Linen might not have the international clout of silk or cashmere, but it is truly one of the most luxurious fabrics. Strong but incredibly breathable and light, its ages like fine wine, getting better over time. The more linen is washed, the softer it becomes.
“The fibres come from the flax plant and they’re almost like strands of hair, they’re really shiny and strong,” says Lisa Tanner, founder of Vancouver’s Lissu Linen. “When it’s washed, the fibre doesn’t really break, it just gets finer and finer and finer.” Which means towels, napkins, and anything else made from the fabric get smoother the more they are used. Linen’s power lies in the fact that it is at once delicate and durable; it wants to be put to the test.
Tanner first discovered linen while spending a semester studying abroad in Finland. The Calgary native fell in love with the Scandinavian lifestyle and moved back there for a year after finishing fashion design school at Kwantlen. “In Scandinavia in particular, they use a lot of linen, and it was something I hadn’t really seen much in Vancouver yet,” she recalls over a glass of Prosecco at Nordstrom Pacific Centre. “Their whole lifestyle was hugely influential on the direction that my life took after that.”
Upon returning to Vancouver after a year in Finland, Tanner began working at Aritzia, but soon felt burnt out by the fast-paced fashion industry that clashed with the slowed Finnish philosophy she had grown accustomed to. She left her job, started sourcing linen from Lithuania to make a few items for herself that she couldn’t find in Vancouver, and soon branched into commercial sales. Lissu is now comprised of a carefully considered selection of linen goods, including beach and tea towels, dish cloths (which can double as napkins), and a tote bag. In a range of colours from light green (Aloe) to pale yellow (Sand), Lissu products can be mixed and matched in any number of ways, and still look like a cohesive collection. Tanner, who also works at Giardino, has since expanded into terrycloth, which is used to make a bath mitt and facial sponge.
All of the fabric is sourced sustainably—a very important aspect for Tanner—and every linen item is made right here in Vancouver. Sold online and around town at hip boutiques including One of a Few, Charlie & Lee, and Harlow Atelier, Lissu is clearly on a path of calm but steady growth. “It’s been doing really well, it’s selling well,” says Tanner. “People are excited about it. It makes me happy for sure.” Like the fabric it sports, Lissu improves with every wash.
UPDATE, November 2018: Tanner has sold the business, which will now operate under a different name.