Blanche Macdonald Centre News from Blanche Macdonald Centre KEIKO MATSUI BRINGS THE BLING TO VANCOUVER’S NAIL ART SCENE! Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

In the cozy, clean and crisp white space of Glam Nail Studio, the morning sun glints on the golden array of Nail Art trophies jostling for space along countertops and shelves, intersticed with the framed sets of the winning artwork. The girls have only just settled from the bustle of their opening preparations, and the stations are already babbling with the first customers of the day; that is, with exception to our chair and the one opposite where sits the owner of this Award-Winning space, Blanche Macdonald Nail Parlour graduate-turned-instructor Keiko Matsui.

“At first I wasn’t aware of competitions,” chirps Keiko, swiveling to look at the impressive collection of glass and gold with a humble shrug. “Some of our staff that came in from Tokyo to work with us were wanting to go to Las Vegas; the competitions there are world renowned. I decided to give it a shot and I won third place the first time – I was very, very happy. Now, since we’ve begun winning these awards, there are nail technicians that want to come to work in this salon so that they too can win awards at the competitions. They know we know what we need to do!”

They certainly do. Just over six years into business, the Richmond-based Glam Nail team boasts an astounding 21 International Awards for their highly acclaimed Japanese nail art, including Keiko’s 3D Nail Art First Place win at IBS Las Vegas. And people have been noticing.  

Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

“Customers are actually coming in from different areas, crossing the border; sometimes they’re even flying in, coming by as they pass through the Vancouver International Airport!

“We try to get the most experienced nail technicians; they are so dedicated to the salon and we have won many competition awards. Even now, Glam Nail is still one-of-a-kind in the Lower Mainland.”

Since first tossing open the doors in the summer of 2008, Glam Nail’s client base – which began only with a small group of loyal customers from Keiko’s freelancing days – has grown exponentially, keeping the salon in constant flux and on their toes. This, in part due to the fact that Keiko and her girls are creating a new niche by educating Vancouverites about Japanese nail art technique and design.

“When I was still in Japan, about 18 years ago nobody was talking about nails. Japanese nail art really happened in the past 15 years or so; the nail technicians began to win awards in the international competitions, and the prominent ones were all of a sudden always in the magazines. Historically in Japan, the craftsman and craftsmanship is very appreciated. It was because of this that they were able to gradually establish so many nail art styles.”

Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

Keiko brought this diversity of style to Canada when a long list of national regulations and restrictions on immigrants forced her and her Canadian husband to relocate from Kyoto to Canada, leaving her position as an English instructor behind. Excited about the prospect of a fresh start, Keiko kept her eyes peeled and ears open for the next career to call her own. The moment of clarity was released – pun intended – during a back rub.

“I was helping out a friend with her massage practicum and as I was speaking with her she told me about another of her friends that was taking a nail artistry course. I thought, ‘Oh, I might like that!’ I began looking for a nail school right away. One of my friends had gone to Blanche Macdonald for the Esthetics course and the schedule really matched mine. It was all very opportune – all from only that one conversation!

“The classes at Blanche Macdonald were very sophisticated. The teachers were not just teachers; they were nail technicians with experience. I loved how they emphasized on cleaning, on manners, ethics – it’s all very important. It was great learning about all of the extra treatments as well, like henna and aromatherapy. The materials that we used at the school were very good; they were all top notch products!”

Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

Keiko pulls open a few drawers and points to her collection of polish and gels – most of these products are now stocking her shelves at Glam Nail. The high-standard hygenics that she learned over a decade ago are another Blanche Macdonald legacy that she has carried through to her salon – and they’re not the only things.   

“I even still follow the finger painting order,” she laughs. “Those kinds of fundamental lessons I cannot ever forget.”

After graduation, Keiko began work as a nail artist with Holt Renfrew’s prestige spa, but a very special circumstance pushed her into a more independent pursuit.

“I found out soon after that I was pregnant. I wanted to be more flexible in my hours, and I was adamant that I wanted to pursue nail art specifically, so I began doing friends’ nails. They loved it! That’s when I established K’s Mobile Nail Bar. My client list began growing bigger, and bigger – once you have 60 customers you cannot increase more than that. You’re fully booked all of the time. And so, I opened Glam Nail!”

Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

Even now with her larger space and ever-growing team, Keiko can barely keep the appointment books from overflowing. Glam Nail’s unparalleled passion for creativity, quality, and the attention they devote to their clients keeps their salon buzzing.

“A lot of our customers have been here for a long time, but some will move back to Asia, and some may have children and stop doing their nails for some time. Even when they don’t come for awhile, I still see them as very long term customers when they do. I always try to remember each customer and the stories we shared.

“I keep this salon very small. The reason is that I can still oversee and make sure that the quality of service is at the level I want. We guarantee our work for up to one week even if it’s their fault. We’ll fix it without any questions asked. I don’t want to argue about who’s fault it is; they paid, and so they should enjoy.”

Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

The Glam Nail aesthetic ranges from toothsome pastel florals to exorbitant, no holds barred bling. Though many travel miles for one of their signature 3D looks, some come for a more classic look made brilliant through the unparalleled quality and service on offer at the studio. Ensuring that her team are never short of ideas for her diverse client base means that Keiko is constantly on the lookout, pulling inspiration from some unlikely sources.

“When I see her clothes,” says Keiko, gesturing towards a customer’s heathered shawl cardigan, “I think of how there’s a really great combination of black and white there, and wonder how to utilize it. Materials are everywhere and make for great inspiration. I try to pay attention. Even with my kids’ stuff – I’ve gone to the toy store just to look and think about 3D things to make. It’s crazy!

“My crafty, artistic side has been really fulfilled with this job.”

Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

Glam Nail’s spectacular, inventive designs have even won over the adoration of superstar ‘Gothic Lolita’ blogger, journalist, and TV host La Carmina, who pops by Glam Nail to treat herself when she’s in town. Yet the passion that Keiko enthuses for her career has less to do with star visitors, and more to do with the everyday enjoyments that come with owning your own business.

“It’s so difficult to refine it to just one thing! One of the greatest parts about this job is that you see the results, the feedback right away, which is difficult to find in some other careers. Then, as I have two kids I am too busy to go downtown all the time, but my staff and customers will bring me back lots of ideas and information. I love my conversations with my team and my customers.

“I’m supported by so many people. I feel incredibly grateful. I have to play all sorts of roles in my daily life but it’s a good thing, as a mother, to have your own business; you can be more flexible.”

Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

Keiko has now added an extra role to her list that she is endlessly thrilled about, coming back to Blanche Macdonald as an instructor to the next generation of potential nail technicians, award-winning artists and studio owners.

“The classrooms at Blanche Macdonald are full of curiosity – I love it! At the time that I was in the program, there wasn’t much information about Japanese nail art, but a lot of these students today are very interested in it. I want to answer all of their questions! I really want to inspire these young artists, but I am inspired by them also; by their energy and their passion.”

Having won the hearts of the Lower Mainland over to the wondrous world of Japanese nail art, she hopes that the next generation will keep the tradition going. For now, her advice to the her students is to keep eyes open and on the horizon for their own calling in the bright and booming industry of Nail Art. 

“Be curious! I’m full of curiosity! And be patient. Keep going. Your time will come, but to be patient is the most important thing to know.”

Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

Top Nail School Instructor/Graduate Keiko Matsui

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 00:00:00 PST
Pro Hair Grad Jennie Keis: From Fringe to Foundation Top Pro Hair School Graduate Jennie Keis

Jennie Keis knows how important a haircut can be. As a Stylist at the UBC branch of On The Fringe Hair Design the Blanche Macdonald Pro Hair and Makeup Graduate is helping students from around the world discover their sense of self-expression every day.

She’s also taken her artistry out of the salon; launching her own Charity Foundation, Giving It Back, providing patients at Vancouver addiction centres with free makeovers as they prepare to restart their lives.

Jennie understands how hair and makeup changes lives. She’s a prime example.

“I decided that I needed to do something with my life,” she explains. “I was running a clothing, body piercing and tattoo store with a friend in Yellowknife. I was there for a year and it was way too cold for me. I returned to Quesnel, where I’d grown up, and realized that I needed to make a change. That’s when I came to Vancouver and Blanche Macdonald.”

