Series 6: Interview Tips

Photos of Fashion Business Management students.

Preparing for an interview can be both exciting and nerve wracking.  At least for me it is.  As a result, I always find myself overly prepared for job interviews.  Equipped with a notebook and pen, I go into an interview as if I already have the job, helping me turn any feelings of uneasiness into those of confidence.  Here, I will share with you my tips to help prepare you for your next interview.

  1. Do your research

Preparation is key and should always involve conducting preliminary research on the company you are being interviewed to work for.  Why do you want to work for this company?  What is it about their history, reputation and their values that makes them so desirable?

Find out how many people will be present in the job interview and who they are.  I recommend Googling the interviewers to find out more about who they are and the job positions they hold at that company.

2. Review the job description

As a refresher, go over the job description again as well as the cover letter and resume you submitted to the company.  It might have been weeks or even months since you applied for the position.  Be prepared to further explain how your soft and hard skills make you a good fit for this job and how your personality, work experience, and education would make you an asset to the company.

3. Prepare a list of questions

I suggest preparing a list of questions to ask during the interview process.  This is your opportunity to interview the hiring manager to determine if the company is a good fit for you.  Ask questions about the culture of the company and the dynamics of the department you could potentially be working for.  Feel free to take notes throughout the interview as a reminder of topics to bring up once it is your turn to speak.

4. Body Language and more

Let me remind you that the hiring manager liked you enough on paper to call you in for an interview,  so be confident!  Greet your interviewers with a big smile, introduce yourself and offer a firm handshake (depending on COVID-19 restrictions of course!).  Show that you are attentive and actively listening to what the interviewer is saying by making eye contact throughout the interview.

Best of luck and take care,

Stephanie 

Series Five: Creating a Professional Social Media Presence

Creating a professional social media presence is an important mechanism for preparing yourself for work in your chosen field.

Once you have applied for a job, potential employers may search for your social media accounts to learn more about you and to see if you are a good fit for their company. In this blog post, I will share 3 tips on creating a professional social media presence.

  1. Performing a social media audit

A social media audit is conducted to see what platforms and websites a user has created in the past and take inventory of the content.  It can also be performed to alert an individual user to other information and photos posted on the internet that may concern them and of which they were not previously aware. At the end of this exercise, you will need to decide which accounts to keep active and public and which ones to either make private or delete all together.

To begin, I suggest listing all the social media platforms and websites you have ever created and take notes of what is on each one.  Once you have done this, conduct a Google engine search of your full name and a social media site.  Do this for every social media platform you have ever used and write a brief description of what you found. Was the information that appeared in the search about you? If the information you found was not about you, then who was it about?

Based on the information you found, how comfortable would you feel about a potential employer seeing that information? Is the information outdated? Do you feel the content is a true reflection of who you are now? Taking inventory of your platforms and their content is the first step in determining how you currently appear to an online audience and whether or not this accurately reflects the image of yourself that you want projected.  How can you make changes to your platforms and their content to help you land a job?  Close old accounts or make them private if they contain content you do not want potential employers to see.

2. Showcase your strengths

Vivian L. Inspired Spaces Tabletop Competition

Use your social media platform to showcase your professional talents. If you are currently in an artistic program or have recently graduated, show your audience the projects you have worked and/or are currently working on. Make sure to draw attention to the steps you took from start to finish as it will promote and educate your audience about your strengths.

3. Create a brand identity

Use your full name on your social media platforms. This will allow your audience to find you more easily.  Use the same profile image and banner photo across all of your social media accounts as well for consistency.  Include a short bio in all of your account profiles along with any links to your blog or website. Be aware of who your audience is and use your authentic voice when writing and posting content.

Join me next when I will be posting Series Six: Interview Tips.

Until then, take care.

Stephanie 

Series Four: Job Search Tips

Photo of Kirsten Burkard at Bloor Street Entertains.

Job searching can sometimes feel overwhelming and intimidating.  Reviewing your self assessment plan can help you by giving you fresh confidence in your skills and keeping you focused on your career goals. 

In Series Four: Job Search Tips, I will share with you tips that helped me with my previous job searches. 

  1. Where to look? 

A number of online job search engines exist to help seekers find their dream jobs. Indeed.ca, for instance, is a popular choice for employers and job searchers alike as it allows the searcher to create an account profile, add job preference filters and post their resume online that is then searchable by employers and recruiters.  Many employers also post jobs on LinkedIn and by selecting certain options and filters through their account settings, users can opt to receive notifications for the latest job postings in their field of interest and apply directly. 

Another option is to use the services of a head hunter. A head hunter is a person hired to represent a company in a particular industry by finding and matching suitable candidates to available positions. There are a number of agencies that offer this service. When you sign up with one of these agencies, you will gain access to their online portal of job postings and descriptions to which you can then choose to apply.  Generally, the head hunter will read through your resume and cover letter and then meet with you for an interview. They will then decide if you meet the requirements of a particular job and whether you should be interviewed by the company offering the position. The head hunter will also reach out to your references on behalf of the employer. Head hunters are paid by the employer once a candidate is hired.  Job seekers should never be asked to pay the head hunter for their services.

