Blanche Macdonald Centre News from Blanche Macdonald Centre Skincare Comes Home for Esthetics Graduate Leah LaVanway Top Esthetics School Graduate Leah LaVanway, Owner of Award Winning Medi Spa, Essence of L

At first glance Dolphin Street in White Rock, BC looks like any other residential street in Greater Vancouver’s greener suburbs. The only clue that something special is happening there is the Essence of L Medi Spa sign proudly standing in front of the home and workplace of award-winning esthetican and Blanche Macdonald graduate Leah LaVanway. It’s where she’s changing lives.

“Last year I won the Surrey Now Awards for the ‘Best Day Spa’ and ‘Best Laser Clinic’ for the Surrey/White Rock area and have been nominated for both categories again this year” smiles Leah. “That’s people in the community voting for me! Every client that comes here for the first time says that they didn’t expect a home-based spa to look like this. I wanted to create a tranquil sanctuary. The energy here is really calm and clients can connect with that.”

The atmosphere at Essence of L may be relaxing, but that doesn’t mean that Leah isn’t providing serious skincare treatments. Dermapen, Celluma LED Therapy, Cold Laser Therapy, Microdermabrasion, Clinical Peels and Clinical facials are all available for clients looking for long-term solutions to skin concerns. Leah understands how debilitating skin conditions can be. She speaks from personal experience.

“I had cystic acne for ten years,” she explains. “Struggling through that was challenging. I tried so many over the counter products. I used to go to a Russian esthetician in North Vancouver for my deep cleansing acne treatments and she’d perform manual extractions for over an hour. It was excruciating but gave me some form of physical relief.”

Top Esthetics School Graduate Leah LaVanway, Owner of Award Winning Medi Spa, Essence of L

Leah was working in Mexico when a poolside discovery with a new friend led to a life-changing decision.

“She was an esthetician, studying Holistic Nutrition and Reiki Therapy. I read her workbooks daily and found them fascinating. Information about food allergies, and mineral and vitamin deficiencies made so much sense to me. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I came home and told my parents I wanted to be an esthetician. I wanted to help people through the process and to see the light on the other side. 

“I started researching esthetics schools and Blanche Macdonald was one of the first places that came up. It was love at first sight. Everyone I spoke to was open and honest. I came back to Canada in August and started the Esthetics Program in September.”

That program provided the education, and the inspiration, to turn Essence of L from a concept into a reality. 

“I loved it! Understanding more about the skin was super exciting for me. I was at the top of my class for all the practical work. It became my personal goal in the bodywrap and massage classes to deliver total relaxation to everyone I worked on. Many of the people I worked on ended up falling asleep in the middle of our classes.

“At the end of the program we did a project about opening up our own spa studio. I had so much fun. I had a leather-bound folder full of local suppliers, the equipment I would purchase and the finances it would require. That’s when I realized I could do this. I was starting to get my spa ready before I’d even graduated.” 

Essence of L opened for business in Leah’s late grandmother’s condo, delivering body wraps, pedicures, facials and waxing services to a growing client base. At the same time, a contact Leah had made at Esthetics School was poised to move her career in a more medical direction.

“While attending Blanche Macdonald, Lorinda from PuraVida gave my class a microdermabrasion and cold laser therapy demo. One of the girls in my class had a cluster of broken blood vessels on her cheek from being hit by a softball when she was younger. The machine cauterized the blood vessels while we watched. It was like a magic eraser. I was incredibly excited. So was my classmate!”

Top Esthetics School Graduate Leah LaVanway, Owner of Award Winning Medi Spa, Essence of L

Leah’s own laser therapy treatment produced similarly spectacular results on her skin. Inspired by her experience, Leah decided to commit herself to the business of solving skincare concerns. 

“I met Audrey Buck of Medi Spa Therapeutics, who was the importer of the equipment I wanted, and worked closely with her for two years, assisting with office work, training seminars, trade shows and sales. I was able to learn about the products and technology I wanted to incorporate into my own business. I bought the Cold Laser and Microdermabrasion equipment and more and more people started coming to see and refer me.

Leah took a break from expanding her business when her husband was involved in a serious car accident. Once he was healthy enough to return to work, Leah wasn’t going to waste another moment.

“I figured the best way to grow my clientele was to go somewhere that already had it, so I rented a room in a hair salon. I was there for a year until I outgrew the space. I knew I had to find somewhere that would be stable. I’d brought a few select clients into my home when my husband was recovering. They suggested bringing the spa here full time. They told me how they preferred the more private experience and felt comfortable with no makeup on. And it’s a great commute for me!

