INSPIRATION TAKES SHAPE AT THE BLANCHE MACDONALD FASHION DESIGN ALUMNI SHOW AT VANCOUVER FASHION WEEK
This year at Vancouver Fashion Week, there was a runway platform unlike any other: The first-ever collaborative show between Blanche Macdonald and the city’s top-trending sartorial event unfolded under the eyes of the city’s fashion and media industry elite.
From the moment the models began to emerge, it was clear that this showcase was a showstopper. Ten carefully curated Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design alumni from all over the world revealed three looks each to a packed forum of wall-to-runway journalists, bloggers, photographers, industry professionals, and fashion fans.
The audience found themselves whisked from one delight of to the next – first transported to the lively and eccentric world of Alex S. Yu; then to the fabulous collection of Evan Clayton’s magical-girl couturiere; then awed by the hand-formed and dyed wool of Garret Alexander Elphee’s singularly unique creations; then tantalized by the glittering animal prints and feathers put to use by Maryam Asgari. The startling range of stories, aesthetics and influences displayed by this prodigious international set of designers elicited the standing ovation that capped off the inaugural BMC x VFW show.
Think working as a wardrobe stylist means a never-ending stream of free clothes and cutting edge looks? For Blanche Macdonald Fashion Marketing graduate and Cross-Canadian stylist Jessica Clark the reality is a little different.
“As a stylist people think you’re always working with high fashion. But on commercial jobs I need to make people look real. That’s what my job is a lot of the time. My clients are trying to sell a product, so I’m trying to meet the creative vision of the ad agencies and art directors. How can I make this actor or model look like they own this product? How can I make them look like the target market?”
Jessica is adept at answering those questions. Regularly travelling across Canada, from her native Alberta to Vancouver to Toronto and beyond, she’s styled for household name brands like Revlon, Maison Simons, Honda, Adidas, Kate Spade, Vince Camuto, Poppy Barley and American Crew. Her portfolio is understandably full of high end looks for magazines, designers and modelling agencies, but Jessica is acutely aware that being a successful stylist requires more than surfing the wave of the latest trends.
“I was recently flown to Toronto to work on an ad for an agricultural supply company,” she continues. “It doesn’t sound glamorous but it was an amazing campaign. A young farmer is proudly looking over the fields thinking ‘This is all going to be mine some day.’ If you’re working on a farm, you’re probably not going to be wearing an expensive jacket. I needed to make the clothing look like it had been worn for decades. The images are telling the story, so those images need to be believable. For a job like that I make mood boards so everybody is on the same page. We’re a team, so I’m in constant communication with the clients and photographers. I want to be sure what I’m providing is what the clients want. And if they don’t like my first choice, I have five other outfits on hand ready to go.”
Professionalism comes naturally to Jessica. Her father is a commercial photographer and he provided the teenage Jessica with an introduction to the world of advertising, opening doors as she began a brief modelling career. It was on one of those modelling gigs where Jessica had her first encounter with the world of professional styling.
“Stylists weren’t common growing up in Alberta, so when this guy started putting my belt on backwards, telling me to put my dress on backwards and throwing another dress over the top I thought it was so weird, even though I understand what he was doing now. I asked him what he did, and he said he was a stylist. I thought, that sounds like a fun job. I like putting outfits together.”
What a weekend! The 2016 edition of the Vancouver International Makeup Artist Trade Show (IMATS) was the best yet, as thousands of Makeup Artists, ranging from the professional to recreational, descended on the Vancouver Convention Centre to stock up on product and inspiration.
Both were in plentiful supply on the Blanche Macdonald/CurliQue Beauty stand, which drew large crowds as Makeup Program Director and industry legend Todd McIntosh demonstrated his prosthetics wizardry over the course of a Sunday afternoon. Proving that the possibilities of Makeup are indeed limitless, Todd created a realistic alien in a matter of hours – using discarded prosthetics pieces he retrieved from the bottom of a cupboard in his studio!
It wasn’t just industry veterans creating magic. In the Battle of the Brushes, the ultimate competition for new Makeup Artists, Blanche Macdonald students shone, taking a superb second in the Beauty/Fantasy category, and filling the podium – taking first, second and third – in a hotly contested Prosthetics competition, crafting aliens on the theme of Four Decades of Star Wars.
For Prosthetics first place winner Devon Burbank, her victory was a triumph of tenacity over setbacks.
“My airbrush broke a few days ago so I bought a new airbrush and that broke too,” she revealed, minutes after her victory. “We fixed it yesterday and today it broke again. So today’s paint job was sponges and q-tips. Today’s been a flux of emotions. It was an incredible experience and an amazing opportunity to be part of this event. I’m filled with joy. When they said my name I thought I was going to hit the floor. But I didn’t!”
The Battle of the Brushes Prosthetics Competition is the ultimate mix of preparation and inspiration. With prosthetics pieces handed out at random 20 minutes before the contest begin, an artist’s ability to instantly harness creativity is invaluable.
