Introduction to the 6-part Series – Personal Assessment

The objective of this 6-part series is to provide you with some key steps that you can take to help you create and establish your profile as a professional in your field and start your career by finding a job. I will be sharing tips on various career-building topics ranging from creating a strong cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile, to navigating job searches, preparing for and following up an interview, building professional social media accounts, networking and building engagement in your industry.

Personal Assessment

Personal assessment is an important first step you need to take before you even begin writing your resume. This is the time to consider which career path you would like to take within your designated field. It also gives you a better idea of the types of workplace environments that might suit you.

Let’s get started!

Clear your mind and reflect on what area of study, within your college program, you enjoyed most or in which you performed best.  If this can be narrowed down to a specific course, what was the focus of that course?  If you worked with an industry partner while studying, what did you do that brought you the most satisfaction? 

After you have done this, also ask yourself which courses, if any, you had some difficulty with and why?  Answering this question will allow you to identify any weaknesses within your acquired skill set and reflect on how to improve upon them.

Begin Brainstorming

I want you to begin brainstorming your skill set and reflect on times you were recognized for your achievements, values, and interests.

There are two kinds of skill sets: hard skills and soft skills.

Hard skills are knowledge and expertise you have gained through your education and any additional forms of technical training. These skills are measurable.

Soft skills are skills that you have gained through life experience, such as the way in which you communicate; your interpersonal skills. These skills are often transferable to many different careers. 


What awards or special recognition have you received?

Why were those awards given to you?

How did your hard and soft skills help you to achieve this recognition?


Values are important to your career because they help describe the type of person you are.  They can be a key indicator of behaviour and how you might respond to different situations in the workplace.  For example, if you value trust, you are likely someone that would be able to keep information confidential.

Describe your character.  What type of personality do you have?

What are your values?

Are you a “people person”?

What type of attitude do you have? For example, do you typically look at things in a positive way, a negative way etc?  Are you typically an optimist or a pessimist? 

How do you react in stressful or challenging situations?


Interests are made up of anything and everything you enjoy doing or want to learn about.  Interests can be broad, such as having a general interest in reading or music, or they can be more developed hobbies such as knitting or painting. Identifying what your interests are also has the added benefit of helping you figure out what you are not interested in.  Narrowing down your interests will help you decide what to focus on and develop going forward.

Your task is to review the questions above and answer them. Having a better understanding of who you are and what you enjoy are crucial to your job search.

Join me next week when I will be posting Series One: Resume Tips.

Until then, take care.


Series Three: Setting Goals

Now that you have completed Series One: Finding Happiness During Uncertain Times and Series Two: Creating Routines, welcome to the final series: Setting Goals!  Setting goals is an important tool, not only to help you stay focused, but to inspire and motivate you to pursue your dreams and put yourself on the path to achieving them. 

Designed by a Fashion Arts student

Exercise One:  Make a list

As you may have noticed, I love making lists, but making a list of goals is always especially fun and exciting because it gives me something to work towards!  I like to start by writing out a list of 10 goals.  These goals could be any combination of things I want to accomplish.  Some could be modest, short-term goals such as successfully completing a course, while others could be big and outrageous, long-term goals such as designing and planning a Grammy after-party for Beyoncé. Once I have my list of 10 goals, I will select one that I want to start working on and map it out. 

Now, you try it!

Exercise Two:  Goal Mapping

Once you have your list of 10 goals, grab another piece of paper and write that goal at the top, big and bold.   Start mapping out your goal by answering the following questions: 

GOAL MAP: Career in Law

  1. What is your goal? e.g. To be admitted into a graduate law program.
  2. Why this goal is important to you? e.g.  Becoming a lawyer is my dream career.
  3. What is your deadline to accomplish this goal? e.g. September 2021
  4. What are the three action steps you must take to complete your goal?

e.g. a. Finish undergraduate degree with a 3.7 G.P.A.

       b. Earn a 160 LSAT score.

       c. Apply.

5. What is your deadline for completing each of the three action steps?

Be as specific as possible when answering the questions above. You want to have a clear idea of what your goal is and how you plan on achieving it.  Once you have established your deadline, you can break down your action steps even further if need be and give those smaller tasks additional due dates.  Refer back to last week’s series: Creating a Routine to help you stay on track and don’t get discouraged if your goal map needs revising along the way.  This is a normal process and as you delve deeper into the development stages of your goals, things often change course and sometimes for the better.  The most important thing is to keep an open mind and embrace new paths this journey may take you on.

