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.
In part II of #IndustryConnections, we get up close and personal with the four Seneca Fashion Alumni from Greta Constantine, and unravel their history in this ever-evolving industry.
For four alumni of the Fashion Arts program at Seneca College, their dreams have come to reality. Kelsey Gulley, Shiva Hashemi, Doreen To, and Carla Nina never imagined they would be involved in one of Canada’s most influential fashion companies. They all work collectively at Greta Constantine (GC), a Toronto-based womenswear brand, and the 2018 Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards nominee. Shiva leads the Production Team; Doreen leads Private Client Experiences; Carla works in the Quality Control team, and Kelsey is GC’s Cutting Room Lead.
While GC has no storefront, their clothing can be found in over 40-doors worldwide across 15 countries, and their collections have been debut on VOGUE Runway and Paris Fashion Week. “The company has grown over the years, and we’re now a team of 16 people,” said Stephen Wong, Co-Founder, and Designer at GC. “We have various departments – design, patterns, cutting, production, quality control – and within each department, we have a lead who oversees the functions of their department. It is an open studio where people can see and hear everything as it occurs.”
When it comes to completing a final garment, the collective contributions of each team member and the cohesion of both the studio and its departments play an integral role. While their roles are different, Doreen, Kelsey, Carla, and Shiva collaborate each day to ensure that deadlines are met and that the final product is exceptional and ready for market.
Regardless of their roles or departments, the final product is always a team effort. “Everybody contributes to what we do and the team,” said Shiva, Production Manager at GC. “The final product is a result of the team, not just the work of one person. This is one part of learning the industry – you need to understand you cannot do this alone. Everybody is important in playing their part, and if one of our team members is not present, even for a day, it will affect the work we do.”
“We see each other every day,” said Doreen, Lead in Private Client Experiences at GC. “An everyday overview start goes something like this: The designer has the design, I make the patterns, and I pass it to Shiva, who oversees the sewing and passes the garment to Kelsey (Cutter). I then take the patterns and put them on the fabric and pass it to the sewer, who then passes it to quality control, who later gives the garment to Carla (Quality Associate) to ensure the garment is ready for the customer/store. Finally, it goes back to the designer and myself, and we put the outfit on Judy the Mannequin to make sure it’s good or if it needs altering. I then take notes, alter the garment, and we start the process again.”
From Zara to Greta Constantine: Meet Doreen To, Team Lead in Private Client Experience, Greta Constantine. Doreen graduated from the FA program in 2014.
Doreen To’s liking to fashion started with her love for shopping. Recalling her teenage years, she would often spend her weekends browsing through the aisles of Zara and H&M with her friends, stores she referred to as “Fast Fashion” – fashionable and affordable clothing aimed for millennials. Not long before completing high school, Doreen decided to pursue a career in fashion and applied to the Fashion Arts program at Seneca in 2010.
“My mindset was very immature in high school,” laughed Doreen, recalling that she underestimated just how complex the industry is. “I didn’t really know what fashion entailed. I thought if I like shopping and I’m artistic, then that’s all it takes. When I started the fashion program at Seneca, I was not prepared at all. My first class was pattern-drafting, and I didn’t come prepared with any of the tools or textbooks. I failed two of my classes in my first year, and I had to take a step back and ask myself, is this really what I want to do?”
Today, Doreen is grateful for completing the program, speaking fondly of the many worthwhile “late nights and long hours” she endured throughout her studies. In her role as Private Client Experience at Greta Constantine, she is responsible for all private client fittings, creating the sample pattern-drafting and fabric meetings for Greta’s three collections throughout the year. She also travels to Paris and New York with Greta’s executive team when taking their collections to market.
The transition to her newfound approach of the FA’s program, coupled with her appreciation for the complexities and nuisances that go behind designing, still assists Doreen with many of her day-to-day tasks and challenges at Greta. Some of her fondest memories at Seneca include the capstone project, showcasing at Seneca’s Redefining Design, the comradery she shared with her classmates, learning the core fashion skills of pattern-drafting and sewing, and the support of her professors.
