Many people dream of working in fashion (or you’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada one too many times and have convinced yourself you could), but making a living in the world of design isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds. But for Toronto-based fashion designer Mani Jassal, the entrepreneurial spirit has been something that’s guided her for years, and she’s gone on to dress stars including Bebe Rexha, Ashanti and more.
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We spoke with Jassal to learn about running her own business, creating stunning outfits for Rupi Kaur and more.
She always dreamed of working in fashion
“I was born in India, but my family immigrated here when I was like five years old,” Jassal explains. Her mother was a seamstress and growing up, she watched her sew.
“I [watched] Cinderella — the Disney movie — [and it] really inspired me. I would constantly draw her dress.”
At age 11, she carried a sketchpad around with her and by high school she remained interested in fashion but also felt passionate about physics. After applying to university for both engineering and fashion design, she decided to go into fashion. However, she notes that her job as a designer involves the math side of things as well, when it comes to creating patterns, designing skirts and more.
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Every day as a designer is different at work
Being an entrepreneur with her own brand, no two days are entirely the same for Jassal. Currently, she’s working on looks for Rupi Kaur’s world tour, which means she’s been exceptionally busy.
“I was just more on the production side of things, making sure things are getting done because that deadline is coming up,” she says of the tour. “And then after that I’ll move to the marketing side of things and have a meeting with sales and marketing and see what they’re up to. They have a photoshoot tomorrow, so [I’m] prepping that as well.”
“I just kind of see where my attention needs to be,” she explains.
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Working with Rupi Kaur was a full-circle moment
Jassal reveals she’s known the bestselling poet since high school, and says it was a full-circle moment when Kaur opted to have her do her wardrobe for her world tour. As excited as she was, she acknowledges she did have some imposter syndrome.
“[At first it was] a little bit nerve-wracking because I was kind of confused why they picked me,” she said. “And then when I saw her moodboard and I saw what she was aiming for, the moodboard was very similar to what I had also Pinterested. So I was like, okay, we’re on the same track. We kind of want the same thing, which was bold, dramatic, colourful, [and] sparkly,” she says.
She also adds that it was a fun change to get to do something other than South Asian wear, and “…to show to the world that I’m more than just like a South Asian designer.” She felt she was able to show she can design for a global audience and adds that to have her work shown on “a literal world stage” was amazing.
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The biggest misconceptions about her job
Working in fashion isn’t as nearly as glam as it seems in movies or TV, and Jassal explains.
“It’s a lot of long hours [and] a lot of mental stress as well, which, you know, maybe some people know or don’t know. It’s not easy to have your own brand,” she says.
“People think I’m designing constantly, but design is only like five per cent of the process,” she says. “Like if you think like I have this pretty studio where I sit there and I just sketch, that’s very wrong,” she laughs.
“[With] Rupi’s pieces, I actually had to schedule in time to do the sketching,” she says. Because inspiration can hit at any time, it was difficult to schedule time to do it. However, the final stages are coming up, as she has 12 more looks to finish to complete.
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But despite all the work involved, Jassal loves what she does, especially making clients happy when they come into the store to see her.
“They’re really excited to see me, which I always find a little bit awkward because I’m such a socially awkward person, but they fangirl over me, ” she says of the clients who tell her they’ve been following her brand since the beginning.
And when brides select her to dress them for their big day, she feels honoured, “especially when they come in and they know exactly what all of the pieces are called [and] what collection they’re from.”
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