Fashion advertisements have always captivated audiences with their lavish destination photoshoots, over-the-top sets and seemingly limitless budgets. However, with brands now having to adapt to constantly evolving COVID-19 restrictions, these extravagantly orchestrated photoshoots appear to have vanished. Marketing budgets have been cut as many stores continue to remain closed and customers spend less. The financial repercussions of COVID-19 on the fashion industry is becoming increasingly evident with many fearing the worst is yet to be seen. Nevertheless, fashion brands such as Aritzia and Zara are persevering in their attempts to overcome the negative impact of COVID on marketing by photographing their models at home while simultaneously highlighting their newest product arrivals and staying relatable to customers who are also confined to their living spaces.
According to Refinery 29, Zara sent their latest collections to model’s homes so that they could be styled and photographed off-site and in accordance with social distancing guidelines. With models living all over the world, the images were still beautifully diverse and well curated. Aritzia also photographed their models at home for their digital campaign but took it one step further by announcing a call-to-action asking their customers to photograph themselves at home wearing Aritzia’s latest arrivals. Customers and employees were asked to use the hashtag #ArtiziaAtHome when uploading their photos to Instagram. The response was amazing and also gave the audience an opportunity to see how other shoppers styled their purchases.
Historically, fashion has always been able to adjust and prevail in the face of social and economic uncertainty. Evidently, this pandemic will be no different.
In March 2020, Shanghai Fashion Week presented the world’s first completely virtual fashion week. The show was hosted by Tmall, a platform under the Alibaba Group umbrella. Amid newly established social restrictions all over the globe due to growing concerns over COVID-19, the fashion industry had to adapt quickly in order to find new and innovative ways of presenting their latest collections. This digital trend quickly caught fire and by April 2020, Moscow Fashion Week had also presented collections online with other nations following suit shortly thereafter.
The British Fashion Council (CNMI) has now announced that London Fashion Week will combine their men’s and women’s fashion shows online. The virtual fashion show will be non-gendered and showcased in June 2020.
Following London Fashion Week, France’s Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode and Italy’s Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana will also present digital fashion weeks. Paris Fashion Week will showcase haute couture collections online from July 6 to 8, 2020. Milan Fashion Week will be presented from July 14 to 17, 2020. To watch the “Milano Digital Fashion Week – July Issue”, visit camerammoda.it website and follow along on their social media platforms. Videos and interviews with designers will be published online in addition to the digital collections.
Well before the pandemic, Helsinki Fashion Week had already announced that they would be going digital in July and partnering with tech company, Normative. The choice was initially made to avoid the impact of fashion week on the environment due to travel. The virtual shows are scheduled to run from July 27 to August 1, 2020.
Although COVID-19 restrictions served as the initial catalyst for the majority of transitions to digital fashion weeks around the world in 2020, it could be said that a latent “new norm” has been created. This opened up a dialogue between the typical gender-based division of fashion week collections and more inclusive, non gender based fashion events. A digital show can also generate a larger, more diverse audience as it includes individuals who, in the past, may not have had the ability to physically view the collections in real-time.
Behind the scenes of an outstanding artistic collaboration
As graduation approaches students are looking back at one of their most ambitious collaboration projects: Fluid — An artisanal high fashion photoshoot. Their goal was to create international editorial appeal with fresh designs and captivating photography that brings sustainability into focus. The project explores themes of expression, inclusivity and timelessness that are reflected in the pieces, which traverse beyond the boundaries of gender and colour. They are in every way, fluid.
Fashion is the expression of a state of mind, and photography captures that essence and conveys it to the audience. A collaboration of the two arts in a professional setting is inevitable. This was the inspiration for Arline Malakian and Zoran Dobric to develop this high-profile project.
Fashion and photography are highly competitive professions. They’re fast-paced, network-based and ruthless to amateurs. So, how can students make it in this industry? By having the confidence and experience to make a splash from the beginning. If aspiring designers and photographers worked together to create an industry standard piece, the world of fashion would take notice. Fluid was created for precisely this purpose – to draw the attention of the seasoned professionals and show them what Seneca College students were capable of.
Any collaboration requires hard work, communication and mutual understanding. Executing Fluid was no different.
Fashion Arts students developed the concept of Fluid and determined the themes and ideas they would be exploring through their designs. They met regularly to brainstorm ideas, plan, and consult the right people to bring their vision to life.
They knew that every piece, every design, every shot should tell a story. The audience should be moved, and their work should make a difference. They worked relentlessly to co-select garments and fabric that would best represent the essence of Fluid.
Cosmetic Techniques and Management students played a key role in tying all the visual elements of the design together. With direction from the Fashion Arts crew, hair and make-up brought the look to life. It added the final aesthetics to pull together the entire piece and take it to the next level. While the designs spoke for themselves, cosmetics added the final appeal that would draw the audience in.
Photography students worked to create magic behind the lens. Their role was to co-direct the shots, and develop a storyboard tailored to the designers’ visions. They were tasked with putting their technical skills to work by arranging the lighting, set, and presentation in a way that would capture the story and express through visuals the importance of fluidity – the central theme of the project. While they worked with the Fashion Arts students during the shoot, a significant amount of their work was done in post-production, where they ensured that their work captured the essence of Fluid and exceeded industry expectations.
Two intensive days in Seneca’s Sandbox studio and numerous days prior and post-shoot were expended to make Fluid possible. Every unit worked efficiently independently and together. They were aware of their roles, acted with utmost professionalism, and most importantly, thoroughly enjoyed the process!
