How I Made It

Mani Jassal, Fashion Designer

Mani Jassal is a Toronto-based fashion designer whose pieces are inspired by her Indian heritage and Canadian roots. Here, she tells FLARE how she made it

(Photo: Baljit Singh)

Mani Jassal; @manikjassal

How do you describe your job to your family?

I am a fashion designer with my own label, so I’m also an entrepreneur.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I went to Ryerson University for fashion design.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

My first paying gig in the industry was making a custom prom dress for a girl who reached out to me through Instagram. She told her friends and then they told their friends. It was like a domino effect.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

Opening up my own showroom in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood was definitely a big break. But in 2015, I had a PR agency, Joplin Creative, reach out to me from Los Angeles because they wanted to carry my pieces in their showroom. I had celebrities like Nazanin Mandi and Bebe Rexha wear my designs and my pieces have been pulled by stylists who work with Zendaya, Beyoncé, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner. Just the fact that I’m in the same realm as these amazing celebrities is really surreal.

What would you say has been your most significant setback, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

When I started out, a lot of people didn’t take me seriously in the Canadian fashion industry. They would just see my clothes and be like, “It’s too Indian. It would never sell to a Canadian demographic.” That’s not fair. Just because I’m Indian and these clothes are inspired by my Indian roots, it pigeonholes me into that direction. I created my own niche market for women like me who are proud of their Indian and Canadian heritage.

Name one piece of career advice you always give. 

Figure out what you truly love to do, and put your heart, soul and mind into it and anything can be accomplished. Work hard and stay focused.

When you’re feeling low about your work, what’s the one thing you always do/watch/read/listen to bring yourself back up again? 

I drink tea and watch Netflix and escape the reality of work.

Fall ’18 looks from Mani Jassal (Photo: Vipoositha)

How would you describe your industry in terms of representation and inclusivity?

The fashion industry still has a long way to go. It’s getting better at being more diverse and inclusive, but I feel like some brands are not very authentic about it and instead are just jumping on the bandwagon of diversity. For me, diversity and inclusivity have always been important. For my new collection and this year’s Toronto Fashion Week show, I’m going to be including models of all sizes.

Looking to the future, what excites you the most about your career?

I’m really excited about the growth and globalization of the brand. I would love to be in Mumbai, India and have Bollywood actresses wear my designs.

What worries you the most about your career?

I want to do all of this growth, but how am I going to manage this myself? It’s a lot of work at the end of the day. It’s a double-edged sword. I want the success, but it’s also more stress. I have an incredible team who work with me, but I still wish there were more of me.

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