Before we jump into the questions, please introduce yourself.
Hi, I’m Connally and I run a size-inclusive, sustainable clothing line in Vancouver, Canada. I’d studied design in England, but it was clear that size inclusion wasn’t important to Central Saint Martins. As such, I left the program to work directly in the industry, working with a silk merchant and as a custom tailor, which allowed for much more real-life application of the skills that I’d taught myself. After moving around several countries (and continents!) with my adventurous parents and later on my own, I returned to Vancouver when I was 26. From there, I worked for other labels, and lastly for a mass-scale clothing distributor.
It was a struggle, both for my mental and physical health, as I am diagnosed with chronic anxiety, depression and Borderline Personality Disorder, but the pay was decent and it was teaching me a lot about what NOT to do ethically or environmentally.
In 2018, I fell and fractured my skull, resulting in more permanent disabilities, which caused me to step back, stop all work, and think about what it means to run a sustainable business. I mean that not just from an environmental standpoint, but also, what can we physically, financially, ethically, AND ecologically shift to make things truly sustainable from all facets. Now, four years into recovery, I’ve regained 60% of my hearing, and have a wonderful doctor who specializes in neurology and occupational therapy for my hands, which both have De Quervains Tenosynovitis after years of sewing. For me, sustainability is a whole-body, whole-business, whole-life practice, ever evolving and growing.
1. What makes a garment sustainable? Sustainability has moved so far from the collectively beige connotations that “ecofashion” carried for many years. Now we see new water and plant based dyes, all sorts of new technical fabrics, and it has become more confusing for people to discern what that term means. A sustainable garment needs to answer: how, where and who processed the fibres? Same goes for the fabric–does it have synthetic fibres, or will it naturally biodegrade in our lifetime? Also, for the design itself–do the pattern pieces create excess waste? Can the styles be easily tailored or modified as our bodies naturally shift? Does the shop you bought it from use plastic packaging? Do they pay their employees LIVING wages? Sustainability has too many tangents to be summed up in a word or phrase, so I encourage folks to ask these questions both to themselves, and to the companies they shop from.
2. Why does size inclusivity matter to you? Size inclusion, as with ethical and ecological standards, is simply the most basic component to making a good design. Yes, there will always be styles and cuts of garments that better suit some bodies, and other styles will suit other bodies…however, I would almost describe those as wearable art. Clothing is a necessity, a human need, and so for any product or garment design, it must be engineered for universal use. If it isn’t size inclusive or functional for diverse bodies, it isn’t a good design yet. That doesn’t mean garments won’t need alterations for individual shapes, but when you design with style and seam lines that allow for easy modification, there is no reason to not offer sizing beyond 5X.
I live in a very privileged body, so it’s important to have team members informing the process with their lived experience in marginalized bodies (Check out the Seam Team page on the website!). Inclusion means putting action behind intention, and fair compensation and representation. Fatphobia gallops through every industry, but we have the opportunity and responsibility to shift the narrative and truly make clothing for everyBODY. It’s not revolutionary; it’s the barest minimum.
3. What piece are you most proud of in your collection and why? Tough question! I’m truly in love with every piece, as I don’t design around trends, but the Ramona Trousers have been a runaway hit. Part of why I love them is that they are designed to easily be modified, not just in flat pattern making, but in three-dimensional, dynamic pattern grading. The Raw Denim has quickly become a cult favourite, if it’s possible to do that within a year, but we are revisiting the design with tencel twill, a much drapier fabric. Also, based on feedback from the community, we’ve slightly tweaked the design for more range of motion through the thighs, seat and crotch, and also are adding a third inseam length option, so folks can choose between: Standard/.Crop, Long, and Longer! 24″, 28″ and 32″ inseam lengths respectively.
Ooh, and a tie would have to be with the Bradley Shoes, which have been proven staple pieces, and also because we can offer them completely made to measure, and in gender-affirming sizes. I work closely with my friend and partner in Bali, Pipit, who works with her sisters and the local community to produce them using farm hides, so nothing goes to waste, and the families are paid Canadian wages, which goes further to support them. No dodgy work conditions, no sketchy communication, everything transparent and now that we’ve been working together for over 2 years, we’ve built a friendship with other artisans in Pipit’s village, and are working on providing additional opportunities.
You can shop the Connally Mcdougall collection here and find them on Instagram @connallymcdougall.