“As soon as I moved by business home I noticed that people were asking for more medical and proactive skincare treatments. My spa wasn’t about making people feel relaxed any more. It was about doing treatments where people could see visible results. Now I do medi-facials 95% of the time. I’m always incorporating new products and looking for better applications by trying it on my own skin first.”

Top Esthetics School Graduate Leah LaVanway, Owner of Award Winning Medi Spa, Essence of L

Leah’s business has grown exponentially over the last year and a half. People from Surrey and beyond are curious about Leah’s proactive approach to skin care.

“Sometimes clients turn up expecting miracles. I go through an extensive consultation for everyone. I’m a big believer in a holistic approach and treating the person as a whole. That’s why I always talk diet and lifestyle in my consultations. I created a relationship with a naturopath and give clients the option of seeing her to discover if they have undetected intolerances that may be causing some of their problems. Clients respect the process when I give them homework. 

“Being a skincare nerd I love learning about newer technologies and the newest products on the market. I’m looking for clinical results. As I’ve moved into the medical side, I’ve started examining medical research papers and asking about the science behind it. When you can explain the process behind the treatments clients understand and appreciate the education a lot more.”

The growing success of Essence of L proves that Leah’s clients adore the services and the customized treatment they receive at her spa. For the esthetician that once suffered from a serious skin condition, knowing she’s making a difference in people’s lives is its own reward.

“I love witnessing the improvements, and seeing clients feel the results!” she beams. “When you have acne or a skin condition, it’s like a little cloud that’s always there. It can be hard on your ego. When I can give people some relief, that’s exciting for me. When they tell me they’ve had comments on their skin, that their friends and family have noticed the improvement, that makes me ecstatic!”

Top Esthetics School Graduate Leah LaVanway

Learn more about Esthetics and Spa Program

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 00:00:00 PST
Blanche Macdonald Makeup Graduate-turned-Instructor Win Liu Mixes Fashion, Film and Full-time Flare! Top Makeup School Instructor and Graduate Win Liu

“I’m jealous of Makeup Artists who can narrow it down to Fashion or TV and film,” laughs Blanche Macdonald graduate-turned-instructor Win Liu. “I love working on both! I’m represented by the model and talent agency, Lizbell, and I’m also an IATSE permittee, which means I get to work on union shows like Arrow, Warriors, Motive, Almost Human and Wayward Pines. That’s great for me. I get the best of both worlds!”

Every job has its perks for Win, whether it’s the challenge, the people or just seeing the end results. If she’s doing a Beauty application or Special Makeup Effects, she throws herself into her work with the same effervescent enthusiasm that first brought her to Blanche Macdonald.

“I’d studied painting and fashion, and was working in fashion, making couture collections for private clients. I just didn’t see fashion as a full-time career. I woke up one morning thinking ‘what else can I do with my hands and brushes?’ Later that day I walked into Blanche Macdonald and asked if I could talk to someone about the Makeup Program. Jaye Klippenstein showed me some portfolios and I said, ‘OK!”

Win started her studies convinced that she’d focus on Fashion Makeup. That was the plan. Right up until she took Jen Folk’s Special Makeup Effects class.

“I was sure that I wanted to do only runway,” smiles Win. “Then Jen showed me a whole new world. She came in on the first day of class and said, ‘Ok guys, today I’m going to teach you to make a dead finger.’ We made a bloody latex finger and that night I brought it to a pub to watch a hockey game. I left the finger on the table and freaked out the bartender. After that I was totally into prosthetics and makeup effects.”

Top Makeup School Instructor and Graduate Win Liu

That instant passion took Win to two IMATS Character Prosthetics Finals, taking the Third Place Trophy in Los Angeles by turning her brother into a monstrous version of Henry VIII. Win had natural talent, but she also embraced the Blanche Macdonald philosophy that it’s never too early to start acting like a professional.

“I volunteered my butt off. Everything and anything. I was volunteering at a gala at Shoppers Drug Mart on Dunbar Street when I was still doing the Makeup Fundamentals module. I was so busy doing makeup after makeup. Two weeks later I received a phone call. The voice on the other end said, ‘You don’t know me, but I saw your work at Shoppers and I like what you do. Would you like to join the Lancôme demo team?’ I was with Lancôme for four and half years, eventually becoming their Senior Demo Artist for Vancouver. That all came from a day’s volunteering!”

Win’s fast track into Lancôme’s Beauty Team went hand-in-hand with her entry into the world of Special Makeup Effects. She’d barely completed the Effects module at Makeup School when she was bringing those skills to the world with Vancouver heavy metallers 3 Inches Of Blood.

“After that I was asked by Jon Hennessey to be the key artist for the background performers for Marianas Trench’s ‘Haven’t Had Enough’ video. It was a great vote of confidence and I was so grateful for the opportunity to work with Jon, Jenna Kuchera and other wonderful Blanche Macdonald grads.”

