Jeska Grue has always been inspired by the forgotten, the discarded and the left behind. The now Sackville, New Brunswick-based seamstress and designer grew up loving pre-loved clothing, sparking her imagination by sifting through the colours, patterns and fabrics of piled-high Frenchy’s bins. As a rural-living teen dealing with anxiety and depression, she says fashion served as both an escape and an avenue of self-expression.
“When you’re from the middle of no place and you can’t access creative objects, you can find that at second-hand stores,” says Grue. “More and more I started to express myself outwardly with what I wore.”
Her keen eye for quality clothing stuck, leading her to follow up her undergrad with a degree in costume studies at Dalhousie University—an intentional step toward her self-titled line of self-made, natural-fibre women’s clothing. The collection nods to the struggles of her hometown of Bass River, which took an economic blow when its livelihood—a furniture factory—burned down the same year she was born.
“There’s the attitude that if you’re smart you go on to university, become a doctor or lawyer and leave the community behind. My interest in fashion was incongruent with Atlantic Canada,” says Grue. “But doing it here with the help of the internet is a bit of a push back.
“Some of these communities have felt like they’re left behind, or that slowly that they’ll evaporate—but I don’t think that they are,” she says of small towns like Bass River or Sackville. “There’s vitality in them.”
Next week Grue brings the key pieces from her line to Halifax as part of Lost & Found’s (2383 Agricola Street) February pop-up, Cool Crush, which will also feature fragrance and skin care from Barre, art from Sara Russell and Caitlyn Rose jewellery.
The event launches Wednesday, February 1 (with a separate jewellery pop-up on February 10). The Jeska Grue wrap top, ruffle top and Queen Heed dress will be in store in a slew of patterns and sizes, from extra-small to extra-large. “They’re somewhat minimal, but don’t have to be,” she says of her pieces, which call back to her costume studies days, Grue opts for French and welt seams rather than any serging. “There’s a heritage quality to it. I like the feeling of well-worn, very old clothes. Not even second-hand, but 18th-century clothing with bound seams.”