Blanche Macdonald Centre http://www.blanchemacdonald.com/ News from Blanche Macdonald Centre BLANCHE MACDONALD FASHION MARKETING GRADUATE TALYA LEE TALKS TRAVEL, PR, GIRL POWER AND TORONTO'S RENAISSANCE http://www.blanchemacdonald.com/news/current/2016/top-fashion-marketing-graduate-talya-lee/ #BMCSOCIALSAYERS: Fashion Marketing Graduate Talya Lee

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.

#BMCSOCIALSAYERS: Fashion Marketing Graduate Talya Lee

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. 

#BMCSOCIALSAYERS: Fashion Marketing Graduate Talya Lee

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.

 

BMC: Do you have any PR tips for those looking to get into the industry?

TL: Never stop doing your research. The landscape is changing constantly and it’s important to be plugged in. Pay attention to who and what is a ‘come-up’. You’re more likely to be able to get time to network or collaborate with them than you are with someone who is extremely established. Consider where you might want to be and figure out ways to create mutually beneficial learning experiences. I think it’s really important to remember how important your personal brand and reach is. So much of what you do is going to rely on your relationships and how people perceive you, so give a lot of thought to how you market yourself on social media and conduct yourself in public spaces. Also, decide what you feel passionate about and work towards working in that realm. I love beauty, fashion, music, art… I try to work in those areas as much as possible so I can find joy in the long days and long to-do lists!

 

BMC: On the flip side, what are some PR no-nos?

TL: Don’t speak negatively in shared spaces—online, parties, gatherings, et cetera. News travels quickly, and if you’re caught speaking negatively, especially early in your career, you’ll never recover from it. Don’t get drunk at networking events. Don’t forget to follow up. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, either—make sure you’re working as many angles and opportunities as you can. 

#BMCSOCIALSAYERS: Fashion Marketing Graduate Talya Lee

BMC: Let’s go back a little. Tell us about the career journey that took you from growing up in Edmonton to attending fashion school and then finally to making Toronto home?

TL: I was about to turn 25 and I realized that no matter what I was doing, I cared more about the clothes than what I was actually doing. I’ve always been obsessed with the ‘ensemble.’ I did some research and Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Marketing Program popped up with all of their impressive alumni. I knew people who had gone and loved it. Plus, I’d always wanted the chance to live in Vancouver for a minute. Blanche Macdonald is a school where you get from it what you put in and that was made clear to me at the beginning. I went into things with that attitude and it seemed to breed success for me. All the things you get to learn in the program—from Merchandising to the Marketing side of things, and then courses like Fashion History—they are so, so vital. [Executive Program Director] Peggy Morrison is a national treasure! I feel that getting to be in her classes really changed the course of my life – that’s when I started looking at fashion as a distinct art. [Fashion Director] Tyler Udall also served as a huge source of support and inspiration to me - he continues to keep up with my work and offers feedback when I need it. He was actually the one to push me towards PR. He told me it would come naturally to me. This was funny to me because it wasn’t my plan at all but he was totally right. 

Vancouver was perfection while I was there and I do miss it, but it wasn’t quite my speed and vibe. I initially went home to Edmonton for a minute and opened a boutique PR agency there. It was when I started getting opportunities in Toronto to cover Fashion Week for Kenton, a connection I made through [Blanche Macdonald Instructor] Lyndi Barrett while I was in school, that I realized this city was totally my vibe. So I sort of just integrated myself into it.

#BMCSOCIALSAYERS: Fashion Marketing Graduate Talya Lee

BMC: You founded HER Collective in 2014, not too long after graduating and moving to Toronto, and it’s become renowned as one of three all-female creative collectives in Eastern Canada. Plus, you have some rad Blanche Macdonald grads involved, like Lydia Okello of @styleisstyle. What was the inspiration behind that? 

TL: HER Collective was started based on my trust, work and energy exchanges with women in the creative community. I wanted to create a space where we could share ideas, projects and advice and where it was required that we promote each other and support each other without questions asked. It needed to be a space that was ours! We were all working hard on individual projects in fashion, beauty, PR, editorial, marketing, SEO/SEM, social media marketing, visual merchandising, writing, photography, styling—you name it, we were doing it—and we needed a meeting place for it. 

It started as a place for us to share our work with the world, but now it’s shifting into a platform that provides this safe space for creative and working women everywhere. We will be accepting input and contributions from women outside of the collective, so that they can share their work with our support and mentoring. Additionally, we want to work hard to continue to connect with and support other collectives run by women. I’m not interested in fighting to share the spotlight; I want us to commit to uplifting one another!

