If you’ve been reading C+H for a while, you likely know by now that I live in Alberta – land of the oft-repeated “Sure, our winter is cold, but it’s a DRY cold!”. Well, it’s April and there’s still a ton of snow in my backyard, but the sun is shining and the kids won’t stay in the house anymore. We’re spending a lot of time in the chilly spring air, and a cozy hoody is required. So… I think one of the fabulous, 100% Canadian-made Clothing Brand Experiment (CBE) hoodies belongs in my spring wardrobe – check ‘em out:
The very cool Clothing Brand Experiment hoodies are fantastic, and made entirely within the Toronto area. The fabric is milled locally, and all of the fabrication and production is completed within 50km of Elly Green’s CBE studio. I met Elly at the Vancouver OOAK show, and she was super passionate about her business – with every right. Her vision of creating a 100% locally made garment, that is high quality and still affordable, can’t have been easy to realize. There’s a reason why all those other manufacturers go overseas, but Elly is bucking that trend and we’re right there with her. The fabric is gorgeous – soft and cozy, and the fit was great when I tried one on!
CBE hoodies come in a couple of styles, but the colour combinations are what make them so fun. There’s also the option to choose your own lace for the hood, so you can spice it up a bit if you need even more colour in your life!
Now, CBE is not just about hoodies. It is a true experiment, and when you visit the site you’ll see a section in the shop for amazing “Limited T’s” with artwork by local independent business-people and artists, and the more recent BY KIDS 4 KIDS project with the kids of Regent Park.
This week, I checked in with Elly to learn a little more about CBE, her collaboration projects and to ask her to share some of her thoughts and processes with us. Read on to learn more, and be sure to visit the CBE Facebook Page and follow Elly’s Twitter feed @CBEClothing, too!
C+H: When you have 30 seconds to explain CBE to someone new, what do you tell them?
Elly Green: CBE stands for Clothing Brand Experiment, we specialize in deluxe hoodies! Everything we create is made locally within 50kms of our studio downtown Toronto – from the milling of the fabric to the printing of the hang tags. We have perfected our hoody and now also make t-shirts, sweats and various limited lines.
Why did you initially want to start CBE?
I love quality and I love consistency and I also love specific details. I was shopping for a hoody, over 3 years ago and I wanted it to include a few details and be in yellow. I looked a bunch and didn’t find it so I figured I would put my sewing skills to use and make one. I went to Fashion school for a year before dropping out and moving to Toronto to go to OCAD and I had also sewn a ton while growing up outside of Collingwood so I knew I could make the hoody I wanted. I did just that and then the compliments came in along with some custom orders from friends and then friends of friends and so on.
CBE began as a custom hoody business and I made just over 100 hoodies out of my apartment. Eventually I recognized a pattern as many customers would state the colours they were thinking they wanted and then would follow up with questioning me on what I thought would look best. With this I realized it would make much more sense to make small runs in colour combinations I liked and sell the finished hoodies, this would allow customers to try on the hoody completed instead of trying to envision what the custom order might look like finished. And so CBE began and still operates in a similar fashion making small runs each season in different colour combinations.
When you made the decision to source the entire production locally, were there obstacles to getting that done?
When CBE moved from custom orders to short runs I knew it wouldn’t be worth making anything out of fabric I purchased from a store or wholesaler if I didn’t know every detail of the fabric blend. I had made a few custom orders that ended up shrinking or piling and I was extremely frustrated to have put so much time and work into finishing the garment for the quality of fabric not to match-up to the quality of sewing. And this is when I began searching for fabric suppliers and after a few months I found a Mill just north of the city that made premium cotton blends for high-end companies across North America – I was thrilled to find it! It did take a while to find and the cost is a little higher than other options from wholesalers but the quality is well worth it.
As a very small business I was a little intimidated to approach the mill but I did and a good relationship started out and I purchased ends from them to make my first few runs. Ends for them could be up to 100 meters per colour which was plenty for me to work with. CBE now orders our own fabric blend from the mill for each line and the weight and soft feel of the fabric definitely stands out to all our customers.