Photo credit: Adobe Spark

It is completely up to you to decide if you prefer to share your goals with others or keep them to yourself, but if you know that you sometimes have a hard time staying on track, try telling a close friend or family member about them.  This can help keep you accountable to your goals and motivated to succeed.  

Best of luck!


Series Two: Creating a Routine

Photo credit: Adobe Spark

Finding a routine can be key when attempting to achieve some kind of normalcy in your day-to-day life.  It can help you feel in control by adding some structure to your day and making sure you are devoting enough time to yourself and your loved ones.  My favorite part of creating a routine is the organization involved.  It takes planning and flexibility to adapt to changing schedules and deadlines. 

Time allotted for work schedule:

When I build my routine, I look at my calendar and begin by plugging in any regular or fixed obligations, such as my work schedule.  I will enter my start time, end time, and lunch break. Since these events take up the most significant part of my time during the week, I block them in my calendar first.

Make a list of priorities for the week:

Prioritizing tasks week-to-week allows me to stay focused and more effectively pace exciting projects, while keeping me from procrastinating others.  I write this list at the beginning of the week (my week begins on Sundays) and include five of the most important tasks I need to complete.  Once I have narrowed down my five top priorities, I estimate how long each task should take to complete and tentatively plug them in to my calendar. 

Move your body for 30 minutes a day:

Once my schedule is prioritized, I can begin filling in the rest of my calendar for the week.  For me, this means deciding when I am going to spend time exercising!  I aim to move my body for at least 30 minutes a day.  Spending some time walking outside (remember social distancing!) while enjoying the sunshine and nicer weather always makes me feel better.  I also like to take advantage of a number of strength training, yoga, and pilates classes that instructors are offering for free through their Instagram accounts.  If you are interested in knowing which free accounts I use, please send me a message and I will get back to you with the details. Exercising each day, even for a short time, acts as an instant mood booster. 

Refer to your happiness list:

Last week I posted Series One called Finding Happiness During Times of Uncertainty and Looking Forward to the Future.  In the blog post, I discussed an exercise that concentrated on listing ten things that currently make me happy.  When creating my routine, I refer back to that exercise and review my happiness list.  I schedule time in my calendar to do one of my happiness activities each day of the week. 

Sleep schedule:

We know that getting enough sleep per night is beneficial to both our health and our productivity. Making sure we go to bed and wake up at the same time every day may seem boring and predictable, but since the average adult generally needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep out of 24, it becomes an important consideration when planning our daily routines.  

Spend time reflecting on your day:

Reflection is a way to deconstruct the past and learn from our experiences.  I always set aside some time each evening to reflect on what happened during my day.  Is there a way I can celebrate that moment? On the other hand, was it something I wish had gone differently and could the outcome have been affected if I had planned my routine another way?

Okay, your turn!  

Build a routine that works for you.  Create weekly goals for yourself, prioritize them and find ways to incorporate the things that make you happy. 

Next week, I will post Series Three where I am going to share how to map out your goals.

Until then, take care.


Series One: Finding Happiness During Times of Uncertainty and Looking Forward to the Future

We are living in a strange and uncertain time. Under normal circumstances, I would not write a blog post that is this personal.  However, as we all sit at home trying to adjust to this “new” normal, I thought I would take this moment to share some of the things that are helping me get through my day-to-day life in isolation with the hope that it might offer even a few of you, some comfort food for thought.

To start, I have acknowledged and come to terms with the idea that it is okay to not be okay. Experiencing a million different emotions is something I am contending with on a daily basis. If you are feeling anything similar, just know that you are not alone.  Everyone’s situation might be different, but we are ultimately in this together and there are things we can do to help one another along the way.  