It is also common for companies to post careers and new job openings on their websites. Take some time and make a list of the companies you would like to work for before getting started on your job search.

I highly recommend you stay in touch with your program coordinators and faculty.  They are often emailed directly from companies regarding available entry-level positions.  It helps to give your contact information to your coordinator before graduating so that you can be easily notified of new opportunities.  

2. Reviewing the job description

Carefully read through the job description to make sure you have the required work experience, education and skills before applying.  The job description should state the hard and soft skills as well as the number of years of work experience the company has deemed necessary to successfully perform the work they are offering. 

3. Applying for the job

You are now ready to apply for your dream job!  I recommend researching the company when writing your cover letter (refer back to Series Two: Cover Letter for tips!).  From your research, use a few examples of why you admire the company and explain why you would be a good fit for them and the best candidate for the job. Make sure to showcase your skills that are also listed in the job posting.  Needless to say, only mention skills in your cover letter that you actually possess! 

Remember to address the cover letter to the hiring manager.  I suggest calling the company to find out who that person would be. 

Make sure to tailor your resume to the specific job position you are applying for.  Remove any non-essential skills or job history that would be considered irrelevant to the current position.

4. Following up on the status of your application 

I suggest waiting two weeks before calling or writing to the hiring manager to follow up on your application. You want to give the hiring manager enough time to thoroughly review your cover letter and resume as they have also likely received applications from other interested candidates. When you are following up, be respectful and reaffirm your interest in the position.  You may want to briefly reiterate your skills and remember to thank that person for their time. 

Join me next week when I will be posting Series Five: Professional Social Media Accounts.

Until then, take care.

Stephanie 

Series Three: LinkedIn Tips

Professor Anna Cappuccitti at the Dex showroom with students in the Fashion Business and Fashion Business Management programs.

LinkedIn always seemed to me like this daunting monster of a platform. I confess that I had an account for about nine years before posting any professional content besides my profile photo and my name.

When I first created my LinkedIn account, I was concerned about posting any of my resume details because I was afraid that my employer at the time would stumble upon it and think (incorrectly) that I was actively looking for another job.  I did not fully understand all of the benefits of having an account and that there was more to it than just job searching. In Series Three: LinkedIn, I will share five tips for creating a strong LinkedIn account, whether you are looking for a job or you simply want to network with like-minded individuals in your field.

  1. Select the Appropriate Profile Photo

Including a professional profile photo is important as it allows your “connections” to put a face to your name and get a better sense of who you are.  Use a current, tightly cropped headshot of yourself in business attire.  You are dressing for success and you want your photo to make a professional first impression on potential employers and recruiters.  

2. List Your Core Skills

Whether you are a student or a member of the work-force, as long as you continue to learn, your list of hard skills will also grow and evolve.  For this reason, I recommend updating your skills list at least once a year so that your most current and developed skills are always adequately represented in your profile to potential employers and recruiters.   I suggest keeping your list to 3 to 5 core skills. You can then ask for further endorsement of these skills from your connections.

3. LinkedIn Feed

Your LinkedIn feed should highlight news, stories, and other information relevant to your field and give your connections the opportunity to comment and get involved with current industry topics that matter to you.  Sharing content in your feed allows your connections to see what interests you and can help set you apart from other profiles.  Look for news articles, case studies, and the latest research from reputable sources to share.

4. Commenting

Increase engagement through commenting on other people’s feeds and the news they share.  Write something thoughtful that relates to what others have posted, whether it be a congratulatory message to one of your connections for starting a new job or receiving a promotion, or commenting on a case study they have shared.  Make sure you are clear, concise, and keep the comments constructive.  I also suggest commenting on the feed of someone you admire professionally.  The most important part of engagement is to make meaningful connections with other people in your industry.

5. Follow Industry Leaders

Industry leaders are the thought leaders of your field of interest.  They are actively engaged in advancements within their industry and are recognized by others for how they contributed to its evolution.  These are well-connected, influential people with a substantial amount of industry experience and insight.  You can re-share relevant content these leaders have posted for your own connections to see.

Join me next week when I will be posting Series Four: Job Search Tips.

Until then, take care.

Stephanie 

Series Two: Cover Letter Tips

Image from Adobe Spark

A cover letter is an important complementary support document that should always accompany your resume when applying for employment.  It represents the very first impression you will make on a potential employer and should effectively and persuasively demonstrate who you are, your knowledge of the company you hope to work for and how your unique set of skills and accomplishments would make you the best fit for the role you are applying for.

In this post, I will be sharing five tips for creating the foundation of your cover letter that will be just as important as your resume. Cover letters should be revised and tailored to each new job you apply for.

  1. Formatting

Your cover letter should be only one page long. Be sure to use the same letter head, font and font size you used when creating your resume. The font should be simple and easy to read. Your cover letter should be about three to four paragraphs in length.

