Since the beginning of the COVD-19 pandemic, the rise of knitting and crocheting has quickly propelled handcrafted clothing to the status of a fashion staple. This ethical alternative to fast fashion allows consumers to express themselves through unique fashion choices while helping to keep garments out of the landfill.
McGillians looking to get in on the new trend this spring are in luck; Montreal is home to a small, but incredibly versatile, community of handmade creators.
Inspired by her mother’s knitting practice, Emma Harris launched her own handmade clothing store in early 2021. While opening her own online store was something Harris wanted to do prior to the pandemic, it was the time spent in lockdown that allowed her vision to finally come to fruition.
“My shop definitely wouldn’t be as big if it weren’t for COVID-19,” Harris said. “I think [I was] looking for a side-hustle and a way to take a break from being on screens all the time.”
Harris employs a loose, pattern-free approach in creating her avant-garde looks. Primarily sourcing her leather and textile scraps from factories, Harris aims to maintain the structural integrity of the materials in her finished product.
“It helps to give the garments a lifeline of history [and] create a closer relationship with the garment,” Harris said.
Harris is encouraged by the recent public interest in handmade clothing, and is confident that this trend will only continue to gain traction.
“I think it will definitely find a strong footing as the climate crisis ramps up,” Harris said. “Eventually, the current fast-fashion industry will no longer be able to keep producing as they are today.”
Coming from a self-described “family of makers,” Nova Scotia native Hannah Goodman has been knitting and sewing for as long as she can remember.
“I taught myself to sew on a 1970s sewing machine and just went ‘Wow this is incredible! I can create my own clothing,’” Goodman said.
After graduating from high school, Goodman realized that she wanted to pursue design. She then moved to Montreal, where she opened her own handmade clothing business, self-titled Hannah Isolde, in 2018.
Goodman’s shop primarily sells clothing that is typically seen as romantic and feminine. However, she tries not to see clothing as defined by the gender binary. Through her brand, she aims to encapsulate a leisurely, vacation lifestyle.
3. Boutique Lustre—4068 St. Laurent Boulevard
Yasmine Wasfy, owner of Boutique Lustre, has had a strong passion for ethical and sustainable fashion since her teen years. Her time spent studying costume design at LaSalle College equipped her with the tools to start her own fashion brand post-graduation.
A business that began in Wasfy’s living room and ran out of pop-up shops quickly became a well-known spot for eye-catching designs. Boutique Lustre first opened its doors to the Montreal community in 2006 and has since established an unwavering consumer base.
“The word client feels too transactional to describe what we’ve built,” Wasfy said. “I refer to my clients as my community [….] I’ve grown with them, and their lifestyles help to inspire my designs.”
Wasfy prides herself on her unique creative process. As the boutique’s sole designer, Wasfy begins her pieces with a collection of textiles from Canadian-run companies and creates monthly capsules with various themes and colour palettes. She then organizes the textiles into a mood board of fabrics and begins patterning. The final patterns are handed over to the boutique’s small team of sewers who sew the garments by hand.
Wasfy feels that the widespread move to online shopping has allowed the handmade clothing scene to reach a larger audience, all while opening up the space for important conversations.
“The online marketplace has pushed people further into sustainability and opened the door for greater size acceptance,” Wasfy explained. “I think this conversation was much needed and [is one that] will continue to be had.”