Blanche Macdonald Centre News from Blanche Macdonald Centre Fashion Design Graduate Evan Clayton Spreads Artistry from Vancouver to Vienna to Vogue Canada's Top Fashion Design School Graduate Evan Clayton

Evan Clayton can remember the exact moment that he decided to become a Fashion Designer. Its memory is still the motivation behind every aspect of his design life.

“I was watching Fashion TV back when I was in high school,” he explains, “and they were profiling an Alexander McQueen show, ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Howe’, from Fall 2007, which was inspired by the Salem Witch Trials. Back then I was a little emo goth kid so I was instantly interested in witches and paganism. The day I saw that show I saw every other show of his I could on YouTube. As I started to learn more about Alexander McQueen and saw more of his shows, his work really spoke to me. A lot of people think fashion is something very superficial. But to me, fashion is a high art form. The designers I’ve come to admire and respect see it the same way and treat fashion as a narrative, which is what I like to do with my work too.”

Evan’s fine art approach to fashion is winning him fans around the world. The Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate received a four-season sponsorship to show his collections at Vancouver Fashion Week, which in turn has led to appearances on the web sites of some of the world’s most prestigious fashion magazines, including Glamour and British Vogue, and an invitation to show a collection at Austria’s Vienna Fashion Week.

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Evan Clayton

For the young man from the Kootenay region of the BC interior, it’s already been an incredible journey.

“I spent a lot of my teenage years in Fruitvale, which is the opposite of a fashion hub. But fashion was always part of me. I worked at Bootlegger there for five years. It was the only place in town that had anything to do with fashion. I would grab every copy of Vogue I could get my hands on and I took as many art courses as my tiny high school in Trail offered.”

Having been inspired by Alexander McQueen, after graduating from high school Evan’s only question was where he’d go for his fashion education. 

“I looked at a lot of fashion schools, but there was something about Blanche Macdonald that stood out to me. My Admissions Director, Mary Hombrebueno, is a wonderful person. She put me at ease and showed me a path that I wanted to go down. The campus was beautiful, and meeting Peggy Morrison and finding out that she was from Trail was the cherry on the top.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Evan Clayton

When Evan arrived at Canada’s #1 Fashion School he was only 18. But he had big ideas and, even more importantly, a willingness to push himself.

“I struggled with Pattern Drafting during the first semester,” he admits. “At the same time, I was used to grabbing every source of fashion I could growing up, so having Peggy’s Fashion Elements and Fashion Awareness classes hone that database was really enjoyable. I loved all her stories and the wonderful gifts she’d bring into class. It was incredible. After that I really got into the swing of the program.

“For the Graduate Fashion Show my collection was called Artemis and Apollo. It was a play on a traditional masculine figure – Apollo being a masculine figure who’s the god of music, and Artemis being a beautiful woman who’s the goddess of the hunt. I was interested in the gender juxtaposition. I really pushed myself to work with fabrics I’d never worked with before. I wanted to learn as much as I could. I did things with my grad collection that my sewing instructor, Brenda Swinglehurst, had never even seen before, like a whole dress made from moulded leather. The night of the show was wonderful. I loved it! It was a rush that I’d never had before. It was breathtaking.”

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Evan Clayton

Evan didn’t have a design position to step into after he graduated. Crucially however, he kept working in the fashion industry. And he kept designing.

“I took a job at Holt Renfrew and started learning the business side of fashion. A few months later I saw photos from David Jack’s show, loved it and got in touch asking if he wanted an intern. He called me a month later and we did a couture gown together made of bathroom tissue for the White Cashmere Collection.

“My boyfriend works with Smashbox Cosmetics, and he got me a job coordinating the Makeup for Fashion Week. I guess they could see my drive and how hard I worked. Jamal Abdourahman who runs Vancouver Fashion Week saw my work, and on the strength of five or six sketches, he offered me a four-season sponsorship. I was totally blown away. If someone’s giving you a golden opportunity, you’re not going to half-ass it.”

Evan wanted to make a splash with his first Vancouver Fashion Week collection. He succeeded.

