Notable Designer Series: Mackage Team Talks Shop

Last night marked the unveiling of our exclusive Notable Lounge, when we opened the doors to the public for the first time to kick off our week-long Designer Series in celebration of World MasterCard Fashion Week. The series began with an intimate gathering with the team behind the beloved Mackage brand — Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan.

Mackage is responsible for making fashion-loving Canadians actually excited for the winter coat and for changing the way we view outerwear altogether. Once you are in a Mackage jacket, you don’t want to take it off. Indeed, Mackage was created in 2000 around the belief that outerwear is an integral element of fashion; the perfect coat becomes the outfit in itself. Mackage collections are designed with sexy detailing and tailored cuts made to flatter any silhouette.

Canadian natives and childhood friends, Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan attended design school together in Montreal before launching what would soon become one of the most prestigious outerwear brands in North America, well in the works before their 20th birthdays. After solidifying itself as a staple for female fashionistas, the brand launched a well-edited collection of outerwear for Fall/Winter 2008. In 2010, the designers launched their first women’s ready-to-wear collection, first shown at New York Fashion Week for the Fall/Winter 2010 season. Most recently, they introduced a line of bags for Fall 2013. Mackage is a go-to when the stars leave the sunny Golden Coast for colder climates and celebrities like Halle Berry, Eva Mendes, Frieda Pinto, Jessica Biel, Blake Lively, and the Kardashians, among others, have all worn Mackage outerwear and ready-to-wear collections.

On their early days…
“We’ve been friends since we were about 12 years old. We shared the same passion and were working on different little projects our whole lives and even opened a little store when we were 16. But we had bigger dreams and we went to design school and started to work non-stop to create the Mackage brand.”

“When you embark on a start-up, you do everything – the design, branding, shipping. You don’t just walk in and be a diva. When we had our first shipment to Nordstrom’s, we have pictures of Elisa on top of a six-foot high pile of boxes, trying to tape and seal them. I literally had to lift her to close them. But soon we were able to hire a shipper, an accountant and more staff. At the start, I had a wish to have a bunch of the same coat all on one rack, but pretty soon we had an entire warehouse, a full floor of the same line of jackets.” – Eran Elfassy

On the idea…
“We realized there was something missing in the market. We come from Montreal, where it is obviously cold, but we would literally go out on the weekends without jackets because we hated the look of them so much. We were sick of the bulky, Michelin Man-type of coats. The key to a successful brand is recognizing the need for it in the market. If we needed it, others probably did as well.” – Elisa Dahan

“I remember going out to a club in a light leather jacket and a t-shirt as a teenager and it was about -40 outside. I was waiting for the bus for something like 30 minutes and I almost froze to death. But that was how I was going to go clubbing – not in a big ugly jacket.” – Eran Elfassy 

On teamwork…
“If you don’t pay attention to all the tasks – big or small – and get down and dirty, other people won’t either. The more your team sees you invested, they will be motivated as well. We have an amazing team of people. Some have been there for 8-10 years and they work as hard as us and have such a love for the brand.” – Elisa Dahan

“We all have different strengths – she says black and I say white, and then we do grey. She does her thing and I do mine and we kind of pull them together and that is what makes it look good. It is definitely a combined effort.” – Eran Elfassy

On the greatest challenge in the early years…
“I guess the greatest challenge was getting the name out there. But the thing was that we were so persistent. Some may say too persistent. We were almost stalking people with a million phone calls and 3-5 messages a day. With age, we develop boundaries and are able to measure how often we reach out to people, and when enough is enough. Back then, we were so young that we had no pride, fear or limitations. So, had we been older, getting our name out may have been more difficult. We are all scared to be too persistent, but being persistent is key. Otherwise, people will forget about you.” – Elisa Dahan

“I remember that I called this one woman so many times that she finally picked up, angry, and told me to stop filling up her voicemail. And I was about 19, so I kept filling up her inbox until she met me. I walked in knowing nothing about style numbers, pricing, or how buying worked. I forgot my line sheet. She said she was bought for the next year, but when she tried the sample on, the owner walked in and said she loved the coat and asked when the store was going to get them in. So we worked around the clock to produce enough and they sold out within a week. But yeah, today I don’t think I could call someone so many times. That is the beauty of starting young.” – Eran Elfassy

On the inspiration behind the Mackage name…
“We were looking for a name for the brand and Eran’s niece was about three or four at the time. He had asked her for a kiss, but she had fake makeup on her lips so she sort of shook her head and said, ‘no, I have makeup on’ in French, the French word for makeup being maquillage. Mackage was sort of her interpretation of the word. She now wants rights to it.” – Elisa Dahan

On production…
“In terms of production, we do it wherever is best to do it in terms of specialization. This means Eastern Europe for wool and Asia for down. We source all raw materials and choose every little thing. Everything from the buttons to the lining is all sourced and verified by us.” – Eran Elfassy

On spotting Mackage on the street…
“At the beginning, we used to have a game – spot the Mackage – and it would be so exciting to see others in our stuff. It continues to be flattering, and always will be. We love seeing the coats on the streets, and it is exciting now to get to see them internationally in Europe. Every new country is a big challenge and new excitement. It doesn’t get old.” – Elisa Dahan

On Mackage’s new line of bags…
“We did an official launch for Fall 2013. We like new challenges and knew leather really well but our outerwear line was growing so much that we never really had a chance to focus on it. We also have this philosophy that all you see in big cities are a woman’s coat, handbag and shoes. We still play spot the Mackage bag, but when we no longer have to, maybe move on to shoes.” – Elisa Dahan

On breaking in the US market…
“In the early days, we were always driving between New York, Toronto and Montreal to try to get into as many stores as possible. When I was 22, I did something dangerous. I rented a hotel room alone in New York, sent the lookbook out ahead of time, and invited guests to come see the collection in my hotel room. But that is how we got started in New York, with one big order. I called Eran to tell him about this large order, and he thought it was fake at first.” – Elisa Dahan

“Atrium in New York was one of our first. We were initially shocked that the store ordered so many pieces for one location. But it was crazy the amount of traffic that store had. It was around early 2000 when the denim craze was booming with the introduction of brands like Seven for all Mankind. So, our product worked well with the times and that store really opened the doors for us.”
– Eran Elfassy

Words of wisdom…
“It is about working hard. When you love what you do, hours don’t count. When I had to count all the money I made at the start, I was actually losing a dollar an hour to go to work. You start by losing money when you go into work. Then you hit ground zero, and things slowly start to turn around. You need to have patience and plan. Know where you are going to be in three years, and how you are going to get there.” – Eran Elfassy

If you weren’t one of the lucky ones to score tickets to the Mackage show Wednesday at the tents, check out Mackage’s bag launch this Saturday at Holt Renfrew Bloor Street from 2-4pm.

Stay tuned this week as we bring you more from some of your favourite designers during our Notable Designer Series.

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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Artwork at the Notable Lounge courtesy of Meagan Berlin