 

BMC: With so many projects on the go, do you have a motto or mantra you turn to that helps you power through them? 

TL: I do. I don’t know if it would work for everyone, but it works for me. It’s ‘Use your head, but work from the heart.’ A lot of people struggle—especially in this industry—with individuals who aren’t genuine, but I actually don’t know how to be like that. I’ve never been that person. I find that speaking from the heart and getting to know people has served me really well. So I work from the heart and work really hard. I still study and I try to not get too comfortable. I also try to practice integrity and humility all the time, but when I need to be confident, I find the confidence. So much of this life is about being a chameleon and adapting.

 

BMC: And what do you find drives you in your work?

TL: A lot of things! I’m hungry for greatness all the time and I’m always growing or pushing myself. I’m driven by message, and like anybody, I’m driven by results, especially longevity. You do a project, you knock it out and it goes into the world and that’s great. But five years later, that project could really mean something to somebody; I really like the idea of being able to leave my mark in some way, whatever it is. I’m also driven by other people’s ways of hustling and mentoring. I try to do that as much as possible. There’s a lot of joy in getting to be part of somebody else’s growth.

#BMCSOCIALSAYERS: Fashion Marketing Graduate Talya Lee 

BMC: What would you say is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?

TL: Being able to drive home a message of women supporting each other in creative fields is one of the things that makes me most proud, as well as being able to collaborate with the people I do. We work closely with as many other women as possible, removing the narrative that implies that women can’t work together. We consider teams like #Gyalcastbroke&living and LotusXGang to be our co-conspirators. We all pool our resources and work together to be better creatively and in business.

On a more tangible note, it was probably New York Fashion Week September 2013. That was a big week for me; I really connected with some people there and got to have a face-to-face with Kelly Cutrone, who really inspires me. I remember having this moment like, ‘If you work really hard, you’ll actually get to these spaces you only ever dreamed about.” I also did a really interesting project last year that I’m still so proud of. I styled a political film about the death of Michael Brown and the #BlackLivesMatter movement that went to Tribeca. I was so honored to do what I love on a project that meant so, so much.

 

BMC: You must bring a unique aesthetic to your work, then.

TL: I bring diversity to the projects I work on and a lot of references. I also study a lot. It’s the result of a lot of different kinds of exposure. My mom was a travel agent so my family was always traveling. We didn’t go to Disneyland, but we went to places like Singapore, Oman, Spain, and Japan—really amazing places that shaped [what] visually stimulates me now. But it’s constantly evolving. I’m always like, ‘I’m fucking with this right now and there’s this other reference I love over here; how can I combine them?’ A lot of it comes from me getting in touch with myself and knowing myself.

#BMCSOCIALSAYERS: Fashion Marketing Graduate Talya Lee

BMC: What was the last thing that inspired you? 

TL: I went to the Prado in Spain and saw ‘real life’ art there, like Picasso and that shifted things for me visually. That was [a kind of] art I hadn’t really taken in yet. I’m always inspired by music, no matter what’s happening. Luckily for me, I live in a city where a lot of the best music is coming from and I get to be part of that picture. I can’t explain the renaissance that’s happening over here in Toronto, but it’s epic.

 

BMC: Not too long ago, you were featured in Cosmopolitan for your impeccable street style. What style tips  do you have for the fashionable set wanting to work their street-style game? 

TL:

  1. Do you. Be authentic and don’t wear something if it doesn’t feel right for you.
  2. Wear shoes you can walk in.
  3. Take care of your body, hair and skin. Those are the places you exude confidence.
  4. Always have a really great jacket around that fits the season.
  5. Have your signatures. For me lately, it’s been Indian-inspired fashion like bindis, bangles and heavy eye makeup. Just connect with things you like and make them new and fresh for you!

 

Photo credit: via Talya Lee @talyalee on Instagram and Cris Saliba @justcriso on Instagram.