One exercise that I have found helpful is to write a list of ten things that currently bring me happiness. These are things that I do for myself, that make my day a little brighter and bring me comfort.  We all have different coping mechanisms, and what makes you happy and brings you joy is unique to you.  These are mine:

Stephanie’s Happiness List While Social Distancing During a Pandemic:

  1. Drinking my morning coffee. I enjoy the flavour and scent of a freshly brewed cup.
  2. Having a short dialogue with my tabby cat, Bacon. He is vocal and will respond with meowing and cooing sounds to my morning interrogation: “How are you, Bacon? Did you enjoy your catnip?”.
  3. Watering my plants; I have many and love seeing them grow.
  4. Taking a long bath.
  5. Reading.  I read every night. I am currently reading  For Small Creatures Such as We, by Sasha Sagan.
  6. Drawing.  I enjoy drawing still life of florals.
  7. Going for a walk in my neighbourhood (while social distancing!).
  8. Lighting candles; the scent and flickering flame is relaxing.
  9. FaceTiming my friends and family.
  10. Yoga.  I have been practicing Kundalini and restorative yoga.
This is “high fashion” Bacon the cat.
Photo credit: Stephanie Valadao

Now, you try it.  Take a few minutes to find yourself a quiet space in your home, grab a piece of paper, pen and your favourite warm beverage.  Spend the next ten minutes making a list of ten things that bring you happiness; the things that currently bring you joy.  Tape your list up somewhere you will see it every day and make time between your daily tasks for one or more of those things.

One of my many plants.
Photo credit: Stephanie Valadao
For Small Creatures Such as We, by Sasha Sagan.
Photo credit: Stephanie Valadao

Through all of this and no matter how I’m feeling, I remain hopeful for the future.  Writing down what I plan on doing once the pandemic is over has also helped me stay positive.  This brings me to my second happiness exercise; a future happiness list:

Stephanie’s Future Happiness List:

  1. Hugging my family.
  2. Enjoying a wonderful meal with friends at a new restaurant.
  3. Being back at work and sharing my office space with my co-worker, Ginny.
  4. Swimming at an outdoor public pool.
  5. Watching a live sporting event.
  6. Travelling to South America (destination yet to be determined).
  7. Having a picnic.
  8. Exploring the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum.
  9. Seeing a movie.  I like comedies.
  10. Grocery shopping at St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday morning.

Okay, your turn. Take some time to list the ten things that you will look forward to doing once the pandemic is over. Once you are done hang your list somewhere you will see it often and be reminded that you will get to enjoy these experiences in the near future. This is a great list to keep building on when you have new ideas! Refer back to it whenever you feel you need to.

Next week, I will post Series Two where I am going to share tips on how to build a daily routine that works for you.

Until then, stay safe and be kind to yourself.

Take care,


FIELD – Celebrating 10 Years of Industry Partnership

This year the School of Fashion proudly celebrates 10 years of FIELD and offering our students valuable experiential learning and networking opportunities.

FIELD (Fashion Industry Educational Exchange and Leadership Development) is a unique collaboration between the fashion industry and graduating students of Seneca’s Fashion Business Management Advanced Diploma program.

Each year, student teams partner with a fashion industry client who challenges them to assist with a real-life business opportunity.

Student teams apply their knowledge gained in their final year of study to develop strategic and creative solutions for the ‘client’. They present a summary of their findings to the industry partner and a panel of industry judges at the FIELD gala event and a winning team is chosen.

Now in its tenth year, FIELD offers an experiential learning and networking opportunity for students. For the industry partner, it’s a chance to give back to the community, work with emerging professionals in the field, and potentially gain insight into their own operation.

“I highly recommend like-minded brand stakeholders to consider partnering with the Seneca Field program as I am confident it will prove to be a positive disrupter, capable of elevating the passions and energies of everyone involved.” Robin J. Yates, VP, Nobis Inc. FIELD Partner, 2018.

Pictured above: Robin J. Yates.

“I left (the FIELD event) inspired and in awe of these amazing students! Their presentations were first class; professional, succinct and articulate. On behalf of all of us at Walmart, thank you for allowing us to be part of this amazing program — it was an honour!” Marlise Wilson Senior Director Merchandising, Apparel Kids & Family Basics Walmart Canada FIELD Partner, 2017.

Pictured above is the winning team from 2017: Liza Downs, Victoria Peulic, Janelle Villapando and Brittney Palmeri, along with representatives from Walmart Canada, Jennifer Holgate and Marlise Wilson. 