Top Makeup School Instructor and Graduate Win Liu

People know about Win’s skills now. As an IATSE permittee, she’s at the front of the line whenever a BC makeup department is looking for an artist who’s both versatile and great company.

“I’ve worked with Danielle Fowler on Arrow a few times. I’d go to the trailer and it’s full of Blanche Macdonald grads! Leah Ehman was the key on the second unit and I assisted her. I did one scene when I had to quickly makeup an actress’s hands and feet to make it look like she was a corpse. That was some fun colouration!

“A lot of the time people I’ve worked with before request me personally. On Warriors I did an episode with a lot of background actors with prosthetic limbs. Part of my job was to cover up a lot of sleeves, hands and knuckle tattoos. Tattoo artists have sued TV companies for showing their art without their approval.

“I did a commercial for Scion that ran in movie theatres. It was great to see that on the big screen. With moving images, hard days of work go by in seconds. With print you can indulge for as long as you want! They’re two different kinds of thrill. I love both!”

Top Makeup School Instructor and Graduate Win Liu

She deserves her indulgence. Win’s passion for fashion is what made her excited about Makeup to begin with, and campaigns for Kit and Ace, Fidelity Denim, Oak + Fort, Eliza Faulkner, Lonsdale, VOVO Design and Tonic Active Wear and features in magazines like Flare, Hypebeast, Cake, Factice, the Georgia Straight, Fresh, Press, WedLux and BonBon form just part of her always-expanding résumé. That eye for high fashion has also taken Win beyond Vancouver, all the way to backstage at designer shows at New York and Toronto Fashion Weeks.

“Jon Hennessey invited me, Jenna Kuchera and Oz Zandiyeh to New York Fashion Week a year and a half ago to work with him on Raif Adelberg. In New York I recognized the face of a facebook friend who I’d never met, Ido Raphael a makeup artist from Israel. We became real friends, kept in touch and Ido asked me to help when he was keying his first New York Fashion Week show for Katya Leonovich. It was fabulous!

“In Toronto I was assisting Grace Lee, Maybelline Canada’s leading Makeup Artist. I’d been introduced to Grace, so I sent her an email and she asked me to come out and help. Assisting her really opened my eyes. She made me realize how much more than artistry was required to be a great key makeup artist for such a massive task; dealing with non-stop medias, interviews, recaps for bloggers on the makeup looks she created, designers' requests, and addressing key points and concerns with her team. She showed me how important it is to be generous and gracious with everybody.”

Top Makeup School Graduate/Instructor Win Liu

The thing that links all Win’s creative achievements is the artistic eye and unbridled enthusiasm she brings to everything she touches. Which is exactly what led top Canadian agency Lizbell to her door.

“I always consider myself pretty lucky. But luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, right? That's the Pisces in me!” she laughs. “The calibre of Liz's models and artists are at such a high level. They make me proud to now be a member of the family.

“Being represented by Lizbell gives ‘validation’ to my career. It means my work has been recognized and a team of professionals is willing to work with me on a new level. That potentially means bigger projects, organized events, celebrities and opportunities of working abroad. I’m beyond excited to embark on this great partnership!”

Positivity comes naturally to Win. Which is why she’s the perfect fit to teach makeup fundamentals and makeup for fashion to the next generation of great artists.

“I always ask for more from my students. I want them to learn as much as they can and then try something they thought they’d never do and break the boundaries. Makeup School is the perfect environment for that. You can’t really make mistakes. You’ll always learn from them. I want them to be all they can be and more. I tell my students that once you understand the rules, you’ll know how to break them.

“What I learned at Blanche Macdonald, and what I teach now, is how important it is to always be professional. You’re working for the photo or the show, not for yourself or to showcase your skills. It’s vital to know what everyone wants and how you can reach that goal collectively. That means showing your warm personality but not being too chatty. You can be professional and still have fun at the same time. That’s one of the main things that I tell my students. It doesn’t matter how much you know or how good a Makeup Artist you’re going to be. Leave your ego at the door!”

Top Makeup School Instructor and Graduate Win Liu

Learn more about Canada's #1 Makeup School!

Tue, 20 Jan 2015 00:00:00 PST

Whoever first gave the advice to never mix business and pleasure had obviously never met Jordan Nogiec and Victoria Jazic. Because every day is pure pleasure for the two Stylists at Vancouver’s Volume Studio Salon. They’re not just colleagues. They’re best friends.

“Loving what you do makes such a difference in your life,” smiles Victoria. “I enjoy what I do and who I work with. I never feel like I don’t want to go to work in the morning.”

