Canadian lingerie and loungewear designer Mary Young is a budding #girlboss living in Toronto, ON. In 2014 she launched her namesake lingerie and loungewear line, that embodies the everyday modern woman. Her pieces are stylish and comfortable for all shapes and sizes. Her ultimate mission is to encourage women to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m from the small town of Arnprior, just outside Ottawa. From a very young age, I knew I wanted to be in fashion. After high school, I moved to Toronto to study fashion design and techniques at George Brown College. Although it was a two-year program, I only spent one year at the school. I ended up applying and getting into Ryerson’s fashion communication program which was a little more about business, marketing, and branding, where I received my Bachelors of Fashion Design in 2014. As part of our fourth year capstone/thesis we had to study a theory and produce our findings in visual and communicative format. I decided to go big and did a double thesis: a five-piece women’s lingerie and knitwear collection along with a capstone paper and video. Turns out lingerie is not the easiest thing to make but after countless hours spent drafting and sewing I was able to teach myself. I showed the collection with the fashion design students at Mass Exodus, Ryerson's annual fashion show. It ended up getting selected as one of the top collections from the curator and was named one of the top collections by Flare Magazine. I decided to sit down and really look at the possibility of starting a company. I spent about two months doing a lot of market research, writing a business plan, and it seemed like it was a viable idea. I realized that there was a gap in the market and figured if there was anytime to take the risk of starting my own company, why not now. When I was younger I would sketch logos for the clothing line I dreamt of having. Looking back I knew having a clothing line was a goal of mine, but I never imagined it would be this early on or in this category.
Do the sketches you drew when you were younger resemble your current logo?
Funny enough no they don’t. When I was younger, I would write things like “Mary Young Clothes or M.Y. Clothes” I would always play around with my initials. It’s fitting that my company now is just my name. A lot of people think I made it up, but I have to thank my parents for that.
In your own words, what do you do?
I’m a designer of women’s lifestyle loungewear and lingerie and I run a business. I don’t just design. A lot of people think that as a designer, all I do is play with fabric, but there’s so much more, especially when I’m the one running the company. At the end of the day, I do more business management than I do fashion design. Realistically, I have to keep my business afloat, and producing clothes is a part of it, but if I have clothes but no way to sell them or connect with consumers, I won’t have a business. It’s more important to focus on connecting with consumers and finding out what they want. That way I design clothes that suit their needs.
What inspired you to become a designer?
Growing up in a small town, I was into the kind of fashion no one else was into. I was more aware of trends and didn’t partake in a lot of the fashions my classmates did, like shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch and Aritzia. One of the reasons was because I didn’t want to spend my money on a $90 sweatshirt. I used to always try to come up with my own designs. I designed my own clothes a lot in high school, and I made sure to design clothes I felt good in. A lot of people feel pressured to wear things they don’t necessarily want to wear. They do it because they want to be a part of something. I focused on things that made me feel good, whether they are trendy or not. That really relates to what I design now. I want women who buy my clothes to feel good in what they’re wearing.
Is there anyone in your field you look up to?
I’ve met so many creative individuals. I have friends who are jewellery designers like my friend Kylie, who has her own jewellery line. She does an amazing job with her creations. I have another friend Desiree who founded ARMED jewellery here in Toronto. Seeing young women do this is really inspirational, especially when they do it on their own terms. It used to be that people would wait until a later point in their lives to launch their businesses, but I love to see that they throw themselves into entrepreneurship a lot earlier. Even if its just blogging, a good friend of mine Jessi, has a blog titled Stylish Gambino, I’m obsessed with her. We met through Instagram, and now we’re really good friends. Another blogger friend of mine, Jodi, is a huge inspiration to me, she’s come so far and is really creating a brand for herself. It’s amazing how you can connect with people nowadays, and I think it’s just great seeing people do really great things on their own; it’s very inspiring. I don’t need to follow anyone’s path to succeed because I want to create my own. Meeting people along the way is definitely necessary though, especially like-minded people in the creative industry.
Do you, or did you have a mentor?
