with Audrey Levesque
Audrey Levesque is the founder and designer of Mad by Auds.
Audrey Levesque is the creator and maker of Made by Auds. She designs, cuts and sews her small garment collection from a room in a Gold rush-era hotel in Dawson City. Audrey was always interested in clothing, costumes and textiles, but she was advised at a young age that fashion was a faraway and cut-throat world.
Having little hope in pursuing that dream, she went on to study languages and literature in Quebec City, before travelling to the Yukon at age 18. She enrolled at Yukon University’s School of Visual Arts in the program’s inaugural year. Always interested in textiles, she found a way to include them in most of her art projects, even making sculptures out of discarded clothes and building whole sets out of them. Coming out of the SOVA foundation year, Audrey worked for the local designer of Skookum Brand, from whom she learned a lot about the sewing business. Audrey left the Yukon at age 24 to go Dalhousie University in Halifax, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre, specializing in costume studies, which seemed to be a wise idea after spending a few years in the nostalgic historical town of Dawson.
While still coming back to the Yukon every year to design and construct costumes for the can-can shows at Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall, Audrey lived in Vancouver, working various jobs sewing at a sailmaker’s shop, a factory, a dance costume shop, Vancouver’s Art Club Theatre, Ballet BC, a hip activewear company and some more glamorous gigs including Lady Gaga’s 2017 Tour. She also created a costume for Michael Bublé (and yes, she did meet Gaga and Bublé in person). Working in Vancouver, Audrey gained diverse experience and expanded her technical skills while pushing her creative boundaries.
After taking in almost every opportunity possible and having dipped her toes in the fashion world at a larger scale, Audrey knew more and more what she did not want to add to the world. An insight into the fashion industry and its factories as well as its environmental and social consequences gave her the desire to go ahead and lay the foundations of her own one-woman clothing enterprise.
One of Audrey’s essential resolutions was to not create too much waste. Knowing that the traditional model of fashion production leaves behind so many chemicals and uses so much water at all stages (from growing the fibres to dyeing and fabricating of clothing) Audrey was conscientious in her choices. She was also keenly aware that mass production of clothing often ends up leaving costly amounts of deadstock and waste. In addition to the production waste, even the purchased garments will also inevitably end up in the landfill, most likely staying on the planet for decades if they happen to contain any synthetic fibres. These staggering realities motivated Audrey to approach fashion and clothing production differently, with heightened awareness of the earth and environmental impacts.
Another consideration was the human side of the fashion industry. It is not news to most that the low price of fast fashion is enabled by the low wages of overseas garment industry workers (generally women), who often work in harrowing conditions for little to no money, and are subject to the ups and downs of some of the biggest names in fashion. Even after briefly working in an “ethical” factory on Canadian soil, and knowing that not all overseas factories are bad, Audrey thought there was still a better way to make clothing than the dusty and heartless chain of work she observed and experienced.
Audrey does not assume that she is changing the whole world with her approach, but hopes to offer an alternative for her customers in the North. Audrey’s Made by Auds line demonstrates that small-scale, ethical, and environmentally-sound fashion is possible, even in a small northern community. Confronted with the challenges of living remotely (think the shipping of large, heavy fabric rolls!) and finding appropriate space, but armed with a valuable set of skills and impressive determination, she decided to do her part by using sustainable materials made of natural fibres and keeping the construction of garments local.
Initially, four simple items of clothing were presented in Dawson City in March 2020. The pieces were mainly made of a blend of organic cotton and hemp and included the Painter’s Overalls, the Kateri T-shirt, the Forager’s Dress and the George Cardigan. The pieces are simple and loose-fitting. Many customers said that they just started living in their Forager Dress or Painter’s Overalls, appreciating the quality crafting and natural comfort. Audrey’s approach was well-received, and Made by Auds has quickly become a local favourite. Her pieces are frequent sights both within the territory and beyond.
Made by Auds pieces can be found at the Dancing Moose in Dawson City, or ordered online at madebyauds.com from various ready to ship selections, or made to order to the customer’s choice of fabric and size. Audrey recently added a few extra pieces to the collection for the summer, such as the Hope Skirt, the Angélique tank and the Qandeel Cardigan and is hoping to find other sustainable fabrics to expand the selection. For the future, she hopes to continue to develop new pieces and apply more of her art training in the fabrication.