The experience of working with other departments and creating something from scratch was absolutely enlightening and exhilarating for the team. They were part of something bigger; something that is very much a regular practice in the professional world.
There were certainly challenges and the students grew more confident with every obstacle they overcame. With quick problem solving skills, communication, and teamwork, they made the best of tight schedules and small spaces. It was a learning experience that prepared them to face an industry as tough as fashion, head-on.
“[We learned] how much effort is required from everyone who is involved: Makeup artists, models, photographers, stylists… Everyone’s job is important and we all must rely on each other’s knowledge.”
– Deborah Alvarado (Photography)
The professional world of fashion and photography functions like a well-oiled system. They work together seamlessly to create exquisite works of art that are celebrated across the world. However, even industry experts who are part of projects like Fluid on a much larger scale had to learn somewhere. Students had the opportunity to develop a toolbox of skills that will propel them into the fast-paced industry and make them known in the face of tough competition.
They learned how to process and edit high quality fashion editorial stories as well as ideation and concept development under a very conceptual direction encompassing art, fashion, beauty and photography in and for a specific context.
“Everything starts with the design of the clothes, you have to understand the concept and photograph it in a way that will enhance its “vibe” while at the same time keeping in mind trends and your own personal style of shooting,” Deborah added.
Along with the knowledge gained, students now have a series of photos that will enhance their portfolios and expose them to the fashion world. It gave them an opportunity to create something that they are proud of and can confidently take with them when venturing into the industry.
It is truly an accomplishment for the artists to have seen such an elaborate project from start to finish. It is a testament to the talent and tenacity of our students at Seneca College. They are constantly seeking to expand their horizons and prepare themselves for a career in something they are truly passionate about.
That is the real reward of this project- it was born out of genuine love for their craft and a determination to prove themselves!
Collaboration contributes to Indigenous reconciliation
When a collection of custom-made ribbon skirts was wheeled into Seneca’s Odeyto last week, there were tears in the First Peoples@Seneca centre at Newnham Campus. But that’s because these skirts are no ordinary fashion garment. They are sacred regalia worn by Indigenous women at ceremonies and gifted by School of Fashion students.
“Many of our Indigenous students have never seen or worn a ceremonial skirt because they were raised in the city away from their cultural roots,” said Peggy Pitawanakwat, Co-ordinator, First Peoples@Seneca. “They can now borrow these sacred skirts and wear them at ceremonies such as the water blessing or the Sisters in Spirit vigil for the missing and murdered Indigenous women.”
A collaboration between the School of Fashion and First Peoples@Seneca, the ribbon skirts were created by students in Prof. Jenifer Forrest’s fashion class. Ms. Forrest, who conceived the project in close co-ordination with Ms. Pitawanakwat, said the exercise was infused with learning at every step. As part of the course, students were required to read the summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report and learn about the history of residential schools and the Orange Shirt Day.
“Fashion students have been very responsive to this project,” Ms. Forrest said. “They understand the connection we have with our clothing in terms of identity, family ties and feelings of being protected and safe. They understand what it would mean to have that taken away.”
Ribbon skirts, distinctive in the colourful ribbon trims along the hemline, are a traditional symbol of the strength, resilience and sacredness of Indigenous women who wear them at ceremonies and other important events.
Each motif on the skirts is of special significance to the Indigenous people. Feathers denote spiritual strength and flowers the beauty of Mother Earth. Orange flowers edged in white honour the survivors of residential schools while those edged in black are a stark reminder of the children who did not survive. The vivid colours are symbolic, representing nature and the traditional beliefs of the Indigenous people.
Caitlin Lyder, a first-year Aviation Operations diploma program student, wore one of the skirts — her first ever — and said she felt both proud and humbled by the gift which showed the tremendous effort made by the fashion school students to learn Indigenous traditions and history. To her, the project symbolized the coming together of two worlds.
Emma Greenfield, a recent graduate who has been working at Odeyto to help develop the Indigenous curriculum at Seneca, was equally moved as she tried on a ceremonial skirt, also for the first time. She said she was touched by the fashion students’ gesture and the skirts brought her closer to the Indigenous community and to Seneca.
“This is such a practical and meaningful way to contribute to reconciliation and build relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” Ms. Greenfield said.
For the fashion students, the four weeks they spent designing and stitching the skirts not only helped them hone their skills but also provided them with an invaluable opportunity to connect with First Peoples@Seneca.
“We have read about Indigenous traditions in school but this project helped us interact directly with the First Nations people and understand their symbols,” said Kaylani Gatchalian, a first-year Fashion Arts student. “For instance, the flower that I stitched on a skirt signifies Mother Earth’s beauty and is special to Anishinaabe women.”
The project, funded by the K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation, also reinforced the principles of sustainable clothing and zero waste. The skirts have been made with a blend of biodegradable materials such as cotton and hemp. The polyester ribbons do not have any harmful chemical residue and can easily be reused. The design of the skirts produces minimum waste during cutting and all the leftover pieces are used to make medicine bags.
“Fashion should not be perceived as something for a small segment — fashion shows, magazines and blogs,” Ms. Forrest said. “Fashion is about serving people in a more responsive way and the ribbon skirts will foster a better understanding of Indigenous history, traditions and culture in the Seneca community.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
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!”
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.”