2. Address the appropriate person

Find out the name of the hiring manager so that you can address the correct person when writing your cover letter. This will show that you have done your research and set you apart from other applicants.  Try looking for this information on the company website or directory, if there is one, or call up the company and ask for the name of the hiring manager.

3. Do your research

When writing your cover letter, be sure to research the company you are applying to work for. Look up the company online and follow their social media platforms. This can provide you with some additional information about the company that you might not have been able to get from simply looking at the job posting. Include in your letter why you want to work for the company and reference your research. If you don’t know anything about the company, it will be difficult to convince an employer why you want to work for them and why they should hire you.

4. Your experience

In this section of your cover letter, you will explain why your education, work experience, and volunteer work make you a strong candidate for the position. Here, you can mention your hard and soft skills. For example, I would advise highlighting your experience with video conferencing and working virtually with supervisors and team members. During these unprecedented times, I am sure you have gained a wealth of knowledge in these areas from either working or studying from home.  These new skills will speak to your ability to be flexible and adapt to new and challenging work environments.

5. Editing

Your cover letter should be edited by a friend or mentor with strong proof-reading skills. I recommend using the same proof-reader that edited your resume. They will be able to refer back to your resume and make educated, objective suggestions regarding use of specific skills or experience you might have failed to mention in your cover letter.

Join me next week when I will be posting Series Three: LinkedIn.

Until then, take care.

Stephanie 

Series One: Resume Writing Tips

I can’t tell you how many different resumes I have written and updated throughout my working life.  My skills, education, and experience are fluid and ever-evolving such that I am constantly having to make updates and revisions in order to keep my professional profile as current as possible. 

There are a number of great online resources that provide tips on resume writing.  If you don’t already have a resume and are worried about proper formatting or if you just want to update an existing resume, some of these sites also offer free downloadable templates you can use as a guide.

The five tips outlined below should set the foundation of your initial, basic resume.  Use this as a template and add or subtract from the details you share based on the job you are applying for. 

Fashion Business/Fashion Business Management students at the Dex showroom with Coordinator Anna Cappuccitti.
  1. Create a basic resume 

A basic resume is your foundation piece to build upon once you begin applying for jobs.  This should include clear contact information so that you can be easily reached by potential employers.  I would suggest creating a professional email address that consists of some combination of your first and last name (eg. john.doe@hotmail.com, not sweetiepie1294@hotmail.com) and include your preferred phone number (likely your mobile number).  

Make a note to set up a professional voicemail message that states your name and a brief message for your callers.  This is the first time the hiring manager will hear your voice, so you will want it to sound pleasant, calm and clear.  I suggest preparing your voicemail greeting by writing out a brief script of what you want to say before recording to avoid forgetting important information and having to re-record multiple times.

Your basic resume should also include your hard and soft skills (see last week’s post on self-assessment), your job history and education in chronological order, starting from most recent.

2. Use easy-to-read font

I suggest using Arial font in size 12pt. If you absolutely have to, you can go as small as 10.5pt, but no smaller. Make sure your font is clean, simple, and most importantly, easy to read. I would stay away from creative font styles unless you are aware of the company culture and confident it would be acceptable.   Otherwise, keep it simple and stick to Arial.

3. Proof read and edit your resume

The biggest distractions for employers reading resumes are spelling and grammar mistakes.  A hiring manager is not likely to continue reading a resume that contains typos and other errors.  They are looking for your ability to communicate strongly and effectively as this is a skill needed for most jobs.  Always make sure to re-read your resume with a critical eye.  I always ask a friend with impeccable editing skills to read my resume and cover letters before sending to any prospective employers. 

4. Resume length

Keep your resume 1-2 pages in length.  Some hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes for a single job and if your resume is too long, it may get dismissed as too convoluted or time-consuming to read thoroughly.  You need to sufficiently showcase your skills, education, achievements, and current and previous work experience that are relevant to the job posting requirements in a way that is clear, concise and avoids confusing or unnecessary jargon.

Note: Once you begin applying directly to job postings, you should customize your resume and cover letter to each application.  I suggest saving the job posting along with your custom resume and cover letter in a folder for safe keeping.  It can take weeks or even months to receive a response from a potential employer and you will want to be able to reference and refamiliarize yourself with the posting and files you originally sent to the hiring manager in the event they reach out to you. 

5. Highlight your achievements

This is your time to shine.  List all of your achievements!  Give yourself credit for all the hard work you have done to get where you are today.  Now is not the time to be humble.  In fact, I encourage you to boast.  Whether you’ve been recognized for academic excellence, volunteering or extracurricular activities, acknowledgement of your dedication and achievements is an indication to a hiring manager that you are a motivated individual who works hard and can rise to any occasion.

Join me next week when I will be posting Series Two: Cover Letter Tips.

Until then, take care.

Stephanie 

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. 

Recognition/Awards

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

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

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.

Stephanie 

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.

Teamwork in Greta Constantine’s Production Process #IndustryConnections

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”

Greta Constantine and Their Experience With the Fashion Arts Program at Seneca #IndustryConnections

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. 

Stephen Wong and Kirk Pickersgill
Photo credit: Nuvo Magazine

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.