U niting her Indian and Canadian backgrounds together through her designs, Mani Jassal is the creator behind The Mani Jassal Brand. Consisting of luxury evening wear and bridal attire, Mani Jassal has bridged the gap between two identities and aims to develop a community of women celebrating the multiple layers of their upbringing. We sat down with the Mani to discuss her newest collection “With Love” and what it was like to take part in Toronto Fashion Week x RE\SET™.
Q: You recently released your newest collection “With Love” during Toronto Fashion Week. Can you tell us a little bit about your latest collection?
A: The collection is titled “With Love” and it’s a bridal wear/evening wear collection. It’s inspired by 90’s and early 2000’s love ballads, particularly the song “So into You” by Tamia. The collection itself evokes the whole feeling of falling in love, having a crush, and love at first sight. Everything is very feminine and very romantic, even the fabrics that I used are a lot of floral prints and are light weight, like organza and chiffon. Other than that, it was a smaller collection and it’s entirely made here in Canada, which actually allowed us to focus more on the details. It’s produced by an all-women’s team here in Canada.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge to overcome when creating this new collection?
A: I think when it came to this collection in particular, I knew that I needed it to be a smaller collection so that way I could only concentrate on the details. When I initially start designing a collection, I have maybe 20-40 looks, depending on how inspired I’m feeling. It was just sort of choosing which looks I wanted to showcase in this collection. Some looks I had to get rid of that I really liked, but they just weren’t cohesive with the collection. I also think that production in itself was challenging because I knew that I wanted to produce it in Canada and then I had to get everything done and do all of the little hand sewing details and the overall finishes, which took up a lot of time. It was actually the first time that we used a lot of Couture finishes on our pieces, just to make the collection a little bit more luxurious. When you’re wearing the clothes, everything has a clean finish and feels like luxury wear.
Q: What was it like to take part in Toronto Fashion Week x RE\SET™?
A: This is my third season with Toronto Fashion Week x RE\SET™, and I think it’s amazing to always be part of such a huge platform. Before Toronto Fashion Week x RE\SET™ I was doing my own solo shows. I have done a show at the Berkeley Church, Yorkshire 37, a Sudbury 99, but doing solo shows are just so chaotic. As a designer, you want to be concentrating on your collection, but when you do a solo show, your focus is on every little detail, even things like renting chairs or renting lighting, whereas Toronto Fashion Week x RE\SET™ makes it easier for designers. You just show up with the clothes, you put them on the models, and they get on the runway, so it’s really helpful to not have to worry about those other things. It’s an honour to be part of a platform like that.
Q: How did you discover your love of design and what does it mean to you?
A: I’ve always wanted to be a designer since I was little. I think I was maybe 5 or 6 years old when I decided to become an artist and when I was 11, I decided to make my art more functional. I was literally sitting there in Journal Club writing down how I could make money off of art. Clothing was something I was always interested in because my mom was a seamstress and my grandmother was a seamstress, so I grew up with that and it was just something that made me happy. From that point on, I would always carry around a sketch book and sketch designs, and then I went to Ryerson for Fashion Design and then after that, I created my brand. It’s like a dream come true and sometimes it feels surreal that I’m literally doing what I dreamt of when I was a little girl.
Q: You moved from India to Canada when you were 5 years old and your designs are a mixture of both cultures. How has your background inspired your designs?
A: I put both parts of my culture into the clothing. You can see that the clothes are South Asian inspired but have that modern twist to it. For example, I will use traditional silhouettes, called a Lehenga Choli, which is a full skirt with a crop top and a Dupatta which is the vail. I’ll do those traditional silhouettes and I’ll incorporate modern fabric just because I find that with doing what I’m doing, a lot of girls who have a similar story to mine don’t resonate with completely traditional clothing or don’t completely resonate with Western attire, so I think I’m bridging the gap between the two and offering the best of both worlds.
Q: How did you get your big break?
A: There wasn’t really a big break moment, I think it was just baby steps towards everything. When I initially graduated from Ryerson, I was trying to find a job in the fashion industry and that’s especially difficult to do in Toronto, so because I was struggling to find that placement in the industry, it pushed me into starting my own thing. I had initially started with just doing custom orders and working one on one with clients. I started from my parents’ home basement and got orders through word of mouth. I think Instagram was just picking up and getting more popular, so in 2014, I did about 4 or 5 orders that year. The following year it grew and I did about 50 and the year after it was just too many to count and I had to open up a store, so I don’t know if there was necessarily a big break moment, I think it was just really good planning and baby steps towards everything.
Q: Who is your dream designer you’d like to collaborate with?
A: This question is a little bit sad because Karl Lagerfeld was one of my favourites and I always thought that one day I would meet him and now he’s no more. I would love to collab with Channel or even Alexander McQueen, they are all my favourites.
Q: Who is one designer that inspires you the most?
A: I always say that there’s three of them. One is Coco Channel just because she’s so classy and she created garments that are so timeless, even if you were wearing it in the 1920s, the same style is valid now and that’s something that I strive towards for when people are buying my pieces. They are purchasing something that they are investing in for a lifetime because the pieces are classic. I love Alexander McQueen because of his aesthetic and rebelliousness, which I strive towards as well. Lastly is Karl Lagerfeld for his work ethic, the fact that he was working for three brands, even more maybe, and doing his own thing and creating new collections like crazy. Again, I want to strive towards that as well and have that work ethic and keep grinding.
Q: What sets you apart from other fashion designers?
A: I think it’s the fact that initially when I had started my first collection, I had incorporated my culture into it. I recently went to the Ryerson graduation show and it was really nice to see all these students incorporating their culture into their creations and that was something that when I had graduated, no one was doing. The fact that I was the only one who had done it at the time, made me stand out from the crowd. I think it was one of those things growing up that you wanted to hide it, but then I had that moment where I thought, “no this is who I am, and this is a part of how I’ve grown up.” So, it was nice to let it out in a creative outlet.
Q: What is one article of clothing that you wouldn’t be able to live without?
A: Sweatpants. When I’m in the studio, sweatpants are my go-to. It’s not as glamorous as it looks, so you have to be comfortable. I do love to dress up, but on my downtime, I need my sweatpants.
Q: Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years?
A: In 5 years I’d love to globalize even farther. Right now, I have the store in Yorkville, and I have an online shop, but I would love to have my collections physically available in cities around the world and be dressing Bollywood and Hollywood celebs. I want to become a household name.
BY: CASEY ELOGIO