Cassandra Bailey is the visionary behind one-craftswoman (for now) local lifestyle brand, Old Fashioned Standards. Her line of inspired oilcloth overalls, bags, hats and other custom clothing/accessories compile a covetable wardrobe of items that are built to last a lifetime, even in Vancouver’s exceptional rainy climate.
Bailey recently put in some overtime to have an in-depth conversation with us about herself and her brand. Read on for our long-form interview that’s also an inspirational and empowering kick in the ass.
First of all, who are you and what do you do? Hi! I’m Cassandra Bailey, everyone calls me Kassy (with a K). I’m the owner and creator at Old Fashioned Standards or OFS. OFS is my company that specializes in oilcloth water resistant garments and accessories that are all handmade in Vancouver. I personally make everything from scratch, from idea to finished product, specializing in bags, hats accessories and outerwear. OFS has always been a way for me to make functional and stylish products that I just couldn’t find anywhere else.
What is your neighbourhood and what makes it home? I was raised in Cochrane, Alberta. I started making my own clothes at 13 mainly because I just wanted to have my own distinct style. I couldn’t wait to leave and pursue my passion- which is fashion. So that’s exactly what I did. I moved to Vancouver in 2009 and have been living in Mount Pleasant ever since. Mount P is home because I have so many good friends who either live, work or run super successful businesses there. Antisocial Skateboard Shop, Budgies Burritos, Brass Neck, The Lido, and Black Lodge are spots that feel like an extension of home for me. I love the community, not to mention one of my all time favourite skate parks is nearby. It is a very friendly part of town, and anytime I am up or down Main Street I am bound to run into a pal or two which is always nice!
Describe your studio space/workshop. My workshop is full of character, packed with assorted machines, a 12 foot work table, and a office zone. This shop has allowed me to get to where I am today, it’s a true workshop, no frills, nothing fancy, but a positive space to come to work everyday and get a things done.
What is Old Fashioned Standards, in ten words or less. Made for a good time, handmade to last a lifetime.
What long lost and/or “old fashioned” value do you think is underrated or should be reinstated in everyday modern life? I come from a family of workers, my grandma and grandpa ran a family butcher shop with their kids then worked together as grain haulers on the prairies. OFS is based on the core values of hard work, grit, and genuine quality, basically everything my grandparents taught me, I wanted to create a business with that as the foundation. When I think of OFS it’s really speaking to the way I was raised; to honour your word, work hard and treat others well- the world can always do with more of that.
What modern day technology can you not live without? I like to think I could live without my phone or desktop, but I couldn’t go far without my sewing machines.
Tell me about your sewing machine(s). I have a few industrial machines in my shop, each machine is built to perform only one function, so each machine has an important role. The 3 machines that are most valuable to me are the Juki DDL 8100e, Juki LU 562, and the Yamato Serger. I use all 3 almost everyday. I also have a second straight stitch for the day I hire a sewer, and a button sewer oner. Machines I am on the hunt for right now is a buttonholer, and a double needle straight stitch.
What is your most invaluable tool and why? Conceptualizing and creating an article takes a lot of time and engineering. Each tool, even scotch tape, or a sharp HB pencil in that process is valuable.
How long does it take to produce a garment or bag, from start to finish? Something like a custom jacket, start to finish, depending on intricacies, around 35 to 45 hrs. Roughly, cut to finish one made to order backpack takes 8 hrs.
How does Vancouver influence OFS? Vancouver’s weather surely influences the function and necessity needed out of each product. There are so many endless adventures to be had out here, you can hike, bike, swim, skateboard, and camp-out all in one day! It’s incredible. I find myself in all sorts of situations where I’m rushing back to my studio with ideas about a product that would make those experiences that much better. I use a lot of natural colours that are inspired by our landscape and I love exploring new colour ways. Right now my favourites are mustard yellow and nautical red.
Where did you go to school? I went to Vancouver Community College and took the two year Fashion Design program. It was super hands on with a focus on pattern drafting, illustrating and sewing. Everything I learnt there I use everyday at OFS. It was awesome.
“Don’t deny your instincts – I’ve never been let down by mine.”
