Scout & Catalogue
We've been following the accessory label Scout & Catalogue for almost a year now, and just love everything designer Breanna Musgrove has done with her brand. Back in June when I met Bre at the Etsy West Elm handmade art market, I asked if I could pay a visit to her Parkdale studio this summer. We're so inspired by independent artisans, and always love the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes. We often wish we were makers, and could design something ourselves, so I was pretty intrigued that her formal training is not in apparel and accessory design itself, rather a degree in communication design from Emily Carr University, and past gigs in traditional advertising and most recently as the creative director at Aritzia. "While at Aritzia I was able to really get a sense of all the moving parts involved in big retailing as well as work with an amazingly talented team of business folk, designers and artists," says Bre, "Scout & Catalogue is far from big retailing but every bit of past experience helps in the up and down world of self employment." Though Bre's career has lead her to sewing everyday, her favourite aspect of her independent business is discovering the story. "Designing the product is one step," explains Bre, "But I get equally excited to create the season's logo and packaging and figure out the shoot. I love seeing a bunch of unrelated ideas come together to tell a single message."
Originally from Vancouver, Bre decided to take a year off from her busy career to live a simpler life in Mexico. But it was during this time off that Scout & Catalogue came to be. "At first all I wanted was to rest and recover after many years of intensely focusing on my career but after awhile I was itching for a new focus," says Bre, "Surprisingly you can spend too much time hanging on tropical beaches and so I started looking into the resources in my town." After experimenting with fabrics, dyeing and studding, her designs developed a distinct aesthetic with bohemian references. "The style of Mexican youth is quite different than up here," explains Bre, "I felt there was a market for accessories that reflected my new found bohemian simple life, interpreted through a Canadian lens." After launching on Etsy, the business quickly took off, and though she has since returned home, that perspective continues to influence the look of the Scout & Catalogue label. "I hope that a sense of wanderlust makes it's way into every piece, even if for half the year I now wear a parka," says Bre.
Bre's studio is located on the sunny, top level of a character filled, Parkdale house she shares with her boyfriend. Set on an absolutely charming street, I could see how they instantly fell in love with it. And so what exactly is a typical day like in the studio for Bre? "Wake up, get coffee, read way, way too many blogs," she says. Well that sounds a lot like us! She too has a strong following for her blog, and posts daily to share what she is working on, what her inspirations are and her trips on which she sources materials and fabrics. Since much of her day is spent on bleaching, dyeing and bag construction, gone are the days of the perfectly assembled outfit. Bre now look for pieces that allow her to move around comfortably and won't be an issue if they get stained. "Sew, sew, sew," she further explains, "Interrupted by a lot of internet procrastination. I'll make dinner for my boyfriend and we'll eat on our lovely patio. If I'm really busy I'll go back to sewing, otherwise, after dinner we'll watch movies or go for bike rides and soak up the summer while it is here." It sounds pretty perfect to us. About once a month, her and her boyfriend will go on a trip for a break. "We just got back from Mexico City and are looking forward to hitting up LA and NYC in the next month or so," she says.
These days social media is almost a necessity for independent businesses and artisans. Customers and followers want the inside perspective -- to know the story, who is behind the brand and the innerworkings of the business. Bre does an incredible job keeping her readers updated with her blog, tumblr, twitter account, so I was curious to hear her thoughts on it. "I think that social media is the one and only reason that my type of business is able to succeed," says Bre, "Social media allows me to talk to my customers every day and involve them in the process of both my brand and my life. Small companies are now able to have a voice that is unique and sets them apart from larger retailers in a way that, in my opinion, never existed before."
As a one woman show, keeping up with business is certain to be a challenge. With her intern, Jemma, now on board, Bre is setting her sights forward for the fall collection. The two have been working on dye tests and we can't wait to see what's to come for the next collection. And of course Bre is always looking for ways to evolve Scout & Catalogue. "In the future I hope to start working with Mexican artisans to create custom pieces for the line," says Bre, "The more time I spend down there the more inspired I am by their artisan culture and can see how just a little bit of business interest goes a long way in their economy. Plus who wouldn't want an excuse to spend more time in Mexico!" Her most recent venture for Scout & Catalogue was El Mercado, an online market filled with handcrafted, one of a kind treasures she collected on a recent trip to Mexico. With beautiful wool cloaks and blankets, and custom designs she created specifically for the market, it was a hit and sold out quickly.
In the back of Bre's studio are shelves overflowing with fabrics and materials. Their cat, named Mouse (adorable) seems smitten with the set up, and curls up by the window among the textiles and fabrics.
Displayed throughout the studio space and home are items collected among her travels, and thrifted furniture pieces. Having lived a simple life in Mexico for a year, the laid back, bohemian aesthetic that is evident throughout her designs shows throughout her home too. It's bright, airy and filled with things she loves - framed photos and drawings, keepsakes and even the odd disco ball. You can't help but feel inspired looking around.