“My first collection was called The Fall of Joan and was inspired by a Lady Gaga song, ‘Princess Die,’ about the death of the modern superstar and her rebirth. I took that theme and applied it to the story of Joan of Arc. I read a lot and watched a lot of documentaries to learn what kind of woman she was and her change of moods leading up to her execution. There were 16 looks and about 43 pieces. I wanted to shock people. I wanted people to remember me. I had gas masks and fake blood coming out of the models’ mouths.”

Even though he’d graduated a year and a half earlier, Evan was still benefitting from the wisdom of the team at Blanche Macdonald.

“I still talk to Mel Watts all the time. I always show her the collection before it goes on the runway. She always steers me in the path that she thinks is best. And she’s always right. After my first season she told me to tone down the theatrics. I wanted blood and half-naked girls. She told me that I needed to show that I could design clothes. It was great advice.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Evan Clayton

Evan took that advice and created a collection that’s been generating a buzz around the world. 

“The collection was called Jenova. It was inspired by Yoshitaka Amano, an artist for the Final Fantasy series. I played Final Fantasy an embarrassing amount as a kid! Jenova is a character in the series who is both male and female. That masculine/feminine thing that something I play with a lot in my work. The collection was about unity through difference. I know people say I make theatrical, unwearable clothes. So I wanted to prove them wrong, and show that I’m not just a showman. I’m a designer too.

“That collection made me the first recipient of the Nancy Mak Award. She was a big part of launching Vancouver Fashion Week. The Vienna and the Vancouver Fashion Weeks are sending each other designers, and I was nominated to go over there. I was getting the girls together moments before the show, and with no warning I was told to go on stage to make a speech because I’d just won a sponsorship to show in Vienna. That was the first I knew about it. I cried for a few minutes, then got on stage, made a complete ass of myself, then did the show.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Evan Clayton

On runways and on line around the world, Evan is following in the footsteps of his hero Alexander McQueen. There’s a long way to go, but he’s on the right path.

“I feel like I’m taking baby steps,” he smiles. “I’m just starting and I know I have more to offer as an artist and a designer. With these wonderful opportunities I’m going to take leaps and bounds. It’s not my time yet, but it’s coming soon.”

Photos provided by: Evan Clayton (@evan_clayton), Photographers Viranlly for Style Calling, Eugene Flores, Mike Phang and Yiheng Su for Vancouver Fashion Week, Victoria Radbourne, HUSH Magazine, Style by Fire, Style Nine to Five, and @otthobot.

Tue, 15 Apr 2014 00:00:00 PST
Pro Hair Graduate Kristina Bellagente Makes Extensions Matter with Pacific Hair Top Hair School Graduate Kristina Bellagente

Kristina Bellagente always loved hair but wasn’t sure that she wanted to work in a salon. So she found a job in the industry that suits her perfectly, becoming an Extensions Specialist at Pacific Hair Extensions. Now she delivers bespoke extensions solutions to clients who want added length and thickness, and clients who need additional coverage after suffering from unwanted hair loss.  

“Working here makes you aware of the reality a lot of people face,” she explains. “We specialise in extensions and hairpieces, so we have many clients who suffer from different types of hair loss. We have clients who have naturally thin or fine hair and want that extra body, and clients who suffer from many different types of hair loss due to alopecia or who are going through chemotherapy. It feels really great to be able to make them all feel confident and put a smile on their face, no matter what their reason for coming to us is.” 

It was only natural that Kristina would end up in the Extensions business. Growing up in Victoria, she was the teenager whose hair always had to look perfect. Soon after graduating high school she secured a job for herself doing clip in extensions (and, for a brief time, tape in extensions) with Luxury Hair. 

“I started out doing extensions, selling styling tools and hair product with Luxury,” continues Kristina, “and I ended up travelling with them doing promotional tours and trade shows. I worked for Luxury for two years and really enjoyed my time with them, but I always knew I wanted to learn colour and cutting. I wanted to be able to do everything, so I realized it was time to go to hair school and get professional training.

“When I started looking into hair schools the only place that offered extensions in its curriculum at that time was Blanche Macdonald. I thought, why not move from Victoria to Vancouver for a year? Vancouver is amazing!” 

