Alumni Spotlight: Alice Zhu, Fashion and Rebellion

Living with one foot in fashion and the other in dark dramatism, Alice Zhu’s work expresses her inner world and personality. “For me, fashion is a part of who I am, it’s about costumes, theatre, and art – like a performance in style.” Recipient of the Seneca School of Fashion Excellence Award, Alice has design confidence that isn’t afraid to break out of the mold.

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Her line, as seen at the 21stCentury Atelier: Redefining Fashion in a New Age of Design, held in partnership between Seneca College’s School of Fashion and the Royal Ontario Museum, features what she calls “Psycho Clown.” The line is designed in rebellion to mainstream retail garments and celebrates hip-hop streetwear and decorative vintage looks.

Using woven polyester, silk and cotton, Alice cuts silhouettes that are A-line and asymmetrical. She details and decorates using colour blocking, pleats and ruffles. “My clothes are meant to make a person stand out,” says Alice. “They’re made for Alexander McQueen style runway shows, for theatre and movies, they’re meant to attract attention and create a mood.”

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Observing the streetwear designs in her line, one sees oversized jackets and petite tweed tops (reminiscent of Chanel’s suit material) that have creepy smiley faces on them. “These clothes mock conformist fashion – I believe following trends is wasteful” she says. Then she points to her masks and continues, “I have a zero-waste ideology. I make these masks out of wasted fabric, and give these shreds meaning.”

Owing a lot to the faculty at Seneca, especially the support of the Academic Chair for the School of Fashion, Gitte Hansen, and practicing fashion designer and instructor Zoran Dobric, Alice says her confidence and exposure, as well as her technical skills are all attributed to her years in Seneca and her relationships with the department even as an alumnus.

Today, Alice’s own style is simple; she wears flare cut black pants and a plain, beautiful black top with full sleeves that she says she stitched herself. She wears delicate cornrows on her head to hold her hair back from her face. “I used to be interested in rebellious, dramatic, gothic and punk looks and hairstyles, but as I grew older I began to spend less time on how I dress and more time on my work – today my rebellion is in my designs.”

Alumni Spotlight: Kinoo Arcentales

This week we explore the talented work of Kinoo Arcentales, #SenecaFashion Graduate

“An Echo in History”

To his surprise, Kinoo Arcentales’ journey into the fashion industry was swift and unexpected. Reflecting on the moment when he decided to pursue fashion, Kinoo said, “I never expected being a designer. It was actually during my studies at Seneca, during the RED: Emerging Designer Showcase, where I first took fashion seriously.”

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Born in Toronto and raised in Quito, Ecuador, Kinoo is a third-generation fashion designer of Kichwa and Mestizo heritage. Following the footsteps of his grandmother, he explains that like her, he built his success from nothing. Today at the age of 25, Kinoo’s talent and wisdom shines beyond his years. He has designed his own collection, AN.D.N,which earned him the 2016 Rowenta Award for ‘Best In Show’ at Redefining Design and is the owner of Pacha Indigenous Art Collection, located in downtown Toronto; recognized for selling hand-made bags, textiles, art and jewelry created in collaboration with Indigenous communities in Canada.

Showcasing his collection AN.D.Nat the the 21st Century Atelier: Redefining Fashion in a New Age of Design, a collaborative event by the Seneca School of Fashion and the Royal Ontario Museum, Kinoo describes the opportunity “as a privilege”. Working with an androgynous theme, Kinoo created AN.D.N for both men and women and designed silhouettes that closely resemble clothing found in Otavalo, Ecuador – his hometown. Showcased at the event was Kinoo’s favourite design – a Navajo poncho wrapped around a black jacket, worn with draped pants and a dark hazel skirt.

 

Kinoo considers fashion as an expression of activism, and strives to transform and transcend the stereotypical perception and image of Indigenous art. His mission is to inspire and encourage the younger generation to embrace their traditions and identity, while at the same time, remain detached from conservative ideals.  “AN.D.Ncan be understood as an approach to a prophecy,” says Kinoo. The logo for his company – Yana Manta, which translates to “I am from the void” – envisions an eagle and condor flying in harmony, signifying the fulfilment of a prophecy that traces back 500 years. “The condor and the eagle represent two separate forces from the south and the north, meeting to revolutionize and create a new culture or rebirth. It’s a sign that all Indigenous communities from around the world will gather together.