Cut & sew, dyeing, pre-washing, embroidery, tags, printing and so on, where each a little easier to find in the city since there are a handful of places to go for each. CBE now works with a good mix of these other businesses to make each line. Contrary to production over seas we are with our line each step of the way and each step is done in smaller businesses that each take care of one step in the production process. We are able to deal with problems quickly and efficiently since all our production is done within 50 km of our studio, the furthest location is a 40 minute drive away.
I love the way you integrate local talents into your projects – especially with your limited t-shirt line last year and this spring with the BY KIDS 4 KIDS line. Why is this so important to you?
CBE COMMUNITY is a new wing of CBE that we have launched this past month which is geared towards partnering with local communities in the city to create limited lines or inspirational projects. This is a natural branch of CBE’s care in production – since we care about the people that make our clothing it only makes sense to care as well about the community that wears it.
CBE BY KIDS 4 KIDS is a partnership with an Art Club at Regent Park/Duke of York public school. CBE worked with the grade 5 & 6 students to teach them how to turn their drawings into screen printable two colour images and then took them on a field trip to a printing studio to see the line printed. With the sales of this line we are actually going to outfit the kids in the club with hoodies for them to have as “team gear”. So the Regent Park students may not already be CBE wearers prior to the project but they will at the end.
Right, so why is this so important? Well I could go on a social justice rant but let me boil it down – CBE is extremely concerned with what we make as well as how we make it. There are many ways to create clothing – quickly, efficiently, profitably, ethically, organically and so on but we would like to keep our focus on making things locally and experimentally which allows us to continue learning and growing in our city.
[Ed. Note: Click here to see some AMAZING videos of the creation process for the Limited T-shirt line - My favourite is the first one, called "Chia"]
What started the creative fire burning for you? Do you remember a particular moment, a favourite childhood activity, something you saw and wanted to recreate or improve upon?
I love to be busy and I am pretty hands on when it comes to my creativity. Since I was really young I have always come up with wild project ideas with entrepreneurial twists. From selling handmade bracelets to sewing wacky pants from vintage fabrics to making guitar shaped birthday cakes, I am always up to something – ideas never stop flowing through my mind. I went through school at OCAD as a sculpture major because I wanted to learn more skills to implement my ideas, there I learnt – how to build, design, paint, weld, print and most importantly risk creatively…
I am less poetic and more of a productive risk-taker. To date I often rush through my preliminary sketches and on to the next steps because I am both impatient and curious about the process and I can always envision the finished product I am making. CBE is a big leap for me because it is much more fine tuned. The Classic and Slim fit hoody patterns I worked on for months, making samples and re-drafting the patterns to perfection. Learning how to run a business involves many details beyond the actually hoodies – a lot of thought, perseverance and patient but most of all risk is need to push through the day to day and keep a business alive. I think my creativity is an outcome of the risks I take and the risks I take lead me to more creativity.
What is the best (and worst, if you’d like to share!) part about owning your own business?
CBE is going into year number four of business so it is still small and things are tough. Balancing funds and debt is tricky while maintaining creativity and time off. Yet it is amazing to have the small flexibilities of working for yourself – bringing my dogs to work with me everyday is great – determining my own business focus and values is exciting. The most important thing CBE has caused me to realize is how much more CBE is than just me. Friends, family, neighbours, customers all play a big part in what CBE was, is and will become – this collaborative reality keeps me grateful and inspired when it comes to CBE work.
What part of creating your clothing gives you the most joy and satisfaction?
I actually like to problem solve so as the surprises and challenges apart of each production come about and I think I am about to loose it, I learn something new, find a new technique, meet a new person and some how it always works out – it is a great process. I also love once a new line is finished, picked-up and in the studio and I get to pull out a brand new garment and try it on – this is satisfying every time.
Do you feel that living in Canada has influenced your work?
For sure. if I hadn’t grown up in small-town Ontario I would never had the chance to explore and become creative in the same ways. I also aim one to love the winter and snow and have made CBE hoodies beyond cozy to enjoy such Canadian weather. I also feel very fortunate to live in a country that values the arts and believes that “Canadian Made” means well made.