OFS has a very niche approach to its designs. What sort of education did you receive outside of school, if any? OFS uses heritage cloths (oil cloth and waxed cotton) with a fresh look and approach. It’s the best of both worlds; cloth that is time tested (over a century old), using modern designs and colour ways. I get a lot of inspiration from skateboard culture and street wear, where function and fashion work in tandem. I guess you could say my unofficial education has been in the skateboard world. I really value designing and creating unique articles that are, as you say, ‘niche’. I get inspired by the details. Sometimes I’ll use coloured stitching to make a garment, hat or bag pop. I feel that the best lessons I’ve learnt have been from trial and error. When I first started making 5 panel hats I made over 20 prototypes before I finally got it. But that was in the beginning, I’m always refining my process and designing new products.
How did OFS get started? Well one day, a dear friend was going to a factory in Vancouver that I was keen to go check it out, so I went along. It turned out the shop owner wanted to sell this whole lot of top quality oilcloth. It’s such a hard material to find and I could not believe what luck I had fell into – this is what I had been hunting for, for years! I maxed out the Visa and took hundreds of pounds of oilcloth home with me. This was the official beginning of OFS, in October 2012. I was 21 and so ecstatic about this massive come up and the abundance of opportunity at hand. I had 2 custom orders on my list and that’s all I needed to get started. The ball kept rolling and I’ve basically been grinding in the shop ever since, with a variety of part time jobs along the way. I am finally at a point where I only work for OFS, and I always take Sunday off.
How have your personal beliefs and intentions shaped and changed the Old Fashioned Standards brand over time, to become what it is now? My brand is an extension of me; fun, hardworking and unique.
How many people comprise OFS? OFS is a one women enterprise, however, I have always had very close mentors riding along with me. This year I’m looking at creating an opportunity for 1 or 2 professionals to come aboard.
Why did you decide to hone in on oilcloth as your primary material? Haha I’m an oilcloth nerd. The more I learn about it, the more I love the material. Oilcloth is a natural fiber base, it has a very durable, dense, smooth weave, and with the historic process of applying the unique wax finish it transforms the basic cotton cloth into a advanced water- and wind- repelling, abrasion resistant material that ages beautifully with an antique patina. It’s able to fight against the elements of nature in a natural way because it’s a living fiber. Ideal for coastal climates, I consider it to be the natural choice to gortex and other synthetic water resistant materials.
Paraffin has kind of a bad reputation for being not environmentally friendly…are OFS products ethical? You’re right, oilcloth does contain paraffin, which is non-toxic (it’s used on apples and in crayons) to help with creating the fabric’s water repellent properties, however in very minimal amounts. The upside to this is that oilcloth is a living fabric and with proper care it can be used for a lifetime. When comparing that to synthetic materials found in raincoats and bags it’s impact on the environment is very minimal. When you order OFS it comes in the post package it’s shipped in with a small product care card – no extra packaging is ever used.
How do you source your materials? I can’t reveal those secrets! Finding good and ethical wholesalers takes time weaving and networking your way through the industry.
How do you guarantee that your products are waterproof? Do you have to put them through any specific tests? All of OFS products are water repellant and each piece is hand sewn by me, ensuring that every aspect of quality along the way is guaranteed. The material comes pre-waxed, and customers can re-apply wax as needed. Since making my first garments seven years ago all of my customers have been very satisfied.
What is your personal favourite OFS item? I really love all the products. Most of them are my favourite but right now it’s the new unisex work pant [released at the end of February]. It will be available in waxed cotton and 10 to 12oz cotton twills. The 12oz is slightly thicker for more of a heavy raw denim look. I am making them by limited release order. Any inquiries can be emailed to: [email protected]”m .
“What inspires me most is other people’s confidence in their unique style, no matter what it is. I love the idea of creating things that help people express themselves.”
What is your favourite era and why? Definitely the 60’s for the social movement, cultural revolution, the music, fashion, beginnings of skateboarding, classic cars, the style of life, lack of modern technology, and the high quality standards.
Describe your design process to me. What inspires you to create the garments and accessories (overalls, bags, etc.) that you do? When I want to create a new product, I start by thinking about style, fit, purpose and features. I focus on making what I can’t find or what I think I can do better. There are so many steps in between idea to finished product. My creative ethos is that all products should have the best fit, best material, best design, made with the highest quality possible. If not then what’s the point in making it at all?
Who is your style inspiration? Skateboarding culture has been a huge influence on my own style. But what inspires me most is other people’s confidence in their unique style, no matter what it is. I love the idea of creating things that help people express themselves.
