Elias Sisters Take Over Fur Industry

11/18/17  |  Rebecca Perez  |  345 views

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Meet sisters Rita and Rim Elias who decided to quit their corporate jobs to launch Maison Eläma - a line of sophisticated fashion forward fur and outerwear pieces made in Canada. Just three years into the industry and they've got a pop store inside Montreal's Rockland centre, doing fashion shows internationally and creating their very own line! These women prove that breaking the glass ceiling is always worth the risk, (if you're passionate and willing to work hard for it). Find out the story behind the women who are taking over the fur industry.


Why and when did you decide to launch Maison Eläma?

Rim: We would always re-design my mom's furs, and then we realized there was your runway fur and then your traditional fur, but nothing in the middle, it was very hard to find. So we're like: oh wow, there's a gap in the market. Rita went to an event with our friend who's a lawyer in mergers and acquisitions so she sees any company that's for sale, and then Rita told her we would love to work in fur (about four years ago) and then the next morning, she called us and said: there's a fur company for sale. It's like it was meant to be.


Photo credit - Victor Hernandes


Rita: We came to meet the owners, we didn't know anything about the fur industry, we just loved fur and so we put a powerpoint presentation together and decided we were going to do a collection. We hired a designer who studied in fur, at Marie Victorin which is the only school that gives fur education, with her and our pattern maker we created a line - and then two weeks after our launch we were already at Ogilvy for a pop up shop, and then we did a special coat for P.K Subban, and then we went on Dragon's Den.

What did you learn on Dragon's Den?

They told us that we're doing fine and we don't need them - to learn from our own mistakes and just keep going. At first we were freaking out because one of the judges was vegan - and she ended up buying a fur coat. 


Photo credit - Moetreal


There are a lot of people we work with that are vegan they understand that our fur is completely different - we've been on fur farms the first step we wanted to do was to see it for ourselves and it's the most amazing industry ever. It's so clean, they really care for the animals - it's like skin - if you mistreat your skin, it's going to show in the quality of the fur. We work with NAFA which is a North American Function, they support us tremendously. 


Rita: This was important for us because we wanted to be proud of our product, and show the difference when you know where your fur is coming from and how the whole process is you really love it even more and it's a piece you keep forever - if you take care of it it's a piece that will go from generation to generation.

It's a sustainable, slow fashion product. We want young people to start thinking instead of buying 4-5 little coats, just buy one good one and take care of it.

People come with a coat and they're like my mom bought this 10 years ago for $3,000 - well if you were to buy it now it would be $10,000. We want you to keep your coat for generation and generation. 


Photo credit - Moetreal


What differentiates you from other brands?

Rita: When we first got into the fashion industry, we were shocked. When you come here, it's a real thing. It's personalized, we love our clients. Every coat that leaves here, they're astatic - we keep a relationship with them, for us that's #1 - caring for our clients. That's not going to change, even when our company grows - that's our focus. 

Rim: It's about trust - it's important that you trust where you product comes from.


Define your brand in three words. 

Luxury, authentic and fun!


How did you come up with your company name?

Rim: We were sitting with our friend and she's like: what represents you guys? We said: we love life, in every form. Then we started to look at life in every language and we found that "life" in Finnish - Eläma means the good life - and it kind of looks like our last name and our names.


Photo credit - Chris Nicholls


How do you find your inspiration and trends?

Rim: We're very in the know for what's going on in the runway, for us that's super important. We want to bring the runway feel to our company.

Rita: It's a lot of what we want to wear, we travel a lot - and we see what's out there and we want to create something really inspired by women on the go. It's very easy to wear day to night, we know how it is now women and men they're always on the go - in a lot of committees, they have their jobs sometimes they have their kids and we want to create pieces for them to wear on a daily basis.

Rim: We don't want people to think they need an event to wear fur, you can wear fur every day. Our fur vest you can wear it on top of your blouse, your meetings, you can put it on top of a dress, or a leather jacket - it's multi purpose.


Photo credit - Moetreal


What do you credit to your success?

Rita: They said entrepreneurs will quit their 40 hour work week to work 80 hours or more - it's so true. It doesn't feel like work. Definitely passion. I don't think you can be successful in something you don't like. It's very hard.

Rim: Also fearless. Being naive, we didn't know what we were going into which ended up being a good thing.


Photo credit - Moetreal


Future plans and collaborations coming up for Eläma?

We do a lot of collaborations with luxury brands - Ferrari, with the Ritz - we do a lot in Toronto now, we're expanding in Toronto which is very dynamic field. Our clients are great - we have a blast. We also have a pop up happening now inside Rockland Centre in Montreal.

An extended ELÄMA Vintage collection which is vintage jackets, jean jackets mostly that we pimp up the ELÄMA way and make them cool again, its our contribution to the Slow Fashion Movement to waste less garments and reuse them in a more Fashionable way. 
 
 
Photo credit - Moetreal
 
You'll see a few Jean Jackets at the Rockland Store and we have a full collection coming up and available at Rockland, they are all unique, one-off pieces that are vintage and that we redesigned in a very unique way.
 
Cover photo credit - Victor Hernandes

Shop directly Eläma's collection here.

Follow Eläma on Instagram and Facebook.

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