Who has provided you with inspiration or mentorship in terms of business or your creative journey?
I do have a business mentor who has worked many years in the clothing business and has been an amazing sounding board and motivator to conquer daunting challenges. I also am fortunate to be surrounded with many creative, intelligent and honest friends who are glad to lend a hand or begin a discussion with me on day to day CBE projects.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out as an independent creative selling their work?
You are going to need help – you can’t do it all – so be sure to surround yourself with friends, family and others that you can ask for a helping hand. And very practically – find a banker you like and get yourself a good rate line-of-credit because you can’t pay your rent with a credit card.
Do you listen to music or have another way of getting “in the zone” when you design? Do you have a favourite book or other inspiration that you turn to?
Most of my ideas come to me while doing something else, walking, driving, hanging out. I don’t actually sit down to design or create. Once I have an idea I am often wrapped up in it quite intently that I don’t always listen to music or even remember to drink water or even go to the washroom – it becomes like a marathon I am determined to finish.
I know it’s a bit like choosing a favourite child, but do you have a favourite hoody or piece that you’ve sold through CBE?
A few hoodies stand out amongst the pack to me. The Slim fit Grey and Black hoody with the Neon Yellow hood panel from Winter 08/09 was the first hoody made into a small run that I personally was very excited to wear. It was amazing to pick up that order and put on the finished hoody that had been made by others but was so much my own.
Also, the Speckled Trout Hoody was a pretty risky project, where I wondered for a moment if we had just destroyed 60+ hoodies or whether we had just created the most amazing vintage washed one-of-a-kind design – it was a very hands-on, DIY production which I believe created an amazing line.
When you’re not working on CBE, what is your favourite way to spend your time?
I love my dogs, I now have two! Theo was my first dog – I got him once I had started CBE and realized I need a buddy to remember to get outside for a break and some fresh air once and a while. I now have Sofia too and enjoy running around with them in the park. I also love to cook and bike and enjoy a dark americano.
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Note: All images courtesy of CBE.
Oh my. If you love shoes, have I got the indulgence of a lifetime for you. Forget the Manolos or Jimmy Choo’s… how about custom, hand-painted, made-to-order super-swank stilettos?!
Welcome to the world of Vancouver’s Cocopunkz. Just feast your eyes on these:
Ada Fu and Miranda Pang love shoes and love to paint, and the combination of their creative talents is pretty spectacular. They have a selection available on their website (specific sizes and paint treatments) but the part that intrigues me the most is the custom option – send them your shoes, give them a theme to run with and voilà, you have a one-of-a-kind shoe to knock ‘em dead with.
Seriously gorgeous, these yellow tapered heels are called “Ink Flared”. I’m seeing a night out on the town, little black dress, and these. Who needs jewellery when you’re wearing shoes this freakin’ fabulous?!
We use so many little things in our daily lives without even thinking about them. But how much fun is it when something useful can be beautiful and even have some special meaning to you? That’s why I love these coasters from Jonathon Wayne Design. They have an old-school vintage feel, with plenty of opportunity to customize a set that really speaks to your personality. You could capture the soundtrack to a special time in your life, or have a daily reminder of that incredible road trip with your best friend as you sip your morning coffee.
Encyclopedia and Dictionary themed coasters could protect your tables while you are doing the Sunday crossword, reading a favorite novel, or engaging in a spirited game of Scrabble… (on that note, how DOES my husband get 62 points from the word “spell”… How??!!?)
John is a full-time student, activist, and artist, based in Winnipeg. His coasters have a cork backing, and he is always open to custom orders and special requests. Check out his Etsy shop for more details (and the scoop on whether or not he was really named after *that* John Wayne…)
Here’s hoping we can all infuse a little bit of individual flair into our daily lives!
I discovered NeededWanted a little while ago, and fell in love with the idea of Megan’s custom neighbourhood street maps. Honestly, how fun to have your own local world to play with your cars and build Lego villages around?!
