Skirts that started as pillowcases. Tote bags with neckties for straps. Clutch purses made from placemats. If anyone understands the entrepreneurial spirit of thinking outside the box and using what you have to create something new, it’s Winkler-based maker Heidi Friesen.
A 2015 alum of RRC Polytech’s Apparel Design program, Friesen is the owner and operator of Heidi-and-Seek Boutique, an online store that exclusively features her own garment and accessory designs, which are created — as she puts it — with “real, everyday women in mind.”
“People started to notice my creations and say, ‘You know, you should sell those,’” she explains, when asked about the boutique’s origin.
“That’s kind of how it started, people saw what I was creating for myself and they said, ‘Hey, that would be something that’d be good for a gift,’ or ‘Hey, I’d love to buy that.’ So I started looking into how to start a shop.”
The passion that would lead Friesen (shown above, third from left) to one day launch her own fashion brand first took root when she was still young.
“As a child, I always enjoyed the dress-up box at friend’s houses — we called them play clothes at the time.”
“They were parents’ old clothes or grandma’s old clothes that someone had stuffed in a trunk, and I always loved picking out things to wear. It was just the feeling of putting something on that wasn’t your own — it was a way to tell a new story. I always loved that and I always wanted my clothing to be unique and different from everybody else.”
Those experiences led Friesen to consider garment design as a career path, an idea that really gained traction while she was visiting her sister in college, and the pair decided to create skirts from dorm-room pillowcases.
In 2009, Friesen started an Etsy shop and began selling her creations, but found herself seeking more knowledge to take her sales and skillset to the next level.
“I was self-taught in sewing, and I got to a point in my designing where I felt like I hit a wall in terms of how much I could teach myself,” she says.
“I don’t quite remember how I found it, but RRC Polytech was doing a one-day workshop for sewing details. I went to that thinking I would learn a few things and Jan Bones, who was the instructor, told me that Red River had an Apparel Design program. That was the perfect option for me. It was part-time, I could drive to the city once a week and do my two years to get the certificate.”