 

Speaking on his experience after graduating from the Seneca School of Fashion, Kinoo says, “It turns out the fashion industry is really hard. It’s rewarding and of course you have your five minutes of fame — but what’s more important is not being an echo, but a roar through history. The aftermath is what I’m more concerned with for myself, and what is going to happen five years from now.” In the future, Kinoo wants to continue working with the community and hopes to create a new collection. “I think it’s time to put AN.D.N. to rest. I’m very proud of it, but I think it’s time for it to be put aside and let the next thing take over.”

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When asked what advice he would give to students at the Seneca School of Fashion, Kinoo said, “The fashion industry is bitter-sweet. It’s hard. Work really hard. You have to have a very strong attitude and ethic of work. You can’t go there thinking it’s easy and that I’m going to get a job. If that doesn’t happen, create your own job, create your own position. Build it from something and invest in yourself.”

 

 

Alumni​ Spotlight: Sepideh Ghahremani

Inspired by the vibrant colours and intricate patterns of Iranian architecture, Sepideh Ghahremani’s collections, Deevaand Forest Glory, reflects the symmetrical and lustrous imagery of the traditional Persian Baagh (garden), that can be found in her country of origin, Iran.

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With a background in fashion design from the University of Tehran, and a painter by profession, Sepideh has always had the desire to work in the fashion industry. Owing her artistic process to her background in painting, Sepideh approaches fashion design through an idiosyncratic and creative lens, seeing the human body as a surface for her artistic expression.

Her collections Deevaand Forest Glory, showcased at the 21stCentury Atelier: Redefining Fashion in a New Age of Design, a collaborative event between the Seneca School of Fashion and the Royal Ontario Museum, is one of the highlights of her career. “[This is] a very unexpected opportunity for me,” says Sepideh. “I’m thankful to Seneca for involving me in this event, and to display my designs right next to Dior…It’s just fantastic. My collection is very feminine — and I try to be more focused on the feminine body type – in many ways, it’s related [to Dior].” commented Sepideh. The event ran concurrent with the Christian Dior exhibit, a brand she considers as one of her biggest influences.

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Using silk, hand-dyed satin and fabrics that she designs herself, Sepideh visually captures and manipulates organic elements found in nature, adorning her fabrics with shapes of flowers or leaves, in the attempt to create an illusion of being one with nature.

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One of her most praised pieces in the event features a design from her Forest Glorycollection; a mid-length, deep mauve and black A-line dress, embellished with symmetrical leaves across the front and back. The inspiration of the design – a leaf she photographed and later sketched into fabric.

Sepideh’s choice to highlight vivid colours in her silhouettes are intentional, which she traces back to fashion trends she observed while living in Iran. Patterns and embroidery in ruby red, deep purple, dusty pink, rich blues, golds and black are some of the colours seen on clothing worn by women in Iran, and similarly on Sepideh’s designs.

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When asked what she would like to tell fashion Students at Seneca, Sepideh said, “If you have a passion for fashion, pursue it!  It is not an easy industry. There will be a lot of designers who will be in the same position as you and you need to work hard.”

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Tala Nehlawi

We love when our grads have the opportunity to showcase their collections outside the classroom! Over the next month, we will feature the work of three all-star #FashionArts students – starting with Tala Nehlawi and her collection, Love Damascus.

At the age of 22, Tala Nehlawi has celebrated countless accomplishments in the fashion industry that many designers can only dream of.  Her collection, Damas, recently showcased beside the Christian Dior exhibit at the 21st Century Atelier: Redefining Fashion in a New Age of Design, a collaborative event hosted by the Seneca School of Fashion and the Royal Ontario Museum received a great deal of attention from Toronto fashion elites.

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“It was the most amazing opportunity ever. I thank Seneca so much for it,” says Tala. “Usually, when you have a big reputation or you’re a huge brand – that’s when you get [to showcase your line] in a museum. It also gave me the opportunity to connect with people. You don’t really get to do that in a fashion show.” commented Tala.

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Dedicating her collection, Damas, to her native country, Syria, Tala uses fashion as a medium to build awareness and show people that “despite all the destruction, Syria is still utterly beautiful.” Inspired by the architecture and antiques of the historical regions of Damascus, Tala’s silhouettes and hand-made purses have a Middle Eastern twist, with some of her designs inscribed ‘Love Damascus’ in Arabic calligraphy.  Her favourite piece from the line is a copper dress, with a domed-shaped neckline, influenced by the geometrical shape found in copper plates in Damascus.