“I was excited to have random prosthetics thrown at me,” continued Devon, “Because I love creating on the spot. I like doing makeup on the spur of the moment. That’s when I feel my heart is into it. I was going to use a bald cap but that was all I knew. I was given two eyebrow pieces, a chin piece and two cheek pieces. The cheeks didn’t fit well or look right, so I flipped them and added them to my model’s collarbones, which made them look so defined.”
BLANCHE MACDONALD FASHION MARKETING GRADUATE TALYA LEE TALKS TRAVEL, PR, GIRL POWER AND TORONTO'S RENAISSANCE
Public Relations maven Talya Lee is where effortless street style and old-school hustle come together. Following her love of the arts and honoring her wanderlust roots, she circled the globe after graduating from Blanche Macdonald’s Global Fashion Marketing Program, dipping her toes in the most exotic of locales. Today, with her feet firmly planted in Toronto’s bustling creative community and PR circles, Talya’s days are a whirlwind of fashion, events, travel, and collaboration amid Canada’s epicenter for the arts.
Streaming in via Skype from Toronto on a chilly afternoon, Talya’s signature mass of dark brown curls vie for a majority the screen as her metal, minimalist accessories glint in the sunlight that haloes her head and shoulders. Everything about Talya—from her posture to her grin—speak volumes about this genuinely cool and humble social media maven. Leaning in eagerly towards the screen, Talya offers greetings and kind words from her bare-lipped smile that immediately sets a tone of old friends catching up rather than a cross-country Skype call. Talking New York Fashion Week, Canada’s national treasure (hint: you probably know her too!), girl power and Toronto’s artistic renaissance, here’s Talya giving us an insight to her self-made, ultra-chic and creatively centered world.
Blanche Macdonald: A quick glance at your social media platforms tells us that you do a lot, but your main gig is PR.
Talya Lee: PR is my bread and butter and my outlet. The reality is that if you want to be doing something creative, it can be hard to make money. I found that with my role at Langton PR, it was a really great spot for me to be and I’m actually good at it! But because I have a great day job, I can be a bit pickier about the other projects I take on. Those vary from creative direction to styling to branding awareness and strategy; basically, whatever is needed visually. I’m very familiar with all kinds of art so I can connect to it in a lot of different ways. PR helps me translate the visual aspect into branding strategy.
BMC: Tell us about the PR work you do with Langton. What kind of events do you go to? What types of clients do you work with?
TL: Working at Langton has been a great learning experience. We focus largely on beauty and lifestyle brands and build multi-tiered initiatives. I myself get to straddle a couple of different roles such as Account Management as well as Social Media Strategies. Every day is completely different. Some days I’m planning a big event for a new product launch for key VIP media and other days it’s about driving a new social media campaign with influencers. We have been really lucky and worked over the years as a team and as individuals to build great initiatives around brands like Joico, Elizabeth Arden, Vita Liberata, and so many more. I think one very important lesson for all of us has been in learning the power of being a great team—working as a unit and not being afraid to get our hands dirty because the road to success isn’t always glamorous.
BMC: You must have made a lot of great connections so far in Toronto.
TL: It was a lot of pounding the pavement, but social media was really great for making connections and networking too. You can see someone’s gallery, for example, and you can immediately understand their hustle. I met a lot of people who I love to work with now just by reaching out over social media. The thing is, in this city everybody is a mover and a shaker, so it’s not weird to reach out to someone and say, ‘Hey, I love what you do. Can we connect?’ But I also did a lot of collaborations for free. As people started moving up in the world, they started taking me with them.
“Thank you for being alive and for following your heart.”
Makeup Superstar Roque Cozzette knows how to make a great first impression. And his beautiful opening words at his magical presentation at Blanche Macdonald’s Atelier Campus provided an apt introduction for a morning coloured with splashes of emotion, inspiration and creativity.
Roque’s makeup has appeared on runways and in print for Christian Dior, Valentino, Y3, Louis Vuitton, John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Victoria’s Secret, Prada and Givenchy. Creating professional grade products alongside high-end fashion looks; he’s also turned Infinite Makeup and his own Cozzette vegan brushes into global brands. In short, Roque Cozzette is makeup royalty.
Both his artistry and products were on display throughout a fascinating makeup demo, as Roque transformed Blanche Macdonald grad-turned-youtube beauty queen Trina Duhra into a shimmering explosion of fashion editorial colour. Throughout the application Roque answered questions from host, CurliQue Beauty Team Leader Jaylene McRae and students, covering topics ranging from Photoshop (“think about it as a colour tool”), to confidence (“It comes from having a standard look and building colour theory into my plan”) to the often underrated art of assisting (“You’re serving the higher good, and there’s greatness in that”).
Most of all though, Roque came to Canada’s top Makeup School to reinforce the importance of emotion, intuition and inspiration, whether it comes from individuals’ faces or motorcycle gas tanks.
“Being here means you’ve already taken the first step,” he explained. “Having the opportunity to create is the greatest joy. Be your most authentic self. I created this. You can create your dreams too.”
The rain-heavy clouds have only just swept past this city block and a crisp beam of winter sunlight now rays down upon the shop front of Vancouver’s Greenhorn Cafe. Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate-turned-instructor and eponymous label owner Sara Armstrong ambles up the sidewalk, folded in to the dark cocoon of her coat, and we pause together to marvel at the timely turn of the weather. As we upright a couple of chairs outside, brushing off a few errant drops of water, our conversation turns to the magnificent line and craftsmanship of her jacket.
