Do What You Love: Weezi

weezi studio
Tell me how and when everything started.
I was 6 years old when my Granny taught me how to sew. I was allowed to use a sewing machine when I was 8 and that day my world changed. My first piece of clothing was a pull over blouse I made for a brownie badge and the rest, as they say, is history. All thru high school I was sewing my own clothes and combining them with vintage pieces from the 50 & 60s. My goal was to never wear the same outfit twice and to garnish as many (weird) looks as possible. Mission accomplished.

All the encouragement from my Granny & my Mum thru those formative years really helped to create the philosophies & beliefs about personal style and fashion that I hold dear today.

I eventually calmed things down a bit and become a regularly member of society and dressed more to have fun and look good rather then shock value. This is where my firm belief in dressing for your body type & not being a slave to trends kicked in.

As a tinier gal (who let’s say for argument’s sake is 5 feet tall) I learned early on that I had to dress to suit my body and height “restrictions”. Trying to replicate what I saw in magazines & in videos often resulted in disaster. After hours of agonizing in dressing rooms b/c I couldn’t make things look the same on me as they did on the mannequin it became apparent that it would be important to be sensitive to all body types. As a very young designer I needed to embrace all types of shapes and sizes.
polka dots dress
I wanted to create things that looked good on many shapes and sizes, not just one model stereotype that left most of us feeling poorly about ourselves. While studying fit analysis and learning from the silhouettes thru out history of fashion it became clear that I wanted to create clothing with a vintage twist because I adored how those clothes fit a women’s body. The vintage style really complimented curves and was very flattering on so many body types.

I loved how it looked on me so why not make these fit theories & practices applicable to the gals I wanted to sell to. If they were going to be wearing a Weezi dress it was important to me that it enhanced all attributes and embrace the curves and femininity that makes us unique.

I certainly don’t think everyone should dress all crazy and get sent home from work (ok, maybe just once) but I do believe very deeply in dressing to express yourself. Cliché as it sounds I believe that women should dress in a manner that they are comfortable in and really tells the world a little about them. Clothing should be fun and make us feel good no matter what shape or size. It is about that twirl you do when you put on your kicky skirt that makes you feel good in. I have been telling people this since I was 8.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a business owner?
I had an ice tea stand when I was 12 at one of my Mum & Dad’s many garage sales. My BFF and I made $7.00 and I felt like a super star. I was rich! I had made all this money on my own and to top it all off here was no one to tell us what to do. The seed had indeed been planted.

Having said that, there wasn’t a definitive light bulb moment as an adult. However, I am a wee bit of an “A type” personality and it became apparent during many part time jobs that I wasn’t good with authority and would be wise to look at alternative form of employment. Hahahah!!!

While going thru the fashion design program I was aware that I wasn’t going to some big company and get hired on as a designer. There wasn’t that much industry left in Canada and I knew that I didn’t want to be involved in a factory setting. I was eager to do my own thing but was terrified of the “business” part of things. Yikes. I wasn’t a business-ey type. I was the artsy fartsy type.

I was encouraged by reading the biographies of Mary Quant, Chanel and Edith Head and also during the time I was in college I would make trips to Toronto and head for Queen St. West. That was where all the cool, artsy hip people hung out. It was THE place to be. I would go into all the indie boutiques there and dream about doing this for myself. I wanted to be cool and have all this artist freedom and make fabulous clothing. It was all very alluring and made a huge impression on a young design student.

One defining moment that gave me to the courage to really work towards becoming a business owner happened just before I graduated. During the late 80’s there was a Canadian success story called Ketttle Kreek whose home base was 40 minutes from here. They were in VOGUE! I was amazed. Almost no one from Canada except Linda Evangelista was in Vogue. They had graduated from the same college that I was about to and they were world famous! It didn’t seem so outrageous that I could do something like that too.

I have been very fortunate thru my journey to have so many wonderful people help me to become a business owner. Many things seemed to fall into place in a very serendipitous manner that led me to believe it was fate pushing me along. I have never been in Vogue and but I have been truly blessed to have such great influences and mentors along the way.
weezi studio 2
Where do you get your inspiration for your shop?
Ohhh, vintage for sure! I am in LUV with everything from the 20s to the 60s. My favorite decade is the 1950s and the 50s has always influenced me.