Top Pro Hair School Graduate Jennie Keis

Jennie had loved hanging out in the local salon from an early age (“I was happy to sweep up the hair. I liked the community and the conversations.”). But her inner hairstylist would have to wait, as she’d been understandably wowed by the artistry and career opportunities of the Global Makeup Program.

“The Makeup program was so much fun. I met so many amazing people, classmates and instructors, and I’m still in contact with almost all of them. Even now, if I have questions I’ll message Ashley Forshaw, Leanne Rae Podavin or Jon Hennessey.

“We did a Hair module on the Makeup program with Tyana Nichole, focusing on updo’s and wedding do’s. So if you were put on the spot as a Makeup Artist you could whip up a hairstyle. Ty was inspirational. I aced the hair module. Which was the only thing I aced!”

Jennie stepped straight from Blanche Macdonald into life as a professional Makeup Artist, both in the independent movie world and at Shoppers Drug Mart. But the lure of Hair soon proved too strong to resist. When it came to picking a School, there was never any doubt.

“I knew what Blanche Macdonald expected of us when I started the Hair Program. I knew how high the standards were. I loved how the instructors are working in salons. Lisa Callender and Jeff Ranger are so cool! The education was great. And I liked talking to people all day!”

Top Pro Hair School Graduate Jennie Keis

Talking comes naturally to Jennie. She’s an unabashed people person, regularly punctuating her conversation with booming laughter. Connecting with clients has never been a problem: even before she had the technical abilities to match her innate interpersonal skills.

“When we first started seeing clients in the School Salon it was absolutely nerve wracking, but the instructors weren’t going to give you something you couldn’t do. They wanted us to be confident. The more confident you are, the better haircuts you give. The instructors would build us up. I loved it!”

Looking for some real-life experience (and income), Jennie’s enthusiasm led her to a position assisting owner Shannon Simmonds at Vancouver salon On The Fringe Hair Design while she was still at Hair School.

“I ended up working at On The Fringe on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, assisting and going to Hair School Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I was working my butt off! In the salon I’d watch Shannon and the other stylists work. I did my Blanche Macdonald work placement here too! I knew this was the place for me.”

Top Pro Hair School Graduate Jennie Keis

On The Fringe Hair Design realised that they had a special one, and put Jennie to work seeing clients the day after she graduated. After a couple of weeks on Main Street, Jennie relocated to the branch at the University of British Columbia, one of Vancouver’s liveliest salons. It’s been her creative home ever since.

“It’s really busy at UBC. We get walk-ins all day long. Our clientele are different from the clientele at the Main Street salon, but how we want to make them feel and what we want to achieve when they’re in our chair is exactly the same. We want to make them feel that they’re the only people we’re thinking about when they’re with us. We have clients that have moved to Vancouver from different countries and university life can be lonely for them. We want them to know that we care. Once every six weeks they have someone they can vent to.”

For Jennie’s global clientele, whether it’s their first or tenth time in her chair, a trip to On The Fringe Hair Design is a chance to sit, laugh and chat with a friend. For Jennie, every client is a chance for a creative adventure.

“I love big changes. When girls come to university and are away from home for the first time of course they get excited about changing their colours or cutting it short. What are their parents going to do? Men’s cuts are always fun. Girls have all these different accessories. But for men, their haircut is their accessory.”

Top Pro Hair School Graduate Jennie Keis

For anyone walking into On The Fringe Hair Design looking for a bold colour change, the orchid tones of Jennie’s own hair is confirmation that they’re in gifted hands.

“When people walk into the salon and think, ‘Who here would be the best fit for me?’ they can see my hair and ask if I can do the same for them. Colour is like chemistry. It’s a legitimate science.”

Jennie’s commitment to filling people with confidence isn’t confined to her clients. Taking inspiration from her volunteer work with On The Fringe Hair Design, she’s started Giving It Back, a foundation dedicated to giving addiction sufferers finishing their treatment new looks to accompany their new lives.

“On The Fringe is really involved in our community. We do Cuts for Cancer at UBC, and we give homeless people haircuts at Oppenheimer Park twice a year.

“I realised that two times a year wasn’t enough for me. I’ve had friends and family members struggle with addiction so I wanted to give back. I starting talking to Turning Point, which is a treatment centre for drug and alcohol addiction. They were floored that I wanted to help. I’ve done all this hard work to get to this point and I love doing it. I want to share these skills with people. I’m pretty excited!”

