Cassie Dee's spring/summer 2012 collection hits all the right notes for this season. Her on-trend use of Pantone's 2012 colour of the year 'Tangerine Tango,' sharp tailoring, and playful riffs on classic staples like the blazer and the button-up shirt offer a cohesive, well-constructed vision. Although her eponymous label is only two years old, her skill belies her years of experience as a pattern maker and teacher's assistant at the former Helen Lefeaux school.
Since her impressive debut at Toronto's LG Fashion Week last season where she placed as a finalist in the Mercedes-Benz Start-Up Competition, Dee has returned to Vancouver and is hard at work on collaborations with Miss Universe Canada and her next collection. She took a break from her busy schedule to talk with me about her background, her work and Aesop's fables.
Let's get some basic details down first. Full name? Where are you from, and where are you based now?
My full name is actually Cassie Dee! Sort of a pun on the name Cassidee, but Cassie Dee is my real name. I grew up in Calgary and moved to Vancouver to attend fashion school in 2004. I decided to stay in Vancouver to work in fashion and when it was time to launch the label, I decided Vancouver would be the place!
How did you first become interested in fashion? Where did you study?
I think I was always interested in fashion, though it is hard to remember, growing up I had a lot of interests! I was always drawn to interesting silhouette or a little something extra on an outfit. Growing up I always disparaged the Oscar dresses that I felt were too boring and rooted for the girls that used those moments to shine.
I moved to Vancouver to go to Helen Lefeaux in Gastown. I was drawn to the program initially because it was just 10 months long! After I finished the year I ended up going back for 2 more years as the patternmaking and construction teacher’s assistant anyway and it was great. I really enjoyed it and I met so many great people who are now working in fashion; that is pretty much how I met all of my friends in Vancouver!
What was the inspiration behind your spring/summer 2012 collection?
For Spring 2012 I took my tailored, city girl aesthetic and rooted it in an out west color story. The main colors I pulled from a version of Aesop’s fables that was illustrated by Arthur Rackham. I always thought it was so funny when the animals wore clothing and I put one of my favorite illustrations on my wall. I also pulled in a lot of country style elements like bold topstitching, beautiful buttons and patchwork and a few nature-inspired shapes to create cowling and swirling seam lines.
I focused on layers and separates. I also wanted the collection to have a really 3-D look on the hanger, nothing flat. I do woven blouses every season; for spring I moved all of the seam lines into curves and swirls, like the bug’s shells pictured on my wall, to create that 3-D hanger effect on even streamlined, fitted pieces.
The city wardrobe on a road trip idea really comes through in the silhouettes. A tailored element mixed with a draped piece makes a really easy to wear, modern silhouette. The idea of pairing that silhouette with a vintage color story and some nostalgia-inducing details seemed fresh and appealing.
Do you have any design signatures/trademarks that are very Cassie Dee?
Strong tailoring and strong, very directional color stories. If I can throw a bit of fancy sewing in there, usually I can’t resist.
I love your philosophy of having quality pieces in one's wardrobe that one can always rely on for a confident, relaxed, chic look. What's the first thing you reach for from your closet when you need to get ready in a hurry and want to make sure you look great?
Great coat or jacket (or blazer weather depending!). It is always the first thing people see you in and it’s almost always necessary. I tend to dress in a lot of layers but even if I feel like I can’t find anything to wear, I know at least I have a great piece to throw over top!
What was it like presenting your collection at Toronto Fashion Week?
Presenting Spring/Summer 2012 at Toronto Fashion Week was exciting and inspiring. The presentation options and different spectacles at the venue took the event out of the usual realm for me. Truly, I did go with an experienced, awesome team helping me out so that could have added that slick and polished feeling to it, but I really did appreciate the idea of turning the show into a bit more of a spectacle. I think it is good for me to mix it up a bit and showcase my work in different arenas so I do plan on going back to Toronto Fashion Week, but I am really excited to do the Fall show here in Vancouver.
What's next for you personally and professionally?
The solo Fall 2013 presentation is a big goal/dream of mine. It feels like both my personal life and professional life are geared toward making it a unique and beautiful experience that presents the product but also takes the viewer through the inspiration. I think personal progress and growth to me is somewhat measured in how much I push myself as a designer.
For more information about Cassie's work, check out her website.
P.S. My Givenchy beauty giveaway is still on. Enter now!