Arts & Culture Features

Socially responsible fashion line launches out of Sackville

In the cozy light of her home studio, Jeska Grue has been hard at work handcrafting her first clothing line. “Small, considerate [and] contemplative” are a few words Grue used to describe the project that draws inspiration from her education, life experiences and community.

Grue is currently working under a provincial grant available to unemployed entrepreneurs with the skills and aspiration to achieve self-employment.

“I have always been interested in fashion and social justice,” Grue said. “From early on…I really liked the idea of doing exactly what I’m doing right now.”

Having completed degrees in equity and costume studies, Grue has combined both subjects in her process and product.

“There are quite a few things I have been intentional about through the whole process,” Grue said. “I’m not paying attention to seasons…it forces me to look at design as something that people will like five years from now, [even] 10 years from now.”

A self-proclaimed “avid thrift-shopper,” Grue finds value in garments that transcend time and escape fashion trends that perpetuate consumerism.

“What really drew me to costume studies was the desire to be self-sufficient…[and the idea] that I could cut myself off from the consumer loop,” she said.

Grue sewing in her home studio. Ryan macrae/argosy
Grue sewing in her home studio. Ryan macrae/argosy

Grue’s intentions extend to the environmentally and labour-conscious materials she works with. However, “due to textile certification [and] label making, it’s much easier to ensure textiles are sustainably produced than strict labour codes [are followed]. Fair-trade [labelling] is rare to nonexistent in textiles right now,” she said.

Many of her materials are sourced from Canadian companies. The Indian company from which she orders provides “clear information on environmental [impact] and labour in their production,” Grue said. Local natural dyes, such as goldenrod, she forages herself – a process you can sometimes watch in Grue’s daily updated Instagram story.

Instagram has played an important for Grue in her ongoing project.

“Over the past five years, there have been a lot of other [people], primarily women, doing a similar thing [as me] across the United States, Canada [and] Australia. Because of Instagram you can see what they’re doing and it almost becomes a supportive network of women with small companies,” she said.

Grue has found support, inspiration and opportunity for collaboration in Sackville. The industrial seamstress took to Facebook when brainstorming a label design. She is also creating a pattern using old train anchors gathered from the Sackville railroad track. When you purchase a garment from Grue, it comes with a print by local artist Rachel Thornton.

“Where I’m from is always implied in what I’m doing. Even the look book and photos on the website are shot in regional settings around town,” Grue said. “I wouldn’t be doing this without the community that I have here. If I were in a different community, [my line] would look different because I’d be influenced by that community.”

Grue was raised in rural Nova Scotia, where a factory producing handmade wooden chairs employed many of the town’s people. When the factory burnt down and was unable to be rebuilt due to lack of governmental support, “80 people lost their jobs, which was everybody, including my own family,” Grue said.

On her website (jeskagrue.ca) Grue wrote, “this project draws on what was, what wasn’t able to continue and the dismay that lingered within a community during [my] childhood.”

Grue plans on adding to her collection while remaining self-sufficient.

“I would like to keep self-manufacturing. I like the idea of the return of a [handcraft] industry in Atlantic Canada, and Canada in general.”

To support Grue’s community-based project, visit jeskagrue.ca and enter the promotional code “Argosy” for 20 per cent off your purchase this week.