Anjela Freyja photographed by Teo Zamudio.
Fermé—French for “closed”—is the modern loungewear and home décor brand founded by designer and creative Anjela Freyja. Based out of Montréal, Fermé started out as a passion side project intended to give back to communities struggling with food insecurity at the start of the pandemic. Over the course of the last year, Fermé has taken on a life of its own and in order to keep up with demand, Freyja has revamped the brand—releasing the first drop of its new collection entitled “Down to Earth” this past April. At a time where many of us are bound to domestic bliss, Fermé provides chic, high-quality pieces tailored to our quarantine needs with items designed to work for both the office and the confines of our own homes. We caught up with Freyja to get an inside look at her creative process, the inspiration behind starting Fermé, and what the future holds for this up-and-coming brand.
What was the driving force behind your decision to quit working full-time for agencies to kick-start Fermé?
“When I started Fermé it was meant to be a side project, a small way that I could give back to my community. The whole point of the collection was to raise money for food banks and meal programs to help seniors during the onset of the pandemic. Fermé, which is French for closed, was symbolic of all the closed signs in my neighbourhood. I never expected the collection to take off the way it did. Many people don’t realize but I actually called it quits twice! But people kept writing me and asking about it. At a certain point, I realized that I had hit on something. And sometimes you don’t choose your business, it chooses you. Fermé chose me. And once I accepted that, I really gave it my all. Instead of using all of my design and branding skills on my clients projects, I am now using them for myself.
“That being said, I still love doing design for others and have actually worked at Pentagram London throughout most of 2020 and 2021 on many large design and branding projects. I don’t think I could ever give it up completely. Working contractually has been very helpful too. I get to scratch my design itch but also take time to focus on Fermé.”
How does the most recent Spring/Summer “Down to Earth” collection differ from the debut collection?
“The current collection is quite different. However, I certainly tried to keep a visual continuity. The collections from 2020 were designed entirely to raise money for charity, so I focused a lot on slogans that were community-oriented—feel-good phrases on cozy pre-made garments. I realized that if I wanted to turn Fermé into a real and long-lasting brand, I’d need to source high-quality manufacturers and put a lot more work into our product development. So that’s how I spent the winter: working every day and night with suppliers and factories. In the end, it came together nicely! I also rebranded with a more refined and timeless logo, brand language, etc. I love this stuff so I really enjoyed figuring out what the future of Fermé was going to look like. The new collections feel more refined and they are truly great quality. We also have introduced a line of essentials—timeless, comfortable pieces that you can turn to again and again.”
How have you adjusted to working in the midst of a pandemic? Was there anything that surprised you in terms of positive and negative impacts that the current crisis may have had on your business?
“On a personal level, the isolation, in the beginning, gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted in life. Like I mentioned earlier, I knew I always wanted to start my own business but there’s a lot of gatekeeping around entrepreneurship, especially for women. I decided if there was ever a time to go for it, this was it. It was as if the world had stopped, people were resonating with what I was creating, and I had time to learn. I had $5000 in my savings and invested all of it, in small orders at first and then bigger.
“But working during the pandemic has been really tough. I’m lucky to have a job that I love and am extremely passionate about but it requires long hours. Being in my apartment all day, working 16, 17 hours with no socialization has been hard on my mental health. I often feel like a zombie. But it is also how I’ve coped. When nothing else made sense, my work made sense. It gave me something to focus on and feel good about.
“On a business level, the community that formed around Fermé throughout 2020 was truly beautiful. Being able to create something that helped others and gave back was a wonderful experience. In total, we were able to donate $30,000 split between Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, and Feeding America. I’m so grateful to have been able to be a part of that. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk in the evening and I’ll see someone in my neighbourhood wearing one of our sweaters. It always makes me smile.”
What is the future of Fermé?
“In early 2021 I made the decision to transition Fermé into a financially sustainable business. We’re now focusing on creating high-quality fashion and objects that are centered around the home. The home is now where we work, hopefully not all the time, but sometimes. And I think the pandemic really gave us an appreciation for our spaces and home life. I want Fermé to be where you turn when you want to be cozy and comfortable but still feel put together and good about yourself. Just because we’re home doesn’t mean we can’t practice self-care. Nice blankets, experimental candles, well-designed garments. Never stuffy but comfortable.
“For me, Fermé is just the beginning. Now that I’ve started my own business, I’m excited to start more. But I’m going to spend a bit more time perfecting this one first.”
View the gallery for a look at Fermé.