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”

Sustainability with Urban Planet

Seneca Fashion 3rd-year fashion students embark on their 2019-2020 capstone project journey.

Each year, graduating students from Seneca’s Fashion Business Management (FBM) Advanced diploma program partner with a client in the fashion industry to assist with a real-life business opportunity. FIELD short for Fashion Industry Educational Exchange and Leadership Development is a capstone project. During the FIELD year, students work in teams to apply knowledge gained to develop creative solutions for the ‘client’ and present their strategy to a panel of judges at a year-end industry event. We are overjoyed to announce that our 2019/2020 FIELD client is Urban Planet, a brand under the iconic YM Inc. family.

The Challenge? Sustainability.

Sustainability is the new frontier in fast fashion, too much clothing winds up in landfills every year, and the environmental cost related to this industry must be addressed. Urban Planet would like to develop a robust sustainability initiative addressing materials selection, manufacturing, post-consumer waste, and packaging. How can Urban Planet adopt better manufacturing practices while engaging more with their customer, successfully converting the initiative into the adoption of additional sales and customer loyalty?  

“We are very excited to be the 2020 Field Project Industry Partner and contribute to such an amazing educational program. When Anna and Lorrisa presented the opportunity to be the industry partner, we jumped at the opportunity. YM values the contribution of fresh minds and believes in giving young people a leg up in the industry. The most important part of our successful evolution are the people we work with.  It’s the teams of talented individuals that collaborate and inspire each other to push hard and do more to impress our customer.  

Our industry is facing a significant cycle of change, sustainable manufacturing practices are at the forefront of retail conversations and initiatives.  We believe that great fashion doesn’t have to come at the cost of the environment and are committed to improving our processes to ensure we make better choices in our future production and logistics. Concern for the sustainability of the environment must be top of mind as we drive our strategies forward.  

Retailers must act as a bridge between manufacturers and consumers, demanding change from our suppliers and encouraging new consumer behavior as well. Great insights and fresh new approaches for the end to end sustainable retail cycle is our challenge to the 2020 graduating class of Fashion Business Management. We believe that this generation is more engaged than ever before with environmental responsibility and know they will truly impress us with their innovative and forward-thinking retail strategies– Maria Mayer, VP of Merchandising at YM INC.

This year, five groups of student teams will develop a capsule collection and marketing plan that researches the Canadian women’s apparel market. Their solution will focus on sustainable sourcing, production, and omnichannel selling practices and should define a clear competitive advantage and a diverse channel/assortment and branding strategy.

“Third year in FBM has been great so far. FIELD has been accelerating quickly from week one as we are tacking our FIELD concept to present it to our client, Urban Planet for feedback. I am excited and anxious for the final presentation at the end, knowing it could lead to some open doors (potential employers), post-grad Seneca.”Yonas Kbede, FBM Student 

Students embarked on their FIELD journey on September 12, 2019, with a visit to Urban Planet at Fairview mall. Here, they received a private tour and presentation on the brand’s visual and merchandising strategy followed by presentations from senior management, question and answer period, and a group networking lunch at Seneca College.

“The FIELD project gives our 3rd-year FBM students an opportunity to tackle a real-life business case with mentoring from the industry client and faculty. It’s a privilege to work industry leaders like Maria and members of the Urban Planet team (at YM Inc.) who embrace the value of our FIELD program and its outcomes. The skills students learn and apply throughout the 8-month duration of the project sets our graduates apart from other fashion business graduates in the GTA.” – Lorrisa Dilay, FBM Professor at Seneca College

About Urban Planet:

Unique in size and concept, Urban Planet is one of the fastest-growing fashion brands in Canada, with more than 100 locations across the country and an online store at www.urban-planet.com. Catering to a broad core demographic of young men & women aged 16 to 24, our customers are part of a generation constantly looking for that next best thing.

With a focus on the latest fashion, footwear & accessory trends, our customers can be confident in knowing they’ll stay one step ahead of that ever-changing curve, and with our everyday amazing prices everyone can always afford to look their best. As we continue to expand our brand, our retail philosophy will continue to stay the same: shopping should be fun and great fashion should be accessible to everyone.

About Seneca Fashion: 

Seneca Fashion combines innovation with the world of business, beauty, and design. Our programs in fashion and esthetics challenge you to connect your creativity with professional skills to help you succeed in the industry.

Through field placements, competitions, and Seneca’s Fashion Resource Centre – a collection of Canadian–worn garments and accessories, you’ll experience the industry, build connections, and develop a career. To learn more about Seneca’s exclusive Fashion Resource Centre visit www.fashionresourcecentre.com