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Q&A WITH GARMENT ENGINEERS CAT ESSAIMBRE AND KELLY HENDERSON OF PIGEONS & THREAD

Run by two of the most talented, kindest and genuine souls, Cat and Kelly, Pigeons & Thread is a Toronto-based garment production and design company.

I pretty much count my blessings on the daily for having met, and gotten the chance to work with the pro-pizza and anti-sweat shop dynamic duo, who are conquering the Toronto apparel industry (one seam at a time). I’m thrilled to finally be able to share their brand of awesome with Shedoesthecity readers!

When did you start Pigeons & Thread, and how has it evolved over the years?

We just celebrated our 2 year anniversary as Pigeons & Thread! So exciting!

P&T has been extremely organic in its growth. We were both in the industry doing our own separate freelance gigs in our studio space. As time went on we would get bigger jobs and collaborate together. We started taking on more and more clients, and then all of a sudden we realized, “Hey, I’m pretty sure we’re a company now…we should think of a name and make this legit.”

How did the company get its name (and handsome pigeon mascot)?

We were sewing one day and there were spools of thread on the window sill and pigeons perched on the ledge. I (Kelly) thought, “Ha. Pigeons & Thread. That’s a cool name for a band or company or something.” I went away to a cottage with a bunch of friends, talked branding, came back with the logo, and Pigeons & Thread was born.

The mascot was a gift from a friend. We borrowed it for a party and he let us keep it cause he said it was freaking him out too much. We love that damn mask. It makes for such a wonderful marketing tool. He travels a lot. H name is Reginald.
1264044_10151724483495963_1672706942_o (1)Pigeons and Thread does it ALL – garment engineering, pattern making, leather work, sample making, costume designing and wardrobe styling, (oh my)! How do you stay focused while wearing so many hats?

Oh man. I guess it’s because we really enjoy what we do and we’re accomplished multi-taskers! To some that might be overwhelming, but we both thrive on variety. One day we’re sewing 15 shirts, the next day making costumes for a tv show. Then, we’re designing bridal or grading patterns. We love a good challenge, and blowing peoples minds with our garment engineering skills.

As for staying focused? I wouldn’t say we are always focused, ha, but….we get pretty darn into the swing of things by entering what we like to call,  “The head-phone-zone”…. listening to music or podcasts. Classical music is a great way to start off the day, and podcasts save lives.

Going into business with a friend can be tricky. You guys seem to have nailed down the perfect formula for working together and playing together. What’s your secret? TELL US!

Well, we survived 4th year design school (Ryerson) together so if you can get through that I think anything is possible. But more seriously, we were roommates for 3-4 years, so we learned how to co-habitat together very well. I don’t recall us ever having a fight or a screaming match. We learned each others likes and dislikes, learned when to leave each other alone, when to be there for support, when to help out, when to take one for the team, you know? We have to be open, honest, supportive, understanding, and respectful of each other. We are still roommates but instead of sewing long hours in our living room, we now work long hours in our studio! Basically, we’re married, ha!

What do you love most about your jobs?

We make the rules. We chose the clients. We schedule the time lines. We have FULL control. It’s the best.

What do you find the most stressful?

Keeping up with the demand. This is definitely a niche job and as we get more and more clients we require more seamstresses (and seamsters.) It is difficult finding people with all the skill sets that working at Pigeons & Thread requires. If we could clone ourselves that would be extremely helpful.

What, in your opinion, is overrated in the Canadian fashion industry?

Fast fashion. Hoards of shoppers wanting and needing to have excess. Everyone needs to just tone-er-down-a-notch, and be cool about paying proper costs for locally well made goods.

We’re all about the slow fashion over here. Luckily, we’re finally beginning to see a shift. Consumers are educating themselves and are starting to get interested in knowing the origins of their clothing, which is awesome. We fully embrace this concept.
11025253_10100998764730991_5782382369101039373_oWhat advice would you give a young women trying to start her own business in the fashion industry?

In the words of RuPaul, “Girl. YOU.BETTER.WERK.”

Be good to yourself. No matter how busy and in demand you are, always find time for yourself. Time to read, laugh, dance, eat, drink, sleep, play. It is so very important to remain as balanced as possible. Work isn’t life. Life is Life.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek guidance and advice. As you become more successful you have to let go of all the control and get help from those you trust; you will not be able to do it all. You are only one person (or two in our case). Allow those people to help you so you can find time breathe.

You studio is located in the glorious Old Fashion District. What are your go-to snacks for late night sewing cram sessions?

We aim for a healthier alternative. Sugar and heavy food do not keep us awake, and sleep and sewing do not mix. Our favourites include crackers and hummus, dark chocolate, late night sushi and power juice (fresh ginger, beet, carrot, celery juice from a stand in kensington market). Every now and then we love ordering delicious pizza from North of Brooklyn. A good man on a bike can deliver us pizza any day. And when necessary – martinis and/or old-fashioned

You’re having the longest day ever and need to chill the fuck out. Where do you go?

Cat – I go on a long ass bike ride. Fresh air and speed. I love it.

Kelly – Home to hang with my cat and several large glasses of red wine. I love the shit out of my cat Whiskey. She rules. Perhaps a pedicure and/or dinner and drinks with my good friend Julia. We laugh so much. Its wonderful. Lady friends are the tits.

What were you obsessed with in high school? 

Cat – Fashion. Getting into Ryerson and getting out of Ottawa. I always knew I wanted to move to Toronto, that was always a driving force.

Kelly – Seriously? Trying to figure out how to BE Gwen Stefani. I loved everything about her look, style, and music (and still do). I made clothes, she made clothes; we were kindred. I also loved going to pop punk concerts with my girlfriends and swooning over boys with spikey coloured hair and tattoos. Blink 182 much?!

What are you excited about, like at this very moment?

Cat –  Sea foam nuns. Making a costume for  the Deadly Nightshades Event at Nuit Blanche, Just Married at the Drake 150. MARRY YOUR BIKE!

Kelly – I literally committed to a relationship less than 24 hours ago with an extremely wonderful man I have been friends with for 11 years. I am thrilled. It’s gonna be great. Really, really great. I’m super stoked.

Wanna know more about what Pigeons & Thread does on the daily? Follow their adventures on Instagram!

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  1. May 30, 2019
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