The NeededWanted play maps come in 3 sizes, with streets the perfect width for matchbox cars and hours of enjoyment. Now, as I investigated further, I realized there was much more to Megan and her products – there are also little custom-knitted monster critters, as well as her adorable little village pieces made out of cardboard and perfect for any kid to make their own!
I love the little Starter Home, and that it requires no glue/staples/adhesive of any kind. Your child can decorate however they’d like, play with it, then fold it up and put it away until next time! Beautifully simple.
Also? The little monster guy? Perfectly sized to live inside the Starter Home, or the Bungalow or the Barn that are also available!
Needless to say, I was intrigued so I contacted Megan and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us, to give us a little more insight into her product and her process.
Canadian+Handmade: What does the name of your site, NeededWanted, mean for you?
NeededWanted: If something is both needed and wanted it is often loved in return.
NW: My husband is always my sounding board whether he realizes it or not. I don’t think that he is always listening to every detail that I tell him nor do I think that he needs to. Sometimes you need is to say your thoughts out loud to get the ball rolling or to find a solution to a problem.
I am having a bit of fun getting ready for Easter this year. Now that my daughter is old enough to have a little egg hunt, there is something a little more exciting about the whole experience! We already have some colourful plastic eggs to “hide”, a basket for her to gather them in, and she will probably even get a little treat or toy to play with. She is still a bit too young for much chocolate or candy, but that just means more for Mom and Dad, right? In fact, this year I think the Easter Bunny may go all out, and leave a few treats from Charlinda Belgian Chocolates when he/she hops on by!
But chocolate shouldn’t only be an Easter treat, it’s so versatile that it can be perfect for any occasion or no occasion at all!
Perhaps there is an upcoming wedding or baby shower that could use some decor that doubles as a small gift or an extra desert…
Charlinda is a mother-daughter team from Stoufville Ontario, and they use an old family recipe that has stood the test of time. They have mouthwatering almond bark, truffles, chocolate cherries, and chocolate in multitude of shapes and designs. There’s even a 3D canoe filled with maritime goodies, and I really like this sleek sailboat:
The ladies can make almost anything your heart desires, and custom work is welcome. Weddings, trade shows and other events can have a little something extra that won’t end up gathering dust on someone’s shelf, or in next year’s garage sale! Contact them for more details, or visit the website to see what is available.
Wishing you and yours a day filled with sweetness,
Monday was a big day for some very dear friends of mine. They welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their lives, and she has since stolen everyone’s hearts! (Funny how babies can do that so fast… You just can’t fight those eyes, and the adorable little fingers and toes). So I have had “baby girl brain” all week, and thus have stumbled upon Little Jumping Beans. They have the sweetest little shoes, bibs, and crib sheets, all in fabulous fabrics that any fashionable new parent will love.
Jaimie is a mom of two who has a soft spot for pretty fabric and hollywood gossip. She sews all of her creations in her Calgary home.
As an extra bonus, 10% of sales are donated to a different charity every month! I love it when you can shop and do good things for the world at the same time. Visit the Little Jumping Beans Etsy shop for more great stuff, or drop by Facebook and say Hi!
Celebrating the sweetness of new life,
It’s the quintessential fathers’ day gift, and a Christmas time staple. The tie. Almost every man has a selection to choose from, but lets be honest, most of the time they are just like every other tie out there. Bo-ring. So why not shake it up a little and get your husband, father, son, or even your boss, wrapped up in some handmade style. Nadine De Lange is an Ottawa artist who creates these fabulous marble effect hand painted silk ties.
Have an upcoming wedding that needs a splash of unique style? Nadine can hook the entire bridal party up with some one of a kind dapper duds. Take these cumberbund and bowtie combos, for example:
Nadine’s work is done in batches, with a very cool “floating paint” technique that gives her pieces great dimension. You can see the whole process, step by step, right here on her website.
Custom work is available, and Nadine prides herself on 100% customer satisfaction. Visit her website to see the whole range of colours and styles, from demure to dramatic!