What tunes currently have got you sewing in the shop? I always got something with a good beat on, to keep the shop a’ boppin’. I make a lot of playlists with my favourite songs so I can jam that all day and not be distracted. Right now I’m listening to a mix of Cardi B, the new Meek Mill, Nana Fofie, Mase, Da Brat, and lots of Reggaeton.
What’s your favourite rainy day activity? The rainy days, when you have the right OFS gear, are just like any other days. But if it happens to be a rainy Sunday when I’m not working, you’ll find me sleeping in with a pancake breakfast, going on a rain walk, hosting a dinner party, or staying in for a cozy movie night.
What meal or food gets your energy going for a day in the shop? Tea and avocado toast is an everyday standard.
How do you spend your down time? Well anyone who runs a business would tell you there’s very little down time! But when I do get so lucky, I like to have a lot of fun and enjoy it with my good friends and my lovely husband.
How do you pay the bills? By hustling hard 6 days a week.
What has been your favourite custom piece and customer, so far? I have made a lot of custom jackets and backpacks that are my favourites! Bubba was my most recent favourite customer. He knew exactly what he wanted for his custom vest. He came ready with a drawing, notes and deposit in hand.
What was the first future-heritage, handcrafted item of clothing or bag that you invested in?
The first hand crafted piece I ever owned was a custom ring by Army of Rokosz. It has a singer engraved on the front, a bobbin on the side, a heart on the bottom, and a little OFS logo on the other side.
For those who balk at the cost of your products, why should people invest in Old Fashioned Standards? The reality of handcrafting quality goods in Vancouver means that the price point may not appeal to everyone. People invest in OFS because they care about locally made goods, slow fashion and high quality standards. If you want to know exactly where and how your piece was produced and created, you can speak directly to the designer, the pattern drafter, the seamstress, and the CEO.
Who is the OFS customer? The OFS customer is a thoughtful, ethical consumer. Roughly ranging from ages 25 to 45, male and female. They tend to be trades workers, outdoor adventurers; people who face the toughest weather elements for work or play. A lot of my customers are motorcycle enthusiast, hikers, bikers, campers, kayakers, travellers, and daily commuters.
What was the most valuable lesson or skill that you learned outside of your formal schooling? I’ve always gone with my gut instinct and taking a leap of faith. I wouldn’t have started OFS otherwise. Don’t deny your instincts – I’ve never been let down by mine.
What part of the creating process is your favourite? Drafting and sewing the final product, because it is the most fun and rewarding part of the process.
What part of the process is the most challenging? Pattern drafting can be challenging at times, but I love doing it.
What new skill would you like to learn in 2019? Taking my marketing to the next level.
The “Catch 22” of creating products that are built to last a lifetime – and maybe even several lifetimes – versus lesser quality, trendy items is that people don’t need to repurchase…How do you plan to grow and continue OFS with that in mind? By constantly developing and creating new products. I have so many goals and aspirations that OFS will never be at a stand still. It is always evolving. Our devoted customers truly love the products, and are always waiting for the next colour or product to drop.
Where do you see yourself and OFS in five years? Ten years? Over the next five years I plan to build up a committed team to support the growth of OFS. I am currently working on implementing a new system to help streamline the process of ordering custom garments. I would also like to have a few of my products be sold at a couple strategic west coast stores. My products are solid, so in this next phase of OFS I am planning to focus more on marketing.
How do you want to be remembered and/or what would you like to leave as your legacy? Well, every single OFS product I create will be a legacy in itself. Years down the road, the quality, style and craftswomanship will always stand out.
Why should future generations care about Old Fashioned Standards? The drive for local, sustainable fashion is only getting started. Future generations are going to be way more dialed into this cause. Craftswomanship is on a comeback.
What is the most outlandish, trendiest and/or frivolous item that you own? Gucci perfume that was a gift and a quarter full. It’s totally not my thing.
Tell me what we can expect from your video and collaboration with Aya. An inside look at my workshop, my work process, and the woman behind it all, I suppose (me).
What Vancouverite is doing amazing things right now that you think we should know about? Well they’ve been doing amazing things for a long time but, Andrea Rokosz – Army of Rokosz; Julio Cuellar – Julio Cuellar Jewelry; Alex Norris – Fairweather Counselling; and The Valley Buds (Michelle Pezel & Alana Patterson). If you don’t know, now you know!