Top Hair School Graduate Kristina Bellagente

Kristina took the ferry across the Georgia Straight and began her Hair School adventure. Like the styles and techniques she was learning, the education was transformative. 

“I felt myself changing a lot. I became more confident. I’ve always been outgoing and felt like I had potential. At Hair School that potential came to the surface. I knew I was doing what I loved and that it would be my career. In that first level at Blanche Macdonald you start learning about the client-stylist relationship. And they never let you forget that throughout the course.  

“The most exciting part to me was the extensions level. The only methods I’d done with Luxury Hair were clip in and tape in extensions. At Blanche Macdonald we learned braiding, the technique we do at Pacific, and we learned how to do fusions and microlink extensions. It was all really great. Everyone at Hair School gets excited about different parts of the program. The instructors can definitely tell which aspects of the course you enjoy the most and a lot of people love cutting or colour. I liked doing those things, but I’d light up when people started talking about extensions. I remember coming into the school salon one day when another student had a client for extensions booked in. She didn’t want to do it and I was like, ‘I’ll do it!’” 

Alongside her amazing hair training, the Blanche Macdonald Pro Hair Instructors also provided Kristina with a suggestion of where she could begin her career with a job that suited her perfectly. 

“I just couldn’t see myself being a normal stylist,” she admits. “So Jeff Ranger told me about this company called Pacific Hair Extensions. I came in, dropped my résumé off and got a call back to come in for an interview. They told me that this isn’t a job for everybody. You have to really love extensions to do this. I knew right away this was exactly where I wanted to work.”

Top Hair School Graduate Kristina Bellagente

Pacific was looking for a stylist who loved extensions. Once they found Kristina, they stopped looking. 

“My initial impression of Kristina was that she’s a young woman who pays meticulous attention to presenting herself as a professional,” explains Yanie Sesay, the owner of Pacific Hair Extensions. “I was struck by how genuinely interested she was in our clients, both in terms of technically providing the best service she can offer, as well as being a friend and lending an empathetic ear during trying times. Kristina quickly became an invaluable member our team.

“Working with Kristina on a day-to-day basis is an immense treat for me. I've been in this business for a long time and it’s a rarity to come across a young person who is not only conscientious in the way they present themselves, but consistently supportive of their team and of her clients. Providing a host of services for clients undergoing medical and aesthetic hair loss can be quite challenging at times. Our roles run the gamut from advising clients of the best timing for wig fittings after chemotherapy, to helping a movie star in Vancouver for a week with her meticulously placed faux-hawk extensions. Kristina is very adept at switching from these various roles, in a way that leaves the clients feeling beautiful and confident.” 

“Discretion is one of our major goals at Pacific Hair, which is one of the reasons we offer all private rooms,” continues Kristina. “We want to make coming here almost like a spa experience. It’s a very personal service and for some clients, it can be like therapy for them. We like to make our clients feel as comfortable as possible and know that we are all here to make them happy and feel as though they can really open up to us. I know a lot of stylists have that close relationship with clients, but here it’s taking it to another level. I’m always myself no matter who the client is. They say I’m easy to talk to and it feels amazing to have that kind of responsibility. It’s almost like they can talk to us like they’d talk to their doctor. Of course, we’re not doctors, so if we do notice something like accelerated hair loss, we’ll recommend that they see their doctor. Any hairdresser should do that though. We might notice it more, because we see clients every six to eight weeks.”

Top Hair School Graduate Kristina Bellagente

It’s no surprise that clients are falling for Kristina. She’s bursting with enthusiasm for her work, both for the challenge and creativity that each new head requires, and for the results and happiness her work is producing.   

“I love to see the transformation!” she beams. “Our work looks so real you’d have no idea they’re extensions. I came here straight from Hair School, and to get the feedback that I’ve been getting is incredible. I’m seeing my results so soon and it feels really good. We have clients coming from Vancouver Island and even the States to see us. The quality here is unbelievable. I’ve been working with extensions for a few years and this is the highest quality hair that I’ve seen. When people have been wearing wigs, hair pieces or extensions for a long time and they finally discover us, they’re like, ‘Why haven’t I come here sooner?’”

