothing myself.
With every piece I make for Copious there are decisions I make to ensure they are eco-conscious, but with these decisions I can see how bigger companies won’t make these choices because of cost. That’s why whenever clients ask how they can be more environmentally friendly when buying clothing I always say, buy from someone you can meet, and then you can ask them questions on what they are doing to be eco-friendly!
Do you think sustainable fashion is becoming more important to consumers?
Yes! I can see my customers asking not just more questions, but the right questions. I love it and I love talking about sustainable fashion with anyone who wants to learn.
I have friends who are freelance hair and makeup artists – it seems that being paid what they are worth and being paid period is a problem within the industry. Does this apply to the fashion world as well?
Yes and no. This is a harder question to answer, I myself was extremely lucky to be taken under by not 1 but 3 women who valued my skills and helped me learn while being paid. I interned with 3 companies and was lucky enough to get freelance jobs with all of them upon graduation. Yes it was crazy to work 3 jobs, and juggle that, but I was 20 so I didn’t care. I just wanted to learn from these women. With all that said, I myself had interns with Copious and went on to hire 3 of them freelance, but know that they often were interns at bigger companies that never ended up paying them or they were never even offered a job. So yes I believe it is a problem in this industry, I think ultimately you need to juggle knowing how much you are worth and knowing you are still learning and can this job continue your education, it is still a very hard industry to find work in.
The fashion industry has so far struggled to reflect the country’s diversity in its workforce across all levels.Insider/Outsider, CDFA
Although the fashion and beauty industries are more progressive – there are still diversity and gender barriers that exist. Do you think that there is progress being made in breaking down some of these barriers?
Yes and no. I think there are small steps forward, but I know the issue I still have is when they are pushing these boundaries it is sometimes in a costume or fantasy way. Like it would only make sense that a man would wear makeup in these exact circumstances. I think that is an old way of thinking and slowly we are breaking that down, but I wish it was happening faster. I think the idea of gender is being pushed right now and I love that, it is something I have always thought a lot about, how we have certain words that fit with either male or female. Lately anytime I shoot, I always want to reflect the opposite to show that words like strong, gentle, aggressive or compassionate are just words, they do not fit with one specific gender. Same goes for clothing, so often fashion has helped men and women express who they really are, how they really feel and help showcase who they are to the world. Right now I feel the urge to just normalize finding out who you are as a person, and becoming so comfortable with it, that it makes others want to be comfortable with who they are!
For me and my creative partner, Kaja Tirrul of KajaPhoto and Jack Loves Mary, it has always been important for us to work with a range of people. I want my customers or future customers to see themselves represented. We love to push the boundaries of what is considered “normal.” Recently we shot an editorial that was published with Moevir, and it was about pushing past what gender is, and why if you identify as male you must look/dress a certain way and vice versa for women. Each shot we wanted to showcase the genders in a different way. I recently have had more men buying Copious and it has pushed me as a designer to look at my clothing not for one gender, but for anyone who feels comfortable wearing it.
Being an entrepreneur is finding a work/life balance difficult?
It used to be. I feel the last three years I have found my groove. Being a creative person means it never is off, my brain is always moving, but I just roll with it now. I do yoga and go for walks to try to calm my mind. Some days I work a lot then others I try and give myself a break. Running your own company will always be more work than working for someone else, you just have to remember breaks help you recharge and are completely necessary.
You have said that books have let you figure out what kind of person you wanted to be and what kind of life you wanted to live. Do you think in a way that clothing can do the same thing?
So yes and no. I think that STYLE helps a person figure out who they want to be, and what kind of life they want to live, just putting clothes on is easy, style is what takes it to that next level. Now I know a lot of people will say they don’t have style, but I disagree!
Style is about confidence, investing in pieces that fit who you are as a person, it requires thought.Carissa McCaig
Fast Fashion took that away from us. It made us people who just consume clothes without looking for the style in pieces.
The Made Local movement has really pushed that back, pieces made in Canada are more expensive and most customers can’t afford to drop $1000 on all the pieces they may want. This forces us to think, which piece fits my style, which piece will I love to put on again and again, it is pushing us to think about our personal style and how we express that with clothing.
How would you describe your own personal style?
Masculine. Vintage. Grunge.
I am all about thrifted pieces, I often shop in the men’s department, I love over-sized anything, vintage band tees, crew-neck sweaters and Levis!
What is your favorite vintage t-shirt that you own?
OH!!!! That’s like making a mother choose her favourite child?!
I definitely go through cycles, but right now it would be my Led Zeppelin tee, I have been living in it lately.
Give me time and I’ll give you a revolution.Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen was known for his technical and creative genius – challenging the notions of what is beautiful. What was it about his work that you loved most?
100% that, challenging the notion of what is beautiful.
Our society has a very specific definition of what is beautiful and I think that’s bullshit! He often showed women as strong and fragile, dirty and clean, he was constantly trying to push women into a space they hadn’t always been allowed to occupy and I will always love his work because of that.
What inspires you as an artist?
Literally the world inspires me. Sometimes it is a book, a song, artwork, a fashion show, anything and everything can create inspiration, it just takes something that moves you to spur those creative juices in an artist.