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.”

Not a baa-d look

“There are great interdisciplinary opportunities between our classes to build an emotional connection between fashion and agriculture. I mean, fashion comes from agriculture. It’s a resource.”

June 13, 2019

 

When Kirsti Clarida, a Veterinary Technician professor, and Philip Sparks, a Fashion Arts professor, met last year through Seneca’s faculty development program, they knew they had to work together.

“Within 10 minutes, we looked at each other and we were like, ‘Oh my God.’ I have sheep and he needs fleece — it’s a no-brainer,” Clarida said. “The sheep we have at King Campus, they absolutely need to be shorn. They get hot and they can’t regulate their body temperature.”

The collaboration between Clarida and Sparks resulted in a sheep shearing project that saw more than 100 students from both of their programs pass through the barns at King Campus recently, learning about the process of shearing wool and turning it into yarn and clothes.

“There are great interdisciplinary opportunities between our classes to build an emotional connection between fashion and agriculture,” Sparks said. “I mean, fashion comes from agriculture. It’s a resource. The sheep fleece at King was being discarded or donated and yet, in the fashion program, we were purchasing it.”

A total of 14 sheep were shorn by Don Metherall, a Canadian champion shearer formerly ranked top 20 in the world.

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Students watch a demonstration of a sheep hammock, used to trim the animal’s hooves or perform exams without holding it.
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The collaboration between Veterinary Technician and Fashion Arts programs saw more than 100 students pass through the barns at King Campus recently.
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Seneca President David Agnew holds a baby lamb while learning more about the sheep shearing project from Professor Kirsti Clarida.

Wool processing: fleece to fabric

During the sheep shearing project, students learned about how fabric is made from fleece. A member of the Upper Canada Fibreshed, the Fashion Arts class took some raw wool back to their textile lab and studied the process of cleaning, carding, felting/spinning. The fibre will be processed by Wool 4 Ewe, and the yarn will be used in the program’s knitwear and textile classes as well as felting and weaving projects.

Wool is a sustainable fibre that is biodegradable, breathable and highly versatile. It is also unique in its ability to felt. This is when wool fibre is subject to a mixture of moisture, heat, soap and friction. The moisture heat and soap open up the scales on the fibre surface and friction causes the fibres to latch onto one another, almost like Velcro.

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Raw or grease wool: wool taken from the sheep that has not yet been cleaned or processed.
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Yarn: roving that has been stretched and twisted or spun.
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Roving: wool that has been cleaned and carded or combed, usually used to spin woollen yarn.
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Cloth: yarns that have been woven, organized at 90 degrees to one another.

Sheep shearing with a champion

Sheep at Seneca’s King Campus are shorn once a year, typically during the spring. As part of the sheep shearing project, a total of 14 sheep were in good hands with Don Metherall, a Canadian champion shearer formerly ranked top 20 in the world. He has been shearing for almost two decades, shearing about 28,000 sheep each year.

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Don Metherall is a Canadian champion shearer. Each sheep is sheared in a matter of seconds, with each fleece being removed from the sheep in one piece.
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Professor Kirsti Clarida and Professor Philip Sparks sort through a freshly shorn fleece before putting it into a bag.
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Don Metherall talks to Professor Philip Sparks about shearing a black sheep.
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A young lamb kneels to drink milk from the mother sheep after she was shorn by Don Metherall at King Campus.

Seneca Fashion Professor Phillip Sparks Sustainability Development Goal #SDG

PSPhilip Sparks has been working as a tailor and designer for almost two decades, incorporating an art practice focused on textiles, photography and installations into the production and exhibition of his collections. During his career, he has worked in-house in the wardrobe and design departments at the National Ballet of Canada, The Canadian Opera Company, the Stratford Festival and Soulpepper Theatre. His clothing and accessory business has been carried at retailers including Holt Renfrew, Hudson’s Bay and La Maison Simons. Currently, Philip continues to further his research into the anthropology and anthropometry of tailoring while producing custom garments and serving as a professor in the School of Fashion

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“Of course quality education is the most important SDG for me, but also responsible consumption and production”

Seneca Fashion Professor Jennifer Dares Sustainability Development Goal #SDG

JD_1Jennifer Dares has over twenty-five years of industry experience as a Canadian contemporary fashion designer and trend forecaster. Jennifer holds a diploma in Fashion from Sheridan College. Her experience includes working as a designer, pattern drafter, managing and recruiting for a major department store, as an assistant buyer for Emporio Armani and the Women’s and Girls’ Trend Direction Manager for HBC. Jennifer established her women’s wear label LAYER in 2002. LAYER publications include Canadian and international press coverage. Jennifer also contributes to the advancement of the industry, new designers and numerous worthy causes such as Fashion Cares, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Shadow Ball, the Royal Ontario Museum’s Indigo Auction, or the Fashion Zone advisor

Jennifer has been teaching for twenty years within the space of Fashion. Jennifer was a co-investigator on the Ryerson University research team for the research project titled ‘Neighbourhood Policing: Designing Uniforms that Work’ project. Jennifer’s professional development is ongoing, as she visits museums and exhibits during her travels. She keeps abreast of industry trends and attends conferences on design, sustainability and technology. Jennifer’s current research focus in the MA Fashion program at Ryerson University is sustainability, the circular economy and upcycling. When we asked Jennifer  which SDG was closest to her heart, she replied:

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“I am passionate about all of the SDGs, but its ‘SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’ where I believe I can make a difference not only in my design practice but also in my design research and the sharing of knowledge.”