“Seneca’s 2015/2016 Fashion Business Management students have proven to be an incredibly talented, passionate, and ambitious group of our industry’s future leaders.” Kathy Cheng Founder & President Redwood Classics FIELD Partner, 2016

Pictured Above Kathy Cheng and Alex Wong

“The students repeatedly presented themselves as keen individuals with focused minds and ambitious intention. It was an impressive and creative experience.” Franco Mirabelli President & Creative Director Franco Mirabelli Design Inc. FIELD Partner, 2015

Pictured above: Franco and Nancy Mirabelli

“Their… innovative ideas, fresh perspectives and collaborative efforts contributed to an overall experience that is unparalleled.” Krista Love Vice-President, Women’s Wear Sales Haggar Canada Co. FIELD Partner, 2014

Pictured above: Anna Cappuccitti Fashion Business Management Co-ordinator, Krista Love, and Michel Côté, Chair of the School of Fashion.

Thank you to our FIELD industry partners for 10 years of student support and educational excellence.

Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer A. Buabin

Photo credit: Jennifer A. Buabin

Full name: Jennifer A. Buabin

Program: Cosmetic Techniques and Management

Grad Year: 2019

Current Position: Entrepreneur & Brand Ambassador

What is your favourite Seneca memory?

My favourite Seneca College memory was when I found out that I got accepted into the Cosmetic Techniques and Management program.  I remember the moment like it was yesterday.  I was so happy to start my journey in the cosmetics field and excited to be able to gain knowledge from teachers within the program that had many years of experience.

If you could give one piece of advice to a student completing the same program as you, what would it be?

Have an open mind.  Be ready to learn all aspects of the Cosmetics industry, from makeup and skincare to learning about different types of ingredients in cosmetics.  You will need to put your full concentration hat on because from the moment you start the program, there will be a lot of information to grasp.  Don’t worry, the teachers have your back.  Ask questions!  If you don’t understand what information is being put out there, just ask and don’t be afraid; maybe someone else is thinking about that same question you are going to ask.  Get to know your classmates because forming a study group is something that will also benefit and enhance your understanding of the course materials.  Make notes after each class and read ahead so that when it comes to midterms and exams, you will not be overwhelmed.  Communication is key!  You need to be passionate about what you’re doing and it will all pay off in the end.

How has your career evolved?

As a result of expanding my knowledge of make-up, skincare and other essentials, I now have the ability to educate my clients.  My knowledge and confidence has definitely empowered me to reach for more and share with others what it means to be determined.  Makeup artistry has brought me closer to my clients and allowed me to help them with their cosmetic situations.  I’m proud of what I’m doing and continue to blossom.

How did your Seneca program help you get to where you are now/your current career?

  • By giving me access to career fairs where I could interact with industry professionals.
  • By facilitating role-playing exercises that prepared me for the industry.
  • By building my confidence.
  • By giving me access to excellent teachers that have open-door policies.

Do you have any other thoughts or memories you would like to share?

The in-class make-up demonstrations and practical components of the program created amazing memories that encouraged me to become more creative in my craft and gave me the confidence to do what I do.  Getting to know different styles of makeup artistry was something that I carried on into the real world, where I could explore and share my knowledge with others.  My favourite class was Portfolio Development where I had the opportunity to explore which avenue of the industry I was interested in.

School of Fashion Presents: FLUID

Behind the scenes of an outstanding artistic collaboration

The Project

As graduation approaches students are looking back at one of their most ambitious collaboration projects: Fluid — An artisanal high fashion photoshoot. Their goal was to create international editorial appeal with fresh designs and captivating photography that brings sustainability into focus. The project explores themes of expression, inclusivity and timelessness that are reflected in the pieces, which traverse beyond the boundaries of gender and colour. They are in every way, fluid.

From left to right: Thiruchiya P. Cosmetic Techniques and Management student, and Zoe.
Photo credit: Photography student.

The Inspiration

Fashion is the expression of a state of mind, and photography captures that essence and conveys it to the audience. A collaboration of the two arts in a professional setting is inevitable. This was the inspiration for Arline Malakian and Zoran Dobric to develop this high-profile project.

From left to right: Mersedeh P (Cosmetics Techniques and Management student), Summer, Professor Arline Malakian.
Photo credit: Photography student.

