10 questions for Carissa McCaig

October 16, 2013

By Katherine Ellis

Photography by Kaja Tirrul and courtesy of Copious

Raised in Kemptville, Canada, Carissa McCaig did not grow up thinking she would become a fashion designer. Though immersed in the creation of garments from an early age — sewing her own clothes and receiving grandmother’s handmade sweaters as yearly Christmas gifts – it was only during a road trip with her mother to the Academy of Design at RCC Institute of Technology that she was bitten by the fashion bug. While attending the Academy, she interned with a few companies, including Line Knitwear whose co-founder Jennifer Wells had a profound impact on her career path.

A few years and three collections later, McCaig is making her mark on the Ottawa and Toronto fashion scenes: she takes risks with her own aesthetics, while trying to find a voice through her designs.

Currently participating in the A’ Performing Arts, Style and Scenery Design Competition, McCaig chatted with FAJO Magazine about her inspiration and what she sees for her future.


Carissa McCaig at her latest fashion show during Ottawa Fashion Week.

1.  Who is the Copious customer?

The Copious girl is first and foremost a dreamer. I want my designs to take you away to a different, elegant time, when women dressed up, had luncheons and attended soirees. Copious is perfect for a girl about town, who is always on the go — who runs from work lunches to coffee meetings and attends a fabulous event in the evening.

2.  What are the ages that you target? How did you come up with the name?

25 to 45.

I knew I wanted the name to start with a C, like my first name. One day, my boyfriend just said, ‘What about Copious?’ and that was it!

3.  How did you get started with Ottawa Fashion Week?

Last summer, I was approached by Ottawa Fashion Week to show at their spring/summer 2013 edition. They asked me in mid-July and I needed to have my application in by mid–August. When I got off the phone with them, I debated and deliberated whether I could get my first big collection done in a month. I eventually just decided to start, and suddenly a year has passed, and I have just finished work on my third collection!

 4.  At OFW, your lines for fall/winter 2013 and spring/summer 2014 were very different. Can you give us some insight into your process?

For each collection, I have a theme/inspiration that helps the continuity in the designs. My fall/winter 2013 and spring/summer 2014 collections were very different. I am still a very young designer, learning as I go.

The biggest thing I learned during my fall/winter 2013 collection was to not narrow my inspiration too much. My inspiration was the 1940s, specifically, when I was home at Christmas, a neighbour gave me an old Sears catalogue, which had all the hand-drawn illustrations of the lovely dresses you could purchase. I was inspired!

I love that collection, but being that restricted  felt like I was designing in a box. So, for my spring/summer 2014 collection, I knew I wanted to have a broader inspiration.

This year, the inspiration was more about a feeling and how I wanted the customer to see that through my collection. We can only experience things for the first time once, but rarely do we know how influential these experiences will be till we are done experiencing them. This collection was about trying to experience those feelings for the first time again.

5.  What do you think has been one of the biggest successes you’ve experienced so far?

My spring/summer 2014 collection. I set huge goals for myself, not only with the collection but also for our show that we put on at Ottawa Fashion Week, and it took three months of hard work from myself, and my photographer and production designer Kaja Tirrul.

This was the biggest collection I have ever produced and I wanted to incorporate more high-end dresses for those special occasions. Plus, we had the added challenge of wanting to put on a performance, not just a runway show. I was lucky to have an amazing production designer, who helped to bring together our show of live music, dancers, animals and some incredible fashion that I am very proud of.

Spring/summer 2014 collection

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6.  In 10 years, where would you like to be?

Definitely selling internationally, and I think every designer dreams of showing at Paris, New York City, London or Milan fashion weeks.

7.  Describe your style in three words. Is your own style reflected in your work?

Feminine, classy (with a touch of) edge, almost three words! For the most part yes, my style is much like Copious, but I do have an edgier side that comes out.

8.  If you had to name one person you would really like to meet, who would it be and why?

Absolutely Coco Chanel. I know, very cliché, but her pieces are still coveted to this day and handed down through generations. To sit with her and listen to experiences she has had would be a thrill.

9.  What are your future plans for Copious?

Our goal this year is to find a store in Montréal to carry my line. My personal goal for the next collection will be to create my own unique Copious fabric and to show at Montréal Fashion Week.

10.  If you had a chance to start it all over again, would you do anything differently?

Honestly, no… I believe 100 per cent in learning as you go, and learning from your mistakes. You could never learn everything you need to know in school; it’s the kind of industry that the longer you are in it, the better you get. This year has been the best education I could have ever asked for.


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