Behind The Scenes With Designer Connally McDougall

By Marilyn R. Wilson

What drew you to become a fashion designer?

I've been fascinated with textiles and different cultural traditional clothing since I was a child and living abroad. I love how fashion design can take those elements, along with other inspiration like nature and architecture and turn them into a current reflection of the zeitgeist.

Why was it important to you to offer a sustainable, responsible, Eco fashion line and how do you incorporate ideals such a Zero Waste into your work? 

The fact is that our planet is choking on our garbage and if we don't globally change the way we design and manufacture, we are adding to the problem. Using natural and recycled fabrics that are sourced in North America is just the start. Incorporating zero waste into production is essential; we have to start looking at our offcuts. What happens with the fabric that gets selvaged, the miles of thread that we snip off? For my production, everything that isn't a part of the finished piece still gets used. Whether it's turning it into an accessory or, in terms of the thread and scraps, they are all saved to use as filling for the floor cushions that clients have ordered.

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In my view, to do something excellent means to make it excellent in every regard:

For the design--is it flattering for more than one body type and age? Is it innovative?

For the materials--are they made in a way that is sustainable both ecologically and ethically?

For the production--is it local? Is it made in studio?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, then for my brand, it's not excellent.

Where do your find inspiration for new work?

It's sounds silly but it truly is in everything: the shape of a cactus, silhouettes of boats on the horizon, your aunt's dusty shoe collection. I like pairing traditional sewing techniques and textural elements with clean lines and geometry.

What materials do you work with – organic, reclaimed, etc.?

I work with a variety of organic cottons, reclaimed upholstery materials, faux leather and hand dyed fabrics. My metal fixtures are locally sourced.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an sustainable designer? 

The biggest challenge is finding the balance where I don't become my own sweatshop labour. Taking dedicated time to be with my loved ones, and taking time to be by myself without working or thinking about the brand has been a challenge. But it's a challenge that I'm thankful for, as it braces me for the growth that the future brings.

How do you help customers understand the higher cost of sustainable garments when they are so inundated with sweat shop-produced cheap merchandise?

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The goal is to change the consumer mindset from "more for cheap is better!" to the basic common sense that you get what you pay for. We need to demand transparency. If H&M had a live feed of the factory workers' lives instead of ads, maybe customers would think twice. How many people were involved in getting those garments to you? More people than dollars in price, I guarantee you that. We have to demand better.

What can we look forward to seeing on the runway at Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) 2017?

You can expect a variety of women's and unisex fashion along with my latest collection of faux leather bags.

How do you incorporate sustainable living in other areas of your life?

I've been a vegetarian for 13 years, and am known to sort other people's recycling... but apart from that, I choose not to drive, and cycle or use public transit, shop at my independent organic grocer's and farmer's markets and use recycled paper products in the home and for design purposes.

Anything else you would like readers to know?

I'm so excited and thankful to have the opportunity to show my work in Australia and for all the individuals who have gone out of their way to make it possible. As my way to pay it forward, I am committed to contributing 10% of profits to community charities and wildlife conservation. 2017's charity is the Help Change My City Foundation, providing workshops and funding for youth in BC and 2018's will be Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an organization dedicated to marine wildlife conservation.

Links

Website - www.connallymcdougall.com

Facebook - www.facebook.com/connallymcdougalldesign

Instagram - @connallymcd