Published On: Thu, Mar 1st, 2018

Hazel Mae of Sportsnet scores with dress line

Blue Jays sportscaster Hazel Mae can’t say she doesn’t have a thing to wear to a ballgame.

The Sportsnet reporter has designed a line of dresses expressly for working the sidelines during televised games. They are comfortable, colourful but not too busy to distract viewers from what she’s saying.

And they are popular.

Made of a four-way stretch synthetic fabric and designed to flatter the female figure, her eponymous brand of dresses come in several jewel-toned colours.

They’ve been selling on The Shopping Channel (TSC) since 2013, through Mae’s website since last August,and Gotstyle, in Toronto’s Distillery District, will carry them this summer.

A Sportsnet stylist put her in touch with a seamstress and in 2012 Hazel Mae Design Inc. was established.

“Thanks to my day job, I was able to fund our idea. My husband would drive me around. I’d feed my son, Chase, in the car and hand him to Kevin as I ran into factories trying to convince people I wasn’t crazy.

“I’d hop back in the car, we’d drive somewhere else, and I’d hand my son to my husband again, walk into a fabric store and ask the most basic questions, learning on the go.

“As much as I enjoy it, it’s really a lot of work. I’ve got to balance it with a busy baseball schedule, while being a wife and mom with a toddler at home.”

Mae sketches each dress and chooses the colour and fabric with the expert assistance of Ali Lawee, her right-hand woman who has a background in fashion design.

“Ali makes it all work. We go through my sketches and a lot of times I’ll put them on Instagram with photos of me liking rolls and rolls of fabric. I want to show I’m hands on — not just putting my name on a label and walking away, Mae says.

A patternmaker then drafts a pattern based on the sketch and samples are sewn at a Toronto factory.

“I’m so proud that everything is made here in Canada,” Mae adds.

She sees her solid colour contemporary designs as a blank canvas that women can personalize with accessories.

“The simplicity of my dresses gives them a kind of sophistication,” she says.

In 2013 Mae approached The Shopping Channel (TSC), which is owned by Sportsnet’s parent company Rogers.

“I thought if anybody was willing to take a shot on an unknown designer it would be the company I work for.”

She asked then president Steven Goldsmith for five minutes of his time and after Mae and Barker made their pitch Goldsmith told them: “I’ll throw you in there and we’ll see how it goes.”

“I ran into Steven later and he said: ‘Look Hazel. I have to admit I thought you’d sell $ 10,000 worth of dresses but we sold over $ 300,000 in your first year.’ ”

Hazel Mae Design Inc. has been asked to return to TSC each year since then.

As Mae began wearing her dresses on-air, viewers as well as women in the industry noticed. Reporters and anchors from Boston, Florida, Texas and Colorado wanted to buy her dresses. Mae sometimes drove to Buffalo to ship them, as TSC only ships in Canada.

“I usually put in a hand-written note thanking the customer. When you’re not a well-known designer people can be skeptical of the quality, so I feel appreciative when someone puts their hard-earned money into a Hazel Mae dress.”

Each dress style is named after women she admires: The Margot, Kim, Lauren, Danielle, Sherry and Debra.

“It’s to honour and thank them. Sometimes a certain dress reminds me of someone’s personality. Other times it’s a person’s favourite colour, or simply that I can see them in that particular dress.”

After Sophie Grégoire Trudeau wore the citron-hued Sherry design on the prime minister’s first official visit to Mexico last fall, Yahoostyle.ca picked it as one of Trudeau’s top10 style choices of 2017.

Mae will unveil her spring/summer 2018 collection on the Jeanne Beker show Style Matters on April 12.

“It’s wonderful to have a Canadian fashion icon giving you a pat on the back.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

TORONTO STAR

Leave a comment

Hazel Mae of Sportsnet scores with dress line