School is In

April has been a busy month for fashion schools. As the semester inched to a close, graduating design students spent their last weeks frantically wrapping up final collections for the runway.

Student fashion shows are a common event around Toronto thanks to a number of secondary schools with fashion design programs. Ryerson University hosts the largest and the oldest student-run show with Mass Exodus (shout out to Pay Homage by Anabel for the photo below). It blends three fashion programs in carrying off the event from front of house to back. Fun fact – it’s also one of the few (only?) fashion shows to occur in a hockey arena.

Mass Exodus

Seneca, Humber and George Brown Colleges also exhibit student work through runway shows and exhibitions. Showcasing your fledgling brand is an important step as a young designer. I worked with London, Ontario’s Fanshawe College for many years as a guest judge during their annual student show, UNBOUND.

Winning academic accolades for a collection can often kick start a career. Sebastian Guarin, who won Best Collection at Fanshawe in 2014 explained. “Winning the David Dixon Award for Best Collection helped validate my point of view as a designer,” he said. “And helped get my foot in the door…in terms of legitimate recognition.”

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Atelier Guarin

As a student designer, figuring out how to translate your design vision into great looking clothes is only part of your task. These shows often bring out high profile industry professionals who have both advice and opportunity to share. It’s on the student to take advantage of these networking opportunities. With a little perseverance they can earn a leg up to start their own label, as Sebastian found in launching Atelier Guarin  after graduation. “I was able to feel part of the industry right away,” Guarin noted.

Not all fashion industry leaders recommend starting a label fresh out of school. Steven Kolb, the CEO of Council of Fashion Designers of America, has been advising students to work for someone else for at least six or seven years before starting their own brand. Essentially, he’s suggesting they learn the business on someone else’s dime. The business of fashion.

That phrase, the business of fashion, is getting a lot of play these days. There’s good reason. Central Saint Martins captured the state of the industry well:

“With the explosion of new media over the last 10 years, the fashion industry has been democratized. Opportunities in fashion are no longer primarily focused on the role of designer.”

Things are changing, and they’re changing at warp speed. Fashion has been blown wide open with the influx of Wall Street finance and Silicon Valley technology. The conversation on global supply chain is gaining more traction that should help bring accountability to fast fashion. In a few years the entire retail sector – and perhaps even the fashion calendar – may look vastly different.

Enter Centennial College’s Fashion Business & Management program. Full disclosure: I was not paid for this article, but I am a paid employee of Centennial as program coordinator and part-time professor. This program is the reason I am.

The two-year Fashion Business & Management diploma program will teach students how to demonstrate business acumen across finance, communications, human resources and ethics. As well, students will drill down into all areas in the lifecycle of fashion – product development, sourcing and manufacturing, retail, marketing and media. Every step of the way the way they’ll experience the latest innovations in technology and sustainability. In fact, every student enrolled in the program will receive a brand new iPad.

We are committed to bringing relevance to our curriculum with program advisors and faculty who are who still embedded in the industry. These individuals have diverse experience – from Odessa Paloma Parker, fashion editor at The Globe and Mail – who also helped bring this program to life last year – to Tomas Romita, founder of MADE Custom Clothing.

Tomas Romita, founder of MADE Custom Clothing

Tomas Romita, founder of MADE Custom Clothing

Last week we enlisted the help of more advisors to be in a soon-t0-be-released video touting the program. It featured Shopgirls owner Michelle Germain, industry vet Marlene Shiff, designer Jennifer Fukushima and factory owner Kathy Cheng. (See it first! Stay tuned to the @TheFList on Twitter and Instagram.) I’ll share more about our other program advisors and faculty soon.

This is an exciting phase in fashion, and I’m quite proud to help further the education of the industry’s next generation. Check out the program detail on Centennial’s website and stay tuned to the F-List for new developments.

For more information on Centennial’s Fashion Business & Management program and admission requirements, click here. Have a specific question? Feel free to contact me directly at lbutler at centennialcollege dot ca.

UNBOUND in London Town

Fanshawe College (yes, we’re talking London, Ontario) hosted a fashion show last weekend to present the 2012 fashion design program’s graduating class.  As this year’s emcee, I embarked on a 24-hour trip along with other Toronto fashion faces – designers David Dixon, Arthur Mendonca, Wesley Badanjak and Franco Mirabello plus seasoned industry players Tamar Matossian, Erin O’Brien, Gail McInnes and Natalie Deane – who all appeared as judges of the evening’s show.
 
Fanshawe plans quite a bit of pomp and circumstance into UNBOUND. Held at the hip Museum London, it includes a red carpet, a cocktail party and goody bags for attendees. While most of the attendees are friends and family, I met a number of guests who bought tickets just to see a splashy runway show.
This was my fourth year working with the UNBOUND event, and in my opinion, one of the strongest group collections. Overall Fanshawe’s students showed promise in their ideas and wearability of the garments, even if many lacked in execution. (Puckering seams don’t lie.) 
Supporting the next generation of fashion is important, perhaps just as much as spotlighting today’s current roster of talent. By hosting the judges who are successfully working in the industry, Fanshawe proves how important this is. After all, it could be a Franco Mirabelli or an Arthur Mendonca who gives a graduate their first break. You gotta start somewhere, kid.
Special thanks to Hotel Metro, London’s new boutique hotel, for a lovely stay, and great service that went above and beyond! For more pics check out Flare.com.
Best Design winner Andrea Kuntz
Best Design winner Andrea Kuntz
Best Design winner Andrea Kuntz
Best Collections winner Kristin Burgess

UNBOUND in London



Thursday the F-list skipped town to guest judge UNBOUND, a student fashion competition at Fanshawe College, Brandon R. Dwyer’s alma mater (photo, with Fanshawe faculty Loren Carriere). We hopped a train to London with some great company – one half of the Comrags label, Joyce Gunhouse, National Post fashion writer Nathalie Atkinson and fashion guru Marlene Shiff (photo, with Joyce and Fanshawe student Donald J. Procunier). London is a college town and they know how to party. In mid-afternoon, the patios were overflowing with beer-swilling students. With a few hours of our own to kill we hit Saffron Road (a retail success, now celebrating 20 years) to say hello to owner Gail Lynn (photo, with David Dixon) and check out the racks. If you’re in the area be sure to check out their massive Basement Blowout Sale Thursday, May 7th.

The evening’s show took place at the Museum London and we joined ranks with six other judges including Thien Le and David Dixon. Twenty students sent five piece collections down the runway in a maddening display of everything from ready to wear to formal. Who was the most UNBOUND of them all? Jessica Steever’s cocktail dresses made the biggest impact, taking the prize for Best Single Piece and Best Collection. Look for Jessica on season three of Project Runway Canada (Maybe? Just a hunch).