Working For the Weekend: With Jessica Vaira

By Maya-Roisin Slater
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

VANCOUVER — Founded in 2003, Twigg and Hottie is a boutique in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant that puts a premium on ethical independent designers. Jessica Vaira, one of the store’s three owners, grew up around the textile arts, a formative experience that drew her to designing and making her own clothes later in life. “Growing up in a family of knitters, sewers, and crocheters, I often saw the beauty of how textiles could be shaped to fit whatever purpose needed. The idea that you could not only sew anything you wanted, but that you could also construct the material itself has always been a wonder to me,” Vaira explains. Along with her two business partners, Twigg and Hottie is home to an in-house brand, We3 Designs, which focuses on sustainable clothing made in Vancouver. Turning cloth to clothing is not Vaira’s only passion, she is also a singer and songwriter. Employing her very own blend of jazz, funk, and soul, Vaira utilizes looping pedals and harmonies to create a lush soundscape of groove-inspired folk. Needles, thread, lungs, and verses are just some of the tools Vaira has under her belt A seamstress and singer with a knack for starting from scratch, Jessica Vaira is a proprietor of honest art in all its forms.

BeatRoute: What does a day at the store look like for you?

Jessica Vaira: A day in the store for me is a balance between helping my customers find the perfect thing to suit their needs, educating the curious on why it is so important to support locally and sustainably made goods and, chipping away at the mountain of admin that always needs dong.

BR: What kind of music do you like to listen to in the shop?

JV: Generally I love jazz, folk, soul, and R&B for store hours. It needs to be upbeat enough to keep the day flowing, but without feeling frenzied. It is all about creating a comfortable and welcoming vibe.

BR: What are your favourite things to wear onstage?

JV: I’ve been in a pretty serious long skirt phase the past year. I have a particular one that I literally have made four of in different colours because they are just so comfortable. After performing, when I’ve exuded so much emotion and am a sweaty mess, I still feel like I have a modicum of poise.

BR: Can you explain your use of the loop pedal in your work?

JV: Loop pedals are so interesting because they can be really freeing and also quite constrictive depending on how you use them. For me, harmony has always been a focus in my music and I wanted the ability to layer my vocals but still have variation in my song structure so I strive to use the looper in a more unconventional way. Instead of building an entire song on a foundation of a few chords, I use it for accents and features. Sometimes I will loop entire choruses so that I can do the harmonies over top the second time. Sometimes, I create textural layers to flesh out a verse. Sometimes I build and build and build to create an outro. It just depends on what the song needs.

BR: As a maker of both, does your creation of music and clothing have any sort of connective relationship?

JV: You bet! Trying to make a living solely on creative endeavours is darn difficult and like most artists, I struggle on being creative on a time line. Having two really different modalities allows me the ability to explore whatever inspiration I am feeling in that moment. If I don’t feel like working on lyrics, I can draft a pattern. Or if I don’t feel like sewing those alterations, I can practice guitar. Textiles are gratifying because there is a tangible end result and I can physically see what I have accomplished. Music is very spiritual and emotional for me and helps me understand myself. Having a foot strongly planted in both these worlds helps me feel balanced and ultimately fuels more creativity.

BR: What do you hope to achieve in the next year?

JV: Finishing my album In A Line has been a huge accomplishment and one that I had been working towards for several years. This next phase for me is about promoting all that hard work and getting started on the next album and collaborations. I always have new ideas and projects percolating and am hoping to get some motion on some of those.

Jessica Vaira hosts an open mic night every second Tuesday at Cartems Donuterie on Main Street. She is also performing at the Revival Festival in Squamish June 10 to 12.

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