From catwalk to sidewalk
Fashion students showcase their best creations
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 06:00 am
It’s Saturday. Normally MC College’s third floor fashion lab is empty. Today it looks as if a tornado tore through as the school’s emerging designers fit models for a runway show.
To the outsider the room looks like chaos. Clothes racks crammed with garments, some scattered on the floor, stand in the centre. At the far end, fashion storyboards are propped against the wall. In yet another corner, a broad white sheet hangs from the ceiling creating a private spot where long-limbed models discreetly change.
The focal spot is a four-foot square platform. It acts as a pedestal where the school’s emerging designers measure, pin, tuck and tailor each garment to their models’ curves.
Standing on the platform beside a model, Morinville emerging designer Aimee Lynn Ricard gently tugs at a stylish black evening dress embellished with chain-link straps.
The little black dress is a stunner, but the empire waist sits a tad high on the model, notes instructor Tammy Wells. She thoughtfully critiques each outfit, gently points out the flaws and delivers positive fix-it recommendations.
“The empire seam needs to sit below the bust. The shoulder chains holding the dress need to be cut off. It’s a lot of work, but it’s all in the name of fashion,” Wells says.
In the quest for perfection, the stress levels spike. Some years, students have burst into tears during final fittings. This year, giggles mix with a few groans as everyone readies for the glam extravaganza.
The MC College Showcase opens the prestigious Western Canada Showcase Week on Thursday, Sept. 19 at the TransAlta Arts Barn. The showcase features 14 designers in a collage that offers a peek into the curious and inventive minds of tomorrow’s fashion leaders.
Not all students will stay in the fashion industry. For the truly serious, the runway show is a big payoff for their intense work and a pivotal springboard to the next level.
“It’s a huge opportunity. A lot of fashion schools don’t have professional fashion shows. Being part of this show means networking right away. Some designers design for 10 years and don’t have a runway show. For them to get press is a notch in their belt that will legitimize their work,” explains design instructor Alisha Schick.
There’s a rich terrain of ideas fermenting in designers’ imaginations and they’ve put a twist on stylish elements that reflect larger trends.
This year Edmonton’s hot young fashion architects are defining key looks with themes ranging from futuristic and fantasy concepts to retro silhouettes, club and beach wear.
Ricard’s 10-piece collection, entitled Girl Anachronism, is a blend of medieval elements, a bit of Sherlock Holmes and classic pieces. It’s moody and theatrical, a mingling of past, present and future. For instance, her black chiffon night cloak, complete with a hood, is the stuff of dark fairytales.
“My vision was a fantasy element, an elfish, childlike wanderer, but in a more conventional sense. The chain details seemed so elfish and fantasy to me, and the cloak was inspired by Harry Potter,” says Ricard, a 2009 Morinville Community High School graduate.
In a similar vein, Heather Curtis’ Solstice collection is full of Brothers Grimm motifs.
“It’s gothic minus the black. It concentrates on the textural. It makes you think of spooky forests with undertones of romanticism. It’s magical. It’s haunting,” says Schick.
On the other hand, Farrah Hart has created a hot Miami vibe, a keep-up-with-the-Kardashian bohemian glam collection. Sparkly tops, skinny pants and figure hugging, cutout dresses crown this sizzling collection.
Jesica Barthel brings back the ’50s retro style defined by the hourglass figure. High-waisted pants, jumpsuits and harem pants are reborn in this collection even as Yushan Zhang instead turns every girl into a princess with her elegant, frothy evening wear.
“The elegant side cutouts are discreetly cut on the side, a little surprise you wouldn’t expect,” Schick comments.
Other sneak peeks include Millie Cameron’s ocean-inspired fantasy beach wear, Jessalyn Vickery’s new age hippie festival look and Daniel Bullock’s structured high-fashion collection.
“He has a strong background in theatre and he likes to think about character. He has a whole story of futurism, a kind of tribal futurism. He adds a lot of drama with the simplest design. He says a lot without a lot.”
Schick also points out that the upcoming runway show is simply the beginning and unknown designers will face numerous obstacles launching their brands.
“It’s a tough business. It takes open mindedness and not being thrown when people critique your designs.”
Success, she adds, has as much to do with a designer’s personality and being in the right place at the right time. And when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, it’s all about the marketing.
“Some of the most talented designers can’t network, can’t socialize. They don’t have the skills to market their label.”
But on the plus side, Schick sees more opportunities for emerging talents to grow and set roots both locally and nationally.
On the global scale, she notes there’s a renewed excitement in the fashion industry, in part due to the rebounding American economy.
“When the economy tanked, it held a lot of designers back from being super creative. Everyone was stressed about money and there was a trend towards fast fashion. People are realizing it isn’t always about how much you can buy. It’s more about longevity of design and that says a lot about how you dress.”
The second factor to inject renewed interest is that old designers are retiring and new faces with fresh ideas are helming the fashion houses.
Alexander Wang took over for Balenciaga, Christopher Bailey and CEO Angela Ahrendts have revamped the dowdy Burberry line, and Sarah Burton is taking Alex McQueen’s house to new heights.
For Ricard, the upcoming collection is not just a product of her studies, but also a hope to generate commercial excitement.
“It was definitely stressful and definitely a lot of work. It was more work than I expected. But it was worth it – all the sleepless nights. A year ago, I never thought I’d do something like this and it’s been a rewarding experience.”
The MC College Showcase is Thursday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. The TransAlta Arts Barns are located at 10330 84 Ave.
The Western Canada Fashion Week runs from Sept. 19 to 26. For a complete list of events visit www.westerncanadafashionweek.com.