Maison Cyma uses recycled fur to bring awareness to its short life-cycle in fashion
A Montreal-based designer duo is changing how fur is used in the fashion industry, one garment at a time.
Designers Mary-Jo Dorval and Cynthia Girard met about 26 years ago, at a time when they were both already creating clothes. A few years later, while Dorval studied fashion design, Girard studied fashion merchandising. As they started out in the workforce, they realized their jobs weren’t right for them, and this lead them to start their own brand, Maison Cyma. The name comes from their first names (CY for Cynthia and MA for Mary-Jo).
The first-ever collection by Maison Cyma was showcased on Oct. 9 during the Toronto Startup Fashion Week, a platform for young entrepreneurs in the fashion industry.
Their collection features an elegant mixture of luxurious sweaters, bustiers, vests and pants all in neutral colours with touches of blue. The two designers love working with materials such as recycled fur, fish leather, velvet and net fabric. They like to play with hand smocking, an embroidery technique that gathers fabric together. The way fur is used, however, is important to them.
Girard and Dorval said they are interested in ecology and sustainability when it comes to designing garments, particularly with fur. Before Maison Cyma, Girard worked with real fur, but she said it occurred to her that it’s more special than any synthetic fabrics, because it comes from an animal whose life is taken away. She decided to be more conscious about the environmental effects of using it. “People don’t treat fur with enough respect,” said Girard. At Maison Cyma, only recycled fur is used.
Their interest with the sustainability and ecology of fur became the heart of the brand’s mission. On their official website, they said Maison Cyma “seeks to honour and glorify animal life and to give a voice to the creatures whose freedom and skin is taken for the profit of the fur industry,” and “honours the lives of these animals by offering them a second life in the most beautiful way possible.”
They aim not only to create while being respectful of animals, but also to educate. “We want to make people aware of the recycled fur industry,” said Girard. The designers don’t just want to sell their clothing, but to raise awareness about the short life cycle of fur in the fashion. For the two designers, the goal is for the clothes to become part of a lifestyle for their clients.
Out of their entire collection, one of Girard’s favourites is the long white vest made of lace and fur while Dorval’s is a black top with hand smock texture and a long net train. “The pieces adapt to fit our clients’ way of life,” said Girard. Many of Maison Cyma’s pieces are versatile and can be worn in different ways. For example, each fur piece has magnetic attachments in certain areas which can be detached to give a different look.
“After I finish creating a piece, I always try it on,” said Dorval, who finds the clothes make her feel more confident. “They give me the desire to stand straight and strong,” she said. For the designers, it’s not so much about style, but about personality.
The current fashion industry in Montreal is facing some problems, with main brands such as Jacob and Smart Set closing their doors, but the designers are not scared. “We don’t limit ourselves to Montreal,” said Girard. She said a lot of women from France have reached out to them telling the designers that using recycled fur is not something that is often seen. They are considering exporting to France to obtain a broader clientele, but for now, they are focusing on designing their second collection.