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.”

Administration Spotlight: Michel Côté

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We would like to congratulate Michel Côté on his new role as Acting Chair of the School of Fashion. Michel has been part of the fashion and lifestyle industry for over 25 years. He started his career in Montréal as a merchandiser-buyer working closely with the Mexx International design team. Michel is also the founder of two companies: tec-nic kolor, which specializes in uniforms and promotional items, and Henry & Cécile, a custom handmade bedding manufacturer. He has been part of the Fashion Group International board of directors (Toronto Chapter), and a member of the board for Apparel Connexion. Michel has an MA in leadership at the University of Guelph.

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: 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.”