Something Old, Something New

Crushing on up-and-coming designer Mani Jassal

The idea of tradition was ever present at this year’s Mass Exodus runway show. Many of the collections had a vintage feel; there was the ’50s housewife hair and summer dresses, the ’70s candy-coloured furs, and the dandy menswear. It was also the event’s 25th anniversary, and while the speakers opening the show acknowledged the prestigious past of Ryerson’s fashion program (Stacey McKenzie gave a very warm speech on her own experience with the school) there was also a lot of talk of the event’s new location in the Mattamy Athletic Centre. The change in scenery gave the event a new found sense of grandeur. Mass Ex 2013 was experiencing a similar transition to the designers: they’ve spent years steeped in fashion traditions, but now it’s time to innovate.

Mani Jassal’s collection was a perfect example of this balancing act. With some help from her seamstress mom and endless inspiration from her hero Alexander McQueen, Jassal created a line that gives a fresh face to perhaps the most traditional garment of all: the wedding dress. Luxurious and rich, with laser-cut fabrics and sequined details, the gowns have a (surprisingly) ’90s sensibility. We talked to Jassal, pictured below in Spongebob t-shirt and jorts, about her recent foray into bridal wear and the massive amount of work that went into her premier collection.

How did you dress in high school?
Completely different than the way I dress right now. I had my Air Jordans and I had the matching shoelaces. It was very sporty, very ’905.

What was the first piece of clothing you designed?
In Grade 8 we did a class project where we made an ‘innovative creation.’ I made a pink sequined dress, no shape or darts or anything, with a little pocket at the back that you could put your iPod in. It was really ugly and Spandex-y but it was one of the first things I made.

This was the first time you showed a collection, what was it like seeing your stuff go down the runway?
It was kind of surreal, because this is what we’ve been working towards since first year. Pulling all-nighters, tears, sweat, blood—literally blood because I would hit myself with needles—it’s all for this big show at the end.

What was your inspiration behind this collection?
The architecture of the Taj Mahal. The murals are reflected in the laser cutting in my collection and the fabric prints. The colours in my collection are very regal and royal as well. I also wanted to do a more modern take on South Asian bridal wear so I used leather, which is typically never used, and I used slashing techniques on it. I incorporated the more edgy stuff.

Would you say your collection is explicitly bridal wear or more formal wear?
I wanted to change my theme—don’t tell the prof—but I wanted to change it to formal wear because that better reflected my collection. But, when I talked to my prof she said I had to re-do all my research to accommodate my change in target market, so I decided to just stay with bridal wear.

But really your dream wearer would be anyone?

Exactly, if it’s your anniversary, if its your birthday, whatever you want to wear it to. It’s for anyone who wants to wear an extravagant dress.

How did you get the laser cutting done? Do you guys learn how to do that?
We don’t learn how to do it. I collaborated with a friend, she’s very good with Illustrator, and she created all the motifs for me based on my designs. I took the motifs to Toronto Laser Services and they did everything for me. Of course, I found out after everything was done that the architecture kids at Ryerson have a laser cutter.

Since we’re talking about the immense amount of work that went in to your garments, was the laser cutting time consuming or where there other elements that took a lot of work?
The laser cutting wasn’t that complicated because I wasn’t doing it, a machine was doing it. It was more complicated to apply the sequins, which I had to do by hand. I would pull an all-nighter and wouldn’t finish so I’d leave the bowl of sequins for my mom to work on when she woke up early in the morning, I wouldn’t have been able to do this collection without her. My skirts also needed to be hand hemmed so my mom did that, along with my aunt. We were allowed to contract people who could completely make everything but I just got my mom and my aunt to help me.

What was your favourite collection at Mass Ex?
It’s kind of biased to say my friends right? It would have to be Jayson Araja, who opened the show with an all white collection. And Yusun Kang, who did laser cutting as well.

Now that you’ve graduated, how do you feel about the fashion design program? Do you think it’s a good route for aspiring designers?
I definitely think so. Before I started at Ryerson I didn’t know that much about the fashion world. I was only really conscious of brands like Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton. But once you’re in design you just learn so much more. You also network so much. Now I know lots of photographers, makeup artists, and models.

So, you’re going to Paris next week. Where are you most excited to go when you get there?
The Eiffel Tower. It’s so cliché but it’s one of those little girl dreams. I’m going with Jason and Yusun for our graduation trip.

photography // Laura Tuttle
styling // Lydia Chan

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