Kristina Bellagente's Top 5 Favourite Hair Products

Tue, 08 Apr 2014 00:00:00 PST
GLOBAL MAKEUP GRAD AYA COULTER IS DIOR’S MAKEUP ARTIST OF THE YEAR Canada's Top Makeup School Graduate Aya Coulter, Winner of Dior Makeup Artist of the Year

When Blanche Macdonald graduate Aya Coulter speaks about her triumph at Dior’s North American Makeup Artist Competition, the memories from her time in New York come flooding back.

“I was the final Makeup Artist to step up and speak about my work,” she explains. “I walked up the red carpet with my model and presented to the judges. I spoke about my passion for everything Dior. And I tried to speak loudly! When the judges announced the first and second runners up for some reason I thought they’d announced the winner. I thought, well at least I had a great experience. Then the head judge said, ‘We have two people with the same scores, so we’re going to have two winners’. Then he announced my name. I cried so much! Even though I knew they were filming it.”

Aya has come a long way to reach the acclaimed heights of being named Dior’s Makeup Artist of the Year. Literally. She was raising her two young children in Chiba, Japan when the 2011 earthquake led to the decision to move her family to her husband’s hometown of Vancouver. 

Aya had been to Canada before. She’d spent a year in Halifax (“It was so cold!”) learning English. It was also where she’d fallen in love with a certain beauty line.

“I had always wanted to learn how to do Makeup,” she smiles. “I wasn’t good at it at all, but I could tell that it would make people happy and confident. You put on a little pink lipstick and it would change you a lot. In Halifax I met an amazing Makeup Artist at a Dior counter. He brought me into the world of Dior. He had so much passion for the brand. It inspired me a lot. I went back to Japan and the first thing I did was send a résumé to Dior. I got an interview and they offered me a job on the makeup counter. They trained me and I was learning at the counter every single day for four years. I was in love with Christian Dior’s passion for fashion, makeup and beauty. I loved being a part of the brand.” 

Canada's Top Makeup School Graduate Aya Coulter, Winner of Dior Makeup Artist of the Year

Aya moved to Vancouver a month and a half after the earthquake struck, arriving without a permanent residence card or a work permit. Even though she had her two children to look after, she insisted on staying busy. 

“My mother-in-law suggested that I go to school. There was only one thing I wanted to study – makeup! So I googled it and asked people where I should go. That’s how I found Blanche Macdonald. I came in for a look around and talked to Heather Sosa. I could feel the passion. 

“Once I started Makeup School it was great! The teachers were so amazing and helpful. I took the Global program, so even though I knew the basics of beauty from working for Dior in Japan I was learning new things and challenging myself. I don’t like scary pictures so the Film and TV and Makeup Effects parts of the course were a little challenging, but there are so many similarities to beauty makeup. You’re still focusing on the structure of the face. I was able to take what I learned in those classes and bring it back to beauty. I learned a lot and grew my confidence. I was learning more than makeup. I was learning how to work with people. Listen to your teachers at Makeup School! It’s the little things they say that can be the most important lessons, not only about makeup skills, but being in the industry.”

Aya also used Blanche Macdonald’s Career Department to get her career up and running.

“I volunteered as much as I could. I had schoolwork and a family to take care of, but the rest of my time I wanted to keep busy. I volunteered for Dior and was demoing for Maggie Chung. I would do fashion shows and photo shoots. I would teach Makeup classes for flight attendants. I felt myself getting more confident. 

“Once I had my work permit I talked to Heather Sosa and she helped me get a job with Dior at the Oakridge Centre. Lina Tse, my manager, put me into my current position. She called me right after my interview to give me the job. She could tell I had a passion for Dior.”

She was already a great Makeup Artist, but with a full-time position, Aya was excited about getting even better.

“Oakridge is the third busiest Dior counter in Canada but we still provide a very personalized service. Every day I have different ethnicities and different skin types in my chair, but it’s more personal that that. Everyone has their own individual concerns. Even if I don’t see the problem, if the person in my chair thinks it’s a concern then it is a concern. If they’re not happy, I have to make them happy. It can be difficult but I enjoy the challenge. When I see their smiles when they look in the mirror it makes me so happy. It makes my day!”

