Cass Germann on turning “pandemic panic drawings” into wearable and sustainable art.
Cass Germann’s brand, It’s A Weird Time To Be Alive, started as a kind of art therapy. “I called them ‘pandemic panic drawings,’” says the former tattoo artist of her initial graphics. “In 2020, everything was so overwhelming that I would just sit and draw while listening to the news. Suddenly, I had all of this artwork that I thought would look great on a t-shirt, but the problem was, during the lockdown, nothing was open, so I was forced to work with what I had.” Enter daily trips to the dollar store for fabric paint and upcycling pieces from her own closet, and the Canadian sustainable brand was born.
For Germann, It’s A Weird Time To Be Alive is a form of fashionable activism, hence the quirky yet powerful collages she creates on upcycled clothing. As a friend of Sarah Jay’s — the Toronto-based celebrity stylist, eco-activist, and sustainable fashion collector featured in FASHION’s April issue — environmentalism has always been on Germann’s radar. But before that, she credits her time working at a coffee shop as a truly eye-opening experience. “I’m telling you, those disposable coffee cups will be on the soul for the rest of my life — there is nothing that I feel worse about,” reveals the designer. “Everything was just so wasteful, and the fact that I was just in one small shop was wild.” Germann also references the time she worked in retail as a defining event for her environmental ethos. “We’re just so disconnected from where our garbage goes that we don’t even think about it. And we’re running out of time to not care about this.”
With that in mind, below, the designer behind the Canadian sustainable brand talks about creating wearable art, her tips for recycling pieces from your own wardrobe and the five things bringing her joy.
How would you describe the style of your brand in three words?
Irreverent, fun and sustainable.
What is something about your brand that would surprise people?
There are little Easter eggs in almost everything I make. I hide a lot of subversive messages in my designs. I also just include a lot of hidden happy faces.
What’s the piece that has taken the most time to create?
I made a hoodie for a friend that took about six months. I wanted something that would really wow him, so I put a leopard on one side and then the skeleton of the leopard on the other to have a ying-yang effect. But I was so ambitious that I had to stop at points and learn new skills before I could finish it because the idea was beyond my technique.
Does your brand have a signature style?
Over time I’ve naturally developed space-related motifs that make repeated appearances in my work. I like the idea of space and other-worldly things because our focus can sometimes be so small and singular. And because I’ve been by myself during the pandemic, I wanted to transcend the loneliness and isolation I was feeling and kind of experience the world as a whole.
How would you describe the style of your hometown of Oshawa, Ontario?
For the most part, everyone looks the same — they all buy their clothes at Costco.
What’s your top tip for someone looking to upcycle pieces from their own wardrobe?
You have to let go of staying true to the piece of clothing in its current form. An old pair of jeans doesn’t have to become a new pair of jeans; it could be a hat or a jacket, or really anything.
Favourite and least favourite trend?
Favourite: Gender, size and cultural inclusivity.
Least favourite: Outdated fashion “rules.”