Last September, th
e family and extended family of Adassa Scarlett wallowed in grief at what seemed to them to be her untimely passing.
Ms. Scarlett, matriarch of a large, well-known and tightly knit family of Montrealers, imprinted her mark on our community and Montreal with her exceptional talent and capacity as a seamstress.
To family and friends, she was Dassy… Wassy Dassy a name that engendered her daring, her confidence, free spirit and her style.
In the well over 40 years that she lived and sewed in Montreal, Mrs. Scarlett counted among her clients a mass of church-goers from our community, multitudes from the Jewish Orthodox community and a full complement of celebrities, including former OSM conductor, Zubin Metha.
So in trying to put meaning to her exceptional life, Ms. Scarlett’s five children, Maureen, Doreen, Patricia and Eugenia and son Hugh, together with granddaughters and the extended family, decided to launch a business that brings to the fore the lasting gift that she bestowed onto each of them, her love of sewing.
Wassy Dassy Bags and Accessories, a collection of hand-made women’s handbags and purses was up and running in October 2013, a month after Mrs. Scarlett’s death.
For the family it was therapy and more.
Especially for Eugenia Clarke, herself a skilled seamstress and designer who remember the time spent watching her cherished Dassy on her sewing machine.
“When she died I started sewing as therapy. I also called my sister Patricia to see what we can do to honor the memory of our mother.”
“Setting up this business is the best way to pay tribute to a person who was truly a phenomenal woman,” says Patricia Scarlett, a renowned communication expert and filmmaker, now residing in Toronto.
It didn’t take long for her to set up the business plan and put in place a structure upon which she hopes they can build what is a family passion into an international enterprise.
“What we offer is individuality and the special vibe that comes with owning an item that has been handmade,” she says.
“Truth is, many people are attracted to the big brand-names and feel a sense of importance when they own one, that’s hard to change,” she says. But Wassy Dassy is setting itself up to counter that mindset by offering women items that speak to their uniqueness and individuality.”
Even as they enter into a marketplace that is already crowded with hundreds of top rate brands of handbag and purses, the Wassy Dassy family is bubbling with confidence that can scratch out a little piece of the 100 billion dollar global handbag and purse industry.
Experts say although the industry doesn’t have a dominant company, there’re about two dozen mega brands that cater to a growing number of women’s addiction to super expensive handbags, which are mostly the large bags slung on the shoulder or carried in hand, with large amounts of stuff.
The market is also red hot for clutches (handbags without straps), totes and of course, purses, which are typically smaller and designed to fit inside handbags.
Among the big, big, big names in the industry are Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Armani, Coach, Christian Dior, Bottega, Tod’s, Veneta, Burberry, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Hermes, and Salvatore Ferragamo.
Patricia says the aspirations to grow Wassy Dassy from a family-run business to a national or international player is hitched on the uniqueness of their designs and creations and the power of the story behind each item.
Those stories will be told by what goes into making the handbags and purses.
“We saw our mother as a strong, free-spirited African woman and chose to use fabrics from across the continent, such as mud cloth, tie-dyes, Ankara and Kenta which we combine with other fabrics that are indigenous or common in other parts of the globe to symbolize our vision of worldliness.
With no less than eight women involved in designing and making the bags and accessories, it’s a free flow of creativity and excitement as each stitch a little piece of her personality in her creation.
Maureen Scarlett is Adassa’s oldest daughter and a self-described ‘bling’ personality.” Her “Limited Edition” pieces are aimed at those women who, like her, are “over-the-top” types.
For her, creativity is key.
“We grew up in a house with dad, a pastry chef, and mom, a seamstress, dressmaker and designer… it was a creative and fun household,” says Maureen, whose day job is at the Royal Victoria Hospital, where she is an administrative technician. “You can imagine on a weekend, dad making the wedding cake while mom makes the wedding dress.”
That’s why this business is so important to us, because ultimately it brings together different generations of a family that was influenced by this great woman.”
Sisters Wendy and Gina Clarke are among the new generation who are adding their touch to the Wassy Dassy collection. Like their mother Eugenia, they too spent much of their lives watching their grandmother design and create.
“She used to say: ‘I could sew 24/7”, and at times it seemed as though she did. She was a gifted designer and seamstress,” says Wendy.
“And that’s why it’s as a beautiful experience doing this business in the spirit of grandma,” offered Gina.
Patricia says when growth comes the family will have to sacrifice the made-by-hand customized options that distinguish Wassy Dassy today for a more extensive mass production line.
“We don’t intend it to be at a factory in China,” she says. “The ideal would be a small or medium-sized business or collective here, in the Caribbean, or Africa, run by a family or a group of women.”
She added that if Wassy Dassy can empower families or women anywhere in the world, it would be the ultimate tribute to Adassa Scarlet.
www.wassydassy.com or Gina@wassydassy.com 514-952 4462 Patricia@wassydassy.com 647-504-0791
Family Business Built on the Shoulders of Adassa
Last September, th