Most people collect something during their lifetime.
Men collect luxury cars if they can afford them, ex-wives if they can afford them, stamps, coins, toy soldiers and train sets if they’re less ambitious.
Women collect shoes, handbags, scarfs, cats, teddy bears and lovers between husbands.
I collect Trimdin jackets.
It all started on a beautiful autumn day when my dear friend and colleague, Jane Baker and I were having lunch together in the park next to St. James Anglican Cathedral, King Street, Toronto.
When we had finished our lunch Jane said, “Let’s go and look in the new store in the concourse that has beautiful handwoven clothes.”
I was barely ten feet in the door when I saw this gorgeous cotton hand woven turquoise and blue jacket. It had a sign on it saying, “Buy me Catherine.” I tried it on for the size, and also to see how it looked with my black outfit – black was the standard Bay Street (financial district) dress code. It looked terrific. I bought it. It’s still in my closet. It might be considered vintage by now as it is over thirty years old.
One day I was at an art exhibition at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg, just north of Toronto. I think it was about 2008. I went into the Gift Shop to buy some postcards, and what did I see but another jacket which had the same sign saying, “Buy me Catherine.” So I did.
I had a small collection of jackets at this point but my nascent collection had just become focussed. This jacket was a Trimdin jacket. Plus, it was reversible and so doubly beautiful. It’s still in my closet, but beginning to look a little worn – just a little.
When I got home with my new jacket I checked the Trimdin website to see where they were located, and what else they made. They made only jackets at that time and were made in the US – that was a bonus. WOW what a gorgeous collection! They’re made from jacquard unique textiles. That’s what makes the jackets so special. They’re very classic so if you wanted to look like an up-to-date fashion icon they were not for you. But I liked jackets I could wear for years.
The collection was in various designs and colours – few in solid colours with a different design on the reverse side. The textiles are vibrant and unique and designed in house. I’ve a beautiful deep red jacket for very special celebrations. They make long and short jackets but all very classic, and I soon learned they bring out new designs at least twice a year which are all designed in house.
There was an email address and phone number on the website. I phoned to see if there was an outlet anywhere nearer to me in downtown Toronto than Kleinberg. I talked to Michael, one of the owners, who told me about a store in the concourse of the Royal York Hotel that carried a small line of their jackets.
I live within walking distance of the Royal York so I went to the shop to see what their selection of jackets was like. I bought two more Trimdin jackets. You might say now I was hooked! One of the jackets is a black and white reversible in the Ruffle style. It made its debut in New York at a performance at the New York Metropolitan Opera.
Unfortunately, the store stopped selling these jackets when the Canadian dollar tanked against the US dollar. By now I have a good idea of my size and what suited my lifestyle.
I began ordering jackets on line. Every time Trimdin produced a new line I’d get an email. Can I resist buying another jacket or not? Mostly it was not. Then they began having a sale twice a year. The $US exchange rate wasn’t getting any better and a sale always made me feel I could afford another jacket. I’m the perfect marketing target!
This was the beginning of a chatty telephone or email relationship with Michael and his wife and partner Marissa about what to buy next. They have all my information on file – address, phone number, email address and credit card number so all I have to do is send an email, or phone saying what I want, not need, to buy.
Trimdin has the most outstanding customer service I’ve ever come across. A couple of years ago I ordered two jackets from one of their sales. When the jackets arrived they were a size larger than I wear. I phoned Michael to see if they had my size before I returned them for an exchange. eHh He told me to keep them and he would send the size I ordered – no charge. I sent the jackets to my daughter, Melissa in Australia. Now Trimdin has a presence in Australia! I’m not sure how often she can wear them because she lives in Cairns, Queensland where the temperature seldom dips below 35 deg.C, but visits her grandchildren in Sydney where it’s much cooler.e
There came a point when I realized I had an obscene number of jackets hanging in my closet. Time to do a little culling – but what jackets? The women reading this story will probably recognize the panic that sets in I’ll probably need this jacket some time so maybe I should keep it. Mostly I did keep them.
I still have so many jackets I can divide them into seasons with a little overlap because they are reversible. Some of the jackets I only like one side. There are certain jackets I only wear to the opera or ballet. Others I wear to plays, lectures or to church. Most women of my generation like to be well dressed.
I did make an exception for my opera jacket when I was Irene Declute’s matron of honour when she married Doug Fisher in 2012. She deserved a very special jacket.
A couple of weeks ago I was at my ophthalmologist’s wearing one of my long summer jackets. He said, “you’re looking very fashionable today.”
“I have a cupboard full of jackets and nowhere to wear them during this panndemic.”
“You can come to my office any time dressed like that.”
I bought my last jacket early in 2020 from a new collection. It’s called Classic Mardi Gras Confetti. This jacket is to wear for my 90th birthday celebrations. Well, that’s not going to happen. The birthday will happen in October, but the celebrations will be postponed until October 2021 – 91 will be the new 90. My jacket arrived with a handwritten note from Michael wishing me an early 90th birthday – I’ll treasure that note.
When I wake up in the morning I say to myself, what play am I in today and what’s the costume?
Then I get up, get dressed and put on a beautiful Trimdin jacket to start the day.
Catherine Munro was born Toronto and grew up in Mississauga when it was rural Ontario. She left Canada when she was 24 to see the world and returned when she was 48. In the intervening years she married an Australian, Kenneth Munro, lived in Ghana, West Africa, and Australia. She writes memoirs for her children and their children.
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