Fashion and photography are highly competitive professions. They’re fast-paced, network-based and ruthless to amateurs. So, how can students make it in this industry? By having the confidence and experience to make a splash from the beginning. If aspiring designers and photographers worked together to create an industry standard piece, the world of fashion would take notice. Fluid was created for precisely this purpose – to draw the attention of the seasoned professionals and show them what Seneca College students were capable of.

Professor Zoran Dobric.
Photo credit: Photography student.

In this collaboration, students from the Photography, Fashion Arts and Cosmetic Techniques & Management programs came together to create magic that would give their portfolios an edge and help them take the professional world by storm.

The Collaboration

Any collaboration requires hard work, communication and mutual understanding. Executing Fluid was no different.

Fashion Arts students developed the concept of Fluid and determined the themes and ideas they would be exploring through their designs. They met regularly to brainstorm ideas, plan, and consult the right people to bring their vision to life.

They knew that every piece, every design, every shot should tell a story. The audience should be moved, and their work should make a difference. They worked relentlessly to co-select garments and fabric that would best represent the essence of Fluid.

Photo credit: Photography student.

Cosmetic Techniques and Management students played a key role in tying all the visual elements of the design together. With direction from the Fashion Arts crew, hair and make-up brought the look to life. It added the final aesthetics to pull together the entire piece and take it to the next level. While the designs spoke for themselves, cosmetics added the final appeal that would draw the audience in.

From left to right: Zoe and Thiruchiya P. Cosmetic Techniques and Management student.
Photo credit: Photography student.

Photography students worked to create magic behind the lens. Their role was to co-direct the shots, and develop a storyboard tailored to the designers’ visions. They were tasked with putting their technical skills to work by arranging the lighting, set, and presentation in a way that would capture the story and express through visuals the importance of fluidity – the central theme of the project. While they worked with the Fashion Arts students during the shoot, a significant amount of their work was done in post-production, where they ensured that their work captured the essence of Fluid and exceeded industry expectations.

Two intensive days in Seneca’s Sandbox studio and numerous days prior and post-shoot were expended to make Fluid possible. Every unit worked efficiently independently and together. They were aware of their roles, acted with utmost professionalism, and most importantly, thoroughly enjoyed the process!

From left to right: Mersedeh P (Cosmetics Techniques and Management student), Photography student, Professor Zoran Dobric, and Professor Arline Malakian.
Photo credit: Photography student.

The Experience

The experience of working with other departments and creating something from scratch was absolutely enlightening and exhilarating for the team. They were part of something bigger; something that is very much a regular practice in the professional world.

There were certainly challenges and the students grew more confident with every obstacle they overcame. With quick problem solving skills, communication, and teamwork, they made the best of tight schedules and small spaces. It was a learning experience that prepared them to face an industry as tough as fashion, head-on.

“[We learned] how much effort is required from everyone who is involved: Makeup artists, models, photographers, stylists… Everyone’s job is important and we all must rely on each other’s knowledge.”

– Deborah Alvarado (Photography)

Photography students.
Photo credit: Photography student.

The Takeaway

The professional world of fashion and photography functions like a well-oiled system. They work together seamlessly to create exquisite works of art that are celebrated across the world. However, even industry experts who are part of projects like Fluid on a much larger scale had to learn somewhere. Students had the opportunity to develop a toolbox of skills that will propel them into the fast-paced industry and make them known in the face of tough competition.

They learned how to process and edit high quality fashion editorial stories as well as ideation and concept development under a very conceptual direction encompassing art, fashion, beauty and photography in and for a specific context.

“Everything starts with the design of the clothes, you have to understand the concept and photograph it in a way that will enhance its “vibe” while at the same time keeping in mind trends and your own personal style of shooting,” Deborah added.

From left to right: Professor Arline Malakian, and Summer.
Photo credit: Photography student.

The Rewards

Along with the knowledge gained, students now have a series of photos that will enhance their portfolios and expose them to the fashion world. It gave them an opportunity to create something that they are proud of and can confidently take with them when venturing into the industry.

It is truly an accomplishment for the artists to have seen such an elaborate project from start to finish. It is a testament to the talent and tenacity of our students at Seneca College. They are constantly seeking to expand their horizons and prepare themselves for a career in something they are truly passionate about.

That is the real reward of this project- it was born out of genuine love for their craft and a determination to prove themselves!