#BMCSOCIALSAYERS: Fashion Marketing Graduate Talya Lee

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Mon, 22 Aug 2016 00:00:00 PST
Blanche Macdonald Presents an M3 Workshop: ADVANCED ASIANA BRIDAL MAKEUP AND HAIR WITH FARAH HASAN http://www.blanchemacdonald.com/news/current/2016/m3-advanced-asiana-bridal-makeup-hair-workshop/ M3 Workshop: Advanced Asiana Bridal Makeup and Hair Workshop by Blanche Macdonald

M3 Workshop: Advanced Asiana Bridal Makeup and Hair Workshop by Blanche Macdonald

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Fri, 19 Aug 2016 00:00:00 PST
BLANCHE MACDONALD國際時尚市場營銷專業畢業生YUPIN TSAI http://www.blanchemacdonald.com/news/fashion/2016/top-fashion-school-graduate-yupin-tsai-chinese-language/ Yupin Tsai

初次見到Yupin Tsai的人,都會立刻被她輕柔又有些害羞說話方式所吸引。這樣內斂的性格,却藏在她一頭紫紅色挑染短髮和高於眉梢的齊瀏海造型下,极具反差。 Yupin有著一顆樂於冒險,不安於現狀的心。她簡單又實事求是的處世以及學習態度,讓她成為深受老師喜愛的學生。

“在Blanche Macdonald,每個人都在為了成功而奮鬥著。”

零售業採購一直是她夢想的工作,也正是因為如此,Yupin懷揣著夢想選擇來這裡開始她的學習。她的目標一直非常明確,那就是尋找一座新的城市去鍛鍊以及培養她的獨立性。

“我聽說有個朋友在這裡學習國際市場營銷的專業後,毅然決定來到Blanche Macdonald學習。其實Blanche Macdonald在台灣非常有名!”

來到一座新的城市生活,對於一個國際學生來說,最大的挑戰就是語言。每天放學後,Yupin都會專門留下和時尚營銷專業的系主任還有任課老師, Donna和Peggy 一同再復習一遍學習資料。這也讓她感受到學校的老師們對於學生非常的關心和負責。

“Peggy和Donna在下課後花費了無數小時和我坐在一起,僅僅是為了確保他們能夠幫助我解答了所有的課業問題,讓我可以跟上學習的進度。我非常感激他們,也非常感動。“

Yupin Tsai

來到溫哥華生活和學習令她成長了很多,不僅僅是學業上。她的其它方面的能力也都得到了很大的提高,離開父母身邊後的每一天,她都在不斷的成長和進步。

“我變得越來越獨立。以前我屬於那種‘媽寶’型的孩子,” 她一邊回憶,一邊不由笑了起來。“自從來到這裡生活,現在的我學會了如果做飯,如何在新的地方不迷路。”

畢業回到台灣後,Yupin很快就發現曾經在課堂里學到的知識,在她離開溫哥華後對她產生了很大影響和幫助。在BMC國際時尚營銷專業的學習給了她創業的自信,並且這影響著她每一天在自己創辦的電商公司 Nine to Night上的決策。憑藉著對台灣時尚文化的敏銳嗅覺和分析,她能夠有針對性的不斷滿足客戶們的需求。Yupin主要穿梭往返於泰國以及韓國兩地進行採購,並且通過社交媒體渠道建立與客戶們的聯繫,提升客戶忠誠度。在短短一個月之內,她就已經收穫超過3500個“贊”,並且這個數字還在不斷增長。

Yupin把所有她所學到的寶貴知識歸功與她的老師們,她已經具備了戰勝每一個挑戰的能力,變得更加獨立與自信。這一紙BMC的畢業文憑,不僅僅是一張文憑那麼簡單,而是一份她無限潛力的證明。

有沒有一些給其它學生的建議?

“不斷努力,並且對自己有責任感。你將會飛躍成長進步。”

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Mon, 15 Aug 2016 00:00:00 PST
Roque Cozzette Delivers a Brush with Inspiration at Blanche Macdonald http://www.blanchemacdonald.com/news/current/2016/roque-cozzette-special-guest/ Meet Makeup Legend Roque Cozzette!

“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.

Roque Cozzette at Blanche Macdonald Centre

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.”

Roque Cozzette at Blanche Macdonald

For the Blanche Macdonald and CurliQue Beauty team welcoming Roque to Vancouver, it was a pleasure spending quality time with the man and the artist behind the products they’ve already fallen in love with. 

“Since I first met Roque at the 2010 IMATS I’ve always felt a wonderful connection of artistry and friendship to him,” explained host Jaylene. “He has always shared his gracious personality so freely and also championed my own journey of artistry. I’ve witnessed time and time again the wonderful gifts he brings to our world with his education, artistry and spiritual insight. Anything he creates is exceptional and surrounded by love and his Cozzette brush collection is the best in the business! 

