Strong is the new skinny. That’s the mantra of a new generation of North-American women, with a thirst for performance, thriving on challenges and putting their bodies to the test through high performance sports. This cult of fitness goes beyond the healthy well-being trend; doing yoga and eating healthy foods is not nearly enough.
Maude Jacob Daignault explores this new phenomenon in her sportswear collection, Élémen’Terre, especially designed for athletic women. Jacob Daignault’s work includes eighteen suits for mud running. All of them are tight, protective and interchangeable. Interview with a young designer who lives for sport.
Baron: Regarding fashion, what is your background?
Maude Jacob Daignault: I followed an unusual road to get where I am today. I went through Cégep studying cinema, then I obtained a B.A. in Marketing and Administration and another one in Fashion Design. I guess I have always loved fashion, but I had to learn it in college…
B.: And why fashion?
M. J. D.: It’s all about comfort. Since I’m more the kind of “jeans and t-shirt” girl, fashion really expresses itself when it comes to sportswear. Technical and well-thought apparel is what makes me tick; to know and understand how it’s done. I like the active wear type of fashion, shown in brands like Lululemon.
B.: What you do like about technical garment? Since, for most people, a sport undershirt is a sport undershirt; its design is subtler than the prêt-à-porter.
M. J. D.: Indeed, it is quite subtle, but there is a lot of research and development behind those subtleties. It isn’t just about style; there is an important technological aspect to it. The design is important, but its shape is determined by research and efficiency rather than trends. If a garment is not comfortable and practical, it will not be worn, even if it is beautiful. Sportswear is stylish comfort.
B.: You have a very specific product… is it created in the same way as ready-to-wear clothing?
M. J. D.: I don’t think so. I try to base my work on social trends instead of stylistic ones. I find it easier, because there’s no need to follow an existing path, filled with rules and constraints. When it comes to what will lead my patterns, my stitching and finishing touch, I relate to research and development. Even if I find a piece to be pretty good, it has to be effective and answer the needs of the market. For this particular collection, I did a market study to identify my clients and know my competitors, so I can further differentiate and stand out.
B.: What social trends have influenced you in creating your collection? Did it lead you to a specific clientele?
M. J. D.: I am inspired by the emerging subculture of the “gymselfies”: girls who put strength before being thin and who pay extreme attention to their body. My target market includes all women between 25 and 60 years old who participate in mud racesor cross fits. It could also be extended to triathletes. The age range is quite large because, in this kind of sport, it doesn’t matter how old you are, since passion is all that counts.
B.: Why did you choose the extreme active wear rather than the yoga wear, that doesn’t seem to wind down?
M. J. D.: It's overrated, and the market is overcrowded! I did not want to compete against brands that I like. Lululemon and Lolë do a great job. Let them be. I’m learning from their successful story and I apply this knowledge to my situation. Nobody is currently making sportswear designed for mud races, cross fits or triathlons. And since I’ve been around the fashion industry, I kinda got to know what people like and don’t like. And there are a lot of people doing these sports who told me they weren’t satisfied with their clothes. With my marketing savvy, I saw a niche. Immediately, I thought about product development and business opportunities!
B.: Research and development seems to be one of your priorities. Since it usually is an expensive process, how did you manage financially while making Élémen’Terre?
M. J. D.: I did a lot of research on the Internet, at shops and some fieldwork. Took the fabric out for a little test in the water, in the mud, etc.! It is obvious that I cannot do tests as thorough and precise as Nike does, but I can still try some things to see if stitches will form or if my sewing will resist prolonged wear. Otherwise, I rely the ancestral method of trial and error. After 20 years spent at the gym, I feel like I know where to go.
B.: Which issues particularly affect you as a designer?
M. J. D.: Body diversity. I'm really exasperated by designers who try to dictate and establish beauty standards. I think every person is different and this is what makes true beauty. It’s one of the reasons why I chose the“gymselfies” subculture. Yes, it might be a bit selfish, but these girls are slowly changing the canons of beauty.
Discover Maude Jacob Daignault’s Élémen’Terre on April 29th, as part of the collective fashion show of UQÀM’s Fashion management - design and styling graduates, at the university’s Design Center’s gallery.