By Brenlee Coates (photo by Janine Kropla)
Alesha Frederickson was struggling to find a place for herself in the fashion world when she first completed her studies at Blanche MacDonald Centre in Vancouver.
It was a trailblazer in the local fashion scene, Jill Sawatzky of Tony Chestnut, who helped her find her way.
“She wasn’t a schmoozy boozy fashion person, ‘cause I think that was pulling me away,” remembers Alesha.
“And she was like, ‘No, you don’t have to be. You just kind of do what you do.’”
While Jill helped initiate her into more of a “makers” scene, Alesha still hadn’t really found her medium yet. She knew she didn’t like the high fashion thing, but she didn’t necessarily want to make her living churning out bridesmaid dresses to order either.
“Then one day I started making underwear, and I just loved it,” says the designer of March & August underthings. “Something just clicked.”
The discreet nature of the items might appeal to her modesty – “Someone could be sitting beside me and wearing it, and I wouldn’t know,” she muses – but the response she’s gotten from the wearers is what’s really driving her.
While boudoir shots might generally be reserved for that special someone’s eyes only, Alesha finds herself accumulating photos of customers who feel comfortable in their skin while draped in March & August. Several have even given her permission to share the revealing photos on social media.
“Usually right in the morning I get them in my emails, and I just bawl,” says Alesha. “People have told me they don’t feel comfortable in lingerie, and then they’re the ones sending me a picture of them just workin’ it.”
Keep it cozy and personal
What might be drawing the unusual reaction to Alesha’s designs is she’s all about the wearer. The underthings are a purchase that the wearer is meant to enjoy – not a costume to put on or gift to wrap yourself in for a partner.
Comfort is also key to Alesha’s design sensibilities – she uses soft fabrics and has skipped out on underwire and push-up padding to date, making the sexy designs cozy and wearable.
Her motto: if you feel comfortable and sexy, and you want to share that with someone, great. And the designs can fill different needs for different people. “I like that it’s a personal thing for everyone,” she says.
While customary lingerie would have you believe the ideals of comfort and sex appeal are mutually-exclusive, Alesha’s empowered customers show it’s possible to possess both.
Love the body you have
March & August’s tagline, “Love the body you have,” is a genuine invitation to access her designs. She encourages all different strokes to don her items and consciously considers various body types as she dreams up designs. “I hate the word ‘normal’ and I hate the word ‘real,’” explains Alesha. “The same piece (can be) translated in different ways.”
Her social media posts showcase people of all genders, shapes and sizes rocking the underthings, and she builds most pieces to measurement for customers, so the underwear hugs the wearers in all the right places. “At the end of the day, I’m just drawing a new line,” concedes Alesha, of the alterations. (Custom-fit is another aspect that makes for happy wearers.)
The theme of different bodies and purposes is what inspired the name, March & August. She and her sister’s birth months reminded her how distinctive people are, how contrasting the seasons are, and how they all bring something to the table. And opposing factors don’t have to exist separately; you don’t have to choose between one or the other, you can be both comfortable and sexy. “A little bit more March one day, a bit more August another,” she says.
Now that Alesha knows Winnipeggers are happy to shed their layers for the camera in her underthings, she plans to incorporate a whole host of beautiful bodies in photoshoots when she rolls out her lines.
After a hectic Christmas season, Alesha is beginning preparations to make March & August her full-time gig. She hopes to move into a studio space (right now, she’s seized a section of her home), and to mobilize a small team to work with.
The one-woman team currently prepares most pieces to order, though some items are available at Edward Carriere on Spence Street.
While she safely estimates a launch date in April for the upcoming spring/summer line of March & August, her plan going forward is to have launches coincide with the brand. “As cheesy as it is, I would like to do it in March and August.”
Custom-sized orders can be placed at http://www.marchandaugust.com. Follow @marchandaugust on Instagram to keep updated on the new spring/summer line of underthings.