Top Pro Hair School Graduate Jennie Keis

For Jennie, the art of hair is the art of understanding and appreciating people. Whether it’s a regular client or a stranger, the world’s most technically perfect haircut doesn’t mean a thing unless it’s on the right head.

“You have read people,” she smiles. “How can I make you feel better about yourself? Will this haircut suit you? I’m not going to give someone shy bright pink hair if they’re shy and don’t want to stand out. You need to know something about the person to answer those questions. I’m a Chatty Cathy so it suits me perfectly. I can’t imagine my life without this!”

Jennie Keis Top 5 Fave Products

Wed, 12 Nov 2014 00:00:00 PST
Gloria Kim Strikes Gold at the 2014 Sydney IMATS 'Battle of the Brushes' Competition! Blanche Macdonald Makeup Grad Gloria Kim, First Place at IMATS Sydney 2014

Gloria Sion Kim remembers discovering that she was going to embark on a Makeup adventure that would change her life. So does her family.

“I always check my email before I go to bed,” recalls Gloria. “It was 2am, and my grandmother was asleep next to me. I saw a message from Heather Wisner from IMATS saying ‘Congratulations: You’ve been selected to be a finalist at the Sydney IMATS’. I screamed, and of course my parents came rushing in. ‘What happened!’”

The drama had just begun. One month later Gloria was on stage in Sydney, accepting the First Place Trophy having won the IMATS Beauty/Fantasy competition for her dazzling interpretation of a Ki-Wa, a traditional Korean House, giving a sense of time and place to the theme of Art Through the Ages.

Blanche Macdonald Makeup Grad Gloria Kim, First Place at IMATS Sydney 2014

“It’s art, but it’s also a Beauty/Fantasy competition so it has to be beautiful. I had two hours to complete the makeup and I finished with 15 minutes left, so I did some more detailing by hand, which showed my skill and definitely helped. Everyone was telling me that I was going to win, but I still wasn’t expecting it. When Michael Key announced that I had won I started crying and had to sit down! I couldn’t believe it. There were a lot of cameras flashing and I was so happy.”

Looking back, there seems to be a sense of inevitability about Gloria’s triumph. Having arrived in Canada when she was 15, the Korean-born artist was already an accomplished painter when she began thinking about taking her art to a different kind of canvas.

“A friend of mine had been to Blanche Macdonald and told me that they could help me find a good job as an artist. I thought it looked really interesting.

“At Makeup School my classmates supported each other like we were family. All the instructors were amazingly friendly to students, even though they were really strict with things like our timekeeping. Halfway through the year I thought I would go into either Fashion or TV and Film. But as soon as I took airbrush classes with Daemon Cadman I knew that it was what I wanted to do. Bodypainting is my art!”

Blanche Macdonald Makeup Grad Gloria Kim, First Place at IMATS Sydney 2014

It was Fashion Makeup Instructor Jon Hennessey who first noticed that Gloria’s work had a unique artistic touch. He suggested that she should investigate entering the IMATS. Her Makeup career, aided by the Blanche Macdonald Careers Department, was already booming; bridal, graduation and prom jobs keeping her so busy that she couldn’t apply for the North American IMATS. But she managed to get her portfolio in for the Sydney competition, which led to the email, flight and two hours that changed her life.

“Soon after I came back from Sydney I went to meet a popular wedding photography company and they asked me if I was the same girl who had just won the IMATS. They knew my name and my winning Makeup. As soon as I came back to Canada I started getting higher paying jobs! They know I’ll do great work.

“I’m growing my portfolio with photographers all the time, but I’m also doing bridal work, and TV and Film, a lot of aging makeup, with film students at UBC. And it’s Halloween season now, so I’ve been extra busy!”

Blanche Macdonald Makeup Grad Gloria Kim, First Place at IMATS Sydney 2014

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Blanche Macdonald Makeup Grad Gloria Kim, First Place at IMATS Sydney 2014

Tue, 04 Nov 2014 00:00:00 PST

Inspiring doesn’t begin to describe the spectacular day we spent with Award-Winning Makeup Artist Siân Richards!

