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: Michelle Nicol, CERP

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Did you know that Seneca Fashion offers a certificate in Event Management; Event and Exhibit Design? Meet Michelle Nicol, a graduate from the first year the program was offered! We are so proud of what she has been able to accomplish over the past two years and look forward to watching her continued success – enjoy!

Full name: Michelle Nicol, CERP

Program:  Event Management; Event & Exhibit Design

Grad Year: 2006

Current Position: Account Manager, Festival Specialist (Higgins Event Rentals)

What is your favorite Seneca memory?

My favorite Seneca memory has to be working on the Design Exchange Gala with my classmates and professors. It was such a gorgeous venue and great opportunity to work on an event from inception to completion. Another memory, which is perhaps more of a lesson that I still look back at and laugh at to this day. During a group project where we had to design a tabletop, one of my classmates was adamant on using a feather boa as a centerpiece and one of the judges said it looked like roadkill. Needless to say, we didn’t do so well on that project. Lesson learned: follow your design instinct and never put feathers in a centerpiece! If something does not go your way, get back up and try again. We learn from our mistakes.

If you could give one piece of advice to a student completing the same program as you, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to get out there, introduce yourself and make a name for yourself! The competition is stiff in the Event Industry; you have to stand out, be relatable and friendly. People will remember how you made them feel, not necessarily what you did for them.

How has your career evolved?

I have grown tremendously in my profession and have really made “rental” a lifelong career, which I love! Sitting on multiple committees for local, national and international industry-related associations keeps me busy and involved in the ever-evolving event industry. I have recently been recognized with an award for Rental Person of the Year and have been named a “Top 10 Under 40” for the American Rental Association! I continue to write articles for industry associated publications and am one of few CERP (Certified Event Rental Professionals) in Canada. 

How did your Seneca program help you get to where you are now/your current career?

I was referred to a large local rental company by one of their greatest customers, who was also a professor of mine at Seneca College. Upon graduation, I accepted a position with them and my career has grown since then.

Do you have any other thoughts or memories you would like to share?

Be a fruit loop in a world of Cheerios!