Ramblings of a Rebel with a Cause! — Linda Knight Seccaspina
In 1967 I was very excited to go to the London School of Fashion Design in London, England. Sadly my mentor, my grandfather, died that August so all was shot to hell as they say. My Dad was very busy with his business, being a town councilman and a man of the community. I was barely 16 and one thing that had gotten his attention was that I was very different and he didn’t care for it. I dressed in the latest fashion styles that I made and I stuck out like a big sore thumb. In a small town where your father is a prominent fixture word travels around like a brush fire that someone is out of the box somewhere.
I was labeled “the daughter that Arthur Knight had so much trouble with”. Yes, I was probably and admitedly a rebel teeenager, there is no argument to that. But, fashion was my first love, and I knew I would never work in a bank or become a home economics teacher.
So after heated arguments with my father I left home and headed to Montreal. I attended fashion design school where I instantly became bored. Instead of the great 60’s fashion and styles that I was expecting, my teacher made me make patterns of 1950’s styles. After classes I would go into store after store, just absorbing the culture and the “joie de vivre” of Montreal fashion.
Graduation couldn’t come fast enough for me. After completing my course, I had to find a job. Twiggy, Mary Quant and all the Carnaby Street styles were everywhere and guess who was wearing them? My Dad was getting remarried and gave me 75 dollars to buy something for his wedding. Being the drama queen I purchased a black velvet Twiggy mini dress and a black floor length Dr. Zhivago style coat. It was a real floor duster with black faux fur trim. Omar Shariff would have been proud– or maybe not!
When I went for job interviews I had to wear that outfit as my personal fashion budget was bankrupt. Most clothing manufactures were not yet into the Carnaby look in 1967 and I was told time after time:
“Kid, get yourself another coat– or you will never get a job!”
Defiant, of course I had to be me and soon got a job at Le Chateau on St. Catherine Street hemming pants. It was the very first Le Chateau store and when I left 6 months later they were opening their second store on St. Hubert.
With a year long fashion design course under my belt I finally found a job at THE FINE TOGS CLOTHING CO. It was a children’s manufacturer run by Blossom and Hy Hyman. Actually Blossom ran the company and Hy smiled a lot and played golf. They thought I was a spunky kid and if I had stayed there would have probably been retiring from the company about five years ago. I was raised by my British Grandmother, but there is definitely Jewish blood flowing through my veins and now now I was working for a Jewish firm and I was getting an education, in more ways than one.
If my grandmother Mary was my foundation for my hard working ethics then Saul Cohen was the drywall. He expected me to arrive at 7:30 am every morning and the man worked me to the bone. I worked in the cutting department, did sewing, swept floors, did book work and worked in the show room.There was not one stone that he did not make me turn over. He was relentless and when he found out about my long lost heritage he made sure I knew about it. When I complained about maybe leaving at 6 pm he would turn around and say to me:
“Do you know how our people suffered?”
One day he decided that I was ready to represent the company selling their clothing line at Place Bonaventure clothing mart. He told me I had to wear something conservative. So I did what every other girl my age did. I went to SEARS and bought THE SUIT. It was a navy blue matching box jacket, and knee length pleated skirt. I had red shoes and red earrings to match– and I wore it exactly 4 times.
I applaud Saul for everything he taught me and how someone actually got me to wear something that wasn’t black. But, word got around the clothing mart about me and I was soon hired by a competitive children’s wear company which was just one more step on the way to becoming a designer. To this day I never lost control of my fashion life and bought sweatpants. Give a girl the right shoes and the right outfit and she can conquer the world.