Blanche Macdonald’s Atelier Campus was set aflame with the bold banter of the British-born, world renowned Makeup Artist and Founder of bespoke brush line London Brush Company, who flew in from L.A. just to share her wisdom with us. Students, graduates, instructors, and IATSE Local 891 members gathered to glean insider tips on the TV & Film industry – and they left with far more than they had bargained for.   

Flitting about the stage like a spark, Siân had the crowd alternating between roars of laughter and absolute rapture, flinging her words to the space with a fearlessness and authenticity that made quick friends of everyone in the room.  

Her poise in balancing confidence with humility became all the more impressive once she explained her incredible journey. Opening with a slideshow of her favourite works Siân narrated her adventures spanning the sets of Apocalypto, Seed of Chucky, television series Prime Suspect, and Cloud Atlas (for which she won the Critics Choice Award for Best Makeup with her jaw-dropping transformative makeups on Halle Berry).

Top Makeup School Guest Speaker Sian Richards

“I’ve been doing this for 26 years now and I still get really, really excited,” she smiled. “I mean, how many jobs are there where you get to see something blown up one day, and meet Marie Antoinette the next?”

Such oddities were standard fare growing up as a second generation Makeup Artist, trailing her Dad Hu Richards on set from the age of four. She phoned in to the BBC Makeup Academy at age ten full of resolution, only to be gently turned away and told to return when she had at least eleven more years under her belt. When the years had passed and the Academy had closed its doors, Siân turned to Art School.

“Art gave me the confidence to let go.

“You have to learn what they teach you at School and then break each and every rule to find you in your artistry. The moment you throw out the formula, you throw out the paint-by-numbers, is the moment you know your self worth as an artist. It’s very, very important to know your value. If you don’t know how valuable you are how can anyone else?”

Top Makeup School Guest Speaker Sian Richards

Siân stressed the importance of being aware of other artists in order to create your own style. She bombarded the crowds with imagery of her favourite photographers, painters, illustrators and graffiti artists (“If you don’t know Banksy, shame on you!”) commanding due awe and attention to the people that have shaped her as an artist, makeup or otherwise.

“Go to an art exhibition, go to a gallery, go see sculpture, know about Rembrandt, know about Rodin, know about all of these great masters! Look at the way they paint and the way they think outside of the box. Because that is exactly what you, as a Makeup Artist, need to be great.

“I mean, come ON guys, we can use this!” Siân exclaimed, sweeping open her arms in grand gesture at the particularly stunning skeletal framework of a cathedral dome.

“You can bring all of this into your work but you have to see it in order to replicate it. You’ve have to LOOK.” 

Top Makeup School Guest Speaker Sian Richards

The screen dimmed and Siân pivoted to face the crowd.

“Now, who’s brave enough to take me on,” she challenged, eyes glinting, sprinting about thrusting the microphone at thrilled students. “I’m not here to perform a monologue!”

As the hands flew up and the crowd began engaging with Siân’s myriad of experiences, the spectacular advice rained down like treasures. And we were scooping it up by the fistful.

“I used to write to makeup artists and say to them, ‘Can I come clean your brushes? Can I come sweep the hair off the floor? Is there anything that needs doing?’ You have to have humility and you need to understand that you have to work up. We’ll see the ones who really want it in the ones that really lend themselves out. We love that. When you put yourself out on the line for your art, we will absolutely give you the chance if we can.

“Don’t be rigid. Let the currents of life let you take you where you want to be. It took me a long time to get into movies because the film industry was in recession when I finished makeup school. So I joined a modeling agency as a makeup artist and went from there.”

Even if beauty makeup wasn’t where she ultimately wanted to end up, an open mind and fierce work ethic saw her traveling the globe, taking her through everything from headshots, to commercial work, high fashion editorials and the heat of the runway. It wasn’t quite the feature film work that she was looking for, but she insists that everything that she learned, she still uses to this day.    

“People seem to think that if you do beauty you do beauty. If you do film you do film. If you do effects you do effects – NO you don’t! You do MAKEUP! You do Makeup, and you can do anything. Don’t limit yourself.

“Diversity is the key to success.”

