Designer Files: Heather Schibli

OCAD graduate Heather Schibi has many talents. She studied photography, printmaking, drawing and painting in school, now she is wearing the designer hat. Heather's company, Passenger Pigeon caught my eye Sunday afternoon at Propaganda. When I got home I immediately googled them. I was very intrigued with the story of Passenger Pigeon so I immediately contacted Heather for an interview. She was gracious enough to answer my questions.

How did you get into fashion?
I fell into fashion half-hazardly; through friends wanting to buy the items I made for myself.

When did you start sewing?
Barbie!! It all goes back to hand sewing Barbie doll ballgowns! I would collect scraps of fabric and explore my mom's sewing machine

What are you inspired by?
The environment. I'm inspired by people who are working to ameliorate our world's environmental stresses. In terms of design, I'd have to admit that I'm mostly inspired by mistakes. Mistakes force you to take unforeseen paths.

Do you have a design philosophy?
It is really hard to compete with larger operations that have their clothing manufactured overseas. Small designers pay a much heftier price for the textiles they purchase, as well as to the Canadian based contractors. On top of this, I am paying an even higher price for environmentally friendly fabrics. Due to this reality, my philosophy is to keep my designs simple and easily constructed (and therefore less labour intensive).

Describe your collection/clothing?
My clothing line is playful and straight forward. My garments are often embellished with embroidery or silk-screened imagery.

What's your favourite materialss) to work with?
I love raw silk and any kind of wool. Sadly, organic wool is too expensive, so I haven't had the luxury of working with wool for over a year now. Truthfully though, I like to work with any natural fiber. I hate polyesters and especially acetate!

How do you find the fabrics you use?

I have to be creative with some of the fabrics I buy because there isn't very much selection when it comes to environmentally friendly textiles (such as hemp, soy, bamboo and organic cotton). Most of the fabrics I order only come in unbleached natural cream. I have taken to hand-dyeing and screen printing by the yard to overcome this dilemma. Hopefully the eco-friendly trend will grow bringing with it more options for small designers.

This is an era of disposable and cheap fashion thanks to H&M and Zara. Do you feel that there is a growing demand for locally produced garments?
I can't say whether there is a growing demand for locally produced garments. Everyone I know, store owner and designer alike, is struggling to survive, and so I am lead to believe that there is only a very small percentage of consumers who are sensitive to local markets. The fashion industry is built around expendability- every six months consumers are encouraged to discard their clothing and buy anew. I have a hard time justifying a personal involvement in such a system.

How did you choose the name of your company?
My company is named after the Passenger Pigeon, a now extinct bird. This species' extinction is quite fantastical, for only a century before it was extinguished, the passenger pigeon boasted the highest population numbers of any bird on earth. They were massively slaughtered for food throughout Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern states. I decided to name my company after this bird as a tribute as well as a reminder of how our individual actions have an impact on our surroundings.

How important is the Internet to your business? Do many customer's discover about Passenger Pigeon through the web?
I have found the Internet to be very helpful. I was showcased on a blog,, that is very well known within 'eco-chic' circles. Thanks to that website, I am now in a fashion show in San Francisco, and in two American stores. My next step is to offer online sales through my website.

What are your plans for the future?
Truthfully, I would like to take my master's in green design. Every object we use has a healthy alternative. I would like to explore the possibilities and applications of biodegradable plastics and alternatives to wood (i.e. hemp based particle boards, papers etc) for instance. It would be interesting to explore different systems of disposal-- as in
reclaiming everything we use.

What are your favourite movie(s) in terms of costume design?
I can't think of any one movie. What comes to mind is Opera Atelier's Medea; I went to see that opera a few years ago, and I remember fixating on the costumes throughout the entire performance.

How many sewing machines do you have?
I have three sewing machines along with two and a half sergers. The half is used as spare parts.

What's your definition of style?
True confidence in yourself- this emanates outwards. It doesn't really matter what you are wearing, it is how you carry yourself, and how you interact with people.

Do you think of yourself as stylish?
I wish I was moreso! I am working on it!

Do you have a muse?
Hmm.. no one specifically; I find certain organizations inspiring, such as FLAP (, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. Many of the ideas my boyfriend has for his company and personal projects are very inspiring too (

Passenger Pigeon can be found at:
The Distillery Historic District
55 Mill St., building #56
Toronto, Ontario

686 Yonge St.
Toronto, Ontario

903 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario

Little Black Dress Shop
135 Tecumseth St.
Toronto ON

19 Kensington Avenue
Toronto ON

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