August 25, 2014
Style Profile: Designer Judith Desjardins of Bodybag
by Sarah Fletcher
Montreal designer Judith Desjardins of the joyfully christened label Bodybag was drawn to fashion from an early age, undertaking a little-girl apprenticeship making dresses for Barbie and later skipping the fashion school route. Originally from Longueuil, she spent some eight years at UQAM studying communications on and off before making a go of her fashion dream in New York and ultimately settling in Montreal.
Desjardins’ fall collection is full of structured prints with a school uniform vibe. I visited the Bernard Ave. store on a dreary Saturday and we talked about that one time she held a fashion shoot in a morgue and them crazy Brits who inspire her work.
How did you come to fashion?
I started sewing when I was really really young, making Barbie things and whatever my mom showed me—sewing and making stuffed animals, stuff like that. Getting older, I always had a really forward sense of style. I always wanted the thing that nobody had that I couldn’t find anywhere.
So I was trying to make clothes when I was a teenager. All the stuff I wanted I just couldn’t get. I was begging my mom to make stuff and just got tired of it… While I was studying in university I started partying and going to clubs and then the rave scene came in. Some people started asking me to do stuff for them, and I was like okay maybe, but I couldn’t really produce stuff… but I just started.
So when did Bodybag start?
Bodybag started in 1998. One season I was looking at a magazine and one story said “end up in a bodybag” and I thought the word was really cool. Then I found out what it meant and I thought maybe I’ll make a collection out of that…. So I did a full collection that was all really really really related to the bodybags, with zippers. This season especially we’ve brought back some of those pieces.
The concept was not really a death concept — it was more spiritual, enjoying life while we can because we never know what’s going to happen. We shot at the morgue. The logo was like a barcode about identification. It’s DNA code which makes everybody unique, so.
Anyone you’re inspired by?
It really depends, I mean inspiration is always the question, but it really comes from everywhere. I mean it depends how I feel, what’s going on, and really, it depends on the fabric we find. I work with what’s available. The British influence has always been there. I always say I was born in the wrong country… there’s always a British something behind what I’m doing.
Why the British influence?
The fashion, the culture. I like the punk rock, but at the same they’re really clean and formal there, polite and not, you know, “square.” But at the same time they’re like the most crazy people. To think out loud… I think I like the duality of it. It’s in myself and in my work. I do really structured stuff, but at the same time I do really drapey stuff. So it’s always a balance.
You balance things in the same pieces, or in separate pieces?
Separate, or sometimes like mixing up—like unusual, you know. Like doing more feminine dresses using a more masculine fabric… just always doing the opposite of what is expected. Alexander McQueen, he is like one of my greatest influences, my number one ever top designer.
So what kind of person shops at Bodybag?
I see people coming and buying dresses for prom, and I see 60-year-old women. But I think the main group in general is young professionals, so like 30. And I see a lot of teachers and of course we’re not super expensive but it’s not cheap, so it’s more like professionals that have the money to buy and who have the mind to buy as well. It’s more like, you know, a modern woman who likes to be different. There’s always something unexpected [in the store].
Places that you hang out in Montreal?
Oh boy! Haha, I WISH!
(Working mother of two-year-old pauses in attempt to recall past social life.)
Yeah, I really like Patati Patata [St. Laurent Blvd]. It’s not fancy but they have the best fish and chips. Le St. Urbain [Fleury St.] is pretty cool. My most recent coup de coeur is called Le Chien Rose [Fleury St.] —it’s not really tapas but it’s just in between, they have these small little plates, and every month the theme changes for the menu.
Bodybag is located on 17 Bernard St. W. in Mile End. Pieces can also be purchased online: http://www.bodybagbyjude.com/.