The New Beag Thing

“I’m not an artist,” says 23 year-old fashion design student Leanne Beagan. “Some people look at fashion as an art or a craft. I think of it as a craft.”

Leanne first fell in love with her craft in high school when she learned how to sew, and has been sharpening her skills ever since. Currently in her final year of Fanshawe College’s Fashion Design program, she is poised to launch her own clothing line under the label The Beags.

Leanne describes The Beags as “casual, urban clothing” for college and university girls. In designing the line her goal was to make clothes that were fun, original and wearable. “I kept it simple in the sense of the way it’s put together and how easy they are to wear,” she says. “The people I’m designing for isn’t somebody who wants to look like everybody else… I think there’s people out there that want something new and fresh.”

While the biggest challenge for most designers is finding a distributor, Leanne was fortunate enough to have one in her friend Nicole Hartford. The two met while taking a small business course and have kept in touch ever since. On April 1, Nicole is opening a clothing store in Bowmanville called The Wooden Hanger which will feature designer lines including Guess, Groggy and of course, The Beags.

Initially, The Beags will only be available through The Wooden Hanger and online orders. However Leanne hopes to make The Beags available in every university and college town in Ontario.

As a college student Leanne finds herself increasingly busy, balancing her time between school and The Beags. “Right now, I’m doing all the sewing and that’s okay so far, but the bulk of it’s not even here yet,” she says. “Basically, I have to do everything and that’s expected. I knew that in the first place, but it is a lot of work.”

As demand picks up, Leanne plans to recruit students to help with The Beags. Already, she has enlisted student photographer Keri Levine and intends to hire more students to assist in everything from production to marketing. “If somebody wants to help me sew,” she says. “I’d love to get some first-year students to help me out.”

Leanne’s family has given her tremendous support in pursuing her dream of becoming a fashion designer. “My parents really want me to do this. They really have a lot of faith in me to do this. And I owe them a lot of money, so I gotta do this!”

After graduation, Leanne intends to devote all her time and energy on making The Beags a success. “I want it to be the status of Triple 5 Soul,” she says. Her goals may be high, but as others before her (like Triple 5 Soul founder Camella Ehlke) have shown, it is possible.

So what do others think of The Beags? “So far, everybody thinks it’s great. I’ve made a lot of clothes for friends, and that’s pretty much where I get my confidence from… people liking the stuff and wearing [it]. So that just reinforces what I’m doing.”

Talking to Leanne it’s obvious that she believes in herself and The Beags. “I know this is something that I want to do,” she says. “I’ve gone to university and hated it, spent a year really thinking about what I wanted to do. It’s something that I know that I’m going to do. I’m going to be a designer.”