I find so much inspiration from online vintage sites and shops. I follow many fabulous blogs who inspire me with their own spin on vintage styles and looks. I love reading the biographies of old school designers and movie stars. I often do searches for vintage photos to really get a sense of day-to-day looks from just regular people as opposed to vintage magazines. I have a huge collection of vintage patterns that I mix and match within my own design process.

What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
The big things are love what you do and be adaptable. First thing, this will consume your life. You really need to enjoy what you are doing b/c you will be doing it 12+ hours a day. It will be your main focus and your heart should race a little when you think about it. I can’t tell you how excited I get when I walk into a fabric store! I am in heaven and don’t even get me started about picking out buttons. I can be in a Zen like state for hours when I am sewing Weezi dresses. Would I enjoy sewing tents? No. It is good to know the difference. Although, when I was 12 I did think that I wanted to be a professional clarinet player. Sewing won in the end. HaHa!

The people that I know who are successful are very passionate about what they do and it never gets dull. They never tire of what they do. Because they love what they do and it isn’t a job and that is how I feel. I don’t dread getting up and sewing. It makes me happy.

Secondly, I can’t stress enough how much being adaptable is important. I have done it all. Consignment, wholesale, retail and now online. I wasn’t really crazy about making major overhauls in my business but I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to keep going. I have had to adapt Weezi many times in order to adjust to business trends, shopping trends and even my customer base. I have had people quit on me at the last minute; shipments go missing, people not paying and even being evicted. Just when I think I have things figured out, it becomes painfully obvious that I do not.

You must be able to problem solve as things arise and be able to adapt to all kinds of shifts. Being self-employed can be more rewarding than you would ever imagine. It can also be just as terrifying as your worst nightmare. You have to go with the flow.

Lastly…. don’t panic, you will be fine. It is going to be a bumpy ride, but it is going to be a blast. Enjoy!
my first sewing machine
What makes your shop unique?
Weezi is unique because it is my interpretation of what I see and admire around me. What you find here you can’t really get anywhere else. You may see things similar but the shop is essentially an extension of my personality.

I go out of my way to design and make things that don’t look like items you will find within bog box corporate fashion. Weezi girls (of all ages) come to me when they are looking for things that will set them apart and help them express their sense of style.

The Weezistudio is unique because it offers one of a kind items or things in limited editions that are only available here.

How would you describe your personal style?
Jeeze, this is a question I often dread because how I dress and how I would like to dress are two very different things. I spend most of my days sewing away in my little pink factory and that means I have to be comfortable. I can’t do 10 hours of sewing in heels or a bustier. Yoga pants, sneakers and a t-Shirt are my uniform.

However, when I do get out and about I like to put together a mix of vintage pieces and things I have made. I am all over mix and match and I don’t like to look too “put together”. I aim for more of a “wow, that is cool how did she manage that..???” sort of look. I adore full skirts, cardigans, rolled up jeans, blouses with buttons up the back, bows on shoes, multi strand pearl necklaces, super short bangs, cigarette pants, cats eye glasses and classic red lipstick.

I firmly believe a gal can never have too many shoes, coats or sweaters.
dress
What’s next for your company?
In a word…the Internet. I am looking at boosting online sales and becoming more accessible to all the lovely gals looking for vintage style all around the world. The face of retail is changing almost daily. Rules and applications of running a brick and mortar shop that have been applicable for the last 100 years are not necessarily true today.

It isn’t enough now just to open and run a shop with great customer service, quality, etc… People want fabulous web sites, social media and accessibility 24 hours a day. I am super excited about the next phase of the Weezi studio and where it might take me.

 

Thanks to Lisa of Weezi for sharing her story. You can visit www.weezi.com for more info!

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Author: Rose Wheeler

Hey, I’m Rose! I work with words on a daily basis as a content manager and writer. When I’m not working with my awesome clients, I enjoy cooking, yoga, styling, blogging and curling up with a good book.

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