Toronto wife and wife duo Marie and Róisín Glass operate a sustainable, “anti-gender” streetwear brand called House of Glass Clothing, as well as a small atelier specializing in body-positive tailoring, alterations and small-run manufacturing projects. As the duo was in the midst of preparing to move to Amsterdam, we connected with former Montrealer Róisín to ask about the brand’s accessible silhouette and sizing, exclusivity and sustainability.
Lorraine Carpenter: So how did House of Glass start?
Róisín Glass: I lost my job in early 2019, this fancy hotel management job, and I was let go and I was devastated, it was an alien type of feeling. I thought, I would love to just be my own boss, I’d love to just be in charge of something. And Marie’s been a tailor for like 20 years. She was talking about making a product that “you” could make, that was achievable, that she could teach me to make. “Handmade by you. It’s your own silhouette, it’s identifiable and you can be in charge.”
The first thing we came up with was the bomber jacket. It’s unisex, one size fits all. It’s just a really cool garment. From there, some of the stuff was just like stuff that I wanted to make for myself. As my sewing got better, I was like, “I want to make comfy shorts,” or whatever. So there’s some stuff on the website that’s really just stuff I made for me, but once I made it, I thought, “Maybe someone else would like this.” We’re still putting out jackets, and we do a sweater, that’s in the same silhouette. We have this one silhouette that we make everything in that fits up to XXXL, and then we have some plus-size stuff as well.
It’s amazing to see the cross-section of people who buy our stuff. It’s like, really femme girls, and really gender-androgynous people like me and a couple of real bros have bought jackets cause they fit kinda like a varsity jacket if you’re a bigger guy. Yeah, a cross-section of people are digging it.
LC: There are so many nice items. I really like the organza jumper in particular.
RG: It’s really a dress, I just didn’t want to call it a dress, because I felt like that would have made it gendered, and would potentially put men off. We don’t want our stuff to be gendered like that or put anybody in a box. It’s really just the exact same silhouette as the sweater and the jumpers but it goes down to your knee. The organza jumper is the nice feather in our cap to be honest, it was a nice one to put out.
We think ethically and about sustainability with our manufacturing, so we don’t buy or make new fabrics. It’s called deadbolt, which means that the fabric shops in Toronto just buy what’s left and then I buy what’s left from them, so when it’s gone it’s gone. So we are not creating new waste, so all of it’s essentially salvaged.
LC: I like your approach to sizing, especially given the discrepancy of sizes across brands. Sizing is kind of bullshit, no?
RG: You can get so caught up in feeling like shit about yourself, like if you end up wearing large, because all the sizes are so arbitrary. They’re not really based on very much, so I much prefer to say to people, “We make this shape. Everything is kind of this shape, these are the measurements.” When you open the product description, you can see all the measurements, and no one has to feel bad that it’s an XL or a small, or some arbitrary size assigned to it. This is what it looks like on a body, here are the measurements, either you’re in or you’re out. I hate clothes shopping. If I’m a 33 and I have to buy a 35, I’m like, “Did I gain 10 pounds, what happened to me?”
LC: I gather that your pieces are super limited edition.
RG: A lot of our pieces are one of one. There are a couple of jackets where we were lucky and there was more fabric available, so there’s maybe two or three in existence. But we find that most people really like the exclusivity of it being one of one. I wasn’t quite aware of this thing in streetwear culture till I got more involved in the scene — one of the first things that these sneaker heads will ask me is, “Is this one of one?” And that works with our sustainability promises and ethos anyway because we don’t want to be buying yards and yards of fabric and saving tons and tons of stock because it defeats the purpose of us saying that we’re trying to keep waste to a minimum. So yeah, it’s totally ideal for us that the culture seems to embrace that exclusivity. The silhouettes are recurring — that silhouette is our brand silhouette — but the fabrics come and go. Whatever we see that inspires us is what we work with.
(On the pronouns masks) “We’re telling people to put their pronouns where their mouth is.”
LC: How has COVID affected what you do?
RG: One thing we’re benefitting from right now is that people are taking their own hobbies more seriously since they have more time to spend on things. I feel that they’re being more respectful of what Marie and I do as a craft, like as an art form. People have also had more time to leaf through their own closets and say, “What are the garments I really treasure? What’s really important to me here?” And yeah, it totally isn’t everything that you bought from H&M in the last five years. It’s probably those choice items that you’ve spent a bit of time and energy and money on. So we have a shift. We have seen that we’ve been more successful since COVID. We also offer tailoring services and we do small batch manufacturing and even though that side of the business has really taken off, people are looking to support a local business and source things locally much more than they were before this pandemic hit them.
LC: Could you describe your brand silhouette?
RG: Very technically and basically speaking, it’s an inverted triangle. We use a raglan sleeve because without a seam that runs all around the armhole, we eliminate the classic indicators of fit. We casually refer to this as “the sisterhood of the travelling pants effect.” A raglan sleeve is less fitted and joins to a looser chest fit. This in combination with a classic ribbed finish at the waist finishes the inverted triangle. But that’s when the garment is flat.
I would like to say that the silhouette is oversized, but because we only offer two sizes, that is greatly left up to our customers and we are delighted with any interpretation that makes our wearers feel good.
For more about House of Glass, please visit their website.
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