Small Shop Love: Glasnost (Hand-made Rain Gear to Last from Vancouver)

In my Glasnost jacket in the neighborhood. My mom took this for me, thanks mom!

In my Glasnost jacket in the neighborhood. My mom took this for me, thanks mom!

I was lucky to connect with Stephanie of Glasnost over Instagram and found we had things in common like taking our kids to parkour on rainy days and frequenting coffee shops with our loud crews. Then I discovered her beautiful line of handmade waxed cotton rain gear. I thought I had rain gear in Vancouver figured out but I was wrong until I put on a Glasnost coat. I’ve had the pleasure of wearing one of her coats in Forest Green for the last few months and I love it. Interviewing Stephanie for this post I understand even further why my coat fits and feels as it does. She’s put an incredible amount of thought and care into every detail. In a world of fast fashions and trends, she’s building something truly lasting and sustainable.

One thing that’s really stood out for me wearing my Glasnost coat is that I am comfortable wearing it on those awkward days where it’s raining in the morning but by the afternoon it’s cleared up. I used to feel silly (and hot) in my plastic raincoat once the rain had stopped, and that’s no longer a worry. My coat looks and functions as well on rainy days as on cloudy days. I don’t understand how this fabric works but it is magic (luckily Stephanie expands on it below). I also find layering a sweater underneath will carry this coat into the winter months. Doesn’t hurt that I’m complimented on my coat all the time. Not sure if it’s the rich green colour, the material or the fit but I am often asked where my coat is from. I’m always quick to share that it is locally made by a wonderful woman in her East Vancouver studio… look her up! So thrilled to get this post up and share about Glasnost and the wonderful work she is doing. Here is the link to her website and Instagram. And below she answered some questions for me about her business, motherhood and what drives her to create. Thank you Stephanie for sharing and for the beautiful coat for me and for Theo (5 yrs old) (which also fits Mae (2 yrs old) in an adorably oversized way, so I know we will get years out of it).

Can you tell me a bit about Glasnost and how it came to be?

I have been interested in sewing since I was a child and am mostly self-taught. I am the stubborn type that has to figure out how to do something on my own by experimenting.

Many people ask why I chose the name Glasnost for my work.  It is defined as “a call for transparency and accountability to make socially conscious decisions.” To me it evokes a certain optimism. Another definition is to find one’s voice, and I thought it was fitting for my constant battle to put myself and my work into the world.

Every coat is made to order and is customizable (ed note: yes! I experienced this in a visit to her studio where I was fitted for my coat and had to make tough decisions like matte black or brass snaps. This gives me a personal connection with almost every coat that I sell, and I love that. I like thinking of the person while I make the coat. In the end, everything is handmade by me at my East Vancouver/Strathcona studio.

My coats are genderless and I am proud that I have made patterns that fit bodies not genders. Recently, I made some gender-free kids coats too.

I feel like everyone (or at least everyone I hang out with ;) ) dreams of starting a small handmade business but few actually do it. What made you do it?

It honestly wasn't something I sat down and chose to do, it was almost like it was unavoidable. I have always had a natural inclination to create. Once I made myself a raincoat I knew it was the thing I was going to pour myself into. It has also been a good complimentary career for raising two kids because I have been able to grow it organically.


With 2 little ones, how do you make the time to build your business? And how do you find the space to be creative?

It has really been a struggle to carve out the time this project deserves while being a full time mom.  My approach from the beginning has been to focus on a quality product that I can be proud of, and trust the rest will fall into place. People like their coats, and maybe their partners want one, or their parents, or friends, and that growth has kept me very busy. I feel very fortunate for that because I don't have much marketing experience, I have always been the hands on one.

I'm so impressed that you are a one woman company, doing it all! Can you tell us a bit more about your fabric and manufacturing processes as I know this is a key component for your company?

It all started when a fella named Vern sold me some leather out of his RV. We got to talking and he gave me a few yards of some oilskin. I had never heard of this textile before but the historian in me was intrigued when I found out it was a traditional material sailors used hundreds of years ago. I thought, why not try and make a raincoat for myself? Made it and fell in love with it. I was hooked and my machine was waxed up and I never looked back. I still make that coat style and have added a few new styles. When I decided to make a go of this business I was lucky to have sourced more vintage waxed cotton from a man named Clyde that used to make tents for film. The old rolls are hard to come by now but I have found a company that has been manufacturing waxed cloth for centuries.   

I do all the design, drafting, and manufacturing of all the products I offer. I have been fortunate that my mom supports my business and helps me out in studio a fair bit.

What made you focus on coats of all the clothing you could make? Is it something to do with our 300 days of rain per year ;) ?

Absolutely!  I was captivated by wax cotton and was really pleased with its performance in our climate. I don’t think I meant to concentrate so much on outerwear,  but I noticed a serious lack of options if you want to stay dry and not wear a technical/sporty raincoat.  I also appreciate that the wax and oil that saturate the canvas act as a preservative for the fibre helping prolong its life. Waxed cotton garments can be re-waxed year after year making it a environmentally responsible choice. Perhaps one day I will get a chance to make all sorts of things, but that will be once my children are more grown. I'd love to do a line of a few favourite items I have made for myself over the years. Eventually I will make everything that pops into my head, but for now I'll focus my attention of keeping my community dry.

What's your favourite part of running your own business?

Being a part of people’s everyday lives is the absolute best. The human connection, the opportunity to interact with people in their daily lives, that is something that I truly cherish when it comes to running my own business.  I recently repaired a coat for a client and I noticed some solid wear and tear. When I asked about her usage she admitted that she wore it every day and that she couldn't live without it. I love that I can be a part of someone's everyday life, and hopefully help make the incessant rain more tolerable. My work constantly challenges me to join the community around me which is good because I can be a bit of a recluse. Also, making my own schedule is pretty wonderful... but in the rainy season I am almost always working.

Worst part?

The worst part, because it is just me to do all the work, it can be quite lonely at times. I also struggle with the marketing and social media stuff. It’s not my thing!

As a mom living in Vancouver can you share a couple of your favourite places to go with kids in tow?

If we can't make it up to our family cabin on the Sunshine Coast our weekends consist of getting into a forest to run the kids and dog.  They are so wild we need a forest to run off the seemingly never ending supply of energy. Lynn Canyon is a go-to of ours!

Thank you to Stephanie for your informative and candid look into your company. I’m honoured to wear your coat and share here. I’ll also mention for local readers that Glasnost will be at Circle Craft in Vancouver, Nov 7-11 at the Convention Centre.

For previous companies featured under Small Shop Love check out the category or link here

Me and Mae in our coats on those awkward half rainy days.

Me and Mae in our coats on those awkward half rainy days.