MaJoile: Knitware Designer Lysanne Latulippe: interview by Joe Lewis PDF  | Print |  E-mail



March 12, 2009,

Lysanne Latulippe's studio at LABcreative, in Montreal,

Lysanne Latulippe is a graduate of the MCCT and the founder/owner of "MaJolie" knitwear fashions. She is a textile artist who is fascinated by the multiple dimensions of her art, which reflects the complex structure of knit fibres. I had the opportunity to interview her this past March in her studio in le LABoratoire Créatif in Montreal. She is both off hand and frank in talking about her journey from fine arts student to knitwear designer working with an industrial mill to produce her exclusive and unique fashions



Question: Why did you go into textiles and knit ware design?

LL:  Why did I go into textiles, I always tell  the same story, which is true so I guess that is why I tell it, I was in London 12, 15 years ago and I was visiting the Victoria and Albert looking at all those textiles and I was like Oh my God this is gorgeous, this is like really really nice all in those cases it was just looking like flipping pages in a book.


I was studying Art and enjoyed painting more then sculpting, and had begun studying Art History  but stopped, realizing this was not the path I wanted to follow. I decided to travel and ended up in London and looking at all those textiles and I thought instead of painting on a canvas I could be building up/ making the canvas with the colours I wanted as well as patterning, I could be making cloth.

When I came back to Quebec I was looked for a way of learning how to do this. Then I found this school the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles and went to look at it and really liked it. I decided to apply, was accepted and came. At the beginning of my first year I had a preference for weaving,  you worked with the hands, it was a simpler then using the knitting machines which for me were awkward and gave me a headache, I really enjoyed the weaving.

Question: Since the MCCT offers a range of courses in textile and fabric construction weaving, knitting, felting, along with embroidery, why did you focus on knitting?  

compontens of Beatrice (brown and Yellow) Winter 07 and sweater. photo; jl

LL. I think knitting came over me while I was studying in the second year. I realized it was more accessible, you could start making something right away with a single strand of yarn.  In weaving it was a long process where you had to make and set up your warp, dress the loom and that takes time. With knitting I could get my hands on the fabric faster then with weaving. I was already considering the type of business I wanted to have, I think I had always known I wanted to have my own company or studio. I never saw myself being employed in a mill or in the fashion industry, but since I was learning how to make clothe and I had taught myself to sew clothing when I was younger I was able to take the knitted fabric in my hands, drape it around me I think I can do that, or I can do this. So fashion is where I was handing and it is where I am.

Question: Having established your studio when you finished school and starting your own label ‘MaJolie” in 2002 how did you go about expanding your production?

LL. when I started my studio I bought my own Brother knitting machine, a small domestic model with a limited width and was too restrained I couldn’t do things as wide as I want to for the grading of the clothing so I though this is ridiculous working on that, and I found another type of machine still domestic but built almost as a industrial machine, it was wider it had almost double with more needles on the machince so I buy one then another.  (Which I have placed at the school (MCCT) because I just moved studios at the end of January) I was working night and days and weekends and week nights and just working and working. 

Daniella Viscose lace top.
Daniella,Viscose lace top. from Majolie Summer 2009 line
photo by Photo by Frederic Bouchard
Soon you realise the capacity you have if you are producing everything by yourself. I wanted to and needed to do more, more product for more sales, more sales building a market needing more product.  Even though my price point is higher then others regular designers I needed to produce more products to support the business and make a good living I realized I needed to go for quantity and so I wanted to buy an industrial Machine, I wanted to own one, I always loved machines, I am good with them, I can fix them. I really couldn’t afford it though. It took me a long time before I decide to work with a mill. I wanted to stay in Montreal, Québec or at least in Canada, some where. I didn’t want to go to China, I wanted to make sure the workers were well paid and that I could work with the mill rather then give them orders and take what came out. 

Question: How did you find the Mill you are working with?

LL. I met this guy who was selling the machines and I visited the mills he was selling to so that is how I had first contact with these guys with a mill in Montreal. They where use to making yardage and thousands of pieces and they didn’t really want to make exclusive pieces. They just want to make a ten thousand of black all week and when you come and ask can you make twenty of that and twenty of these and eight of those, they find it difficlut to scale down. It took carefull negotiations for me to get them to work with me at first but they like many other companies where losing enough contracts and costumers that they realised they needed to be flexable enough to work with small runs in between the lager one to keep steady work. Since they had been introduce to me by some one they knew and had a working relationship with (the machine salesman) they say “OK that’s all right we’ll try this way”. They see me more as a friend then a costumer some one who knows the process really well and they say “Lysanne with you we know you know our work so it’s good to have some one who knows what we are talking about; and its easier then working with a costumer who is asking for the impossible”

industrial knitting machine
Univerasl MC 868 Knitting machine at Les Tricots Giorgio Inc

I started working with them three years ago, its has been a learning curve, its always  tough when you are past over because they’ve got bigger orders from bigger costumers. it is a balancing act. The amount of my work they can produce, when they have time to produce it far exceeds what I can in the same time span, counter that with them finding time to slot me in and then needing to rush it if they get another big order. It is not an ideal situation but they produce a quailty fabric which is Made Canada which is imortant to me and my market. I have increased my unit numbers while still keeping them exclusive. I am patient and never complain really but it is sometimes frustrating none the less and it is a business after all and given these economic...

end of this interview

With the knitted fabric produced by the mill Lysanne then hand crafts each garment. Lysanne Latulippe has become part of the closed process of designer, manufacturer and market place where the artist/ designer is also a maker and uses both hand and industrial process to make her work. She can communicate with the industrial maker in their technical language while defend her hand work to a savvy market. She has built a market for her knitwear through out Canada selling through small independent owner operated Boutiques.

She has identified her sellers as women from cooperate communication and marketing who have branched out on their own with an understanding of the market place. Her market place is local, impendent and sell Canadian Made and value that. She designs unique exclusive clothing for people who are more conscious about their buying habits, with an interest in how and where things are made. They have growing concerns about the ecological impact of clothing production.

but that is a story for another time.

Désirée, Multicolour Stripes pattern in viscose and cotton. from Majolie Summer 2009 line
Photos by Frederic Bouchard.

Founded in 2004, the Lab is an independent not for profit organization headed by a union of fashion designers whose mandate is to support business development for fashion design in Montreal and Quebec. Its areas of support are based on the needs of its members in all facets of operation of a small companies specializing in fashion design or the creation, production, management, distribution, promotion and funding.

The vision of the Lab is to promote the establishment of companies in fashion design to facilitate the creation of synergies between entrepreneurs by the provision of resources and sharing expertise. The Lab is therefore acting as a center of opportunity for fashion Quebec.

read about the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles in Louise Lemieux Bérubé articlewhich is next.

Lysanne Latulippe on-line extra: Tricot Machine || Les peaux de lièvres,
a knitted animation by Simon Laganière

Photographs Photographer Frederic Bouchard. www.fFbouchard.com

 Photographs were provided by Lysanne Latulippe and have been used with permission, except for the first one which was taken by jl

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