From skate parks to runways, fashion entrepreneur riding high with one-of-a kind designs

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By Carmen Vars

Clothing designer Cassandra Bailey has come a long way since her passions for skateboarding and clothing design brought her from small-town Alberta to Vancouver in 2009.

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Named the most promising design talent at this spring’s Vancouver Fashion Week, Bailey will be catapulted onto the world stage this fall with the opportunity to show her Old Fashioned Standards (OFS) collection at Tokyo’s Rakuten Fashion Week.

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“Winning the Nancy Mak award at Vancouver Fashion Week was such a surprise and is an incredible honour. It has been a dream to visit Japan for many years and now I get to take OFS there in the most epic way. I am so excited, to say the least; not sure it has fully sunk in yet,” says Bailey.

Both athletic and creative, Bailey recalls competing in amateur contests at Vancouver’s skateparks long before female skateboarding was popular. The DIY spirit of the punk scene had made its way into skate culture and fashion. “I would buy stuff at Value Village and remake it to fit my own look and style,”  she says, adding “I had some wacky outfits and I loved it. It was all part of the skateboarding way of life.”

Athletics gave Bailey a foundation to build her clothing brand. Playing AA ringette in her teens cultivated responsibility, discipline, self-motivation, and professionalism, all key attributes of successful entrepreneurship. “Being a one-person business can be challenging during tough times, but passion keeps you pushing forward. Nothing like performing under pressure,” she laughs.

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Former Albertan Cassandra Bailey now lives and works in Vancouver where she runs her clothing design company,, Old Fashioned Standards. Courtesy, Mikaela Kautzky cal

Showtime

She certainly felt pressure when she took OFS to the SS24 runway at Vancouver Fashion Week in the fall of 2023. She showcased her first signature runway collection and landed on the pages of Korean Vogue magazine. “I wanted to take my brand to the next level. It was stressful of course, not knowing what to expect, but I had a great team and it was an incredible experience,” says Bailey.

This season, she showcased 12 looks, including a show-stopping wax cotton raincoat, quilted completely from scraps and off-cuts. The unique piece was a labour of love, taking over 70 hours to construct. Bailey made her own quilt patterns, including some abstract motifs. After quilting the scraps together into panels large enough to become pattern pieces, she constructed the garment. The cotton, which has been impregnated with paraffin wax, is breathable, wind and waterproof and abrasion resistant. A true benchmark of OFS’s fit, fashion, and function rule.

“Each look of this collection is a special ode to my late gramma, Marie Forrest, one of my favourite people,” says Bailey. She recalls observing her grandmother’s interactions with friends and community members and realizing just how important her role in the town was. “She taught me what it meant to work hard, but also play hard,” says Bailey.

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Scraps that Cassandra Bailey stitches together for her designs at Od Fashioned Standards. cal
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Fashion designs from Cassandra Bailey’s Fall Winter 2024 collection shown at Vancouver Fashion Week. Courtesy, Arun Nevader Photo by Arun Nevader /cal

Humble beginnings

Raised in Cochrane by a single mom, Bailey was making her own jeans, jackets and backpacks as a teenager. She cut up and customized commercial patterns to create designs. Working part-time at Addie’s Quilt Shop, she learned traditional quilting techniques, sharpening her precision, ratio, design and construction skills.

At 18, she began working towards a fashion production and design diploma at Vancouver Community College. There she gained hands-on experience in conception, design, production and sales. Bailey graduated in 2011 and started Old Fashioned Standards in 2012.

“I really wanted my brand to represent what it means to make a good product the old-fashioned way; made for a specific purpose with purpose.”

For the first four years, the brand worked exclusively with 100 per cent up-cycled Australian outback oilcloth. Bailey started with a series of very technical, custom motorcycle jackets. “Every single client got their own, made-to-measure pattern, and completely purpose-built jacket,” she says with pride.

From there, she began making hats, overalls, and pants and has since branched out to work exclusively with high-end, ethically sourced materials including wax cotton, oilcloth and selvedge denims, bull denims and wools occasionally.

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Clothing constructed from oilcloth in Cassandra Bailey’s designs at Old Fashioned Standards. cal

Scraps and remnants

Asked if she has advice for up-and-coming designers, Bailey says, “You have to map out what you want your brand to be, who your client is and how you’re going to connect with them. You need to have a vision and stick with it to grow your community and clientele base.”

OFS is based on the premise “Made for a good time, hand made to last a lifetime.” It is an ethical brand, inclusive, fun, and handmade with precision. She notes that a consistent fit is important as it builds trust.

“At OFS, we are committed to sustainability and the various ways fashion and style can be celebrated while causing the least harm to the earth as possible.”

Most OFS pieces are gender-neutral and sizing can be adjusted to fit the wearer. “If you like it, then it’s for you,” she says, adding, “A lot of the stuff I design comes from a feeling or a nostalgia for something. I don’t really look outside for ideas. The things I make are more out of necessity, and I find new ways to make them innovative. My inspiration comes from the way you want to feel when you wear the thing.”

Before winning the Nancy Mak award, Bailey said she wanted to push OFS forward in the coming year, possibly “planting some seeds” in New York, the UK, or Japan.  “It’s hard to travel when I am always here grinding.”

It appears that the young design talent has manifested her dream! Next stop: Tokyo

Old Fashioned Standards is available at Eugene Choo in Vancouver, at her studio, and online. Custom orders are welcome. www.oldfashionedstandards.com

Carmen Vars is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and creative director. 

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Fashion designs from Cassandra Bailey’s Fall Winter 2024 collection shown at Vancouver Fashion Week. Courtesy, Arun Nevader Photo by Arun Nevader /cal

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