Blanche Macdonald Centre News from Blanche Macdonald Centre INSPIRATION TAKES SHAPE AT THE BLANCHE MACDONALD FASHION DESIGN ALUMNI SHOW AT VANCOUVER FASHION WEEK Blanche Macdonald's inaugural 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.


Alex S. Yu (@alexsyu) - Taiwan-born and Canadian-raised Alex S. Yu aimed to blend his worldviews, his nationalities and his cultures together in his collection "THE PERCEIVED ANALOGY." Leaving us speechless, Alex’s work proved that identity is fascinating, complex, and ever-shifting. His contemporary designs are synonymous with youth and whimsy. Alex was selected as this year'sNancy Mak Award recipient which celebrates innovation and the evolution of new designers within the industry. With this award, he is also given the opportunity to show his collection in the London or Paris showroom. 

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate Alex S. Yu at Vancouver Fashion Week BMC Alumni Show SS17

Chloe Prusa (@prusadesigns- We stepped into the boudoir with Chloe Prusa. The Victoria, BC-native designer explored the traditional design techniques of classic lingerie sets, using lace and leather in creative new ways in her collection “UNWEARABLE,” an homage to “classic kink.” 

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate Chloe Prusa at Vancouver Fashion Week SS17

Dasha Volokhova (@dashavolokhova) - Gleaning inspiration from historical costumes, Russian-born Dasha Volokhova's designs combined old-world aesthetics with new-world fashion. Focusing on intricate needlework and fabric manipulations, Dasha's designs were nothing less than wearable works of art.

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Dasha Volokhova at Vancouver Fashion Week SS 17

Evan Clayton (@evanclayton) - Taking cues from the classic Japanese “magical girl” trope and serialized manga like Sailor Moon and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Evan Clayton used patent leather and silk twills to create signature sharp silhouettes for his collection “MAHŌ SHŌJO.” A VFW veteran, BC native and the first-ever recipient of the Nancy Mak Award, Evan's collections have garnered immense attention from the media and landed a show in Vienna Fashion Week.

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Evan Clayton at Vancouver Fashion Week SS17

Garret Alexander Elphee - For his current collection, Garret Alexander Elphee began with the concept of "sterile yet sexy." Though that was the springboard for each look, he made sure that each piece was allowed its own natural evolution. Garret's collection was less a compilation of elements than an expression of how it feels to share the intimacy of artistic expression with the public and that is instantly judged by the masses.

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate Garret Alexander Elphee at Vancouver Fashion Week SS17

Kari Appelquist - Referencing her Saskatchewan roots and Industrial Engineering background, Kari Appelquist employed a myriad of shapes, tones and textures in contrast with each other to evoke a female empowerment. Her collection used animal elements like ostrich leather and handcrafted embellishments like chain mail to abolish conventional beauty standards in favor of the complex, contradictory and cutting-edge.

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate Kari Appelquist

Li Liu - Luxurious silks combined with the most delicate of twills and crepe de chine were married in rich bundles and bows for China-based designer Li Liu's “DREAM OF A GEISHA” collection. Currently completing her Master of Fashion Design in Florence, Li's designs were based on colourful Asian antiquities for the independent businesswoman.

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate Li Liu at Vancouver Fashion Week SS17

Maryam Asgari ( - Born and raised in Tehran, Maryam Asgari expressed her passion for colour and flounce on the runway. In her collection, Maryam combined body-conscious silhouettes with animal elements and signature flourishes of sequins, mesh, knits and paillettes.

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate Mayram Asgari at Vancouver Fashion Week SS17

Maryam Niyazi (@maryamniyazi1- Afghanistan-born designer Maryam Niyazi's collection was first conceived from glancing up at the small, squared mirrors on the ceiling of Columbia Station in New Westminster. Loving the reflection and its repeating pattern, Maryam designed a repeating print that became the focal point of her collection. Through handmade details and clean, simple silhouettes, Maryam invited us into a structure of her own creation.

