Designer Files: Meghan Parsons
Like many of the designers features Meghan Parsons is a Ryerson graduate. Together with partner Manuel Opp jack&marjorie was created in the crazy fashion capital of Tokyo. A year later the pair returned to Toronto and the local version of jack&marjorie was created. Their reworked bags, scarfs and belts can be found at the Kit 'n Kaboodle Sale this Friday June 16 at The Great Hall, 1087 Queen Street West at Dovercourt.
How did you get into fashion?
I remember being terrified of the sewing machine in junior high school when we had to make a pillow for family studies class. I somehow completed that project and didn't touch a sewing machine again until my second last year of high school when I saw something a friend had made and thought "Maybe I could do that.." I somehow got over my fear of the machine and went from there.
When did you start making accessories like handbags and belts?
While I was living in Tokyo after I graduated from Ryerson. My apartment was the size of a postage stamp, and there wasn't enough room to make/cut patterns for actual garments, so I needed to make something smaller. I'd never made accessories before, but I just took the same principles as making clothes and applied it to bags.
Why did you decide to attend school for fashion design?
I had been sewing for awhile and using commercial patterns to do it. As anyone who has used these patterns knows, most of the styles seem to be made for highly unfashionable women over the age of 65. Maybe that's changed now, I don't know. I wanted to learn how to make patterns myself so that I didn't have to spend ages figuring out how o get rid of these 'design features'.
What are you inspired by?
Pretty random stuff: cities, strangers in those cities, crumbling buildings, old rusty things, music, army surplus, books, old snapshots.
Do you have a design philosophy?
Not really. I just try to create a good balance between form and functionality in everything I make.
Describe your collection?
It's a mix of old materials using new shapes to create modern stuff with a vintage feel without being retro or kitschy.
The fabrics used are military surplus material, how did this come about?
I've just always loved military stuff. I'm not sure why- the last thing I'd ever want to do is actually join the military. It's pretty funny sourcing my materials- it's often me (wimpiest girl ever) and a bunch of big dodgy -looking guys in hunting vests and mesh caps. It's fantastic material though- I don't think there's anything better out there to make bags with in terms of durability. It looks great too.
What's your favourite material(s) to work with?
As I said, I love using the surplus stuff like the blankets and tents. It's so cool when something has some history attached to it (even if it's not the most pleasant story). A lot of the tents have date stamps from years like 1943, 1945, etc. (the stamps are often incorporated into the bags). It's incredible to think where these things have been. It's totally worth having to wash them 3-4 times to get the dirt out. You can't find something like that in a fabric store! I also love more conventional vintage fabric and buttons.
You allow customers to special order bags from the collection. Why did you decide to make this choice available? Do many people take you up on this?
I do this mainly because I don't yet offer the option of buying directly off the website. (eventually I hope to) I get a steady trickle of orders. I love doing them though because I enjoy dealing directly with people and getting a sense of what they like or don't like.
How did you choose the name of your company?
Jack and Marjorie were my grandparents on my mother's side. They are no longer alive. I have this wonderful photo of them on their wedding day in 1943 which was really inspirational for me. Jack was in the navy, so that might have something to do with my military fixation.
How important is the Internet to your business? Do many customer's discover about jack&marjorie through the web?
The internet has been essential. A lot of people have found the website and then contacted me, and I've had a number of people at shows come up to me and say they've seen the site.
jack&marjorie was created in Japan. What are some of the things that most inspired you in the Japanese fashion industry?
I can't say enough about the influence Japan had on me as a designer. It was like being hit over the head (in a kinda good way). Japanese designers are focused number one on creativity. No one says 'well, it's not wearable so I can't do it'. Consumers there are so perceptive to new, unusual things. They also appreciate handmade and
one of a kind items. And the standard of quality is extremely high. It's an amazing place for anyone interested in fashion and design.
What are you plans for the future?
Just to slowly expand my business- have jack&marjorie sold outside of Toronto and Canada. Eventually, I'd like to get back into doing some clothing, now that I have the space to do it!
jack&marjorie can be found at:
Propaganda: 686 Yonge St., Toronto
Distill: The Distillery Historic District, 55 Mill St., Bldg. 56, Toronto
Little Black Dress Shop: 135 Tecumseth Street, Unit 7, Toronto
nathalie-roze & co.: 1015 Queen St. East (near Pape), Toronto (from June)
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