In our monthly #WCW Interview Series, we ask boss ladies within our community about their career paths, how they found their passions and for any advice they would give to aspiring boss ladies. Interested in being featured as a Boss Lady or have someone you want to nominate? Let us know!
This interview features Genia Evelina De Marco, who is a slow fashion designer and Founder of Genia Evelina the Label. The path of becoming a fashion designer wasn't always in the books for Genia, instead her passion and love for fashion was something she discovered accidentally. Read on to learn how her interest for fashion came to be, the initial misconception she had about the industry, and the journey which eventually led her to launching her own conscious-friendly label.
Can you start off by introducing yourself and sharing your story with us? What got you interested in fashion? When did you decide or realize this is the career for you?
My name is Genia Evelina De Marco, I’m a slow fashion designer based in Montreal, Quebec. My work is heavily influenced by different forms of storytelling and artisanal practices, this comes from my background in Theatre Design. I was always really interested in mythology, learning about the history of styles whether it was architectural, interior or clothing and creating worlds by appealing to our five senses.
I got into fashion sort of by accident. I graduated from a specialized trade program as a costume and scenic designer and went on to work for independent theatre companies around Montreal. After a few years I wanted to further my sewing education and the only real option was fashion school. I used to think it was a very superficial industry and I really wanted to be an artist. But I enrolled, didn’t love it, dropped out, took a year off, realized I had actually learnt a lot from my pattern-making teacher and re-enrolled the following year. I had no idea how creative I could be in this field, and that it would feel especially fulfilling to see someone wearing my clothing in an everyday setting. By the time I graduated fashion school I knew this was my path.
"I had no idea how creative I could be in this field, and that it would feel especially fulfilling to see someone wearing my clothing in an everyday setting. By the time I graduated fashion school I knew this was my path."
I see that you studied and graduated from Theatre Design at John Abbott College and Fashion Design at LaSalle College. What are some things you learnt that you continue to bring with you even today?
The Theatre program at John Abbott College has the most talented and amazing teachers, they hold a very special place in my heart. This was where I grew into myself and learned what I was truly capable of accomplishing. Every production meant researching different time periods, cultures, aesthetics and most importantly new hard skills in a very short period of time. Understanding that every technique was transferable to the next project. The actual skill of learning and adapting to be creative within parameters is what I’ve taken with me. As for my fashion design education at LaSalle College, the focus was a lot more on the production process and it helped refine my technical skills. I’m extremely happy to have had both experiences.
Have you interned or worked with any fashion brands or labels prior to starting your own clothing brand? What was the experience like and did it inspire you to want to create your own brand in the future?
Yes, I interned and worked for a few Canadian brands knowing I wanted to start my own in the future. My first internship was with Matière Noire, a Montreal ready-to-wear label that focused on sustainable design - before sustainability became a buzzword. I did the technical workshop drawings and sketches for that season. I really loved how the brand emphasized craftsmanship and incorporated local hand woven textiles.
Then I interned for this great designer in Toronto, Tala Kamea. She had her studio in the back of a vintage store in Kensington Market. I fell in love with her work and asked if she needed an assistant. I did her technicals as well, odd jobs in the studio and had the opportunity to assist during the photoshoot for her fall/winter lookbook.
After I graduated from LaSalle, I was offered a job working as the Studio Coordinator for Atelier UNTTLD here in Montreal. They are a high end contemporary womenswear brand designed by the two most talented and kind hearted humans. I learned so much from these guys about how to run a studio and a business. If I didn’t have this desire to be a designer and entrepreneur, I would have continued working for them.
How did your clothing brand, Genia Evelina the Label, start? What makes your clothing unique and different from other brands?
In the summer of 2018, LaSalle College was looking to showcase recent graduates at Fashion Preview, a Montreal fashion show that occurs twice a year. I applied and was accepted, I basically had a month to put something together. Since then I’ve shown with Fashion Preview 2 more times as an invited designer, and have launched 4 mini collections.
Genia Evelina is an ethical womenswear label embodying a soft romantic aesthetic. With the purpose to empower and inspire women by creating pieces that hold emotional value. Offering garments in feminine style lines and beautiful natural colorways, I work primarily with natural organic fibers such as peace silk, hemp and cotton. I order these fabrics unbleached, undyed and then naturally hand dye them myself. I also locally source deadstock fabrics to incorporate prints and texture to complete the narrative of the collection. Every garment is made-to-order in Montreal with hopes to expand and sell in boutiques around the country.
I see you have created four clothing lines since Fall 2017-18. Is there a particular story or inspiration that sparked your creativity process behind each line?
SS19 entitled ‘These Flowers Bloom for You’ was inspired by Demeter, the goddess of harvest, as an offering to the strong women in my life by recognizing there is strength in softness.
SS20 entitled ‘Love Grows in Your Garden’ was an homage to my southern Italian heritage, reflecting on how I identify as being second generation. Thinking of my grandparents gardens as a symbol of our family roots.
Can you tell me more about your most recent clothing line “Heirloom”? Were there any challenges that you faced when creating this line?I’m really happy with this new collection. I named it ‘Heirloom’ because I believe we should be cherishing our garments and choosing pieces we know we’ll love for our life. It’s a collection of core styles that I’ve been working on since I launched the brand, divided into multiple drops that will span the year. There were some challenges, yes. Mostly with deciding to let go of producing seasonal Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer collections to favor the season-less model.
"I named it ‘Heirloom’ because I believe we should be cherishing our garments and choosing pieces we know we’ll love for our life."
What is your favourite (or go-to) piece from the “Heirloom” collection?
Is there anything you wish you knew before starting your own fashion label or during your fashion school / design journey? What is the number one advice you would like to share with young women who are interested in pursuing fashion as a career or starting their own clothing brand?
I maybe would have liked to take a business and marketing class, but my path is my own and I’m learning as I go. If this is truly what you want for yourself, don’t give up. It’s going to be difficult and you’re going to second guess everything, but learn to identify what you don’t know and either educate yourself or find outside resources.
"If this is truly what you want for yourself, don’t give up. It’s going to be difficult and you’re going to second guess everything, but learn to identify what you don’t know and either educate yourself or find outside resources."
What is next for Genia Evelina the Label? Is there anything else you would like to share?
The second ‘Heirloom’ drop featuring limited deadstock fabrics is coming up around the holidays. Along with a couple of collaborations with some of my favorite local artists/designers.