March & August
Words: Karen Hare/ Photos: Janine Kropla
It seems as if it’s here again: winter. It comes every year, despite our forgetfulness in the summer and our hopefulness in the fall. This year it is sneaking into our lives quietly, not with one big storm, but with cold dark evenings and the fluttering of snowflakes descending towards our flat prairie plain. There is consistency in this change; we get pulled back into our humble holes, finding identity in this cold contemplation.
With this cold comes an amazing depth of talent in our small-town city. And so, on one of these dark early evenings I had the opportunity to speak with Alesha Frederickson, the sole creator of March & August Underthings.
Alesha came home to Winnipeg from schooling at Blanche Macdonald in Vancouver, wanting distance from the fashion industry. However, time and again, she found herself at her sewing machine creating delicate intimates for herself and her friends.
The creation of garments designated “underthings” seemed to be a perfect fit and a way for her to find a quiet voice in an often-loud industry. They are secret spoils for a woman, Alesha explains. She will never be aware of a woman walking down the street wearing her pieces. And she enjoys knowing her intimates are celebrated behind clothes or closed doors. It’s not about flashing a brand, but allowing a woman to feel really good, comfortable in both her underthings and her own skin.
Muddy Water: How is it that, as a designer, you arrived at making women’s ‘underthings’?
Alesha: One of the reasons I chose to make underthings is that I found there were no options for lingerie for me. Everything kept feeling very contrived and like I was manipulating my body to look a certain way because it wasn't good enough to be "sexy". I was [also] never a lingerie wearer, so that was definitely one of the reasons. I felt inspired to put on something unique and comfortable that made me feel beautiful without changing who I am in order to do it.
MW: Is there a specific meaning to the name March and August?
A: I was born in March, my sister in August. The two months are so different in terms of weather and how people here in Winnipeg function. It reminded me of how different people are - just like my sister and I - yet [they still] have their strengths. I also like the idea that someone wearing my pieces can choose to feel a little more March one day, and a little more August another, meaning we don't always have to fit into a label or box. And my pieces aren't meant to appeal to one type of woman, [they’re] for everyone.
MW: Your pieces seem universal in both aesthetic and consideration of the uniqueness of a woman’s body. Is this a conscious choice?
A: I always start with “How would this look on different bodies?” I don't like to think about making a prototype of one size and just making it bigger or smaller. I try to inspire myself by parts of the body that are constant, but that every body will make look completely unique. One of my favourite pieces is a pair of undies that has a completely sheer panel on the back, but uses the hand dyed fabric on the front. Now imagine ten different people wearing that piece, and how that changes it. It’s a simple design, but the body makes it very sculptural and it comes to life. I also love that piece because from the front it looks like you are wearing a modest and covered pair, and then you turn around and [they’re] cheeky (sorry about the pun). I like little surprises like that. It keeps it fun.
MW: Your work extends past our typical ideals of what lingerie is. I feel like it really considers the woman (the wearer) instead of just the viewer. Comfort seems to be on the table - while still maintaining beauty, of course.
A: It's all about the person wearing it. I get really passionate about the wearer not feeling like a "present". I don't know why lingerie is supposed to be full of bows and ruffles like a gift you are giving someone. I also try not to add too many bells and whistles because it’s just about feeling good in the body you have and still owning a unique piece. I think it’s an added bonus if someone else gets to view it; if you feel amazing, they can sense that.
MW: How is it that you arrive at a line of work? What does your process look like and what inspires you?
A: My process is pretty hectic. I have loads of notebooks and papers that I sketch in and write down ideas in for months on end. I test out ideas; most of the time I start with one and it turns into something else that ends up being way more exciting than what I was initially thinking. I am very hands-on and so even though I try to be organized and have a strategic plan, I have come to realize it’s best to make and test and let it grow that way.
MW: Your most recent line of underthings, named Glacier, is inspired by Winnipeg winters, black ice and frostbite. I’m in love with this! Can you tell us a little bit about how this [idea] has developed over the past year, as well as what techniques you have employed?
A: Glacier is about many things. Glaciers are unique in size, shape and movement, and so are the people wearing my pieces. They are slow moving, but they are getting somewhere - which reminds me of Winnipeg. Black ice and frostbite are what inspired my colour scheme. I decided to use a hand dyeing technique, using ice to get some interesting patterns. Every piece I dye is completely different in terms of texture, colour, and pattern. If you own a piece, no other person will have that exact one, which makes it a little more special.
MW: What is your favourite part of the process?
A: I have a couple favourites. I love coming up with the concept and then seeing [it] come to life. Photo shoots are always amazing because you get to see how the pieces move on a real body. But my absolute favourite is getting feedback and photos from clients who feel amazing. Since all of my stuff is worn under clothing, I rarely get the chance to know who is wearing it. I have received emails and photos that are really inspiring.
MW: Where do we find you and how do we order?
A: Every piece is made to order and you can buy it exclusively online at www.marchandaugust.com.
Meeting with Alesha was an absolute pleasure, seeing such passion manifest into something so soft. Her hand dyed fabric is sweet to the fingertips as well as the eyes. Her stitches are crisp and her concepts rich. It was yet another conversation with a modest Winnipegger who simply wants to make things of quality to share with many.
It is hard to put an artist's work into words, when it speaks for itself so well.