For Tala, her creative process starts with inspiration, whether it’s from travelling, experiencing other cultures or being immersed in nature. “[My designs] reflect how I feel,” says Tala. “When I’m inspired, I start sketching – then I go out looking for fabrics and start draping and sewing. I also like working in a messy environment – my studio is kind of my bedroom.”

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While working in the fashion industry for only a few years, Tala’s ambition and business ethic speak for itself. She will be showcasing her new collection for the second consecutive year at the Fashion Art Toronto (FAT) show in April. While she does not have a name for her new collection yet, Tala says, “what I can tell you, is that it’s very different from Damas. Be prepared for a very colourful and different runaway set-up!”

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As an independent and ambitious designer, with a keen desire to learn and evolve, Tala hopes to pursue taking fashion courses in Europe as well as working towards her entrepreneurship certificate. She is currently working on developing her brand and hopes to design a new “it bag” in the future, something that she has always dreamed of accomplishing.

As a recent graduate of the Seneca School of Fashion, Tala is grateful for the relationships she built throughout her studies. “My favourite part [of being a student at Seneca] were my professors. They are knowledgeable and very well connected in the industry. I see them as my mentors.”

Seneca Fashion Alumni, Kaitlyn Simmons launches Boutique Men’s Shop in Bermuda

All smiles: Kaitlyn Simmons, left, and Lianna Masters, co-owners of Banter & Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Congratulations to Seneca Fashion Alumni, Kaitlyn Simmons for launching Banter & Steel, a men’s apparel and lifestyle store co-owned with her sister Lianna Masters. Kaitlyn graduated from the two-year program 2009 and late worked as a buyer for Gibbons Company, while Lianna’s background is in business administration. Both have long had ambitions to open a store.

Banter and Steel, sources brands from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, they have carefully curated a selection of contemporary clothing, workwear, accessories, gifts, home and grooming products for men.

Banter and Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Banter and Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Co-owning sisters: Kaitlyn Simmons, left, and Lianna Masters (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Banter and Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Photos courtesy of the Royal Gazette in Bermuda.

The co-owners have been on buying trips to brand showcases in New York and will be travelling to Las Vegas in August to view the spring/summer 2020 collections. They also do extensive research online.

Brands include Montreal’s Bosco Uomo suits and Lief Horsens shirts, Rustic Dime chinos and T-shirts from Los Angeles, Far Afield shirts, T-shirts, shorts and swim trunks from the UK, Fulton and Roark grooming products from the US, bags by American manufacturer Hook & Albert, and bags, wallets and phone cases by Australian maker Bellroy.

We are #SenecaProud of your entrepreneurial journey, Kaitlyn! For more of this story, visit the Royal Gazette

Fashion Business Management Graduate Natalya Amres Remixing for Migos, Adidas and more!

“The one thing that has forever been ingrained in my brain is differentiation. Every day you challenge yourself — how do you stand out? How do you take out the competition? So much of what I do now, the success I have, it all started at Seneca.”

Natalya Amres was serving at a restaurant last fall when she got a text that changed the course of her career path. Migos, the American hip-hop trio, was wearing her clothes on stage in Philadelphia as part of Drake’s Aubrey & The Three Migos tour.

“I still can’t quite process that moment,” said the Seneca grad who until recently was working two serving jobs to support herself. “I knew there was a chance they’d wear them but it was not guaranteed.”

Amres graduated from the Fashion Business Management program. She describes herself as a cut-and-sew designer who reconstructs sportswear. Think Puma pants turned into a two-piece set of pants and a bralette.

“I trimmed off the excess fabric from the inseam of the legs and ended up with two triangle pieces. And I thought, ‘Bralette!’” she said.

That was just a little over a year ago. At the time, Amres was trying to sell some old sports-branded track pants that she didn’t wear anymore. She thought they’d sell faster if she reworked — remixed — them. And they did.

After posting her reconstructed Puma piece on Heroine, an online marketplace, the item was sold immediately. The same thing happened when Amres posted another remix the next day and again the day after that. Soon she started posting her work on Instagram and selling them on her website Remixed by Tal.