I had a mentor I still work with him occasionally. He really helped me when I first started my company. His name is Wayne Clark. He’s an eveningwear designer who helps with Ryerson’s fashion students. Honestly, he is one of the main reasons I pursued starting the line, he gave me a lot of great advice and support early on. One of my favourite quotes actually comes from him, "if it was easy then everyone would be doing it". I currently have a mentor who supports me more with the business side of things, which is great seeing that I never studied business. Having mentors from two different areas really has made a huge difference in this journey.
Do you recommend a mentor?
I definitely recommend someone who’s your second voice of reason, someone who will guide you and show you the ropes. It’s important to already know yourself before having someone guide you. It’s also important to have more than just one mentor, even people you’re not in touch with, just find someone whose road to success you admire. The most important thing is to do your research and make sure you can relate to those you admire. It’s important to pay respect to people who have already done it, and to get advice from professionals. It’s important to learn and help people along the way too.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
Definitely try a lot of different things. I designed more ready-to-wear before I even got into what I’m doing now. I worked with wovens rather than knits, I also did boning and prom dresses. Focus on what you like to do, challenge yourself, and invest in what you do. Your biggest asset in life is yourself; therefore make sure to invest in yourself.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 to 10 years?
I see myself still within my business. Hopefully I’ll be able to have a bigger team. I would like to still be doing lingerie and loungewear. It would be great to do collaborations: lingerie, loungewear, and ready-to-wear. I’d like to do a lot of extra things on the side and work with other people. It’s one of the great things about owning a growing company, the opportunities I get allow me to build my company and network as I go.
Do you regret any mistakes you’ve made or have they made you who you are now?
I don’t think there’s a point to regret anything because you can’t do anything about it. I think every mistake I’ve made while running the business has taught me what to do right. The way to learn the right path sometimes is to go down the wrong one. For me, all my stumbles have helped me believe in myself a lot more. I know I can keep going, and I don’t regret anything I’ve done.
Why do you love what you do?
It allows me to make a difference. As the company is starting to grow and people are becoming familiar with its vision, we’re able to make a difference with the women who shop the line and the people who come in contact with the business. Reminding women that their worth isn’t in their looks but in how they feel about themselves is really important. Lingerie is such a big part of that. It’s the first thing you put on in the morning. If you put something on to please someone else or fit a certain stereotype of sexy, or if it’s too tight and doesn’t fit, that mindset will affect your confidence throughout the day. That’s why I hope that my brand makes women feel beautiful. I want to challenge the perception of what sexy is in order to help all women feel sexy and beautiful.
Who motivates you the most to keep going?
My mom, she’s my number one fan. When you own your own business, it’s extremely important to have people who support you; it’s vital. Whether it’s your family, friends, or significant other, it’s important to have those people in your life, especially during hard times. The good days come and go, but having people there who remind you of your accomplishments and why you started is the most important thing. My mom does that for me all the time.
If you the opportunity to work or collaborate with someone, who would it be and why?
I would love to work with Jenna Lyons because I think she’s phenomenal. The J Crew aesthetic is definitely not my personal aesthetic, but I think their approach and feel would be really fun to incorporate into lingerie somehow. I love their bold colours and confident prints. Jenna Lyons’ approach and attitude is amazing. I’ve met her in the past, and though it was short, her energy is undeniably positive, so I know that working with her would be really cool.
What’s your take on today’s entrepreneurs?
It’s amazing. Not enough people are given an opportunity to be an entrepreneur. Take me for example, I didn’t know there was a word for running your own business until I was 17 or 18. I definitely respect anyone who has the gumption to do it, I respect him or her immediately, whether they succeed or start something else. Every path is different, but the gumption is phenomenal. I definitely want to invest back in the entrepreneurial community, especially in the creative world.
What is the one thing you can’t leave the house without, other than your cell phone?
It would have to be a bottle of water. I’m always drinking water, I take it everywhere I go! You have to stay hydrated!
" WHEN A WOMAN IS COMFORTABLE AND CONFIDENT SHE IS UNDENIABLY SEXY." -Mary Young