“I get to see my best friend every day,” interjects Jordan. “Even on my days off I end up hanging out in the salon.”

Victoria and Jordan regularly finish each other’s sentences. It’s part of their special connection. It’s been that way ever since they met on the Pro Hair Program at Canada’s Top Hair School.

“I was really nervous when we started at Blanche Macdonald,” recalls Victoria. “Jordan wasn’t sure if I was being rude or just shy.”

“She used to have really long hair and I always wanted to put my hands in it,” he laughs. “I kept asking if I could curl or blow-dry her hair. That bound us together.”

Top Hair School Graduates Victoria Jazic and Jordan Nogiec

There was little indication that Jordan and Victoria would hit it off so spectacularly at Blanche Macdonald, arriving at Hair School with different backgrounds from opposite sides of the country. Victoria drove down to Vancouver shortly after graduating from High School in her hometown of Whistler. Jordan flew in from Kitchener, Ontario, where he already had a flourishing career as a Makeup Artist.

“I had a good job at MAC,” he explains. “Hair was my first love though. At high school girls had a trend of clip-in hair extensions. I would make them come to my house so I could flat iron them. There would be six girls in my bathroom, and I loved it!

“When I started looking into hair schools my first instinct was to go to Toronto. But I always wanted to be the guy who graduated high school and moved far away. I read Blanche Macdonald’s graduate highlights and that inspired me to apply. I saw Dylan Walker’s profile and thought, I want to do that!”

“I was doing art all the way through high school,” Victoria continues. “And there were a lot of bathroom hair colour sessions in my house. I wanted to turn my creativity into a career. Blanche Macdonald felt like the only option for me. It had the best program and I’d heard such good things about it.”

Top Hair School Graduates Victoria Jazic and Jordan Nogiec

Skills and confidence, along with a unique friendship, were quickly developing once they started Hair School.

“We had Tyana Nichole as a teacher and she was like a friendly drill sergeant,” recalls Jordan. “She would make sure you did things right. That built an inner confidence within us.”

“She would tell you when something wasn’t good enough and get you to do it again,” confirms Victoria. “We knew we were learning properly. There was never the opportunity to develop bad habits. I was nervous when I had my first client in the school salon, but I realised the instructors weren’t going to let me do something that would make me look bad or the client leave unhappy.”

As the young stylists’ skills improved, their creativity flourished in the Blanche Macdonald student salon and through the Pro Hair Program’s four photo shoots.

“For the TV and Film shoot we had to recreate a character from a show or movie set before 1989,” explains Jordan. “I did Freida Pinto’s character from The Immortals.”

“I did Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Victoria jumps in. “We had four photo shoots in two weeks. They didn’t baby us. We didn’t have months to prepare and all day to do the shoots. It was like a shoot in real life. I loved it.”

“We’ve both done some shoots after we graduated,” continues Jordan, “so it was great to get thrown into that world at Hair School.”

Top Hair School Graduates Victoria Jazic and Jordan Nogiec

The new stylists were also introduced to the world of professional salons on their work experience placements. Jordan had his eyes on a particular salon since he first arrived in Vancouver.

“I lived across the street from Volume and could see the energy when I walked by. I wanted to show them that I wasn’t there just to sweep floors and fold laundry. I was there to learn industry tricks. I would ask about products and colour techniques. Dean Thullner, the owner, could see my ambition. After two days he hired me! I would work there when I wasn’t at Hair School. Dean asked me to recommend another student to help. I didn’t hesitate to suggest Victoria. She came in for a two-minute interview with Dean, and we both had full-time jobs for when we graduated.”

Top Hair School Graduates Victoria Jazic and Jordan Nogiec

The terrific twosome were put behind their own chairs as soon as they graduated, but at Volume keeping clients happy is one part of a bigger picture.

“The salon is very philanthropic,” explains Jordan. “We do charity work here all year round. Dean throws a big production called Brilliant! that raises money for Mental Health through St Pauls Hospital. We come together and do hair for a huge fashion show at the Commodore Ballroom. We raised $300,000 this year. It was so rewarding.”

“We did hair for a fashion show that was raising money for Elevate to Celebrate,” adds Victoria, “which is a charity aiming to make Hycroft Manor wheelchair accessible.”

Victoria and Jordan understand the power of education and effort. Watching them in the salon reveals how committed they are to their careers. When they’re not with clients they’re continually busy helping and learning. But it turns out that what can look like hard work is essentially two people having fun.

Top Hair School Graduates Victoria Jazic and Jordan Nogiec

“Hair is so creative!” insists Victoria. “You can do so many different things for different people. You get this instant gratification when the client is so happy. I love that you’re never doing the same thing. I would hate to be working in an office at a desk. Here it’s like going to a party and meeting different, interesting people!”