Doreen still keeps in touch with a handful of her professors. “I look up to my professors! A lot of them work in the industry and have been very supportive throughout my studies and beyond,” said Doreen, explaining that most of the faculty are professionals that have worked in the industry for several years. “Having supportive people around you who understand your field is important.”
Before working at GC, Doreen worked in costume design for several film and production companies, including Stark Trek’s Television Series.
Next, meet Kelsey Gulley, an artist and an avid love for fashion – these are two defining characteristics of Kelsey Gulley that inspired her future in fashion design.
Unlike most high school students that face a hurdle of uncertainty when graduating, Kelsey always knew fashion would be a career path she would take. “I was ready to start as soon as possible and got into the Fashion Arts (FA) program at Seneca following high school,” explained Kelsey. “As a student, the program allowed me to dive fully into my art like never before. It’s fast-paced, a lot of hard work, but fully immersive and very fulfilling. It enabled me to focus solely on my passion and vision and dive into any creative path I wanted to take.”
Today, Kelsey is Cutting Room Lead at GC. “It was an opportunity I took following my internship – that itself was a valuable experience and allowed me to see first-hand how the knowledge I gained at Seneca is put into action in the industry,” said Kelsey.
On a day-to-day basis at Greta, Kelsey is responsible for ensuring all garments are cut and sewn on time and oversees the workflow and efficiency of the cutting team. Choosing the FA’s program for its “hands-on” component, Kelsey explains that the program made her confident in her abilities and understanding of garment creation from start to finish. “While design was my main focus, I am now a more well-rounded designer because I understand all aspects of the creation process,” said Kelsey. “The FA’s program offers a variety of different courses and allows you to explore so many aspects of fashion design to find what interests you. From fashion manipulation, textile dyeing and design, product development, and more, you get to dive into many creative vessels.”
When asked her most memorable experience as a student in the FA’s program, Kelsey explains it was her final capstone collection. “This project allowed me to deep-dive into my creative vision, unlike ever before. It included presenting my collection to a board of industry experts and receiving their feedback and advice. It left me with a clear understanding of how industry members think and allowed me to grow as a designer,” described Kelsey. “As well as, of course, the final year fashion show – the ultimate culmination of my hard work being displayed. It was the most fulfilling and joyful experience after my journey at Seneca.”
As Kelsey continues to grow her professional career at GC, she recounts her journey into fashion design and her inspiration that drives her every day. “I have been given so many opportunities to learn and grow not just as an employee, but as a person and as a designer. I am inspired as an artist to create work that exudes and provokes emotion. I am often inspired by feminism and female empowerment and wish to emanate that in my work. My work is thought-provoking, poetic, and a reflection of my own experiences and feelings.”
Our third alumni feature is Shiva Hashemi, FZ Alumni, 2018. Shiva is Team Lead of Production at GC.
Having a background in textiles and patchwork from her home country, Iran, Shiva Hashemi wanted to learn more about working with fabric when she moved to Canada. Admitted to Seneca’s Fashion Arts program in 2015, she decided that Seneca was the right fit for her.
“I chose Seneca for their curriculum,” recounted Shiva, explaining that she had offers to multiple colleges across Ontario. “Their program offers a more artistic approach to fashion, and I liked that they had various design courses. From the first to last semester, you’re given the tools that help bring your imagination to reality.”
Of the many valuable aspects of her studies, Shiva’s favorite courses were in Circular Economy and Sustainability. She also mentions her professors, many of which she still keeps in contact with, who helped her land her first internship with GC in 2018.
Within less than a year of completing her internship, Shiva now works as Production lead at the high-end Toronto women’s fashion brand, where she is responsible for quality control throughout the production process and developing the brand’s overall production calendar.
“I’m very proud of working at GC because each day, I’m surrounded and inspired by hard-working professionals who have been in the industry for many years. I’m so proud to get to say I’m a part of that.”
Last but certainly not least, we have FA graduate from 2018, Carla Nina, Quality Assurance Associate at GC.
Within the first few minutes of speaking with Carla Nina, Quality Assurance Associate at GC, you’ll quickly realize despite her young age, her determination and tenacity define much of her success.
