THE INSEAM VOL. 28: CASSIE DEE

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Vancouver is home to a thriving fashion industry made up of individuals committed to its growth and success. Get to know these personalities in The Inseam and discover what makes the Vancouver Fashion scene so awesome.

Photo: courtesy Eileen Soo.

Conducting first time meetings often results in a guessing game while scanning the room for my interviewee. Such is not the case when I meet Cassie Dee. She is clad in her signature black frame glasses and an iconic orange floral blouse from her Spring 2012 Collection. Cassie is one of Vancouver’s latest designers to show at Toronto Fashion Week, and one of the reasons why I am itching to store away my winter wardrobe.

Check out what Cassie has to say about her line, her recent experiences in Toronto, and why the former Calgarian calls Vancouver her new home.

Valerie Tiu: How did you get into fashion?

Cassie Dee: I think I was always interested in fashion. When I was younger, it wasn’t a huge part of my life. I did explore lots of different creative options – I played music, I wrote, but more and more my direction became fashion. I’ve always been interested in different silhouettes and dressing differently.

I never really got into sewing until I was 18 years old. Once I got into it, I learned really fast and I was really focused on it. I moved to Vancouver from Calgary to go to Helen Lefeaux. I was looking for a shorter program to get into, then that way, I could see if I could really make a go at it. I liked the pattern making, the sewing and just making the garment. I was never that person that just liked doing the drawings and handing it off [to someone else]. I love to draw, but I really like taking something from its conception all the way through. I don’t even show my collection before the show to anybody. I just like having total tunnel vision about it, so I really enjoyed that program for that reason. I went back and I taught there for two years (the pattern making and the sewing). It’s been that progression where fashion is all I do.

VT: What motivated you to start your own collection?

CD: I kind of always knew that I wanted to have my own business, but I didn’t necessarily put all the pieces together. As soon as I finished [the Fashion Design program] at Helen Lefeaux, the first business that I started was a nursing scrub company. Those are easy to sew (square cuts!), so I could make them rather quickly. I went out with the green movement, so they were organic nursing scrubs. I did that just to learn more about the business. I decided to do a run overseas, just to see what that was like – and that was a big experience. After that I learned more about the manufacturing. It’s so important to add that commercial aspect to fashion. To be able to do it full time, you have to sell it. It was a something I had to learn. So that helped to give me the confidence to start my [own line].

VT: How do you describe your aesthetic?

CD: I do focus a lot on tailoring. I’m really big on having a nice tailored jacket, or a nice coat in the winter. A couple of great tailored pieces can really pull together a wardrobe. I do wovens a lot, which is very different for Vancouver – I don’t do a lot of knitwear. I also do directional and strong colour stories. It starts all black and white in my head, but I’m probably never going to design an all black collection. I strongly believe in picking a fashion forward direction for colour and going with it. I think that putting different colours together helps you progress as a designer. I think if you go all black or all neutral, it can kind of stagnate and look the same.

VT: Can you talk about your Spring 2012 Collection? What were your inspirations and key elements for this collection?

CD: I won this competition in the fall, where they picked five designers across Canada to show at Toronto Fashion Week. I was really excited for that, and I wanted to do something that was west coast and a little bit Canadian. In my mind, I tried to think of a new Canadian colour story. I thought the oranges and the olives kept it a little bit western. I called it a “Canadiana Road Trip.” I really wanted to explore that area of Canadian dressing, so I did a lot of separates and layering, keeping it so that you can wear things all the time. With it being made in Canada, the price point is a little bit higher, so I try to make stuff that is fashion forward, but can be worn a lot.

VT: You presented this collection in Toronto. Can you talk about that experience?

CD: That was my first time in Toronto – I had a great time. I do wish that I sat back and got to enjoy it a little bit more. It was a cool, super slick, well-organized, well-oiled machine. I found that inspirational.

VT: Who wears Cassie Dee?

CD: I definitely sell mostly to 30-40 year old women, who are established in their career. The clothes are appropriate for work and after work, so that makes the investment more worth it. My friends are in their twenties and I do a fair bit of business with them.

VT: Why is it important for you to base your business locally?

CD: Vancouver is great, fabric/trend wise. It’s easy to get your hands on it. I love Vancouver and I love Calgary, but I was pretty much sold on it here. I love all of the different seasons because I like layering so much. I like the fashion community here and the people that I’ve met.

I think its cool that there is something [in fashion] established. I think that people do respond to you a little bit better when they know that you produce locally. I make everything myself. With my online orders, I just make it and send it out the next day, and I think that people like that personal touch.

VT: Where do you see your line going in the next few years?

CD: I’m going to keep going and keep pushing myself as a designer. Every year I try to do a new fabric or something that I haven’t worked with. I might be in Toronto in the future. But I think staying here for a season and just growing is a good idea.