“I love the human contact,” adds Jordan. “I have one client who comes in every three weeks. I feel like I shouldn’t even charge her. It’s like I’m hanging out with a girlfriend. There’s nothing better than having your client jump out of the chair to give you a hug!”

The commitment to hair is skin deep. Both Victoria and Jordan have shears tattooed on their arms, his pivot bolt reading ’69,’ their group number at Blanche Macdonald. Whatever the future holds for them, they’ll be ready and prepared.

“I love the salon atmosphere here,” states Victoria. “Volume is a place where you’re given opportunities. You can take your career where you want to go and still be part of the salon team.”

“I’d love to do more photoshoots and print work, but still be behind the chair here,” agrees Jordan. “I don’t like giving myself limits. I want to do everything! Why not keep going?”

Top Hair School Graduates Victoria Jazic and Jordan Nogiec

Business and pleasure? They’re one and the same thing for Jordan and Victoria. Having formed a wonderful friendship at Hair School it’s only natural that they look back on their time at Blanche Macdonald with fond memories and words of wisdom for the next generation of styling superstars.

“Don’t get discouraged when you’re not amazing the first time,” insists Victoria. “Hair is not as easy as you might have thought it would be. It’s hard. Skills come with practice.”

“Don’t beat yourself up if someone is doing better than you,” agrees Jordan. “It’s a learning curve. My experience at Blanche Macdonald was amazing. I wouldn’t change a thing; other than remembering to pack my own lunches!”

Top Hair School Graduates Victoria Jazic and Jordan Nogiec Top 5 Favourite Products

Learn more about Canada's #1 Pro Hair School!

Fri, 09 Jan 2015 00:00:00 PST
Vancouver's Fastest Rising Fashion Star: FASHION DESIGN GRADUATE ALEX YU BRINGS AVANT GARDE STYLE TO THE STREETS Top Fashion Design School Graduate Alex S Yu

Fragmented fairy tales peppered with nostalgia. Susie Bubble meets Dr Seuss. Throw in a little teenage rebellion for good measure, and you have Fashion sensation Alex Yu. If the name doesn’t ring bells yet, commit it to memory. At the rate the Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate’s accolades are piling up, he’s sure to be a household name in no time. In the most fashion-conscious households, of course.

Alex gradated from Canada’s Top Fashion School three years ago. Since then he’s continued his studies at the renowned London College of Fashion, won rave reviews from his debut collection at Vancouver Fashion Week, earned features by the likes of British Vogue and Elle Italia and opened a pop up shop that sold out completely. It’s crystal clear that Alex is one to watch.

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Alex S Yu

“I actually started out studying computer science, believe it or not,” reveals Alex, with a cheeky grin. “I’d always loved fashion, but my family thought it best for me to be a doctor or lawyer or a computer programmer. While I was studying at university I began to sew and draw and even dabbled in marketing. I thought perhaps I could work the business side of fashion.”

Those computer science and technical studies weren’t entirely in vain. Their influence in his contemporary womenswear rings loud and clear.

“I like to make wearable clothing out of unconventional fabrics and love to experiment,” he continues. “Like paper with laminate or materials typically used for life vests. The fabric I want to work with is generally used for non-fashion purposes. Lawn chair fabric for example, is absolutely amazing. I’ll mix those with pictures I take in my daily travels and then distort them on my computer.”

Computer generated art, misappropriated technical fabrics and twisted narratives from children's stories are reoccurring themes in the ingénue Designer’s growing body of work as Alex examines technology and creates boundary-pushing silhouettes.

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Alex S Yu

Some designers exploring these areas can produce cold, detached end results. The fact that Alex’s clothing translates into something sweet and playful is remarkable. Viewing life through rose-tinted glasses, his effortlessly cool clothing has been interpreted as fresh and new by even seasoned fashion veterans. This is a testament to Alex’s discerning eye and ability to gauge what speaks to the millennial.  

“My clothing is really geared towards a younger generation, people who aren’t afraid to dress up and have fun. Susie Bubble would be probably the best archetype for my customer. I love her! How she supports emerging designers is incredible. A lot of people only care about the huge names in fashion, but Susie is genuinely interested in young designers and their entire process.”

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Alex S Yu

Alex’s most recent collection, shown at Vancouver Fashion Week earlier this autumn, highlights the creative wheels turning. As this year’s recipient of Niche Magazine’s prestigious Emerging Designer Sponsorship, Alex debuted a 16-look collection of contemporary womenswear, reinventing his personal definition of femininity. The emerging designer is building an impressive following for someone so young, confident that his clothes are destined for life beyond the runway.

