In marketing, they say it always starts with the kids. Four years ago Danier initiated a design challenge with Ryerson University’s School of Fashion that would allow third year students to demonstrate their fashion chops. In return for creating an original women’s leather garment design, a handful of students had a chance at seeing their garment put into production for Danier stores, a paid summer internship and cold hard cash.
At that time the concept of designer collaborations was still relatively new. But sure enough, a series of successful collabs with notable names from Canada’s fashion industry quickly followed – Winnipeg-born, London-based Mark Fast, Toronto’s Greta Constantine and Philip Sparks and stylist George Antonopoulos. (That’s me wearing Greta Constantine’s SKIN for Danier on the left; George Antonopoulos’ OBJECT line on the right.)
Just as school returned to session this month, I stopped by Ryerson to see this year’s design challenge winner revealed and catch up with Olga Koel, Danier’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.
“Getting students to create something commercially viable was our initial goal, but it has evolved to focus more on the creativity and innovation,” she remarked. “We want to encourage these students creativity, help them understand leather.”
Oh, there is creativity alright. This year’s winner demonstrated some sick design skills. The fact that young Ostwald Au-Yeung was unavailable for comment or a congratulatory handshake speaks volumes: he was finishing a design internship in Hong Kong.
I have a hunch Ostwald is not long for this land. As we see often in Canada, talent like this either gets snapped up quickly or itches for bigger experiences than they can enjoy here. And with talent like this, I would rather see him rubbing elbows with another next big thing.
World domination, Ostwald, it’s yours for the making.