The Royal Treatment

We were graced by the presence of royalty when Priyanka and JuiceBoxx guest lectured the Creative Makeup FX course as part of the Cosmetic Techniques and Management program.

Priyanka has been performing as a Drag Queen for the past 2.5 years and has won both Miss Crews and Tangos (2018-19) and Woody’s Queen of Halloween (2018). In 2019, she was voted NOW Magazine Readers’ Choice for best local drag performer.

JuiceBoxx has been a drag queen entertainer for 6 years and has been featured in ads for Crest and Absolut Vodka. Before becoming a full-time drag queen, she worked as a professional make-up artist. 


The workshop spanned over two days with the first half of the class dedicated to the demonstration component. JuiceBoxx  and Priyanka taught students how to apply a complete look from start to finish. The lesson included a detailed list of which cosmetic products to use and the application techniques that are optimal for creating a strong stage presence. Students learned about brow blocking, how to create the illusion of a larger eye shape (as opposed to using fuller lashes to enhance the look), and contouring techniques. Brow blocking is a technique that uses a glue stick to adhere natural brow hairs to the skin. Once the glue dries, a face powder is applied over the brows and the desired eyebrow shape is created. 

During the second half of the class, students had the opportunity to create drag queen make-up looks on themselves or on a partner using the techniques taught by JuiceBoxx and Priyanka. Priyanka and JuiceBoxx met with students during the practical component of the class to answer questions and provide feedback during their make-up application.

The demonstrations and workshops were a huge success. Students came away with a greater knowledge of drag queen makeup techniques, the products used and the one-on-one feedback from Priyanka and JucieBoxx.

Ribbon Skirts More than a Fashion Affair

Collaboration contributes to Indigenous reconciliation

Clockwise from the top: Fashion Arts student Blake Lambie works on a traditional ribbon skirt; Prof. Jenifer Forrest (right) works with students Allison Visnaw (left) and Aoi Takeda; the blue flower on the ribbon skirt is a special symbol that signifies Mother Earth’s beauty for the Anishinaabe women; Aviation Operations student Caitlin Lyder (left) and Seneca graduate Emma Greenfield receive ribbon skirts from Fashion Arts student Kaylani Gatchalian (right); and Fashion Arts student Hourieh Dorali Beni shows off a ribbon skirt with the spiritual motif of a feather.

When a collection of custom-made ribbon skirts was wheeled into Seneca’s Odeyto last week, there were tears in the First Peoples@Seneca centre at Newnham Campus. But that’s because these skirts are no ordinary fashion garment. They are sacred regalia worn by Indigenous women at ceremonies and gifted by School of Fashion students.

“Many of our Indigenous students have never seen or worn a ceremonial skirt because they were raised in the city away from their cultural roots,” said Peggy Pitawanakwat, Co-ordinator, First Peoples@Seneca. “They can now borrow these sacred skirts and wear them at ceremonies such as the water blessing or the Sisters in Spirit vigil for the missing and murdered Indigenous women.”

A collaboration between the School of Fashion and First Peoples@Seneca, the ribbon skirts were created by students in Prof. Jenifer Forrest’s fashion class. Ms. Forrest, who conceived the project in close co-ordination with Ms. Pitawanakwat, said the exercise was infused with learning at every step. As part of the course, students were required to read the summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report and learn about the history of residential schools and the Orange Shirt Day.

“Fashion students have been very responsive to this project,” Ms. Forrest said. “They understand the connection we have with our clothing in terms of identity, family ties and feelings of being protected and safe. They understand what it would mean to have that taken away.”

Ribbon skirts, distinctive in the colourful ribbon trims along the hemline, are a traditional symbol of the strength, resilience and sacredness of Indigenous women who wear them at ceremonies and other important events.

Each motif on the skirts is of special significance to the Indigenous people. Feathers denote spiritual strength and flowers the beauty of Mother Earth. Orange flowers edged in white honour the survivors of residential schools while those edged in black are a stark reminder of the children who did not survive. The vivid colours are symbolic, representing nature and the traditional beliefs of the Indigenous people.

From left: Caitlin Lyder, Aviation Operations student; Peggy Pitawanakwat, Co-ordinator, First Peoples@Seneca; Kissa Zhara, Fashion Arts student; Prof. Jenifer Forrest, School of Fashion; and Emma Greenfield, Seneca graduate.