“I felt it was really important to follow my Fashion Week debut with a pop up shop in Vancouver’s Chinatown. It’s one thing to see clothing on the runway, but if a potential customer wants to see things up close or feel the garments, they really need to have intimate access to them. That pop up shop ended up being quite successful!”

Alex’s modesty is charming, but to describe selling out your first public collection as “successful”, would be a grave understatement! It’s a phenomenal accomplishment and we tip our hats to our dear Alex.

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Alex S Yu

Not that his success has come as a surprise. He’s been impressing fashion insiders since he first walked into Blanche Macdonald. Viewing his Fashion Education with the same enthusiasm he now brings to his professional life, Alex credits the sagely wisdom of Illustration Teacher Lisa Gellert and Program Director Peggy Morrison for his academic fervour. 

“The foundation at Blanche Macdonald is amazing. Before I started Fashion School I didn't know how to do anything. It was my mission to take in as much as possible. I was so inspired by Lisa. The designers she talked about always got me excited. I remember thinking ‘Finally! Someone who knows all about Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto!’ I had never met someone as fascinated with avant-garde designers as I was. 

“Peggy’s Fashion Awareness classes were incredible! Hearing all her stories satiated me in a way that was like feeding an addiction. Her and Lisa have piles and piles of reference images from so many incredible designers. I remember the first time I saw Lisa’s portfolio of vintage Comme des Garcons images. I was taking pictures of everything!”

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Alex S Yu

With seeds of wisdom that were planted, watered and grown at Canada’s top Fashion School, Alex decided to take his educational journey to one of Europe’s style capitals. Not many have what it takes to be accepted to the eminent London College of Fashion’s post-graduate program. They’re looking for the best of the best. Designers like Alex, essentially.

“At London College of Fashion they expect you to be prepared and know what you’re doing,” explains Alex. “Blanche Macdonald really got me ready for that. London College of Fashion also puts a huge amount of focus on the research phase of design. Lisa and Peggy definitely put me on the right path.”

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Alex S Yu

“Our first month in London was purely independent research and we would present images to the tutor once a week. He would give us feedback; new directions to explore and then we would be off on the hunt again! I really learned how to be self-motivated in that environment. But the biggest thing I took away from my time at both Fashion Schools was discovering who I am as a designer and what I want to say with my clothes. Essentially I found the voice and vision for my career.”

Primed with a second invitation to Vancouver Fashion Week, Alex has already jumped into next year’s work.

“My inspiration for my FW2015 collection is the movie 'Mean Girls'. I am incorporating feelings and inspiration from the movie, mixing it with memories from my very own high school experience here in Vancouver, and coming out with ALEX S. YU's version of 'Mean Girls' in present day.

Dr Seuss is a big inspiration for me. I love children’s stories and giving them a modern twist. ‘Little Red Riding Hood Goes To Outer Space’ seems like a great narrative. I might also play around with some large-scale three-dimensional printing. At the end of the day, it’s really about an attitude and having a little fun.”

What fun! With a cult following that keeps growing, we can expect to see more “Space Odyssey En Route to Grandma’s House” walking the streets of Vancouver (and beyond) soon.

“My goal is to build my own label. Right now I’m starting small and hopefully growing big. Menswear is always in the back of my mind. What can I say? I’d like to make clothes I can wear too.”

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Alex S Yu

Alex Yu's Top 5 Favourite International Fashion Spots

Mon, 29 Dec 2014 00:00:00 PST
SPARKLE AND STYLE AT WANDERING STARS, THE 2014 BLANCHE MACDONALD FASHION DESIGN GRAD SHOW #wanderingstars Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Show 2014

A runway framed by candlelight. Stained glass and gothic arches. Shimmering, gold-kissed hair and makeup. A gathering of Vancouver’s fashion and media elite. And, of course, the debut collections from more than 30 Fashion Designers with bold futures ahead of them. A myriad of talent and creativity combined to ensure that Wandering Stars, the 2014 Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Show, was the most memorable and best Blanche Macdonald Fashion Show yet.

The venue: Vancouver’s spectacular St Andrew’s-Wesley Church.

The concept: a yearlong collaboration between Blanche Macdonald’s industry-leading instructors across the School’s Fashion, Makeup and Hair departments.

The clothes: the work of a remarkable class of Fashion Design students.

#wanderingstars Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Show 2014

“This was an amazing experience for everyone,” smiled Executive Program Director Peggy Morrison, taking a well-deserved rest in a still-buzzing dressing room minutes after the Show’s conclusion. “We had exceptional collections. I’ll look back on this year’s Fashion Design grads with great love. They were exceptional groups and it was a wonderful experience for me to teach them. They were diligent, dedicated, focused and talented. And nice! A great bunch to be with! So many of the collections were very innovative. We loved the use of plastic and neoprene, which was everywhere. There was beautiful colour and lots of hand-rendered work.

