Brigitte is a Montreal based squash player, plant junkie and caption expert. When she’s not spittin’ out puns, she’s correcting the way you say and spell her name. Her work has appeared nowhere, but Bridget has something to say…oh wait.
From Dreams to Label
BY BRIGITTE TOUSIGNANT
On a rainy Monday night in NDG, I had the chance to sit down with local designer Katia Hagen to discuss her new eco-friendly and vegan clothing line, Lights of All. I sank into Katia Hagen’s custom royal blue high-back loveseat and ran my fingers over the vegan ultrasuede. It is hard not to tell Katia Hagen’s story without touching on her stubbornness. Most of us have hundreds of aspirations throughout our lives, but not all of us stick around long enough to watch them blossom into something tangible, or wearable for that matter. Katia Hagen, sole designer and creator behind the new Montreal label, does not let them go by idly. Same goes for the useful items in her life, from the little things such as her sketching pencils, which are carefully used until they are sharpened down to obsolescence, to her black Singer sewing machine she uses to sew her clothing. At almost 100 years old and a family heirloom, it is an item that most of us would think belongs in an antiques store or textile museum. For Katia Hagen, being headstrong and literally, strong enough to kick your ass, was all that it took for a lacework of dreams to turn into reality.
“Dreams are super important to me-Dreams about the future,” she says to me as we sip on tea in her living room on a rainy Monday night. It is hard not to stare at her latest transformation: galactic pink and purple dyed hair, with just an inch of her natural blonde roots still showing. Hagen changed her hair drastically without turning to anyone for the green light, not even her boyfriend of almost 9 years. “I don’t need approval from anyone,” she says laughing before embarking on her story. Although this is her first interview, Hagen recently realized how important it is to be open about your struggles, especially since her dreams stem from them. “When I was struggling with depression in high school, I always had a dream about moving to New York City. I thought I could be different if I went somewhere else,” Hagen says. Once she graduated high school, she went on to study fashion and design at Lasalle College in Montreal. “My dream was guiding me while I was studying design,” she says as she pets Lila, her vegan French bulldog that is sprawled across her lap. Upon completing her studies at Lasalle College, Katia was rejected from Parsons and took a year off school. The time off made her realize that she needed to study something to help her in her personal life. So, Hagen moved to New York City where she studied philosophy and religious studies at The New School.
Her studies at The New School proved to be beneficial for her current career in fashion. “Studying philosophy really helped me to organize my thoughts and relax my mind,” she says. “I think that really helps me when I’m designing or looking for inspiration, to translate my emotions into creation.” Hagen continued to pursue her love of fashion. She managed to obtain multiple internships at large fashion brands, where her morals and values were put to the test. Hagen became vegetarian in 2008 and started veganism in 2012, so when a project manager asked her to cut a sample piece out of a large crocodile skin for a new purse, Hagen made a choice. “It was super hard and I wanted to cry,” she sighs and says. “I thought that to be in fashion, I had to divide myself from my ethics.” It was during that internship experience that Hagen made an important decision for her career: “I’m not going to be the one designing that bag.” Shortly after, Hagen graduated and without obtaining a Visa, packed her bags to return to Montreal. “I didn’t want to let go of my dream of living in New York…I didn’t want it to be over,” admitting that her biggest fear wasn’t moving back home, but starting a new life that was not defined by her struggle with depression.
Hagen admitted that while living in New York, her fantasy of becoming a different person didn’t happen. “I didn’t change, I was the same person,” she says. “I had the dream come true of moving there, but it didn’t dictate who I was to become.” Lights of All became the new dream, which rose from the ashes of her time spent in New York. In addition to it being a high-quality vegan clothing line, Hagen sees LOA as a social platform for positivity and openness. So far, Hagen has gone against the grain in choosing her models. “I want models of all shapes and sizes,” she says. “I don’t even want to call it a womenswear brand. I want to be open with whoever wants to wear the clothes.” Her collection consists of 9 pieces; dresses, wrap coats and floor length sleeveless vests in soft sand, grey, terracotta and hand-dyed shibori pink hues.
Hagen has been busy sending items to bloggers, updating the website and designing a new collection, of course. Fall/Winter 2017 will consist of winter coats inspired by her love of wrap designs and more unique dresses and styles. For Katia Hagen, LOA doesn’t stop at the final stitch. “Knowing that I have a public influence, even if really small-makes me want to be a positive influence, so that people feel comfortable in their own skin or talking about personal issues.” Her showcase of an inclusive view of beauty is not only inspiring, it is necessary. Shop Katia Hagen’s clothing line