Jihan Victoria is a truly wonderful human being. She has an endless surplus of black clothing and a curious ability to constantly make strange faces—particularly in photographs. She was born in the Philippines, and she loves ramen and small animals. She has never kept a pet, she admits, because she’d probably end up feeding it food from her own diet: fried chicken and Japanese milk tea. She is almost otherworldly. But perhaps the most intriguing thing about Ji Han is her talent.
Three years ago, Jihan started noticing the clothing she loved was too expensive and poorly made. Purely for practical reasons, she started to play around with sewing, buying articles of clothing from thrift shops and turning them into new items or altering them to fit better. Today, Jihan single-handedly runs Hedj, a Toronto-based accessory line she designs, creates, markets, and sells all on her own. She sews each bag from scratch with materials she chooses and purchases herself from local shops, even adding custom elements for buyers. Jihan makes incredible, high quality bags at prices people she knows can actually afford.
So, why the name Hedj?
I just really like hedgehogs. I used to have a hedgehog logo but I dropped it… It could make a comeback, though.
Where do you get your fabrics? You have such a cohesive look throughout all your bags: what is your process when choosing materials?
All my wool is bought on Queen Street West here in Toronto. Until recently, I’ve only bought material from there. However, I did start ordering American canvas from Fairfield Textiles because I couldn’t find canvas that was as good or thick as I wanted. My fabric selection is pretty simple: I just go by the colour scheme I want. Because I’m buying most of my fabrics on Queen West, as opposed to thinking of the fabric I want and ordering it from an actual supplier or producers, I make do with what they have. I go to the fabric stores with a palette in mind and I look for fabric. I never get the exact fabric that I want, so my selection gets modified in the process.
What would your dream outfit look like?
Well, a Hedj bag (obviously), probably with Comme des Garçons drop-crotch pants, a Yamamoto slouchy fedora, a long-line shirt of some sort (long!), black Comme des Garçons patchwork shoes, and a Watanabe blazer if it’s cold. Oh, and a pair of weird, outrageous socks to top it all off.
I heard you also write poetry. Any other secret talents?
I wouldn’t really call that a talent: it’s more of a habit I used to practice. I like to try a lot of things. If I am good at one of my endeavours, I do not feel comfortable calling it my talent. I can’t objectively judge something I do or make. If I am talented at something, I leave it to other people to say it; it’s not my place to do so. (That said, the one thing that I know for certain I’m good at is not something most people would consider a talent. I burp. Really loudly and at will. I can do the full ABC’s in burps. I don’t know anyone else who can actually do that.)
What books are you reading right now?
Pattern Drafting, Pattern Magic, and a book on shirt making. I’m very practical.
What is your view on clothing and people who wear it? Is clothing there to serve the people, or vice versa?
For me clothing is a form of self expression, and it is an extension of the self—whether or not the person wearing it is conscious of it. It should be there to serve people, never the other way around. At the end of the day, clothing in itself is just fabric. So many things are wrong with the world because of this subordination of people to material things, but I digress. Even in its most elevated form, “high fashion” (whatever that is) is still there to serve as the designers’ medium for expression. That said, I appreciate it more now because I have tried (and failed) to make my own clothing. It made me conscious of the craft and artistry that goes into clothing, and as a wearer I do desire to be someone who actively interacts with what they wear. Yes, clothing is there to enhance the person, but it’s up to the person to actively collaborate with it and make it work.
Where do you make your bags?
I make everything in my apartment. I have four sewing machines there: one for delicate sewing, one for embroidery, another for seams, and an industrial machine for leather and heavy canvas. I’ve had to stop having people over to my apartment: it’s not dirty, there’s just so much stuff everywhere. I’d really love to have a workshop of my own, ideally a shared space with other people and a store space at the front.
Who buys your bags? Anyone interesting? Do you see people out wearing them?
Quite an eclectic mix. A lot of my local sales are from people within my social circle, but I’ve a got quite a range, from vintage store owners, to baristas, to local musicians. I don’t know who the people are who bought my bags when I was selling in stores, but I have my friends spying and texting me when they spot a Hedj bag. I’ve heard some interesting descriptions of people who have bought them. I do have an international “clientele” that I’m able to look up because of Etsy information and Google (I don’t know if i should be revealing this). As with my local sales, I like that there’s a good variation. I’ve had a German artist and a New York architect buy my bags. I also had a buyer who is a Harvard Law professor, which is surprising, but nice.
Want to get your hands on a Hedj bag of your own? A one of a kind hand made leather messenger (like this one) in a special edition colour could be yours by next Wednesday! Simply share this post on Facebook or twitter and tag WORN to be entered in the draw. Winner will be randomly chosen the morning of Wednesday August 28th, exactly one week from today.
photography // Danelle Jane Tran