Throughout this project I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful and genuine people, and Carissa McCaig is one of many talented entrepreneurs that is proving that this is possible and to never give up. We are the next generation of amazingly talented entrepreneurs and we are here to stay! Carissa is a successful fashion designer who has been published several times and is only 28 years old! She is originally from Kempville, Ottawa but now resides in Toronto, ON. To know more about this power house please read below.
What do you do?
I am a fashion designer.
When did you know you wanted to pursue being a designer?
I didn’t really know until my last year of high school, I had applied to University and was ready to go off and my mom was kind of like “what about this?”. I don’t know but something inside of her knew I was probably not going to be a normal 9-5er which is true, and so she brought me up to Toronto to see a Fashion Design school and I was hooked.
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
I think the biggest thing is freedom, it has it's ups and downs. I am always working because it is my business and I don’t stop a lot, and that is probably the biggest down, but the up is that I love it and it's never really work, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So even if I was working for someone else as a fashion designer I don’t think I’d be as happy as I am now.
What keeps you inspired?
Everything! I always get this question; books, movies, music, documentaries, any form of media, nature, everything. I don’t think my brain ever stops looking for inspiration.
Do you have any tips for aspiring designers on how to get noticed or networking?
I think the biggest thing is just quality. If you do good work it will shine through, and I think that’s what I’ve noticed this year the most. I was always asking myself how do I get noticed; I wanted to get into magazines, I wanted to do this I wanted to do that, and I’ve done all those things and nothing worked out as well as when a woman bought a dress and loved it and it lasted; the shape stayed, and then she told a friend and it went on like that. So I think just quality of the work that you are doing.
Is there anyone in your field that you look up to?
It kind of changes from season to season because the designers switch too by who they are inspired by. I always get this question too but it is always changing; Oscar de la Renta, the classic Chanel they are always gorgeous but I think the bigger thing that I look up to now are the bloggers and Instagramers that I follow. Their street style and how they take really high end fashion and wear it on the street is really cool. So I get a lot of ideas from Instagram, and I’m constantly taking photos of what I see on there and using them to be inspired for my collections.
Who would you say is your dream person to dress?
Probably Diane Kruger, I love her or Chiara from The Blonde Salad! I stalk her on Instagram! Also January Jones or Sarah Jessica Parker which was my College one and I still love her but as I’ve gotten older I think I like the other two the most because of their attitudes. I think it would probably be cool to sit down and chat with them and then dress them.
Do you or did you have a mentor?
My one teacher for sure Ron definitely saw that I was good at certain things and pushed me in that direction, and same with Jennifer Dares. She got me an internship because she appreciated the work that I did in her class. Then one of my internships with Line Knitwear where the head designer really showed me that this is what I want to do and helped push me to do it. Then right now, maybe not a mentor but my colleague/friend/we think the exact same Kaja (Copious' photographer.) When we sit down to work out a new collection we are just both right there with what we want to do, I just think we work well together and I like that our minds think the same way. We don’t even have to speak sometimes, we both know what each other wants.
Do you recommend a mentor?
If I were going to recommend someone it would be a business mentor or whatever your weakness is. If you are good at sketching and you can translate it into a dress and you can sew well then you’ll make it. But man the business side is something that they don’t teach you in school, and if you’re not good at it, it will be difficult. Just whatever you feel your weakest in find a mentor that will compliment that.
What advice would you give to someone that is trying to pursue their passion?
I think the biggest thing and what I saw the most is you really have to ask yourself if this is what you really want. Is it worth giving up time with friends? I don’t go out a lot, all my money goes into my company into my passion but it doesn’t bother me. But I’ve seen a lot of my friends try to do it and it really bothered them, so they stopped. I think the biggest thing you need to ask yourself is “can you give up everything in your life to do this one thing?”, and if the answer is yes then you’ll make it because you just won’t stop. To get something that you really want in life you usually have to give up something else for awhile, you need to be ok with that until you start to succeed and then get back what you had to give up.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
If you want to be able to have your own company your going to have to be willing to work 24 hours a day. You just have to know this is really what you want, you have work long hours maybe work another job, you have to make sure you are okay with making all the necessary sacrifices.
Why do you love what you do?
I think the biggest thing is that it doesn’t feel like work. This morning I woke up at 6am and I’ve been working all day and will easily have to work until 2 or 3 in the morning, and that’s a little bit of a bummer but I do love it. Sitting at my sewing machine is not work, and when it doesn’t feel like work then you are really in love with it, and its worth giving up sleep for that. I just love taking a sketch, then turning it into the real thing and seeing it on the model and then seeing that it looks exactly like the sketch, it's amazing!
If you had the opportunity to collaborate with someone who would it be and why?
I would choose a stylist over anything, I would choose a really cool blogger and have her take my collection and integrate it with different accessories of her own. On Instagram they do such cool stuff, and these woman that are good at beauty, modelling, photography, styling, they are doing incredible things with helping young designers get noticed! Chiara from The Blonde Salad is someone I would totally choose, I love her style!
What is the one thing you can’t leave the house with minus your cell phone?
My notebook which has everything! What I need to buy on Queen street, my sketches, or my fabric swatches, it literally has everything in there! So definitely my notebook :).