“The hair and makeup looked beautiful and so did the venue. I loved doing the show here. I hope we’re going to be back.”

#wanderingstars Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Show 2014

Great designers deserve a great show. Thanks to the hard work of Peggy, Fashion Department Career Director Mel Watts, Creative Director Kelly Schmidt, Fashion Director Tyler Udall and countless others, that’s what they received.

“With any show as diverse as this, there’s never an official ‘concept,’” explained Tyler. “We were working with more than 30 designers and the whole point was to elevate them and their work to the highest levels possible. Fortunately, this year's show included a large number of students exploring quite grandiose designs. The space and the aesthetics we chose complimented that. Our President, Lily Lim and her husband Perry Jung were married at St Andrew’s-Wesley, so it holds extra special meaning for them and the Blanche Macdonald family. It’s an exceptionally beautiful and very grand venue. Transforming it into a space used for a fashion show presented us with some exciting challenges. I worked very closely with Kelly and Mel on so many details your eyes might cross; casting models, developing hair and makeup treatments with the other departments’ Directors, working on audio direction with our amazing DJ. The list went on and on.”

#wanderingstars Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Show 2014

Making the venue fashion-functional was only one of Tyler’s many vital roles. Equally important was ensuring every student was able to harness their skills and creativity to their maximum ability.

“My Fashion Director responsibilities start right at the beginning of each student's year,” he continued. “We have many one-on-one meetings, looking at and discussing inspiration, sketches, fabrics, construction. I’ll help them translate their vision in a concise fashion voice that’s both runway ready and visually appealing to a discerning media. It’s 100% about the students. This night is the launch pad to their future careers and seeing the pride and success on their faces is utterly priceless. This year we had a particularly strong group of young women who were such delights to work with. All the award-winners deserved their accolades. They were mature and talented beyond their years.  Their overall work ethic, creativity, adaptability and professional aplomb were more than noteworthy. Hire them! People as well-rounded as these women do not come into the industry often!”

This year’s Award for Overall Achievement was shared between Daria Volokhova and Liis Sober. For Daria, hearing her name announced at St Andrew’s-Wesley was a fitting end to a magical year.

“I had a phrase in my mind since I started,” recalled Daria, taking a break backstage from an avalanche of well-deserved congratulations. “Robyne Nessel-Smoot enrolled me. When we met I showed her my work and she told me I was going to be a star. I never told anyone this, but I held onto her words and they helped move me forward. Tonight I’m the Wandering Star!”

Our Admissions Directors’ prophecies are often on the button. Robyne’s prediction came true as Daria’s collection charmed the house with its elegant balance of Russian lavishness and youthful romance. A crimson silk satin blouse smocked and gathered delicately at the bust, as petals, and paired with a lushly woven velvet skirt was as easily conceived as opulence for the office or enchanting evening finery.    

“The inspiration for my collection was peonies. I love these flowers! They’re part of my memory of childhood in Russia, from my Grandma’s back yard.

“My year at Fashion School was great. I met so many amazing people who were so supportive. It was the perfect place and the perfect time for me to show my skills and to grow. I grew professionally at Blanche Macdonald. I learned a lot about the fashion industry and how to work with creative people as a team. I always worked hard to have the best results I could.

“The night was so exciting! Everything went well and I’m so happy. This was my first big show and the location was amazing.”

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Daria Volokhova

Co-winner Liis Sober had years of fashion industry experience under her belt before arriving at Blanche Macdonald. Even so, seeing her debut collection on this spectacular runway was an unforgettable experience.

“I have a degree in Merchandising from the University of Kentucky, where I played tennis collegiately. I’ve been working at lululemon for two years as a Merchandise Information Associate, which is basically an assistant buyer. But I wanted to be creative. I did my research and knew designers who’d been to Blanche Macdonald and had been successful.”

Liis combined her real-world experience and passion for tennis to deliver an ace debut collection, ready for the racks of Vancouver’s thriving boutique scene. Set in creamy silks and crisp linens, Liis’ looks riffed on vintage tennis-wear of the 1920s and 30s, seeing the playful proportions of a pleated high-waist linen short pant with entredeux hem detailing, and silk lattice cutwork on a varsity jacket and tunic that echoed racket strings. The collection on a whole felt refreshing, and the impeccable tailoring only added to its allure. 

“Tennis was my first love. Vintage tennis looks were so beautiful with their long skirts, pleats and sweaters. That was my inspiration. I took tennis equipment, like the strings on the racket, and interpreted that with the clothes. I wanted to play with the textures, which I knew would show up because it’s all white, in true Wimbledon style.