“I finished it just now, actually. I’d been feeling a cape, but I think I might stick with this,” Sara says with a humble shrug. Her shoulders are framed in angled raglan seams, sloping and structured all at once.
When she speaks, it’s with dream-like deliberation; every word—the right word—matters, her sentences themselves like sharp garments patterned and sewn with precision. “My style is a strange combination of fashion and sculpture,” she says, “though I actually feel that combination should be more common. It’s about transforming a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional form. I reference this a lot in my architectural seams. My background in sculpture has also been helpful in being a bit more fearless with materials.”
Sara received her B.F.A in Intermedia & Sculpture from the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, the province she calls home and the city where her foray into art-as-career first began. Though she ultimately decided that sculpture wasn’t the medium for her, her studies became the lens through which she developed her fashion aesthetic: Dynamically arching lines and intriguingly formulated silhouettes that have garnered international acclaim.
“When I was doing my degree,” Sara says, “I was focusing mainly on public sculpture. I thought, ‘Well, what do you do – work on one project for five years? How do you stay inspired through that?’” She smiles. “Fashion design is my own kind of public sculpture, I suppose. Everyone can take a piece, and what I want people to do is to make their own stories and life around them. I don’t think of them as these trendy one-season pieces. I want the people who own them to incorporate them into their lives.”
It’s no secret that inspiration works differently for every artist, so as I sip the foam off my latte I wonder aloud how Sara goes about conceptualizing, building and showing a collection. “Silhouette, shape and form always come first when I’m thinking of a theme,” she begins after careful consideration. “Then I think about what it sounds like or what kind of scene it would be in. From there it runs into runway, music, and video. All of those things together make a collection. I can’t say that I’d be interested in showing a collection if I didn’t have them all because they’re what bring it to life. It’s completely holistic.”
Steven Carty Creates Fierce Beauty Dialogue as Drag Queen Raye Sunshine and Director of Education At Studio F/X!
As a child actor seeking stardom from the pastoral settings of Mission, BC, Blanche Macdonald Makeup graduate Steven Carty quite nearly had his break. Having been offered the role of Pugsley in macabre kin favourite, The Addams Family, Steven probably wouldn’t have been sitting here today, had it not been for his parents’ reluctance at the prerequisite husking up. As Steven put it, “being young and gay in Mission – you don’t need any more hardships.”
But when one door closes another opens, as the saying goes. And for Steven, calling scene on set life would lead him to spot lights worldwide.
“Watching the Hair and Makeup Artists work on transforming people like John Travolta and Kirstie Alley into their characters was so neat and it just stuck with me. When I was in hair and makeup it would be the best half hour of my life.
“In Grade 11 we did this big production of Stoker’s Dracula, and I got to create the dead Lucy and a vampire. That’s what sparked the thought of going to Makeup School and then meeting [Blanche Macdonald Admissions Director] Jill Wyness during my tour at 16 sealed the deal. I didn’t go to any school interviews after that and started right after graduation.”
Steven was met with a level of support and creative calibre that he remembers to this day. It wasn’t long after his first weeks that he realized the scope of professional opportunity now open to him.
“When I had the chance to see the work that my instructor, Michelle, was doing outside of the classroom, it really created a bond of respect. These are your teachers, but this isn’t just college, not just beauty school. When you graduate, these people can become your coworkers. You get the chance to grow with these teachers and if you are really pushing yourself and really want to learn more, you can. You have to connect and go a little bit further than just ‘Here’s my assignment.’
“I would be running up and down the halls in full face showing each and every teacher because I wanted everybody’s feedback. Every artist has a different way of doing things and that gives your learning this great diversity.”
THE 101 ON YUPIN TSAI – BLANCHE MACDONALD INTERNATIONAL FASHION MARKETING GRADUATE BIDS ON BRIGHT BEGINNINGS
Anyone meeting Yupin Tsai is immediately drawn into her gentle soft spoken shyness. Her personality is tucked away underneath expertly clashed prints, with a touch of dipped fuchsia red hair tickling her shoulders. With her straight cut bangs landing just-so above her brow, Yupin is self-composed with an insatiable heart for adventure. Her simple matter-of-fact attitude landed her in the hearts of our instructors, where she became a cherished student.
“At Blanche Macdonald everyone is striving for you to succeed.”
With a dream of retail buying on her mind, Yupin chose a fashion school to set her course. With her heart seeking a new city and her desire to develop her independence, the decision was clear.
“I decided to choose Blanche Macdonald after hearing about the school through a friend who also took the International Fashion Marketing program. Actually Blanche Macdonald is quite well known in Taiwan!”
While settling into a new city, the greatest challenge as an international student was language. Each day Yupin would stay after class to review the class material with Fashion Program Directors and Instructors, Peggy and Donna. This allowed her to see the deep care and responsibility the instructors invested in their students.
“I felt so appreciative and touched at the number of hours Peggy and Donna sat down with me after class just to make sure they had all my questions answered so I was able to keep up with the class.”