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate Mayam Niyazi at Vancouver Fashion Week SS17

Sara Armstrong (@sararmstrong) - Sara Armstrong's new concept collection embodied her loyalty to heritage craftsmanship that she at once subverted with complex geometries and the aid of HRI (Human Robot Interaction). Surrounded by a swell of silks, taffeta and linen, Sara's collection came to life with no time, season, wearer or size restraints - they simply are. A winner of the Nancy Mak award and previous VFW presenter, the Saskatchewan-native and Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design instructor  explored the spaces between success and strain – all in the colourful mode of “thumb-throb red.”

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate-turned-instructor Sara Armstrong at Vancouver Fashion Week SS17


The success of the inaugural BMC x VFM Alumni Fashion Show was a tribute to the hard work of the graduates and staff at Blanche Macdonald, with special mention due to the inspirational leadership of President Lily Lim, the endless efforts of Fashion Director Tyler Udall, Career Director, Fashion Department Mel Watts, Creative Director Kelly Schmidt, Associate Marketing Director Natasha Eng, Social Media and Marketing Coordinators Allie Samborn and Rheanna Miller, and Social Media and Creative Content Coordinators Kendahl Jung and Mohamad Ali Ibrahim.

Infinite gratitude to the backstage team, shoes and accessories coordinated by Danielle Muntain and help by a team of volunteers from the Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing programs. Instructors Jon Hennessey and Lisa Callendar and their volunteer graduates and students from the Blanche Macdonald Makeup and Hair Departments ensured the models looked as spectacular as the collections. Thanks also to our DJ Hana Pesut (Sincerely Hana) for providing an amazing soundtrack to the show.

The entire team at Blanche Macdonald would like to extend its sincerest gratitude to all the staff at Vancouver Fashion Week and our corporate sponsors, Make Up For Ever and Revlon.

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:00:00 PST
Stylist and Fashion Marketing Grad Jessica Clark Creates Stories with Clothes Top Fashion Marketing School Graduate Jessica Clark

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.

Top Fashion Marketing School Graduate Jessica Clark

“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.”

Top Fashion Marketing School Graduate Jessica Clark 

The seed had been planted but would have to wait for germination. Soccer, snowboarding and an enlightening backpacking trip around South America came first, before Jessica began studying for a degree at the University of Alberta.

“I was sitting in the library at University and a girl said to me, ‘You’d be really good in fashion. You’re always dressed up.’ It was true. I’d never come to school in sweat pants.”

There were fashion elements to the Human Ecology Program Jessica had begun, but it wasn’t the thorough fashion education she was searching for. It was time for fate to step in.

“A friend of mine was going to Blanche Macdonald. She told me about the school, I looked online and saw that the Fashion Marketing program had courses I wasn’t getting at university: things like styling and modern fashion history classes. How could I integrate myself into the fashion industry if I didn’t have current information? I could see that the teachers were actually in the industry. Seeing that Tyler Udall had worked for Alexander McQueen was incredible!”

Top Fashion Marketing School Graduate Jessica Clark

Knowing that she’d return to University once she’d completed her program, Jessica headed to Vancouver eager to maximize her time at Fashion School.

“I could relate to what my teachers were saying because it was so current. I loved Tyler’s styling class and Peggy Morrison’s fashion awareness class; the way Peggy could compare something from the 1920s to something on trend today. We had all these inspirational people teaching and telling us about what they’d done. I became immersed in the program and wanted to get involved in everything I could. I was going to Fashion School. I was working at a restaurant. I was blogging about fashion. And I volunteered at every fashion show Career Director Mel Watts could get me into. When I started the program I told her, ‘I want to be your number one girl. I want to be at everything!’

“At the same time the documentary, The September Issue, had just come out. Grace Coddington and the way she spoke were so inspiring. That’s when I knew I needed to become a Creative Director and a stylist. There’s so much more to fashion than just putting clothes on. It can tell a story, I wanted to tell those stories too.”

Top Fashion Marketing School Graduate Jessica Clark

Jessica was willing to put in the hours, charming her way into a string of internships at fashion magazine The Lab, the marketing department at Holt Renfrew, the e-commerce department at Aritzia, and with pro stylist Yvadney Davis

“Mel posted that a stylist was looking for an assistant. I was the last candidate Yvadney interviewed and she hired me on the spot. I think she could see my excitement and passion. I was so eager to be a part of everything the fashion industry could hold. She could tell I’d do everything I could to get the job done.

