Breaking into the fashion world is like wearing stilettos: Far harder than it looks.
“The main challenge is finding new creative ideas or perspectives. A lot of them have been taken,” says Elyse Stewart, one of Canada’s top “Under 25” designers competing in the LG Denim DIY contest for a $5,000 fashion endowment and the opportunity to design a pair of jeans that will be sold in Sears stores across Canada.
For her first runway show, the 19-year-old Huron Heights Secondary School student definitely deserved points for originality. “It’s pure denim,” she says of her creation. “If you cut the jeans in half, there are four different pieces for each leg and they lace together to make different lengths. There’s a full length, clam-digger, Bermuda length and short-shorts.”
The only high school student in the show, Stewart is hoping to study fashion design at Fanshawe College or George Brown College next year. “I go to an arts school, and that’s a great thing, but if I can go to a school where I’m completely surrounded by people doing what I’m doing, it would be a lot easier.”
Kat Palmer agrees. The 22-year-old competitor graduated from Fanshawe College last year and credits the school for her achievements.
“I would totally recommend that program,” she said. “The faculty is incredible. They worked with us a semester after the program ended. Unpaid. Just die-hard.”
Thanks to her education, Palmer is a relative runway veteran compared to Stewart.
“There were judging(s) and panels,” Palmer says. “There were very stressful deadlines. The program was very realistic. We had fashion shows where we’d be weaned off. We were also all in competition for L’Oréal Fashion Week.”
“It was very much like a reality television show,” she says. “Actually Brandon Dwyer (a competitor on the TV show Project Runway Canada) just came out of Fanshawe a year before me.”
Beyond teaching them how to compete, colleges also offer advice on where to compete. Both girls learned of the LG Denim DIY contest through their schools: Stewart through a school she was applying to, and Palmer from the one where she graduated.
“That’s what I was taking about,” says Palmer. “After we graduated they’re still working with us.”