“We love the quality of the tools and the fact that they are a vegan option, but we’re also inspired by the exciting and passionate career of Roque! We call Cozzette brushes our ‘magic wands.’ They’re made to stand the test of time. I’ve had mine for years now and they still look and perform like new. They really allow us to create great makeup designs!  His outlook on life, artistry and business is fantastic and really contributes to our positive environment of continued learning. I have truly become a better artist and person by knowing him.”

Roque Cozzette at Blanche Macdonald

Speaking after his presentation, Roque could barely contain his enthusiasm for what he’d discovered on his first visit to Blanche Macdonald. 

“I connected to Blanche Macdonald through Jaylene and Jon Hennessey. I’ve known Jon from the time we were trainers at MAC. They introduced my products to the School, and through that the School was introduced to me.

“We often say that beauty is more than skin deep. I look at life that way. You can look at an establishment like this and you can feel its vibration. Each person I speak to here reinforces that. Blanche Macdonald has attracted really interesting, nice people. This is the most beautiful Makeup School, not only with the architecture and how it’s structured. That shows its creators’ intentions and the thought they’ve put into it.”

Roque Cozzette at CurliQue Beauty

Honesty took a front seat throughout Roque’s presentation. Even though he explained the engineering behind his superb brush line, he took pains to point out that it’s craft and creativity, not products, that make a makeup artist. If you need to use a Beauty Blender or your fingers, go for it!

“I have to tell the truth,” he explained. “No matter what product I create it’s not going to be a miracle for everyone. As an educator, I have to know what products are available and how they perform. If I’m going to be inspirational, I have to come from the vantage point of a Makeup Artist. Being a businessman is secondary.”

In front of a spellbound audience of Blanche Macdonald students and Makeup Instructors, Roque’s message of emotional investment resonated with everyone.

“You have instructors here that are inspiring and talented. When I do presentations like this I want those instructors to see that being genuine, open and understanding that we’re all different is the most important thing. I don’t expect people to do things like I do. I hope they do it better than me. We’re all different and that should be celebrated. 

“Speaking to students after the presentation, there were a lot of emotional people! When they see me here, I hope they understand that it’s ok to be yourself. I’m not trying to be anyone else. They seemed to think I was a real, down to earth person. That floors me every time!”

Roque Cozzette at Blanche Macdonald

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Tue, 09 Aug 2016 00:00:00 PST
SARA ARMSTRONG SCULPTS HER NICHE IN THE INTERNATIONAL FASHION DESIGN SCENE http://www.blanchemacdonald.com/news/current/2016/top-fashion-design-school-graduate-instructor-sara-armstrong/ Top Fashion Design Graduate and Instructor Sara Armstrong

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.”

Top Fashion Design Graduate and Instructor Sara Armstrong

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.”

Top Fashion Design School Graduate and Instructor Sara Armstrong

Taking cues from the melody of “Peruvian Nights,” Sara’s Spring/Summer 2015collection featured romantic, gender-inclusive looks with compelling proportion and a structured ease that fused urban design with the effortlessness of backcountry strolls at dusk.

Her vision continues to wow fashion media and fashionista fans alike. Last year, the third season of Sara’s eponymous label stalked down the runway of Vancouver Fashion Week to grand success. Reaching a new culmination of hype in the fashion community, eager requests for pre-orders and editorial pulls rained down upon her after the show. Her line was picked up—and featured on a global scale—by the likes of Vogue, Glamour UK, and ELLE Italia.

Top Fashion Design Graduate and Instructor Sara Armstrong

Of course, bringing a vision from mind to harmonious matter each season is no easy feat.

The support of a fantastic team, Sara adds, is essential for every task at hand. “A good leader—a good brand—has great people behind it. Delegation is huge because as someone who’s designing and working full-time and trying to build a type of brand, you can’t do it all on your own. 

“You need people with the right skills who are just as passionate. This is especially true the further I go with my collections, photo shoots and videos. Even my music last season was completely made from scratch. It’s the only way to really take it to the next level—you need next-level people.”

When it was time to expand her team of trustworthy associates, Sara returned to the Blanche Macdonald Fashion Marketing classrooms seeking PR expertise for her label and selected Laila Fox straight out of the program. She knew that hiring students from the Top Fashion School that first launched her own journey meant she could be confident in their knowledge, skills, and industry savvy.