An Indonesian native, Carla moved to Canada after high school in pursuit of a career in fashion. As a young girl, she had envisioned creating and designing works of art, recalling sowing as one of her favorite classes in high school. Having no industry experience, Carla applied to Seneca’s Fashion Arts program in 2015. She chose the program for its “more practical approach” as opposed to a theory-centric curriculum.
Many aspects of the program positively impacted Carla, ranging from the Learning Center that assigned her a student-mentor, to her professors that guided her throughout the application process for her internship with GC, and finally, to the technical elements of her program, including the sowing and pattern-making labs that played an integral role in preparing her for her career at GC.
Seneca’s Fashion Resource Center – a diverse collection of clothing, accessories, and shoes from various eras in history starting from the early 19th century – was a source of inspiration throughout Carla’s studies, especially during her final year, where she developed her collection for Seneca’s Redefining Design.
“My final year was my most memorable experience at Seneca, “explains Carla. “It’s gratifying because you’re pushed to the limit and have to take ownership of your work from beginning to end.”
We are #SenecaProud of our #SenecaFashion team at GC who are making their dreams a reality! “Teamwork makes the Dreamwork”
Meagan Markel, Sophie Trudeau, Celine Dion, and Demi Lavato – these are just a handful of prominent women who have worn and come to acquire in their wardrobes, designs of the Toronto-based brand and the 2018 Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA) nominee, Greta Constantine. Founded in 2006 by designers, Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong, Greta Constantine (GC) is a brand defined as ‘ready-to-wear’ womenswear conceptualizing, exploring, and challenging the standards of present-day fashion. Throughout GC’s inception, Kirk and Stephen have released numerous collections: their most recent spring collection, SS19, is inspired by the early 80’s glamour of the disco-era, which includes a combination of well-fitted silhouettes with metallic, leopard print and pinstripe patterns.
The success of GC is unquestionable, and of equal significance is their impact and influence in redefining womenswear, both in Canada and around the world. Their collections’ have been debut and showcased across several runways, including VOGUE RUNWAY and Paris Fashion Week. Along with their unparalleled exposure, GC has been featured across multiple media channels, to name a few, the Toronto Star, E!News, CTV, the Globe and Mail, and HELLO Canada.
Behind the scenes of GC’s iconic brand is a team of 16 dedicated individuals that collaborate across various departments to help run the studios’ day-to-day operations. Having an integral role in this are four alumni of the Fashion Arts program at Seneca. Doreen To (2014 alumni) leads Private Client Experiences; Carla Nina (2018 alumni) works in the Quality Control team; Shiva Hashemi (2018 alumni) started as an intern and now leads Production at GC, and Kelsey Gulley (2018 alumni) is GC’s Cutting Room Lead.
Seneca had the opportunity to sit down with Kirk and Stephen to learn more about GC and hear their insights on the impact fashion schools like Seneca have in helping foster talent in the industry.
Q: How did Greta Constantine start?
Stephen: Kirk and I started Greta Constantine in 2006. We had always spoken about doing a collection together, but it wasn’t until 2006 that we actually made the conscious effort to do so. The name Greta Constantine is made up of my mother’s name (Greta) and Kirk’s grandfathers’ name (Constantine).Prior [to GC], Kirk had been working in Milan styling and teaching, and I remained here in Toronto working on wardrobe for the growing film industry. At the time, there was a recession, but we had read an interview with Karl Largerfeld, who pointed out that recessions “weed out” the industry – “what remains after a recession are usually the “best of the crop.” At this time, it was just the two of us working out of my apartment, and we committed ourselves to live and breathe the fashion industry – asking questions, seeking advice, learning and absorbing everything we could. We still do so to this day.
Q: Having been in the industry for so many years, what should fashion schools do to prepare their students for the industry?
Stephen: When I’m speaking to industry peers in North America, the most common comment regarding new graduates is that they don’t have the required comprehension – that this is a robust industry to be in at all levels! The very fact that there are so many seasons and collections means that it’s compulsory to put in time and commitment that isn’t often required in other fields.
