I had the opportunity to interview Stacey Paterson, half of the Toronto-based design duo that makes up women’s boutique line Dagg and Stacey. Currently available in North America and Japan, there’s something about their unique yet timeless clothing that is oh-so covetable. Perhaps it’s the exquisite tailoring, or maybe it’s their feminine but not too girly approach, or it could be that perfect dose of vintage detailing. Whatever it is, these ladies have the recipe for making every girl feel perfectly polished.
Q: How would you describe Dagg & Stacey?
D&S: Well, we’re a women’s contemporary boutique line developed with our combined inspiration (Karen Dagg and Stacey Paterson). We’re really into tailoring so a lot of our stuff has got a lot of classic tailoring in it even though it doesn’t necessarily look like a traditional piece. It’s very feminine but it has a personality to it and it has a distinct nod to vintage detailing.
Q: Where does your inspiration come from?
D&S: It can come from anywhere. The season that we just finished, fall/winter 2009, started from classic fairy tale illustrations, early 1900’s. And that was basically something that just kind of came from a mood, a vibe we wanted to put across. We wanted to do something that was kind of dreamy but still grounded in some kind of reality. We didn’t want it to be too fantastical or too over the top. And then it kind of grows from there when we start researching our theme and other things pop up that you maybe didn’t know before or things that just seem to suit. Just little, little bits kind of come up along the way.
Q: Are there any designers in particular that you find inspiring?
D&S: It’s too broad of a question I think because we’re a little bit removed from what goes on in the fashion world. So I think we draw more inspiration from vintage things because things are not as well constructed now as they used to be and there’s so much disposable fashion now. It’s really hard when you go out to not get discouraged by the way things are because when, for example, we go out and see what’s going on, most of it is just the same over and over again, and it’s also is poorly made. So when we get inspired by something, it’s usually when it’s really well made. So every designer who puts that kind of attention into their work inspires us. It doesn’t have to be a specific one.
Q: What do you love most about what you do?
D&S: Well, you learn something new every day pretty much. I mean, that always keeps you on your toes. The design aspect is actually a smaller aspect of the business, which is something I think a lot of people don’t realize. It’s also, there’s a certain sense of accomplishment, you know? Like, every 6 months we have to start again, right? So every 6 months we have to reinvent ourselves but still stay true to what we do. There’s always a challenge in that, there’s always a challenge in pushing forward and growing and not staying the same so, you know, your line doesn’t become stagnant and boring.
Q: What do you find the most frustrating about it?
D&S: It’s the things that are really out of your control. You know, for an independent business of our size, you’re really kind of at the mercy of your distributors and a lot of that stuff creates the problems that you have to deal with. Whether it be fabric arriving late or arriving damaged or not the right colour, or you can’t get the fabric anymore that you made your samples from, or there’s a problem with the notions or the contract or whatever, it’s all of that because you spend so much time and so much effort and so much care putting together your collection and then you’re at the mercy of these larger companies. That’s probably the most frustrating thing because you just want it to be the way that you intended but sometimes it’s just not possible.
Q: You do basically everything in Canada, from design through to manufacturing. Is there anything you find difficult about being in Canada since it isn’t considered a fashion hub?
D&S: In terms of manufacturing, no. There’s a lot more manufacturing in Canada than you would think. But I think that the problem with Canadian fashion is that people who are in charge of things, like Toronto Fashion Week and the TFI, are a little bit behind. There are at least 10 lines I can think off the top of my head that are like us, that are kind of independent boutique designers who do things that are a little bit different, not so trendy, well tailored, mid-range price point, everything like that, but the industry hasn’t really changed to allow us in. We either have to go elsewhere or we have to do it ourselves. That’s kind of the issue that we see. When we go to the states and show our collection, everybody comments on how great Canadian design is. But our own country doesn’t really embrace what we have. So I think we’re just a little bit behind. We’ll get there.
Q: On your website it says that you’re a socially conscious company. What efforts do you make to be socially responsible?
D&S: Well, for example, all of our stuff is manufactured within our city and every contractor that we work with pays their employees a fair wage, which is really important to us, especially in this industry where a lot of people aren’t. And the other things that we do are we try to use as much natural fibres as possible, we use organic fabrics and sustainable fabrics as much as we can, we only use recycled papers and things like that, and the list goes on and on. We do what we can with what we can because this industry is very wasteful.
Q: So what’s next?
D&S: Well, the spring/summer 2009 collection is done and it’s starting to ship over the next couple of weeks, so that’s really exciting. Right now we’re just kind of showing fall/winter 2009. That’s what we’ve got going on for the next couple of months. We have some things coming out in some press, some pieces in Lou Lou I think, but other than that, we’ll start working on spring/summer 2010!