Top Fashion Design Graduate and Instructor Sara Armstrong

Despite critical career success and global recognition, she still felt like she remained a part of that community during her ascension, having kept in touch with Fashion Career Director Mel Watts and the friends she made in the Fashion Design Program into her post-graduate years.

Of the courses she took, Fashion Awareness was a particular favorite. “I’m such a history buff,” she reveals, “so…Peggy Morrison’s Fashion Awareness class is still something I think about a lot when I’m designing. When I want to pair a sleeve, I think about how they might have done it in the 1940s or some Gothic era.” 

Would she say that her time in the program helped prepare her for the success she’s been met with at this stage of her ever-evolving fashion career? I ask her. Sara doesn’t hesitate. “There’s so much that I learned over that year and I literally use it every day. Even when I’m doing press releases, or writing out the description of a piece.”

Top Fashion Design Graduate and Instructor Sara Armstrong

Nowadays, it’s a desire to generate new experiences and to keep evolving that drive this self-professed ambitious designer forward—she’s forever on the move, taking in and drawing inspiration from the world at large. “I’m a lifelong learner,” she explains. “I love the academic environment.” After her string of runway and editorial successes, she’d made tentative plans to undertake a Masters degree in Britain when her mentor, Fashion Director and industry-renowned editor Tyler Udall, offered her a position at Blanche Macdonald lending her skills, advice and expertise to aspiring Fashion Designers. 

It’s a role she was able to slip right into, like an expertly tailored coat. “I love the collaborative aspect of teaching,” she says, “especially with design students. They’re working on their own collections and I like being able to problem solve with them. For many of them, it’s their first time making something. In the Blanche Macdonald classrooms there are a lot of people willing to experiment, not just make a pretty dress, and that’s where I love to be, in that experimental…”—she brings her hands together and curls them into an elegant sculptural shape, interlocking her fingers—“…dome. That’s where I live every day. It’s been fun.”

Top Fashion Design Graduate and Instructor Sara Armstrong

Sara’s academic background has helped shape her approach to mentorship, which is just as considered and deliberate as her aesthetic. “As a teacher, it’s important to be open to being taught something in return,” she says. “Whether it’s what I’ve been learning lately – like how to manage a room of 10 different types of personalities – or, for example, what to do when someone has a question and there isn’t one right answer, as there often isn’t. So how do we find the best way for them to do what they want to do? If you’re not learning from your students, you probably shouldn’t be teaching. In design, it’s about your own process as a student and not about right and wrong.” 

Latte finished, the ever-shifting sky above us silvers over. It looks like rain on the horizon once more. With what time we have left before the weather takes a turn for the worse, I ask Sara what’s next for her and her eponymous label. With a successful present that’s stuffed with projects and the responsibilities of teaching, how does a designer-in-demand draw up plans for the future? 

She has a few rules for herself—but that doesn’t mean she follows them to the letter. “I’m a loose person,” she qualifies with a laugh. Nothing can’t be experimented with. Still: “You have to give yourself the time to grow and go out and do things, but not enough to stop yourself from being hungry. You’ve got to keep yourself driven. You’ve got to give yourself a time limit. I’m a huge goal-setter; I have a life vision board; one year, two year, five year plans. It’s all up here.” She smiles and gestures to her brow.

Not that ambition ever stops her from experiencing the moments of joy that emerge—often delightfully and unexpectedly—from pursuing her passion. “I feel like I have an ‘aha moment’ every day,” she says. “I just have to do it. It’s an inclination to design and create.”

Top Fashion Design School Graduate and Instructor Sara Armstrong

With international recognition and strong local support so early in the game, Sara’s line is set to flourish in the years to come—and the world is eager to watch. Reflecting on her success so far, she has apt words of acumen for the next generation of emerging Fashion Design talent: 

“Own your craft. Own your future. Make your own curriculum. Go to your classes, do well in your classes, but also look outside in your community: What workshops can you take? What can you do to be the best version of yourself? When I went to [Blanche Macdonald], I really dove in…and was committed to learning what I wanted to learn.

“That’s the biggest thing,” she says. Across the table from me, her bright blue eyes stand out against the dark of her coat and the shifting light of the afternoon. “You can go to the best school but if you don’t have a vision of what you want to make—of who you are—then it doesn’t really matter. So own it.”

Top Fashion Design School Instructor and Graduate Sara Armstrong

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Wed, 03 Aug 2016 00:00:00 PST