Then, as luck would have it, a musician friend of Amres wore her Kappa remix on stage in Toronto, not knowing that representatives from brands like Jordan and Kappa were in the audience. A few months later, she was approached by Jordan for her first big collaboration — remixing Jordan gear for the launch of the new Air Jordan AWOK sneakers at a Jumpman brunch.

“It was one of the most meaningful collabs because it broke me out of my shell,” Amres said. “It opened the doors to me doing live customizations.”

For example, when Migos requested custom Kappa tracksuits from the Italian sportswear brand, they commissioned Amres.

“I was given three days to work on the outfits,” she said. “It was so stressful, I didn’t sleep!”

And it wasn’t until several concerts and alterations later (they didn’t fit initially) that Migos finally wore them on stage.

Since then, Amres has gone from having to de-stitch Kappa bands for remixing to Kappa sending her rolls of their bands from Italy.

Not bad for someone who started a jewelry business out of high school, selling beaded bracelets on Facebook, and learned how to sew by watching YouTube videos after she graduated from Seneca.

“I never saw a sewing machine at Seneca,” Amres said, chuckling. “I never saw myself as a fashion designer. I wanted to become a fashion buyer.”

Seneca grad Natalya Amres is a cut-and-sew designer who reconstructs sportswear. She has worked with brands like Jordan, Kappa and Adidas.
In fact, the one class Amres failed and had to retake while studying at Seneca was garment construction.

“The professor was so good he would not let you get away with something mediocre,” she recalled. “He wouldn’t sugar-coat anything. Even though I felt like a misfit in the program back then, the one thing that has forever been ingrained in my brain is differentiation. Every day you challenge yourself — how do you stand out? How do you take out the competition? So much of what I do now, the success I have, it all started at Seneca.”

Whether it’s remixing a duffel bag into a jacket or a windbreaker into a pair of track pants, Amres has made no secret about her cut-and-sew process, often sharing photos online from start to finish.

Recently, she was invited by Nike and Jordan to attend the NBA All-Star weekend in Charlotte, N.C., where female business leaders and creatives gathered in celebration of female empowerment.

“I still don’t know why I was picked,” Amres said. “I’m so small — I just started doing this. Some of the other women who were invited have fully structured companies. But once I got there, I realized no one there was too good for anyone. We were all there to help support each other.”

Back in her home studio, a small condo in downtown Toronto, the Ajax native is a one-woman operation with four sewing machines, two of which take up counter space in her kitchen. Her latest projects include an Adidas campaign for Nite Jogger sneakers and custom Kappa pieces for Sofi Tukker, the Los Angeles-based musical duo that performed at this year’s Grammys.

“Everything’s happening so fast, but really, the remix was born out of me thrifting my whole life,” she said. “I source all my raw materials.”

And then there’s storytelling.

“You have to be relatable to your market audience,” Amres said. “People like to see the cut-and-sew photos and they like seeing me model my clothes. I do that as a way to simultaneously create a brand for myself. People want to see the person doing it live. It has to be authentic.”

Alumni Spotlight: Kate E. Kim, Esthetician and Owner of NAKEDFACE Skincare

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Program: Esthetician

Grad Year: 2011

Current Position: Founder at NAKEDFACE Skincare

What is your favourite Seneca memory?

Working at Evolutions Spa and watching the snow fall from building D!

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

Catch the opportunity where it falls! Once you gain experience, then go ahead and make an adventure of your career.

“You will like your client before they like you” – this means they feel if you care your client will like you no matter what. As estheticians, we provide service and it is all about the experience for the client. If you are confident and friendly people will trust you no matter how good you are.

How has your career evolved?

I always dreamed about launching a product line which was clean and natural yet premium quality. While I was working in the spa at Seneca, I researched in my spare time and started my company, NAKEDFACE Skincare.

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

The owner at the first job I got hired for knew my professor! They also knew that Seneca offers a great, well-structured program that covers a lot of knowledge around business management. I am happy to get ongoing support and networking opportunities from professors event 8 years after graduating from the program!

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

I gained a lot of great memories with my teachers and classmates. The best part about the program is the practical class where we worked on one other to practice facials, makeup, and nails. I mean, who doesn’t love being pampered! This experiential learning aspect allowed us to test the latest skincare and makeup products from the Colleges very own, Evolutions spa. This is one of the many things I miss!