“It was an intense course but I knew that going in. I knew what I got out of the program would depend on what I put in. The teachers are amazing at Blanche Macdonald. If you work hard they’ll help you hard. The show was breathtaking. Watching my and everyone else’s clothes was magical. Seeing the sketches come alive on a model was so rewarding.”

Top Fashion Design School Graduate Liis Sober

The perfectly prepared venue and the pristine collections were only two dimensions of what made Wandering Stars so spectacular. Completing the event’s commitment to the very highest professional standards was the beauty team, headed by Blanche Macdonald Makeup Director Jon Hennessey.

“For this show the challenge is to find a central theme or look that works effectively across the board with all the designers,” explained Jon, relaxing with his team of Blanche Macdonald Makeup grads after the show. “Tyler and I bounced ideas back and forth. In this case, the venue was a huge part of where the look came from, as the church has such a majestic quality. You’re surrounded by incredible stained glass and the runway is lined with candles. How can you honour that environment?

“I wanted something that was texture heavy in terms in reflection. When the models blinked I wanted to show the reflection in their eyelids. We created a craft glitter and an eye with a bird of prey quality to it, with a crisp black frame for the reflective glitter. But the main focus for me was the skin. I wanted to create the most luminous, reflective, ethereal quality to the skin. Highlights were painted in as strokes of light. There was nothing formulaic about it. Every girl was different. You might not have caught it. If it’s obvious it’s too much. The subtlety should creep up on you.

“Tim Hung designed the look for the Wandering Stars photo shoot. He and Tyler discussed using Gold Foil on the hair, giving it a gold flake texture. We kept that clean centre part and used a gold leaf to define the part and diffused the leaf by breaking it up with a spatula and fork. I was working very closely with Renata Trebacz who was keying the hair. She adhered the gold leaves and we diffused it in our room like we were blending a makeup.”

#wanderingstars Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Show 2014

For a Makeup Artist of Jon’s calibre, used to the backstage facilities of New York and Europe’s finest fashion venues, working in an 80-year old church still brought some novel challenges. 

“It’s a unique environment!” he laughed. “Hair is another floor away and so was the dressing room. I had no concerns about capabilities with my team of grads. They were confident and competent. We had two hours to process 19 models. It was a pushed pace, and it was a challenge, but we got it done!”

#wanderingstars Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Show 2014

The success of Wandering Stars was a tribute to the hard work of the students and staff at Blanche Macdonald, with special mention due to the inspirational leadership of President Lily Lim, the endless efforts of Executive Program Director/Show Coordinator Peggy Morrison, Executive Program Director Donna Baldock, Fashion Director Tyler Udall, Career Director, Fashion Department Mel Watts, the expertise and support in the Sewing and Pattern Labs of Instructors Brenda Swinglehurst and Jenny Hedberg, and creative catalyst Lisa Gellert. Special thanks must also go to Instructors Carlie Wong, Mariana Prins, Maneli Nourbakhsh, Rose Aiello, Emmanuel St. Juste and Wanda Sustersich, Lab Assistants Kari Applequist, Hana Chiang and Jill Kacic, Creative Director Kelly Schmidt, Social Media and Marketing Manager Natasha Eng, Social Media and Marketing Coordinator Laila Fox, Graphic Design Assistant Esther Chaye, Instructor and Backstage Coordinator Lyndi Barrett and the team at Heth PR.

Infinite gratitude too, must be given to the backstage team, led by Peggy Morrison, along with Leila Bani and a team of volunteers from the Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising programs. While instructors Jon Hennessey, Renata Trebacz and Barb Baker and their volunteer graduates and students from the Blanche Macdonald Makeup, Hair and Esthetics Schools ensured the models looked as spectacular as the collections. Thanks also to our fabulous emcee Jaylene McRae and DJ Hana Pesut (Sincerely Hana) for providing an amazing soundtrack to the night.

The entire team at Blanche Macdonald would also like to extend its sincerest gratitude to our corporate sponsors, Make Up For Ever, Oribe, Dermalogica, Aldo & Aldo Accessories, Town Shoes, Embryolisse, and Linacare, along with huge thanks to our colleagues at CurliQue Beauty for putting our guests’ goody-bags together.

Full List of Award Winners

Overall Achievement: Liis Sober and Daria Volokhova (tied)

Overall Achievement (Honourable Mention): Elya Postma

Achievement in Pattern Making: Shin-Yi Chi and Joanna Pang (tied)

Achievement in Garment Construction: Joanna Pang

Achievement in Illustration: Marissa Campbell

Award for Portfolio Presentation: Kathryn Brown

Award for Design Innovation: Tia Zhen


Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 PST