A Dalhousie University nursing student is running a successful new clothing company out of her apartment. Hannah Fougere is the woman behind Celestial City, a small business created during the pandemic that sells made-to-order sweatshirts.
Born and raised in Cape Breton, Fougere now lives in Halifax and is a nursing student at Dalhousie University. She runs Celestial City out of her downtown apartment. Packaged orders sit by the door waiting to be shipped, while open textbooks sit on the coffee table.
A business is born
Upon her return from living in Australia, when the pandemic hit, Fougere noticed “a lack of cute touristy sweaters” back home, and decided to do something about it.
Inspiration for designs come largely from her own travel and experiences, or from recommendations by her online community.
After purchasing an embroidery machine and software to digitize her designs, Fougere started the business in January 2021 as a way to make extra money and keep herself busy throughout the many lockdowns.
The process of creating her sweatshirts begins with a blank slate – literally. Fougere mixes her own dyes which she washes into white sweatshirts.
Getting the perfect colour “can be the most frustrating part,” she says with a laugh. She embroiders her sweatshirts on one of two machines. One of the machines is smaller, so the designs have to be broken up in the stitching process.
Celestial City has sold over 1,000 sweaters since January. The store operates through pre-orders, meaning there isn’t any stock sitting around. While also a practical decision, Fougere says it makes her work more environmentally conscious, as the possibility for waste is minimized.
The online store has launched several collections, including Atlantic, Canadian and international. Designs come in a range of natural colours and bear the names of locations with associated slogans and images. According to Fougere, the Atlantic Canada sweatshirts have been bestsellers and account for nearly half of all her sales.
Mckenzie Hutchings is one Celestial City’s happy customers.
Hutchings found Celestial City through the explore page on Instagram, and was immediately drawn to the aesthetic and approaches taken by the business.
When Celestial City’s Atlantic collection was released, Hutchings “knew [she] had to have one for Labrador,” where she’s from. Because Hutchings’s first order was a custom design, Fougere consulted her when creating her next Labrador-inspired design.
The quality of the pieces is a standout feature to Hutchings.
“The fact that she’s hand-dyeing and then matching the thread to hand-dyed colour, and then embroidering – I don’t know anybody else that’s currently doing that,” Hutchings said.
Pre-orders fill up quickly for Celestial City, but quantity is not the goal for Fougere. As a student, the work-life balance is a top priority.
“Usually I have my machines running but I’m also listening to lectures and taking notes with headphones on.”
Fougere is proud of what she has created with Celestial City and sees herself running the business online for the “foreseeable future.”