A local fashion designer is crossing gender barriers with her new Fall collection.
Carissa McCaig started Copious Fashions in 2015 after working for various fashion houses and freelancing in Toronto. As part of her diploma with the International Academy of Design and Technology (IADT), she had to complete 500 internship hours, which gave her a good sense of what it was like to work in fashion. “I liked working in the industry; but being paid what you are worth is a big thing,” she says. “I started slowly, and did other jobs while I figured things out.”
While in Toronto, Carissa started doing couture and would design at least four couture gowns for each of her collections. She also got involved with a company called Rent, Frock, Repeat, which provided rental couture gowns to people for galas and other events. “I loved doing that,” she says.
While participating in shows and designing high fashion gowns allowed Carissa to have fun and be creative, she saw the industry moving away from couture towards more athletic-wear and every-day fashion. She started designing simple clothing with unique prints and patterns that would appeal to the average woman. “People want comfort now with a classic, simple design,” she says. “It’s all about the right material.”
After spending a decade in Toronto, Carissa decided to move back to Kemptville in 2017 to be closer to family. “I wasn’t happy in Toronto anymore,” she says. “Family is really important to me.”
Carissa says Copious Fashions has really flourished since she made the move back to the country. She can afford to have both a studio and an apartment in Kemptville, which she says is huge, considering her business had pretty much taken over her small apartment in Toronto. “I have a much better work/life balance now,” she says.
All of Carissa’s clothing is handmade by her in her studio in Kemptville. The only thing she doesn’t create from scratch herself is her conscious heart sweaters, which feature a heart applique on the chest that uses fabric which would otherwise have gone in the landfill. Because the only part of the sweater that is handmade is the heart applique, Carissa is able to sell them at a lower price-point, making her clothing more accessible to everyone.
Carissa produces two collections a year which she sells online and at boutiques all over Ontario. She also participates in artisan shows and festivals, including the One Of A Kind show in Toronto, which runs twice a year. It was at the One Of A Kind show in the Spring that she was inspired to start marketing her clothing to men as well as women. “A couple at the show decided to invest in a jacket to share,” she says, adding that she also heard other people at the show comment about how good some of her clothing would look on their son or male partner.
Carissa says this experience made her reflect on gender stereotypes and how it has always been more acceptable for women to wear clothing designed for men, but not vice versa. Wanting to break down this barrier, she teamed up with local photographer and creative partner, Kaja Tirrul, to shoot an editorial using pieces of clothing from her fall collection on both genders. They shot it in an abandoned building and are calling it “There were walls”, to symbolize breaking down the walls of the gender barrier. “It’s our way of saying I don’t care who you are, as long as you like what you are wearing,” she says. “Come shop, and enjoy Copious.”