It’s my impression that most new graduates either want to have their own label or would like to jump right into a design role, but there are so many more roles to be had in the field. It’s not to say that you can’t aspire to have your own collection, but what we do is both business and craft. It takes a long time to perfect and develop one’s craft and gather the needed know-how of the different parts of the business. Necessarily, you have to pay your dues. That means working with good people and companies where you can see what the reality of the business is. You are then able to take that knowledge and make an informed decision on how you want to exist. Both Kirk and I worked for many years individually to gain some of the experience and skills needed, so we’d have something to bring to GC.
Q: What is your relationship like with Seneca, and does their program prepare their graduates for the industry?
Kirk: We enjoy working with Seneca and appreciate what their program offers. It’s a good match [for us]. They [Seneca] are doing something right – we keep hiring their graduates!
Stephen: Using Seneca Fashion alumni Shiva, Doreen, Kelsey, and Carla as an example, I would say that their education at Seneca has prepared them very well to meet the expectations of what we look for in a co-worker. They are professional, ambitious, are always conscious of the quality of their work and, thus, take great pride in their work. It’s only recently that we’ve been able to feel confident in having all the right people in their respective roles, and we truly adore our team. We love working with them and are excited to continue and grow with them in the future.
Q: Is there something unique about Seneca’s FA’s alumni that make them a good fit for GC, or is it a coincidence that four members of your team are Seneca alumni?
Kirk: It’s a mix of both!
Stephen: We have four team members that are graduates of the Seneca FA’s Program. Most of which are in charge of their departments. They are very different in their own way and represent different skill sets and strengths. Things that they do share are dedication, focus, vision, commitment, and a professional manner that makes them a joy to work with!
Q: How do you recruit talent?
Stephen: Interns are an excellent way to get a feel of what the candidate has to offer. You can have a dazzling portfolio and a fantastic resume, but you’ll never know if that individual will be a good fit until you place them in the environment. We use the time an intern provides to gauge the potential that a person has with the company. Having interns is a blessing and a curse. [A] Blessing, because it’s always great to have extra hands and help, but a curse in that the intern needs to be trained and their work, carefully overseen. In the end, it is necessary because it’s how we’ve come to find the majority of the people we work with today.
Q: What does new talent bring to GC, and how do their contributions help with your collections?
Stephen: At GC, we try to involve all parties into areas that they show interest. As an industry that is continually changing with a hunger for new, it’s beneficial to have different views on things.
Q: How important is it that professionals in the industry be exposed to the Toronto fashion scene, and is the fact that Seneca graduates are local have an impact?
Stephen: When we started the business, we were fortunate to already have in place many contacts within the Toronto fashion community. It’s always helpful to have someone who has the experience to use as a go-to, be it to seek advice or share resources. For this reason, I’d advise people to not only expose yourself to the local industry but to also immerse yourself within it.
We had a blast speaking to the masterminds behind the Iconic Canadian brand GC. Stay tuned for part II of Industry Connections, where we get up close and personal with the four Seneca Fashion Alumni from GC and unravel their history in this ever-evolving industry.
On Thursday, October 3rd, The School of Fashion hosted our annual Career Networking event with industry-leading companies! Thank you to our long list of exhibiting companies, including Hudson’s Bay Company, Nordstrom, Footlocker, SEPHORA, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sanctuary Day Spas , TJX The Ten Spot, and Elmwood Spa. The event was open to all our #SenecaFashion students who spent the afternoon engaging with company representatives and handing out their business cards and resumes to prospective employers. We are #SenecaProud of our career ready students!
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.
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
Did you know that #SenecaFashion has a Cosmetic Techniques and Management Program?
The two-year Cosmetic Techniques and Management diploma program will immerse you in a thriving industry with skills and knowledge that employers and clients value. From practical makeup techniques and skin care analysis skills to marketing and management knowledge, you will learn various aspects of the cosmetic business and develop your talents as an artist. This program offers both, a fall and winter term start date with different delivery options. Graduates of this program can enter some of the following careers:
Freelance makeup artist
Here is a sneak peek of some of the looks from our styling techniques class. Make-up and hair courtesy of Rebecca, Risa, and Xiaoting #SenecaProud #CosmeticsCareers