I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that back when Drake and Future named their joint mixtape they were on Mary Young‘s web site anticipating her now released Fall 2015 collection. And rightfully so. With cosigns from Refinery 29, Teen Vogue, and other major fashion media, Mary is steadily positioning herself as one to watch both locally in Toronto and abroad.
In the world of lifestyle lingerie, most brands are either hyper-feminine or super sporty, but Mary positions herself right in the middle of the two styles. A quick browse in her online store reveals cozy basics like triangle bralettes, high waist panties, skinny-cut sweats, and knits made from the softest bamboo fibers in light and neutral palettes. It’s lingerie meets loungewear. Loungerie ©, if you will.
“Design itself inspires me,” Mary says. Give her a well-curated space with white walls and rustic wood or metal elements and her creativity will flourish. An average day in her life can involve anything from sketching, pattern-drafting, and sewing samples to managing her e-commerce store, packing and shipping orders, attending industry events, or taking meetings like the one we are on now over coffee at one of her preferred spots, RSqaured Cafe on Queen Street West.
Young has come a long way from her quiet, rural upbringing. She grew up in a small village outside the town of Arnprior, about an hour drive west of Ottawa. Mary estimates the population to be under 500 people, citing 7:00am horse-feeding sessions, putting down fence posts, baling hay, and operating an industrial mower as regular parts of her childhood.
Mary recalls wanting to be a fashion designer since the age of eight. She spent her teen years sewing and designing, following her passion all the way to Toronto to pursue a degree in Fashion Communication from Ryerson University where she learned about branding, marketing, and the business side of the industry.
Her path into lingerie however, wasn’t so direct. Sipping her pink, frothy beverage, Mary remembers her graduating collection fondly. She tells me about how at the time she had been knitting a lot on the side and wanted to do a collection of sweaters, but knew she had to come up with more than that to have a chance of sending her pieces down the Ryerson runway. “So in my brilliant mind I figured I would do lingerie ‘cuz I would save money on buying less fabric,” she laughs and we smile, both fully understanding the plight of the cash-strapped fashion student.
What started out as a purely economical decision began to show promise as she received various press and buying inquires after the show. After about two months of market research, she decided to start her business. “Everything in life is a risk, especially starting a company, but if you can calculate your risks and make sure that there’s enough chance for success, then it’s worth doing.”
As many often say, the real learning starts after school. “You won’t learn how to run a company in school. You won’t learn until you do it…I think you have to be slightly naïve when you start because if you know how hard it’s gonna be you won’t [do it].” Her biggest learning curve came in the form of understanding the nuts and bolts of production like sourcing materials, payment terms, timelines, and more. These challenges become even bigger when you consider her dedication to be fully produced in Canada. Luckily, she has had a support system of family and friends to lean on, most notably her mother who she cites as being her backbone and one of her biggest cheerleaders.
It’s not all about business when it comes to this budding #GIRLBOSS. She tells me about how she hit the gym this morning at 6:30am to start her day with a good sweat session, explaining how working out and running are integral to her overall happiness. And what’s she listening to? Drake and Future of course. While she purposely didn’t per-order Justin Bieber’s new album she refers to herself as a ‘solid fan’, having probably listened to “Sorry” about 25 times that day. Throw in The Weeknd, Roy Woods, some indie pop and country icon Garth Brooks and you’ve got a good assessment of her musical landscape.
She also counts treating herself to tasty food and socializing with friends among her favorite things to do. “To be successful you need to feel good and to feel good you have to eat good. You can’t just eat kale every day and be happy.” Amen, sister. When she tells me about her love for chocolate and the fact that her favorite gluten-free donut spot knows her by name I pass no judgment. Sometimes you gotta treat yourself.
One of my favorite things about Mary is that she hasn’t let her success go to her head. Ask her what her biggest accomplishment is and instead of naming an awesome press feature she’ll say it was completing her graduating collection and sending it down the Ryerson runway to stand up against fashion design students who had spent four years studying garment construction. Remembering how much her face hurt from smiling so much back then makes her smile even now.
Ask her what she’s passionate about and she’ll tell you about various social causes in the fashion and beauty industries includng her most recent campaign emphasizing body positivity and self-acceptance. “Your worth isn’t in your looks, your worth is in who you are as a person. Being happy with yourself and feeling good about yourself will cause good things to happen in all areas of your life.”
She also cites encouraging entrepreneurship among youth, especially in the creative industries, as another one of her passions. “Know what you want and stay true to yourself no matter what other people are doing around you…If you’re creative and passionate, definitely do it because I think the fashion industry in Canada is getting smaller…Everyone leaves to find success and I think that we need to start cultivating success within our own country.”
Young is doing a pretty good job at setting an example of how to run a successful small business. In the future she hopes to expand into swimwear, ready-to-wear, more basics, and possibly even menswear.
As our interview draws to a close I see her reach for her phone. Like everyone else our age, she can’t live without it. I glance at the case which is a star in its own right. It is a film frame frozen in time, the infamous still from Keeping up With The Kardashians of Kim sobbing inconsolably as she confesses she no longer wants to be married to Kris Humphries. Mary didn’t need to tell me what scene the shot was from, I already knew. We both share an appreciation for reality TV and that’s just one more reason why I totally approve of her.
To view and shop her products visit MaryYoung.ca.
Keep up with her on social media by following her on Instagram, @ItsMaryYoung
RSquared Cafe is located at 668 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON.