New Brunswick

Milan, Paris, Sackville? Seamstress bringing fashion to province

Jeska Grue is a Sackville seamstress designing, making and selling her own clothes, offering a local option to people wanting high fashion that doesn't come from a sweatshop.

Sackville seamstress Jeska Grue is creating clothing, with a hope to side step sweatshops

A Sackville seamstress sees her designs taking flight around the world. 1:36

When naming the great fashion capitals of the world Sackville, New Brunswick doesn't come to mind. But seamstress Jeska Grue is doing her part to at least get it on the map.

She designs, sews and ships her eponymous fashion line in her home studio.

Grue's one-woman shop operates on a small scale, and that's by design.

"I'm doing it this way because the way I produce things, a lot of care is put into it the sewing techniques that I use, the fabrics that I use [and] it's a more durable piece of clothing for people to have," she said.

A study in Ontario shows 85 per cent of discarded textiles end up in a landfill site, meaning just 15 per cent are recycled or reused.

Grue is hoping the time, care and expense put into her garments will make it a cherished item worn for years.

Not only will the item not end up in the land fill, customers can know their clothing was not made in a sweatshop.

"The difference is that someone is being paid fairly for their labour, that's probably the most major thing," said Grue.

Grue's business grew out of a passion for making things. She studied history and sociology at university, then went on to become a seamstress. She started her line of clothing in 2016. (CBC)
She studied sociology in university where she took an interest in labour practices.

After graduating, Grue studied to become a seamstress, leading to her decision to start her own line of clothing last winter.

Grue has two tops and a dress available in sizes ranging from extra small to extra,extra large.

"I have different locals come in to help me be fitters so it's tried on by a few people of each size just to make sure everything is working," said Grue.

Customers can find the garments online or just around the corner from Grue's home studio at Little Cat's Bazaar. 

Anahid Chujunian opened her store Little Cat's Bizarre last summer in Sackville. She carries Grue's line of clothes and said they sell quickly. (Tori Weldon/CBC)
Anahid Chujunian, the store's owner, describes it as a "curated vintage clothing and accessory store."

"I have some of her stuff right here and it's actually selling super fast which is nice," said Chujunian.

"People are really excited about her clothing." 

Doing things Grue's way costs more. Her pieces range between $130 and $190. 

Grue has her labels screen printed by local artist, Laura Watson. (Tori Weldon/CBC)
While Chujunian admits some people do a double take at the price, most people understand what the higher price tag is buying.

"If you're going to get a piece of ethically-sourced clothing that is hand sewn by one person — she works extremely hard on every single piece that she makes — so I think most people get it," said Chujunian.

Grue estimates she spends about 40 hours a week sewing to fill orders, which come in from across the country.

The designs are made of organic cloth from Vancouver or India at a small family operated mill, though Grue is looking forward to the day when she can find fabric made in the region.

"You could get an entirely closed loop garment that's been grown and sewn in Atlantic Canada," said Grue.

Chujunian, left, said some people do a double-take at the price of Grue's items, but most people understand what the higher price tag is buying.
If the business grows much larger Grue said she won't be shopping around for cheap labour overseas, but a little help would be nice. 

"I think it would be really great to hire more skilled seamstresses that get to remain in their community or come and live in a small town in New Brunswick," said Grue.