Caitlin Lyder, a first-year Aviation Operations diploma program student, wore one of the skirts — her first ever — and said she felt both proud and humbled by the gift which showed the tremendous effort made by the fashion school students to learn Indigenous traditions and history. To her, the project symbolized the coming together of two worlds.

Emma Greenfield, a recent graduate who has been working at Odeyto to help develop the Indigenous curriculum at Seneca, was equally moved as she tried on a ceremonial skirt, also for the first time. She said she was touched by the fashion students’ gesture and the skirts brought her closer to the Indigenous community and to Seneca.

“This is such a practical and meaningful way to contribute to reconciliation and build relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” Ms. Greenfield said.

For the fashion students, the four weeks they spent designing and stitching the skirts not only helped them hone their skills but also provided them with an invaluable opportunity to connect with First Peoples@Seneca.

“We have read about Indigenous traditions in school but this project helped us interact directly with the First Nations people and understand their symbols,” said Kaylani Gatchalian, a first-year Fashion Arts student. “For instance, the flower that I stitched on a skirt signifies Mother Earth’s beauty and is special to Anishinaabe women.”

The project, funded by the K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation, also reinforced the principles of sustainable clothing and zero waste. The skirts have been made with a blend of biodegradable materials such as cotton and hemp. The polyester ribbons do not have any harmful chemical residue and can easily be reused. The design of the skirts produces minimum waste during cutting and all the leftover pieces are used to make medicine bags.

“Fashion should not be perceived as something for a small segment — fashion shows, magazines and blogs,” Ms. Forrest said. “Fashion is about serving people in a more responsive way and the ribbon skirts will foster a better understanding of Indigenous history, traditions and culture in the Seneca community.”

Connecting Students with Industry at Insights 2030

Insights 2030 is a business conference for fashion students and academics from the three top colleges in Toronto: George Brown College, Humber College, and Seneca College. Our purpose? To explore a variety of topics, which will have an impact on the future of business in general and, specifically, the world of fashion in the next decade. 

The conference combined expert keynote speakers and panel discussions with networking opportunities, all of which are designed to inform, educate, and inspire.

The event kicked off with a keynote by Carrie Kirkman, President of Kirkman Consulting, Inc. 

Carrie brings over 25 years of experience in management for top women’s apparel brands with titles including President of Global Brands Group Canada, President and Chief Merchant, Sears Canada, and Jones Group Canada. Carrie is recognized as a leader in the womenswear industry in Canada. She is currently Chair of the Board of directors for G(irls)20. She is also on the Board of Directors for The Canadian Club of Toronto.

Carrie has been profiled in top Canadian publications, including The Globe and Mail, The Kit, and Women of Influence. She is also a blog contributor to Huffington Post Canada. Carrie has been on the nominating committee of CAFA- Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards, featured on CBC radio, Sirius Radio, and speaks globally on the roles of women in leadership.

During Carries chat labeled “Is the Future of Retail the End of Wholesale” she discussed The Changing Retailer/Vendor Relationship, New Revenue Models, Metrics Beyond Sales, and Emerging Labels can use a Wholesale Model for Quick Wins.

Following the keynote, the students enjoyed a panel discussion on Technology in the 2020’s Moderated by Ashley Barby – COO SPECSY with panelists, Ahmer Beg, Founder of Authentic or Not, Crissy Gow, Founder of AccessAR, Megan Page, Senior Director, Digital & Social at MSL Group, a Public Relations Firm.

The event closed with an insightful presentation on the Future of Fashion Retail, presented by Claire Santamaria, Vice President, Yorkdale, Oxford Property Group. Claire is responsible for maintaining Yorkdale Shopping Centre’s position as Canada’s most successful retail destination based on sales per square foot throughout a period of unprecedented growth. Claire’s leadership in guiding internationally-renowned brands into the Canadian market ensures their entry into Canada is thriving.

During her tenure at Yorkdale, she has led the property through the opening of a 300,000 square foot expansion anchored by Nordstrom, created and hosted an interim Canadian Fashion Week, and helped Oxford Properties launch an innovative and award-winning permanent pop up concept to give independent retailers exposure to some of the country’s most enthusiastic shoppers.

The Insights conference closed with networking, where students had a chance to meet peers and industry.