I met My Johannson-Ganjoo when we were both new moms with infants, just about to embark on very different fashion adventures – she starting Maelle Vintage Dresses and me creating this here blog. We’ve spent the last few years comparing notes on our mischievous toddlers, but we finally met recently to talk about our other shared passion, fashion. After a requisite catch-up on the little ones and their latest antics, we chatted about the fashion shows she used to put on as a child, her line of late 50s and early 60s-inspired dresses, and how fun it would be to party with Vivienne Westwood.
The Backseat Stylers: What’s your earliest fashion memory?
My Johansson-Ganjoo: Going through my grandmother’s attic when I was…I don’t even know when it started. My mom had this big huge cedar chest in my room filled with my grandmother’s old dresses. I would just put on these outfits and walk around my neighbourhood. In school, they would let me put on these fashion shows; I can’t believe they actually let me do that. I would go through my grandmother’s attic and pull out clothes that I liked, then I would dress my friends and put on the fashion show.
You’ve gone from school fashion shows to designing dresses for your own line, Maelle. What does the name ‘Maelle’ mean?
I’m very much influenced by my grandmothers and the women in my family. I was writing down all their names and it just happened that the first letter of every name formed the name ‘Maelle’. I [also] keep incorporating these women into my design, and I name a lot of dresses [after them]. Most of these women aren’t here anymore, [so] it’s a way to introduce new women to these women who meant a lot to me.
What’s the best part of your job?
Working on a dress. Having a customer come to me, draft the pattern, putting in all the little details, and then having her put on the final version of the dress and seeing it on her. That’s absolutely the best part: seeing my dress on her.
What has been the highlight of your design career so far?
Getting those cold, out of the blue, phone calls. Having someone say, “hey, I heard about you and I want you to make me a dress!”
How would you describe your personal style?
Early 1960s blended in with influences both from the past and now. Lots of textures and colour.
Where’s your favourite place to shop?
I don’t tend to shop that much anymore; I end up making it myself. But I am one of those J.Crew fans for [their] really good quality basics. Then there’s a few really nice vintage stores…like Gadabout Vintage on Queen East [in Toronto]. [Owner Victoria Dinnick] has a great selection of vintage wear.
What’s the one item in your closet you can’t live without?
Dresses, dresses, dresses. I actually have a separate closet for my dresses, and it’s getting bigger and bigger. Lots of colours, most of them knee-length [and] poofy.
If you were throwing a fashionable dance party, who would your three guests of honour be?
Vivienne Westwood; she would probably throw a good party. Mary Quant, the British designer from the 60s. Catherine Deneuve.
Share one item on your bucket list.
I would love to travel by car, bus or train from Victoria [British Columbia] to Newfoundland. That’s something that I always wanted to do, even before I moved to Canada [from Sweden].
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
French pastries. The more butter, the better.