Canada's Top Makeup School Graduate Aya Coulter, Winner of Dior Makeup Artist of the Year

When she’s not on the Dior counter, Aya has also become a busy freelance fashion Makeup Artist around Vancouver.

“I like doing fashion photo shoots. I recently shot with Patrick Widejko. He did a photography workshop and I was the Makeup Artist for that. He’s amazing! When I do creative shoots I have to go more over to the artistic side. What I do with Dior is basic day and evening looks. With a shoot I can go a little more creative. I’ll take any opportunity, because it challenges me.”

Not all challenges are created equal. And Aya aimed high from her first day with Dior in Canada. As soon as she heard about Dior’s North American Makeup Competition, she knew she had to be involved.

“I told my trainer, Jason O’Brien, ‘I have to go to that competition!’ My dream is to join the Dior Pro Team and be an International Show Artist. I need to get known to do that, so I knew I had to get my name out there. Every time I saw Jason, our Regional Manager Mira Kramar, our National Trainer Angie Semple or Dior’s Account Executive Leigh-Ann Preston, I’d ask them what I needed to do to get into the competition. After a year developing my skills at Oakridge, Jason gave me an exam – I had to do a makeup and give a presentation in front of him and Lina, just like the actual competition. He sent it to the head office in New York, and Angie chose me as one of the 20 finalists! I felt like I’d already won just making the competition. But I still wanted to win when I was there.

“When I arrived in New York I had a training session with the International Trainer and Show Artist, and the second day we did our competition makeup in a studio. The theme was Red Carpet Glamour, inspired by one of four classic Dior fragrances. I chose Hypnotic Poison. I focused on my complexion. Hypnotic Poison is very seductive but I kept it very clean for the red carpet. When you see the Oscars, the look is very clean. I used a few colours, including dark purple lips, Hypnotic Poison colour, but it was still very natural.”

Canada's Top Makeup School Graduate Aya Coulter, Winner of Dior Makeup Artist of the Year

The judges recognized Aya’s subtle brilliance and bestowed her with the honour that her incredible journey deserved. Her tears and triumph are testament to the transformative power of Makeup that Aya understood long before she ever came to Dior and Canada.

“I’m very shy. I don’t like to speak up in front of people. But when I’m working, I can flip that switch. I become Makeup Artist Aya, and that’s different from the normal me. I talk more. I make the person in my chair comfortable. I want what to give them Makeup that they can do every day and products that reflect their personality and lifestyle. I want them to get excited about their makeup and I want them to come back to me. I want people saying, there’s a Makeup Artist called Aya and I trust her. Those are the moments I love!”

Canada's Top Makeup School Graduate Aya Coulter, Winner of Dior Makeup Artist of the Year

Wed, 02 Apr 2014 00:00:00 PST
Beauty is on the Eyes of the Beholders for Blanche Macdonald Graduates Vanessa Lin and Koko Mochizuki Top Nail School Graduates Vanessa Lin and Koko Mochizuki of Kinjou Lashes

They met on the Nail Parlour Program at the Blanche Macdonald Centre, but Vanessa Lin and Ryoko ‘Koko’ Mochizuki aren’t in the mani/pedi business any more. Instead, they took what they learned at Canada’s #1 Spa School and applied it to an entirely new field, beautifying the eyes of Vancouver at Kinjou Lashes. 

“Vanessa never even said hi!” laughs Koko. “At the time she didn’t speak much English, which is why she didn’t talk to me. I remember that after graduation a group of us went for sushi in Burnaby. I thought she was very mysterious.”

“Well,” smiles Vanessa, “I’m special!”

Vanessa jokes, but she’s telling the truth. She’s the owner of a growing lash extension business who first came to Canada from her native Taiwan to study English. When she discovered that she liked both Vancouver and the beauty business, Blanche Macdonald offered an ideal solution.