Top Makeup School Guest Speaker Sian Richards

To be diverse takes a certain pliability and dauntlessness in the face of the unknown. Siân revealed that in her first film gig as Design Head – a production starring David Bowie no less – she had “totally blagged it,” teaching herself continuity and script breakdown know-how as she went along. It wasn’t always easy, but it’s allowed her to appreciate the power of support and of bringing your positivity on set.        

“When times are tough and you’re tired, you bring each other up and there’s a sense of camaraderie in which you can manage those days or those hours. It really is marvelous because everyone has each other’s backs, you feel very safe, it’s not a competition and it’s a really beautiful, creative and heartwarming experience.

As the students packed in tight around the stage for Siân’s demo, the scene turned almost barbaric in special effects bloodlust.

“Shall we give her a nosebleed?” she called out, the crowd replying with roars of approval.

Watching Siân work was a veritable treat. Her slew of witticisms as free-flowing as before, she channeled this same ease and candor to her work, creating and developing as she went along.

“I have an idea and then I just let it be organic,” she said, smudging at a bit of blood with her forearm and standing back to admire the effect. Students and IATSE members alike sat agape with wonder, watching her transform her Kryolan powder blushes and eyeshadows into a special effects palette with a few spritzes of water.

Top Makeup School Guest Speaker Sian Richards

This ability to improvise and think on your feet comes in handy in the industry too. On set of Cloud Atlas, she recalled having to create one of Halle’s most extensive transformations – a six-piece silicone look where she is covered in tattoos – live on the day with no time to practice or prep. Though she soared through on that occasion, she admits that even she doesn’t have a perfect track record.

“Have you ever had a time where your makeup test just went bad? You wait – it’s awesome.

“It’s OK to screw up. You’re going to. You learn from your mistakes. It’s OK to do makeup tests that don’t work because that’s how you know that the makeup test is going to work the next time around. You can only realize how to improve your work if you realize what doesn’t work.”

Adding the last touch strokes of depth to her masterful scarred face look, Siân directed her advice to the current students in the crowd.

“The beauty of Makeup School is that you are in a beautiful cocoon that enables you to mess up and make mistakes and be fallible. In the real world you also make mistakes, only if you do, you might not get hired again.

“Use this time at School to be really daring and adventurous so that you can do it in a nurturing environment. That’s what school is all about. You have some of the best guiding you here at Blanche Macdonald and they’re always going to have your back. And you know what? You won’t be fired for it.”

Top Makeup School Guest Speaker Sian Richards

Having been immersed in the thrust and thrill of the industry for over a quarter century, Siân is still far from slowing down. Her beautiful bespoke brush line London Brush Company has become an internationally lauded phenomenon in its own right. And it comes as no surprise – she has approached the craft of her collection with the same integrity and finesse that has built her career.

“Let’s be excellent. Why would you want to be anything less? Do you think Ve Neill goes, ‘Oh I have a bit of a headache, I’m not really up to putting in the effort.’ No. They turn up, they bring their A-game and they do amazing stuff all of the time. ALL of the time.

“If you only aspire to be good, it’s not enough. You should aspire to be superb, not good. Good is mediocrity. Mediocrity never succeeds. If you want to be excellent, think outside the box, it’s essential. It is absolutely essential.”

Top Makeup School Guest Speaker Sian Richards

Big thanks and big love to Siân for a dynamic and delightful afternoon! We can’t wait until the next visit! For now, check out her spectacular London Brush Company hand-crafted brushes, cleansers and accessories at CurliQue Beauty.

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 00:00:00 PST

“It was incredible to see Mario’s images when they’d come through for the first time. Soon after I started he shot the cover of German Vogue with Miley Cyrus. It was instantly clear that I was working with someone very important.”

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Merchandising graduate Bradley Fairall isn’t the only person who speaks about Mario Testino in reverential terms. As a paid intern in London, England with arguably the World’s most famous Fashion Photographer, Bradley’s had a dream start in the fashion industry. Now he’s back in Vancouver, the lessons he learned continue to guide his career trajectory.

