Ever since she was in high school, Rebecca Farthing (nee King) knew she wanted to work in fashion. She learned to sew from her mom, Roseann King, at home in Hudson Bay. Now the owner and designer behind the Saskatoon-based Rebecca King Fashion House, Farthing spoke to Postmedia’s Ashley Martin about fashion, family, factories and more …
On pursuing a design career
After graduating from Edmonton’s Marvel College in 2005, Farthing worked at a repair shop, taught at a design school, worked in theatre styling, and did custom work including bridal wear and graduation dresses. She started creating custom and off-the-rack pieces while living in Calgary, where Rebecca King Fashion House was born.
“I’ve always really loved tailoring and … a good structural pattern,” said Farthing. “More of a modern, masculine, clean vibe.”
Patterns are the basis of her work. “I think that’s why you’re called a designer instead of a seamstress, right?”
On coats and sweater-coats
Coats can be a hard sell because people often buy just one coat, Farthing said. Most people don’t like wool. They “find it itchy and not that easy to wear and not that easy to take care of.”
Farthing came up with a design that combined comfort and her love of tailoring: the three-way sweater. She created the first incarnation of her signature design in 2009, and it continued to evolve. It was such a hit that Farthing sought out a factory to sew the garment for her.
On large-scale production
When she had her daughter, Novena, who’s now six, things changed. “I just literally couldn’t do it anymore.” Outsourcing production was a big jump.
“Factory minimums are usually 100 pieces per styles. So then all of a sudden, you need to be able to afford enough fabric for 100 pieces, and then the production for 100 pieces,” she said.
In one year alone, Farthing had sewn the three-way sweater more than 100 times. She eventually found a factory in Calgary to produce the sweater, while she continued to sew other designs. She moved factory production to Vancouver in 2014. That’s when Farthing moved back to Saskatchewan with her family — which now includes three children, aged six, four and two.
On disposable clothing
Farthing’s aim is to create quality pieces, not fast fashion. Her creations aren’t cheaply made, nor are they inexpensive.
She stocks her own wardrobe with select pieces in black and white, and her own designs.
“As I’ve gotten older and busier, I’ve just found it really annoying to have a lot of things in my closet. And I think with babies too, and pregnancy, sometimes it’ll be two years before I can wear a garment again, because of your weight change and all this,” said Farthing. “So when I go back to my wardrobe two years later, I still want to like what I see in there.”
Another deterrent to buying trendy clothes: she’s witnessed large-city fashion districts in cities such as Los Angeles and Vancouver, which are “pretty gross in the amount of waste that happens … It’s not glamorous at all. So I can’t even imagine what it’s like overseas.”
On designing for kids
Farthing mostly makes clothes for adults, but she does have the three-way sweater available for children. The first one, she made for Novena as a toddler. She was reluctant to expand beyond that, because “they’re pretty expensive and they take me the same amount of time” to make as an adult size.
“I sell them below true retail value, just because I don’t want to ask that much (money) for a kid’s sweater. You know, I get it — they only can wear it for, like, two years … before they grow out of it. But I really just did them for fun, because they were just too cute not to do them.”
On profit and growth
Farthing still brings her designs to trade shows and popup events. She likes meeting her customers, and benefits from seeing how her clothes fit on different body types.
“I appreciate my stores, but they have their costs too and they have to do a certain amount of markup,” said Farthing.
A move to a wholesale model would require raising the price of all her garments. Wholesaling would also mean committing product to stores months ahead of time, and more upfront expense for fabric and supplies. For now, Farthing says, she is happy with the size of her business.
On maintaining work-life balance
When Novena was a baby, Farthing thought she’d stop working. But at nap time, Farthing would sew “and I slowly got back into it.”
Now, with three small children, Farthing — who has a home-based studio — said her husband Samuel has been a huge support. He cut back his hours as an architect to spend every Friday at home, working on the Rebecca King Fashion House business administration, or generally helping maintain the household. Plus, they have a nanny two days a week, allowing Farthing that time to focus strictly on her sewing.
Last year, she was working four days a week. Now she works two.
“There’s no naps anymore, where all the kids are napping at one time.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019