“I wanted a Canadian Diploma so I could work in Canada,” she explains, “so I came to Blanche Macdonald. I wanted to be a proud graduate with a Diploma from a prestigious institution.”

Top Nail School Graduates Vanessa Lin and Koko Mochizuki of Kinjou Lashes

Just a couple of months earlier, Koko had joined Blanche Macdonald’s Nail Parlour Program after a school in Langley she’d enrolled in had unexpectedly closed its doors.

“Blanche Macdonald is the most famous school in Vancouver. I didn’t want another ‘closed down school’ experience again. So I chose the most trustworthy school, even though it was so far from where I lived.”

Although Vanessa and Koko hardly knew each other while at Nail School, after graduating their paths would cross again.

“I became friends with a nail client of mine who wanted her lashes done every two weeks,” continues Vanessa. “She was looking to start a company and wanted me to get into that business with her. That became Feather Lashes Beauty Lounge.”

After a couple of years her partner wanted to explore other directions. Vanessa was happy to take over the business and changed the name to Kinjou Lashes. Although with just one employee at the time, Vanessa needed another pair of enthusiastic hands to train. For Koko, who had just graduated from the Esthetics Program at Blanche Macdonald, the timing was perfect.

“I had an employee who’d been to Blanche Macdonald,” smiles Vanessa. “She told me she had a classmate who was interested in lashes. I messaged Koko on Facebook and asked her that if she wanted to try learning eyelash extensions, we could work together.”

Top Nail School Graduates Vanessa Lin and Koko Mochizuki of Kinjou Lashes

“I was a guinea pig!,” smiles Koko. “I’d gone back to Blanche Macdonald to take the Esthetics Program. I knew it wouldn't hurt to have another skill set.” 

Vanessa and Koko have been working together at Kinjou Lashes ever since; their growing clientele testament to the care and professionalism they take with everyone that comes through their doors.

“We have consultations and ask what kind of lashes clients want,” explains Vanessa. “Often clients don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, so we’ll ask if they usually wear mascara or false lashes. If they bring their false lashes we can check and see how long they like them. For people who wear mascara, we recommend adding extensions an extra third of their normal length.

“We are different. The technique here is really important. We don’t attach lashes to your skin. A lot of places do. We have a lot of SOS clients who come in and we have to remove their extensions. Then we’ll give them a minimum of two weeks for their own lashes to grow back before giving them fresh extensions. Clients are normally nervous the first time they come here, but the second time they come, they always fall asleep while we’re doing the application.”

“We don’t do cookie cutter jobs here,” adds Koko. “We’re honest with clients. If clients have damaged lashes we won’t do an application. We’ll help them repair their lashes then get them to come back for extensions later. We know what to apply and we won’t apply lashes that aren’t perfect. Customer service is very important to us. We always explain what we’re doing. We won’t touch your skin or do anything that will cause your natural lashes to fall off or get infected. You’re coming for lash extensions to beautify your eyes. So why would you want to damage them?

“When clients come back we check every lash and see if they’re glued properly or if they’re coming loose and moving around. We remove any extensions that need to be removed, clean the natural lashes, then attach brand new extensions. When clients come here for the first time they’re surprised that they don’t feel a thing. They sometimes say, ‘Have you done anything?’ Then I’ll give them a mirror and it looks great.”

Professionalism is essential to everything they do at Kinjou Lashes. So is creativity.

“It’s art!” insists Koko. “We design your eyes. Some lashes aren’t suitable for some eye shapes.”

“We study that in our training,” confirms Vanessa. “We’ll look at how different eyes work with different lashes. If you have patience, you can do this. We can train you to have a steady hand. If your lashes are healthy, we can do 200 or more extensions in an hour.”

Top Nail School Graduates Vanessa Lin and Koko Mochizuki of Kinjou Lashes

Kinjou Lashes’ professionalism and creativity is paying off. Clients looking to keep their lashes in pristine condition will return for a relaxing refill application every two weeks. That keeps Vanessa and Koko busy. To cope with demand, Vanessa is looking at opening up a second branch in Richmond. As an expert in her field, she’s also supplying extensions technicians across Canada as the official national distributor of Neicha Lashes. It’s a growing industry. And Kinjou is at the forefront.

