Before moving to Montreal, I had no clue what a rich fashion industry existed in Canada. From industry titan Aldo, to brands like Le Château with its over four decades of success, and indi powerhouses like Mackage and Sentaler, there are so many incredible brands and labels that have originated in the Great White North. Montreal in particular has been an incubator for incredible talents like Marie Saint-Pierre and Rad Hourani (who was the first Canadian to show in Paris during the official Haute Couture schedule of shows as a guest of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture). A few months ago, I came across a new label that instantly caught my attention. leeâme is the brainchild of two Montreal best-friends who wanted to create a line of elevated basics that were modest in nature but still elegantly minimal and fashionable. With a beautifully subdued color palette, their designs are almost architectural with clean crisp lines, and all pieces are made in Montreal. They are currently working on their latest collection, so you’ll absolutely want to scoop up a piece when it’s released. Make sure to follow them on Instagram [here} to stay up to date with them.
I’m so thrilled to not only introduce you to this fabulous line, but also the amazing women behind it. I know you’ll fall in with Ayelet and Darcie as much as the pieces they create!
What inspired you to launch leeâme?
Ayelet: I grew up in an orthodox Jewish home, my father being clergy in a Synagogue. Orthodox Jews follow a modest dress code though some people are more strict than others. I never really followed that code mainly because I am a tomboy by nature and was always very active and didn’t want to feel restricted in my day to day routine. At a much later age, I came back to religion in a much more spiritual way and understood that keeping the modest dress code isn’t about restrictions- it’s about opportunities. It’s about enhancing and showing the world the true queen that you are, from the little bit that you are showing- which feels to me that much more rewarding. I met Darcie at McGill before making this transition, and our styles were very similarly aligned. Very structured but tomboy-ish. Darcie also always wore sneakers and we both had very little ladylike etiquette and a sense of humor so naturally we hit it off right away.
Darcie: Unlady like, hahahah, that’s so us! I mean we are polished, but a bit rough around the edges! Ayelet and I hit it off right away, I mean we met the very first hour of our very first day at McGill, definitely meant to be. Ayelet called me one day and asked me to go shopping with her to help her find clothing that fit her new modesty standards and we could not find anything. Nothing.
I was shocked about how little there was on the market for the modest consumer. We spent three hours shopping and didn’t find a single item that was modest, but still cool. It was kind of depressing.
Ayelet: I cried to my boyfriend (now husband) about it and he just looked at me and was like “If you don’t like what you are being offered, go create it yourself. This is your mission in life- be proactive and help other people in the same situation as you.” I pondered the concept and went back and forth in my mind and decided that if I was doing this, the only other person I wanted to do it with was Darcie. I nervously asked her to meet me for lunch and just spat it out- and Darcie responded so well and brought so much to the table- we right away set out on this mission to provide and to inspire.
Who is the leeâme client?
Ayelet: Though our niche and primary target is religious minorities, our clientele ranges from orthodox women of different religions, men (!!!) and working women (mom’s included). Statistics have shown that women have to work multiple times as hard as men in order to be earning the same amount of respect as men in the workplace. Part of which causes us to overcompensate- we always have to be on our A game, dress professional, have our hair and makeup done, be ready to drop off the kids at work and then go pick them up again and cook them dinner- who has time to change in between?
What or who inspired your designs?
Ayelet: Part us, part you and part Montreal. Part one- we always dress very minimalist, with a spunk or edge- We tried to bring that combination of basic and edge to the table. We are both very active, so clothing with movement is a must.
We are also both very different, and that difference is what makes us bring both of our best to the table. Our offering has been created to highlight those differences… That’s where part two comes in- you. We seek to highlight those differences and bring them out in every woman by creating styles that can fit women of different sizes and body types, styles that are not loud and overpowering and inspire the woman to engage and offer some of what makes her unique with every outfit.
Montreal culture is deep and rich in the arts, infused with a strong European feel to it. Our products were named French inspired names as a tribute to our love affair with our city. You’ll notice that some names are female, some are masculine- the female ones have more of a female fit/silhouette, whereas the masculine ones have more of an oversized/boyfriend fit to them.
You offer “elevated basics”, what does this mean to you?
Ayelet: Movement, ease, providing an element of comfort, and simplifying (not simplicity- there is a difference)!
Darcie: Life is so busy, who has time to waste on picking outfits everyday, especially when work requires you to look put together. A line of elevated basics minimizes that struggle, every piece is unique/a hero piece in itself and can be mixed and match with items our customer already owns! Leeame offers women comfort, the ability to be able to sleep in a bit longer as (with any line of basics) they won’t need to waste time matching their clothing. We offer a professional look made of the utmost comfortable fabrics, fits & structures that allow you to move in any which way- so you won’t miss out on playtime with your kids.
All of the pieces that make up your first collection are wonderfully versatile. However, what are the top three that you feel every woman needs in her wardrobe?
Thank you! We like to think so as well 😉
The top 3 items that absolutely every woman needs in her wardrobe would be:
1) A comfy and versatile sweater dress. We offer two versions: The Laurent which is a bit shorter and the Remi, which is a bit longer and caters to a more religious woman.
2) A bad ass jacket! Jackets are the biggest life hack! Ours are made for indoor wear, and depending on your climate (definitely not in Montreal) can be worn outdoors too- so that your outfit looks just as cool as it did when you just walked in.
The Henri, is more of a boyfriend jacket- slick, thicker and has pockets. The Presley is a bit more funky- for the more daring individual, and is airy, with a slouch of elegance.
3) An uptown/downtown item. The Chloe is a transitional item; it’s vibe can be changed depending on who’s wearing it and how! On some the Chloe carries a cool model off duty look (with a leather jacket and ripped jeans), on others it can be more prepster/nerdy cool.
You part of a new generation of designers who are creating modest designs that are both fashionable and mindful. How do you approach creating garments that tick both of these boxes?
Ayelet: Fashion for some reason became so dictating, whereas it should be a form of freedom. ‘This is acceptable for this season and this for that, and you can’t wear white after labor day, sometimes navy blue and black match and sometimes they don’t, brown and black is always an iffy in between.’
We took the Steve Jobs approach. Steve Jobs was not a hardware/software engineer, he was an inventor and that is the reason that Apple is so successful. When Steve Jobs would pitch a concept to his engineers, they would think he was nuts and tell him it was impossible- and he would not let up until they figured it out- and more often than not, he blew all of our minds away. In our preliminary phases, whilst conducting market research and formulating our offering we picked our 5 core values and stuck to them. We approached this line with that same concept and decided from the beginning that we would not be compromising any of those elements. One does not have to come at the expense of another.
Darcie: It’s about blending current fashion concepts and elements into a new formula. Modesty doesn’t have to be dull. We want our customer to feel comfortable, cool and current! It’s important they feel apart of the current conversations happening in fashion. Not stuck in the past.