Have a great day everyone,
It may feel that April Showers and May Flowers are still light years away, but the truth is that Easter (and all it’s Spring-y goodness) will be here in just a few short weeks. So I can’t hold out any longer, I just have to tell you about So Jeo and her stunning Pysanky. I discovered her gorgeous traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs last summer, and wanted to share them with you at just the right time. Folks, that time is now… Feast your eyes on the fabulous colours and intricate patterns, all designed and created by hand using traditional techniques.
The images are built up by using alternating layers of carefully applied hot beeswax and dipping the egg in various shades of dyes. Then the wax is melted away, leaving only the lovely designs to be admired and treasured for generations.
So Jeo even works with teeny tiny delicate finch eggs to create lovely Pysanky jewelry pieces as well. Once they are sealed and covered with a clear polymer finish, they are durable and strong enough to wear without fear of damaging them.
So Jeo is a self-taught Pysanky artist, who imagines the egg as her canvas, and is inspired by the natural elements around her Nova Scotia home. She even welcomes commissions, so if you have a vision for something you would like to see, she will do her best to make it a reality. You can see what she has to offer on her Etsy shop, or visit her website for a stunning gallery and to learn more about the traditional art of Pysanky. You can also join her on Facebook or Twitter.
How Egg-ceptional! (ouch… sorry!)
For folks in some parts of the country, yesterday was Family Day. It’s a holiday where we are encouraged to celebrate our families and those we hold dear. At my house we had a sleepy morning full of toddler belly laughs, then an afternoon of noisy and crafty fun with the in-laws, and a turkey dinner feast to top it all off. It was pretty nice, I must say!
One of the crafty projects that my mother in law had prepared were wooden plaques which we decorated with things like “Home Sweet Home” and our last names. It was a fun project and captured the spirit of the day. While my painting skills left something to be desired (ok, a LOT to be desired), I still think our little name plaque is something special. So of course I came home and went online to see what kind of spin someone with much more talent than myself could put on a similar project. I was not to be disappointed when I immediately found The Snowshoe Loft. These rustic and beautiful wood-burned signs are a lovely way to put your name on any space, be it a cabin, cottage, or even just a favorite room.
Coral is a hawaii-born creative type who fell in love with winter and fall when her family moved to Canada. She is currently an urban woman, but dreams of a cabin in the woods, surrounded by nature’s beauty. She burns all her signs by hand, without using any stencils or machines, under the watchful eye of her wiener dog named Walnut.
I also really like these pretty little woodland animal blocks. They would be great mixed in among family photos on a mantle or shelf!
You may not be encouraged to carve your initials in a tree these days, but Coral’s signs send the same warm and enduring statement of love, and are way more portable than a huge tree! Or they can even be used as directional signs to an intimate outdoor wedding.
If you want to see more, or to order your very own custom sign, visit The Snowshoe Loft’s Etsy shop. While you are there, make sure you browse around, and see if you can find a picture of the adorable Walnut!
From my family to yours, have a wonderful day!
A good bag or purse can be more than just a way of carrying around all those little items that a woman needs to have nearby at all times. It can be portable art or a hand-held billboard to showcase your style and mood. Also: it’s just really fun to have a selection of fabulous bags to pick from at any time! The ones catching my eye lately are these colourful clutches from Kimberly Jones Designs. I am already picturing the outfits that would be perfectly accented by some of these great pieces!
Not only is there an incredible selection of clutches to choose from, there are even sweet little coin purses and eyeglass cases. It is so much fun to browse through all the great pieces, I just wish I could take them all home! I guess I would need a bigger closet though…
Kimberly will gladly do custom orders, so if you have something you have been trying to find, just ask! If you are getting married this summer, how great would these be in your bridal colours as a bridesmaid’s gift? Or maybe someone you know is graduating or embarking on a new career, and the perfect clutch could be just the confidence booster they need to take the working world by storm. Or maybe, like me, you just want something new and great, for no other reason than to admire it’s beauty.
Want to see more? The Etsy shop has everything your little heart could desire. Now, if I could just get that walk-in closet I’ve been dreaming about!