“When we opened the store customers would walk in and ask ‘what are eyelash extensions?’” recalls Koko. “We don’t get that now. People know what’s going on with their eyes now and are taking the time to educate themselves.”

“It’s become popular because it looks natural and the results are really good,” explains Vanessa. “I have a lot clients who see people looking at them differently. Like, ‘Are those real lashes?’ There isn’t another salon in Vancouver who can do it like us. That’s because of our technique.”

Even though Vanessa and Koko are moving the entire Eyelash Extension Industry forward, they haven’t forgotten where they came from. They’re still using the lessons they learned at Blanche Macdonald on a daily basis.

“I remember our field visits to various salons,” recalls Vanessa. “I learned a lot from these salon operators. Studying sanitizing practices really helped me prepare to comply with all the regulations the industry demands.” 

“I learned how to speak to clients to understand more about them,” adds Koko. “It’s important to ask clients about their lifestyle because they won't always tell you. They could be doing things that will cause a lot of trouble for eyelash extensions. Things like hot yoga, for instance. We ask and listen to how they live day-by-day, which helps us arrange and choose their lash thickness, length, curve and glue.

“Whatever you’re doing in the beauty business, learning to talk to clients is a very important skill to have!”

Top Nail School Graduates Vanessa Lin and Koko Mochizuki of Kinjou Lashes

Tue, 25 Mar 2014 00:00:00 PST
Makeup Graduate Renee Bruinsma Creates Style with Stila Top Makeup School Graduate Renee Bruinsma

Never underestimate the power of instinct. Ten years ago a teenage Renee Bruinsma was idly surfing the Internet in her home in Abbotsford when an ad for the Blanche Macdonald Centre popped onto her screen. 

“I thought, that sounds really cool, so I sent them a message,” she recalls. “I got an email back an hour later and set up an interview. I started the program four months later.”

Ten years after that fateful day in front of her computer, Renee’s loving her job as Regional Manager for Western Canada for ACI Brands, a nationwide distributor for luxury Makeup lines like Stila, Cargo, RapidLash, Anna Sui, Ceramic Glaze, St Tropez and many more. Just as she was inspired by an ad, now she’s inspiring Makeup Artists from Vancouver Island to Winnipeg to the frozen north of Fort McMurray. 

“I’m still doing hands-on training, which I love, but I’m also looking after the business side. I have to focus on stores making their sales goals, so we do a lot of events to help them. I lead a lot of master classes as a Guest Artist, doing demos for specially invited clients.

“I still get to be creative every day, just not always on someone’s face. I’m always thinking, how can I get a team inspired about a certain brand?”

It’s no coincidence that Renee’s daily task is getting clients and Makeup Artists excited about Stila. It was the line she fell in love with at Canada’s #1 Makeup School.

Top Makeup School Graduate Renee Bruinsma

“Sharlene Gill was my instructor for the Retail Module, and she told me that I was going to present on Stila. She just said, ‘You’re a Stila girl.’ She saw that I would connect to the brand. I went home, researched it and thought it was amazing! I went to the counter at Holt Renfrew, they gave me all this information and I did an awesome presentation. Sharlene suggested that I should try to get a job at the counter, and I started working at Holt Renfrew when I was still a student at Makeup School.”

Renee’s year at Blanche Macdonald kick started her career. It also fired her creative imagination.

“The entire year was amazing. I didn’t go in with expectations. I tried to experience every module and see what spoke to me. I had Holland Miller as my Special Makeup Effects instructor. He’s such a cool, talented person. I’m a perfectionist, so if I’m doing a bald cap it’ll be the best I can do it. Deep down though, I knew I liked doing pretty Makeup. That’s where I could let my creative energy out, but it was still great to learn from teachers like Holland. You get out of Blanche Macdonald what you put into it and I put 150% into it. There are opportunities there. I put a lot of work into every project I did and I volunteered at all the events at counters that I could. I was busy but it was awesome. I wanted to learn so much. I still do. Because I’d already had this great start in retail I wanted to follow this path and see where it would lead. I graduated, was hired full-time by Stila and was flown to Santa Barbara for five days for one-on-one training with their Creative Director, Sarah Lucero. It was epic.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Renee Bruinsma

In less than a year Renee had been promoted to Counter Manager at Holt Renfrew, where she continued to refine her Makeup skills and discovered her talent for promotion. 

