My name is Mani Jassal and I'm a fashion designer. I started up my own brand about 4 years ago. I had just graduated from Ryerson’s fashion design program and I couldn’t find a job in the fashion industry. From that, it just so happened that I fell upon starting my own thing. I started with one order which lead to another and it was kind of a domino effect after that.
I have always wanted to be a designer since I was like 13. So for me, when I started designing, I always thought I would be doing evening wear and red carpet; nothing remotely close to Indian. But in my 4th year at Ryerson I did a final thesis collection and I kind of did this experimental non-traditional Indian collection and it got really good feedback from that. And a lot of girls from our generation resonated with the clothing and said something like this was missing from the market already. What was available was very traditional and overtly beaded and fancy. And I did this collection where I kind of meshed both worlds into one.
The clothes I do are evening wear, heavily inspired by my heritage and roots and also has a mixture of my Canadian upbringing. I moved here with my family when I was 5 from India. My parents are Punjabi. I was brought up with these two worlds. You would go to school and you have to be this Canadian person and you come home and you're completely Indian. It was always trying to find a balance between these two worlds, and I think through my clothing I am able to do that.
"I think being Canadian has shaped me as a designer. My clothes are a mesh of my Canadian and Indian upbringing. They are a reflection of me."
My Mom was a seamstress in India, so when she moved here that is what she started doing. So she was sewing from home, had lots of clients and did traditional Indian clothing. I grew up watching my Mom sewing these garments. I would get inspired by my Mom doing this and I would take left over fabrics and ask her make dresses for my Barbies. Seeing her do it made me want to continue it as well. She’s so supportive. She’s actually my production manager, so she actually helps out in studio to make sure everyone is doing what they're supposed to do. It has become a family business.
I travel a lot, whether its for work or for fun. So whenever someone asks where I’m from I’m so proud to say that I'm Canadian and that I'm from Toronto. I feel like everyone in the world knows Canadians for being really nice people, and to be part of that is really amazing. I think the fact that Canada is so diverse is so beneficial. You can be friends with so many people from all over the world, everyone speaks multiple languages. It makes life more exciting, and you experience more.
The future of Canadians – I feel like Canada is such an underdog, whether it be there creative industries, fashion or art, there is so much talent here that I feel goes unrecognized. I aspire to be someone who brings light to that. I make sure everyone knows that I'm a Canadian designer from Toronto. Because I feel it's important to build us up because we have so much talent that has to be recognized.