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April 12, 2017
Owned by sister-duo, Sam and Sou, the Jill-of-All-Trades sewing studio is located in one of the former ‘garment districts’ of Toronto, called Leslieville. Once brimming with apparel factories, there is now only a handful left. Operating out of an original loft warehouse, the Jill-of-All-Trades are as versatile as our designs. They have production capability, and more importantly, over 40+ years of experience in apparel manufacturing, from knits to wovens, and everything in between.
Encircled's Content Marketing Manager, Angela, met up with Sam and Sou to ask them about their time in the garment industry, where they shop, and their love for bell-bottoms.
Shop: The Dressy Sweatpants in Smoke Grey.
I remember visiting Sam and Sou for the first time last November. I tagged along with Kristi, (CEO and founder of Encircled) to pick up our very first run of Reversible Pencil Skirts in Black and Navy (Here’s a picture of that day here). Once I got into our interview, I was happy to know that they had still remembered me from that one time, and that really put a smile on my face!
The Sam and Sou sisters sew many of our Encircled designs, such as The Dressy Sweatpant, The Retrograde Kimono Dress, The Minimalist Legging, The Flipside Legging, The Reversible Pencil Skirt, and The Revolve Dress.
SAM: I moved to Canada from Laos in 1980. We both speak many languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, Lao, English. We started our own business 20 years ago, I’m a very lucky person.
SAM: We started working in Canada for a shop on Danforth doing suit sampling. The owner was 75 years old at the time and we learned the importance of fit through him. We moved into working for big athletic brands, Nike, Adidas and Reebok, making heavier products, like jackets. After, we worked for a company that made bras. Bras today are cheaply made, they “fit” in that they can be worn, but they don’t actually fit well. Today’s pattern makers rely only on computers, but we love working with our hands. Proper fit starts with the pattern of a design.
SOU: Everything! Happy to do everything.
BOTH: We feel so much less stressed working with each other. We can choose our clients, who we work with, and focus more on quality over quantity.
Below, The Flipside Leggings cut and being sewn by Sou
BOTH: We haven’t shopped in a very long time, the last thing I bought was a pair of jeans. We usually make our own clothes with scrap fabric that’s been left over from clients. If they tell us to throw away any fabric ends, we keep them to make our own clothes. We make our own traditional Thai outfits called Chut Thai that we wear to the temples, they're made out of silk. Depending on the fabric, like cotton, linen and silk, the fit and the pattern of the design has to be perfect - traditional outfits are meant to be fitted tight across the chest, we love crazy colours, like this, a crazy green colour!
SAM: I love wearing bell-bottoms, I need to be comfortable for work since I spend the majority of my time doing that! We try to support Canadian brands when we do shop, though.
And that concludes our super casual interview with Sam and Sou. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed getting to know them better.
The Jill-of-All Trades Studio was one of the original sewing studios Kristi worked with when she first started Encircled. We love their passion for their craft and hands-on approach (the owners still cut fabric!). Their collaborative nature is unmatched. They work side-by-side with us to figure any production challenge out. Every trip to their studio means candid conversations that are least 30 minute long catch-up sessions. Sam and Sou are always full of warm smiles and laughs, making this one of our favourite studios to work with.
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We thought it was about time that we introduced you to our new space, as well as give you some insight into why we needed to move (hint: 600 square feet is pretty tiny with six employees + one puppy).
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