“I could put into practice everything I’d learned. I built up my client file, worked hard and always had a positive attitude. I wanted to make sure I was the best I could possibly be when I was at Holt Renfrew. As a Manager I was still doing Makeup, but I was in charge of these huge events too. We’d have an event over two days with big sales targets, and it would be on my shoulders to meet them. Any time there was a new collection we’d do a launch with the new products and invite as many people as possible. There would be a lot of responsibilities, but it felt natural. I like organising and seeing results.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Renee Bruinsma

After two and a half years at Holt Renfrew Renee was poached to be a Beauty Expert at Shoppers Drug Mart. For a young Makeup Artist fascinated by the industry, it was another opportunity.

“I thought that this would be something new to learn. I knew department stores. Now I could learn drug stores. It was a really great experience. I was able to take on new business and management roles. I had to know all the brands, not just one. Shoppers Drug Mart is all about sitting people down and seeing what works for them, so I was able to get each customer in my chair trying different brands. That opened my eyes to what other products could do. It was cool because I’m a huge product junkie. Now I have to stay in the industry! I need to know what’s new all the time. If I didn’t, I’d go crazy!”

Just because Renee had access to every line at Shoppers didn’t mean she didn’t have personal favourites. A special affinity to a certain French brand provided the inspiration for another career goal that would soon be met.

“I loved Dior!” she laughs. “I was obsessed! I wanted to make Dior one of the biggest brands in my store. I wanted to prove to Dior I could do it, because I wanted to work for them too. I would put on cool events and really pump up the brand in the store. I told the Dior Account Executive that I wanted to be on their Demo Team and started working for Dior as a Pro Artist on my days off from Shoppers. Sure I was working six or seven days a week, but I feel like the more you can learn and the more you can do the better!”

Renee’s hunger for more was appreciated and understood by her Manager at Shoppers Drug Mart, Rhonda MacMillan. So when Rhonda heard that a job was available with Stila and ACI even though she was sad to see Renee leave, she knew it was the perfect position for her.

“That’s the kind of person Rhonda is,” smiles Renee. “She is one of the most inspiring people I know. A quote comes to mind when I think of her; ‘a true leader raises up leaders.’ That’s Rhonda in a nutshell and I will always appreciate her kind spirit.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Renee Bruinsma

Renee’s been the Regional Manager for Western Canada since the beginning of the year, working one-on-one with her team of reps and spreading the gospel of ACI Brands across the country.

“The bottom line is meeting sales goals. To make sure those goals are met I’m always motivating people and seeing what we can do to get their levels up. The people are the joy of the job. I get excited to see them to the point where they’re so awesome that I don’t even feel like I’m working. Some stores feel like my family.” 

Which is exactly why Renee feels like a proud parent when she has the chance to come back to Blanche Macdonald and CurliQue Beauty to inspire to the next generation of Artists.

“I never want to leave when I come to Blanche to speak to students. I feel honoured that they want to have me. Blanche Macdonald helped me, so if I can help people here I will. I hired Bonnie Chan when she was a student here. Now she’s the Counter Manager at The Bay. I did a presentation at CurliQue and she approached me after and asked, ‘How do I get to be where you are?’ I thought, that’s a good attitude, so I asked for her résumé and invited her onto my Demo Team. She didn’t have much experience but she had the right attitude.”

For ten years Renee has been spreading inspiration onto faces across Canada. Not bad going for an adventure that started with a click of a mouse. 

“My journey hasn’t gone as I expected it at all,” she laughs. “I didn’t have an agenda, but things have fallen into place. Thanks to the love of my life for always believing in me. I couldn’t be happier!”

All photos provided by Renee Bruinsma @reneekaur@stilacosmetics, and @stilagirlcanada on Instagram.

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Tue, 18 Mar 2014 00:00:00 PST