Inclusive, body-positive, and diverse are buzzwords that have only recently entered the high- and fast-fashion lexicon (tragically late, we know), but they’ve been at the heart of local designer Tina Ozols’s business since its inception nearly two decades ago. “I had this idea that I just wanted to make clothes and garments that were for everyone,” she tells the Straight by phone. “I didn’t have in mind that somebody specific should be wearing them, or somebody in a certain age group.”
This admirable principle first led Ozols to develop a women’s line of flattering, fit-for-all-body-types skirts, pants, and other apparel, though these days she’s best known around town for her assortment of comfy cotton-spandex undergarments. Offered under the label Oona Clothing—the former word a made-up term that Ozols favoured because it sounds “very much like one for all” and is a sort-of combination of her first and last names—the full-coverage briefs, boxers, boxer-briefs, and hot pants are crafted by hand from locally sourced fabrics at East Van’s William Clark Studios.
Coloured in shades like navy, pink, and violet, the undies are decorated with quirky original silk-screened art that depicts everything from hard-shell tacos and robots to owls and octopuses. As a testament to Ozols’s manufactured-for-everyone mission, many of them come in extended size ranges (from XS to 5XL for women) and the Ontario-raised designer takes care to keep prices accessible. “I wanted to make sure that I could offer a local option—a handmade option—that’s at the same price of everything else,” explains Ozols, who completed a degree in fashion design before relocating to Vancouver in 1999. “Prices should be based on the median size of what a company offers. So if the median size has to go up to an XL, then I feel right about doing that instead of just doing a whole other [plus-size] section that sets people apart.”
In an effort to minimize her ecological footprint, Ozols has also created a series of popular “Frankenpants”—multihued and patterned undies for men and women that are constructed from fabric scraps. The 42-year-old makes tank tops, patchwork toques, baby boots, and coin purses from these rescued remnants, too. “The fashion industry—in a blanket statement, as a whole—is a really, really bad industry as far as how much waste is produced and some of the practices,” she says. “So it’s just a way that I can sleep better at night. And I feel good about the fact that I use as much [leftover fabric] as possible.”
Recently, Ozols collaborated with Your Open Closet, a body-positive undergarment store on Commercial Drive that caters to LGBT folks, to fashion a range of chest binders, tucking underwear, and gaff panties for trans women. As with Oona, the aim here was to offer a quality, beautiful product while maintaining affordability for clients. “For many trans people, there are items that they need to feel themselves,” notes Ozols. “And, a lot of the time, these things are either not available or they’re available online and very expensive. And for marginalized people, something that’s very expensive isn’t always attainable.”
The functional garments are fine-tuned by Ozols, but only available at Your Open Closet, so they won’t be on hand at the designer’s studio during this year’s Eastside Culture Crawl, which takes place at various Vancouver venues from Thursday to Sunday (November 15 to 18). However, visitors to William Clark Studios—home to more than 25 multidisciplinary artists—will be able to peruse Oona’s full range of men’s, women’s, and children’s undies and accessories. There will also be a sale on denim, jackets, skirts, and other clothing.
During the Crawl, those looking to do good ahead of the holidays may contribute $5 to buy a new pair of Oona underwear for a person in need at the Evelyne Saller Centre, a community-resource space that offers an array of services to low-income and at-risk folks living in the Downtown Eastside. Two dollars from every one of these transactions will go toward the purchase of Foxy Cloth reusable menstrual pads, which will also be donated to individuals in need. It’s all part of Ozols’s quest to ensure that no person—no matter their age, size, or gender—feels excluded. “The whole idea of Oona is trying to make something for everyone,” she says. “And everyone deserves comfort and style.”More