“Yvadney taught me to think outside the box and not always play it safe. It’s easy to look at a mannequin and think, ‘That will look good together on a model.’ But it’s ok to push the boundaries and go a little weird. Unconventional ideas are what leave an impression.”

Top Fashion Marketing School Graduate Jessica Clark

Jessica moved back to Edmonton, completed her degree and launched her styling career. She’d had the inspiration. Now came the time for perspiration.

“I connected with the modelling agencies and ad agencies in Edmonton and began building those connections. I found a niche market in the city, as there was hardly anyone working there as a stylist. I did trade for print photos to build my portfolio and soon jobs started coming my way. Two years ago I started working with Roth and Ramberg, who are successful commercial photographers across Western Canada. They’ve given me so many opportunities.

“Revlon came into Edmonton for a trade show and needed a stylist to style their models. I was responsible for styling 18 models over two days. One of their team found me just by googling ‘Edmonton Wardrobe Stylist.’ That was two years ago and now I’m their national wardrobe stylist. I fly all over Canada when they need someone to style their models.”

Top Fashion Marketing School Graduate Jessica Clark

Turning a passion into a career has been a labour of love for Jessica. But even though she still adores fashion, she insists that it’s the people and the creativity that gets her excited for the future and pumped for work every day. 

“The exciting thing is hearing concepts from people who are so passionate. It’s always cool to meet other creatives  – photographers, makeup artists and designers – who are passionate about their work and art.

“I’m planning on returning to Vancouver and would love to move into costuming in the TV and film world along with my commercial and fashion work. I already styled a short film called Glory River that was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival and was bought by Telus Optik.”

Let’s be honest. Jessica has a dream job; flying around Canada, working with blue chip brands, and telling stories with clothes. It’s an achievable dream too. As long as you’re prepared to learn and work.

“Know your fashion history, fashion eras and designers,” stresses Jessica. “It’s painfully clear when someone doesn’t understand the references, saying things like ‘That’s so 1920s’ when it’s from the 1950s. Those eras are so defining in our culture and still influence the industry today.

“Treat everyone with respect and stay humble, including volunteers or assistants on set. You never know who is going to end up being your boss some day. Always present yourself well too. If you’re not put together how can you put anyone else together? You’re coming to style people, so you should have style!”

Jessica Clark's Top 5 Styling Tips

Instagram: @JCStyling
Twitter: @JCStyling

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 00:00:00 PST

You're Invited to Blanche Macdonald's inaugural Alumni Show at VFW!

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 00:00:00 PST
Blanche Macdonald Dominates the Podium at Vancouver IMATS 2016! Blanche Macdonald dominates the podium at IMATS Vancouver 2016!

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!

Emmy Award-winning Makeup Artist Todd McIntosh's live demo at the Blanche Macdonald IMATS Vancouver booth!

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!”

Blanche Macdonald Makeup student Devon Burbank wins First Place at IMATS Vancouver 2016, Character/Prosthetics Student Competition!

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 Makeup student Devon Burbank from Grande Prairie, Alberta wins 1st Place at IMATS Vancouver 2016!

Blanche Macdonald’s competitors did have a small advantage: personal sessions with instructor Kari Zantolas and two-time Emmy Award-winner Todd McIntosh in the days preceding the contest.

“I was happy to give each of the IMATS contestants my critiques,” explained Todd. “It was up to the individual artists to take that advice where they wanted. I can’t push them or make decisions for them. It’s always going to be their makeup.”

For Devon, a one-on-one session with one of her Makeup idols nothing short of an emotional experience.

“I’ve been a huge fan of Todd McIntosh since I was ten years old, when I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek,” she enthused. “The fact that he took time to critique my work was amazing. He suggested so many ideas about hiding edges and folding things out. Todd is incredible. At the end he gave me a full hug and I freaked out.”

Blanche Macdonald Co-op Global Makeup Student Eva Svobodova from the Czech Republic won 2nd Place at IMATS Vancouver 2016, Character/Prosthetics!

The honour and pleasure of working alongside a Makeup icon was echoed by second place winner Eva Svobodova.

