What do ethics, lifestyle, and Mr. Darcy have in common? They’re all part of the story of the latest fashion brand to hit the Fraser Valley… But it’s not for you- it’s for your daughter.
As I enter the Water Shed in Walnut Grove, Lesley Stefanski and Vanessa Voth are laughing and eating together, surrounded by their work. They’re just days away from the launch of their slow-fashion clothing brand, Pemberley, and their excitement is palpable.
Fast Friends, Slow Fashion
Lesley and Vanessa were introduced a few years ago by a mutual friend and have been kindred spirits ever since. When I ask what they initially bonded over, they erupt into giggles over Mr. Darcy (the Colin Firth version, of course) and their shared love of Pride and Prejudice. This is no surprise- after all, Pemberley is the name of the fictional estate owned by Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s novel!
As you might have guessed, both Lesley and Vanessa have a love of all things British and European. Lesley fell in love with European culture and old-school British refinement while living abroad; Vanessa fueled a lifelong obsession with the same when she visited Lesley on her own travels through the continent with her husband.
Outside of this new venture Lesley is a life coach and writer, while Vanessa is a photographer and has just sent her first novel for publishing.
I remember opening Christmas presents as a kid and the smell of Value Village just hitting you as you took off the wrapping paper. We didn’t get it then, but now we willingly buy second hand all the time!
Both women describe a pull in recent years towards minimalism and intentional living. Vanessa’s debut novel is about her grandmother, a women who lived and breathed a “waste not want not” mentality. She talks about her grandmother’s ability to reuse, re-purpose, and make do with nothing short of admiration.
For her part, Lesley describes childhood shopping trips and “the smell of Value Village,” noting that now she actually prefers to find thrifted clothing over newer, lower quality fashions. Both women promote the benefits of a capsule wardrobe, explaining how it complements their goal of living with intention.
A Lack of Options
As their children aged out of the locally made baby and toddler clothes we have here in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver, Vanessa and Lesley found a distinct lack of options available to them.
They wanted simple, quality garments with a pretty and refined European aesthetic- and they didn’t want to pay a small fortune to get them.
At the same time, both women were feeling pulled towards a product based business and had been brainstorming together about what kind of product they could sell.
With the realization that they could make their mark on the consumer world by solving their own problem, Pemberley was born.
Pemberley produces high-quality garments for children sizes 3-12. Each item is made to order here in BC, using quality craftsmanship and fabrics that will stand the test of time.
Their debut collection features three dresses: Emma, Julianna, and Maisie. They are simple, beautiful, and thoughtfully designed- these are not just party dresses, but dresses made for playing and exploring.
The price points are also at a fraction of what you might expect for handmade, ethically produced clothing. By making each item to order instead of carrying inventory, this business model reduces overhead and allows the company to pass those savings on to the customer. Lesley points out that they’ll never have a sale, “because there’s nothing left to discount!”
I ask Vanessa and Lesley if they think people will spend $50-$80 on a children’s clothing, they answer with a resounding “yes.”
You can buy the $12 item ten times in the year, or you can buy the $50 item once. It will look the same in 12 months as it did when you bought it, and it will look them same when you hand it off to a younger child as your little girl outgrows it.
When Vanessa and Lesley get started on the topic of paying for quality, it’s clear that they want to be a part of something bigger than clothing. Their hope is that Pemberley can be their own catalyst for change, and can support a movement towards ethical consumerism, intentional living, and classic style that outlasts any trend.
Pemberley’s mission is to encourage people to think carefully about their purchases- where they were made and by whom, what those people were paid, and how long the purchase will last. They want people to spend more, less often- with the knowledge that at the end of the day this actually saves money and avoids supporting unethical manufacturing practices.
Lesley and Vanessa are already putting their heads together to come up with a collection for the little boys in your life- and I for one can’t wait to see it!