By Anna Ludmirsky,
Full-time mother as well as a full-time business owner and designer, Jewish-Polish Immigrant Edith Strauss ensured she would succeed and push through instances of hardships in all aspects of her life. Not many people are as brave enough to begin a journey in a risky industry which expects you to outperform yourself every step of the road. Edith was not only able to run a successful design business, she did all this whilst being a mother, wife with not much to begin with.
Initially, before moving to Canada, Edith did not live a life of luxuries comparable to the life she created. Edith grew up very poor in Poland and later immigrated to Canada, on the account of her father, Nathan Solomon, finding work in Montreal; this was the beginning of the rest of her life. As her family weren’t the wealthiest individuals, like most families in similar situations, children go find jobs to work in order to support themselves and their families. As an immigrant family, it was tough to break out of the lower class, Edith’s parents felt bad for their children; their mother was wealthy as a child and her feelings of regret only grew as she couldn’t provide for her children while giving them the same lifestyle she had when she was their age. Although, even though the circumstances were tough on Edith and her siblings, she still did what she had to do to support them.
As she was the oldest sibling out of the four, she felt obligated to start working at a young age. As soon as she turned 16 she went out and got herself a job as a beginner level sewer at a Montreal dress manufacturing company and slowly went up to land herself as executive designer. During this time, it was heavily imposed onto society for women to take the last name of their spouse and make their mark on the world with the last name of their husband. Unlike most women at the time, Edith was known by her own name, “Edith Solomon”, a proud woman who made sure her accomplishments were noted as her own.
Unfortunately, the way life usually is, it paves the way for a few bumps in the road. In this case for Edith, it was when her husband was expected to move from Montreal to Toronto, this was a moment Edith had an ultimatum. Either choose to continue to work your dream job within your field or move to a new city and begin a new life, not being able to fully rationalize what the future entails. At the end of the day, Edith chose to move with her husband to Toronto, the love for him outgrew the love for design, but the passion for fashion never halted in Montreal. With the love and support from her husband, Norman Strauss, he pushed for her to create her own label “Strauss Designs”. To start a company in a high-risk industry like fashion, it takes dedication and drive in order to succeed.
Luckily for Edith, this is exactly why her company succeeded.
There are plenty of reasons why Strauss Designs could have failed straight off the bat. At the time, a woman owning and operating within her own company was wildly unheard of, as well as being a mother alongside her extravagant career. Even nowadays, being a mother and working in the fashion industry is uncommon because of the extremely heavy schedules, the constant back and forth on flights from continent to continent, and always being on the clock no matter what time or day it is. Fortunately for Edith’s kids, A.J and Marina, they had a present mother who took part in their lives no matter what was going on in her life outside of motherhood. Edith parented her kids the way most parents do but with a few extra steps, she sent them to multiple extracurriculars, would take extra measures to see who their friends were, took care of household chores, and designed the uniforms for their schools. All of this occurred while she constantly thought about work. Whilst being a full time mother, she was also a full-time designer. To Edith, this was second nature, pulling out a sketchbook after complimenting strangers on their outfits and quickly drawing it out as inspiration for her next collections. Edith Strauss was a woman who knew how to love, design, and parent; a triple threat in that regard.
A woman like Edith Strauss was downplaying herself and her major accomplishments throughout her career, regarding it as just the “schmatte business”, schmatte being the word for cloth or rags. One might consider including a humble brag from time to time when you’re the first Canadian designer to sell your fashion abroad in Japan, having her designs being sold in Saks Fifth Avenue, and above all, she was given the Fashion Industry Achievement Award after the city of Toronto recognized her for all her accomplishments. Nevertheless, Edith Strauss was not the one to brag about her work, as a realistic woman she would have speaking points directly regarding the status of her company and how it had never had a bad season and how it was quite successful in that aspect.
With this in mind, the way Edith structured her designs were hard not to love. To begin, Edith had no specific target consumer in mind, she just strived to make her garments wearable for everyone as well as outstanding quality. In comparison to other brands at the time, she entailed for the pieces she designed to not necessarily stand out on the runway, but more on the sales floor. Edith never strayed away from gorgeous colours and luxury fabrics flown in from Europe, as she always spoke her mind about how Canadian textiles weren’t comparable to the ones flown in internationally.
All in all, Edith Strauss proves that hard work and dedication will lead to success, even when you have odds stacked against you. Undoubtedly, Edith was extremely loved and known for having a huge heart and many talents. She passed away on March 20th 2008 with the presence of her loved ones, and even though it has been over a decade since her passing, her legacy and accomplishments will never be forgotten as she taught many people to be unapologetically themselves whilst caring deeply for the ones you cherish most.
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