“Working with Kari and Todd was a great experience. They gave me such great advice. Todd was tough. I liked to hear what he didn’t like and thought I could change. Our time together was really detailed.” 

Eva is no stranger to the Battle of the Brushes, having taken a fabulous First Place in the Beauty/Fantasy category at the Vancouver IMATS last year.

“I knew I could do Beauty/Fantasy so I wanted to try this too. I enjoy prosthetic and effects makeup as well as beauty and fashion makeup. Every time I can create a character, I’ll take that opportunity. I’ve been freelancing since I graduated. I’ve done a few independent movies, and a lot of fashion shoots. I’m going to try to keep doing both. Why not? If the opportunity comes to do prosthetics and effects, I’ll do it!”

Blanche Macdonald Global Makeup Student Erin Geer from Monroe, Michigan wins 3rd Place at IMATS Vancouver 2016!

Completing Blanche Macdonald’s sweep in the prosthetics competition was third-place winner Erin Geer.

“I really wanted to make a Sith Lord – something really dark that could give you nightmares. I thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew, but I chewed it! In three hours I did a bald cap, fitted five prosthetic pieces and did a quarter body paint, which was a lot. I didn’t want to be given ears, but that’s what I got and I loved them. They really completed the character.

“Six years ago I went to a different makeup school. They told us about IMATS but I didn’t understand it and forgot about it. Then I came to Blanche Macdonald and we found out about the IMATS right away. I said, I’m going to do that and I did! Who knows where this will lead? I would love to make a career body painting. If I could just create aliens, I would love that too!”

Day Two of the Vancouver IMATS came with more triumphs, as Cinthia Torres took a fabulous second place in the Beauty/Fantasy competition, becoming Blanche Macdonald first graduate from our Freelance Makeup Program to win at the Battle of the Brushes.

“When I heard my name for second place I couldn’t believe it. It took a couple of seconds for it to sink in. I’m really, really happy. And shocked!”

Building on the competition’s theme of Carnival/Circus, Cinthia’s carousel-inspired look wowed the judges with its elegance and classic beauty.

“The carousel is a symbol of a vintage carnival,” she explained. “I spent a lot of time building the dress, and I knew after that the makeup would come together. I wanted to make my model look beautiful, not just weird or avant-garde. That’s why I concentrated on making her eyes so beautiful.”

Blanche Macdonald Freelance Makeup graduate Cinthia Torres wins 2nd Place at IMATS Vancouver 2016, Beauty/Fantasy Student Makeup Competition!

Cinthia had warm words of thanks for Blanch Macdonald instructor Breianne Zellinsky, her personal mentor in the lead up to the IMATS.

“Breianne was so soothing. Any time I had concerns, or felt down, she was always a rock. Everything she said from the beginning was the right advice. Even today, when some of the other competitors had done these elaborate creations, and I began to feel like mine was too simple, Breianne told me to believe in myself. When you do something with love, people can see it.

“My time at Blanche Macdonald was really fun and interesting. I met a lot of friends and people that inspired me. Things I didn’t know I could do, I started doing them. I was given more than tools. I was given the push to create. I would ask my instructor, Win Liu, about a certain look and she would say, why don’t you try it? What if I make a mistake? Then you make a mistake and move on. I wanted to do a Korean style bridal makeup in my bridal class. LucyAnn Botham said go for it. They want to push your limits. That shows that they care.

“I was working in a bank before I came to school. Now I’m doing makeup full time. I’m doing photo shoots and I own a bridal Makeup Company. I want to do even more. I want to reach people. It’s not about money. It’s about expressing yourself. Makeup is how I express what I feel!”

Live Demonstrations at the Blanche Macdonald IMATS Vancouver 2016 Booth

The Blanche Macdonald Centre would like to offer our warmest congratulations to all our Award Winners, along with huge thanks to Todd McIntosh and all our students and staff on the Blanche Macdonald/CurliQue Beauty stand whose hard work was at the heart of an unforgettable weekend!

We welcome you to Blanche Macdonald!

Thu, 01 Sep 2016 00:00:00 PST

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? 


  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

Mon, 22 Aug 2016 00:00:00 PST