“Every day in London I would pick up new things,” he continues. “I learned that Creative Direction is where I’d really like to go. It’s about developing an eye for things and being able to translate a brief into an image; seeing what the client is after and putting together a team that will be able to create it. In London I could see how important Creative Directors were in magazines and advertising.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Bradley Fairall

As an intern at Mario Testino +, the photographer’s in-house art department and production company, Bradley’s responsibilities within the team were to research images for developing ideas, concepts, and casting, along with trend forecasting and producing newsletters, ensuring the entire organisation stayed informed on the latest developments. It was an exciting and challenging role that drew heavily on the fashion history education Bradley received at Blanche Macdonald. It also helped that he was very familiar with working as part of a team, having come to the fashion industry after a career as an elite professional cyclist.

“I took a roundabout route to fashion,” he laughs. “I started racing mountain bikes and had reached the Canadian National Team when I was still in high school. Then I switched over to professional road cycling and also rode with the National Team. I rode in three World Championships and the Under-26 Tour de France. It’s very difficult physically and mentally. You travel a lot and you’re tired all the time. And it’s extremely competitive. After a few years I looked at what I wanted to do and decided to pursue some other options.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Bradley Fairall

Riding and living in Europe did more than keep Bradley astronomically fit. It also opened a door to a second passion.

“I developed an interest in fashion while travelling around Europe – especially Paris. I’d always liked clothes and photography. It just wasn’t in the forefront of my mind when I was a professional rider.

“When I moved back to Vancouver through a cycling connection I started working at Mark James Ltd, a high end men’s boutique, on West Broadway. When that closed I realized that there were more elements of fashion I found interesting. Which is what made me come to Blanche Macdonald.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Bradley Fairall

Pushing limits were the norm as a professional cyclist. Bradley wanted a Fashion School where he’d be challenged in a different way. 

“What appealed to me was that the Fashion Merchandising program was condensed and I could do a year of serious study. And obviously Blanche Macdonald is well connected and can provide students with work opportunities. One of my old teammates, Cameron Evans, had graduated and he said it was good. He’s at Aritzia now.

“Going into Fashion School my knowledge was more in menswear. I was already reading magazines, but once I started classes I was able to get to know the photographers. After time, and Tyler Udall’s Communication course, I found myself being more interested in advertising. I began thinking about moving towards Art Direction – the in-between area between styling and photography. I really enjoyed picking Peggy Morrison and Tyler’s brains. They have such depth of knowledge in all different areas. That’s what I liked the most, learning about stuff that you don’t hear about all the time ­– like fashion history. Getting to know how what’s happened before is influencing what’s happening now. Your understanding of what’s happening in the industry expands so much.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Bradley Fairall

Blanche Macdonald delivered more than the fashion education Bradley used at Mario Testino +. It also gave him the connections to make the journey from Vancouver to London a risk worth taking.

“I wanted to try moving out of Vancouver to look at some bigger fashion markets. The scene in London is young, creative and vibrant. I was super drawn to that. A lot of the stronger independent magazines and young designers are based in London.

“I arrived in London with no guarantees, although Blanche Macdonald had set me up with a meeting with the incredible Laura Rule, who was the Creative Director at Mario Testino +. She actually did a talk at Blanche a few months ago. Laura said I would be doing almost exactly what I was looking for and Tyler put in a good word on my behalf. Essentially, it was perfect.

Top Fashion School Graduate Bradley Fairall

Mario Testino’s history speaks for itself. His photos of Princess Diana are some of the most famous portraits of the 20th Century. His A-List shoots for Vogue and Vanity Fair complement with his continual work for major fashion houses including Burberry, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana, Estee Lauder and Michael Kors.

“Mario’s done some major stuff. Of course that’s exciting. But what I found most fascinating was the process: from bringing in a client, Laura would then go to Milan for the shows and conceptualize a direction, along with targeted areas of research based on the collection and fuse that with the Mario Testino + brand. After being directed, me and my colleague Natalie Hasseck, would take that concept and references to build sketchbooks of image research.

“We’d edit that based on what Mario and Laura liked, and work on refining it until we found something that was the best fit for the brief. Then we moved into the casting stage, which was always interesting, especially if multiple girls were needed.

“There are elements of my contributions in every shoot that happened while I was there. On the Etro Fall/Winter campaign the research that I worked on for Mario, Laura and the client was definitely visible in the final product. It was very exciting to see that my work had played a part in a campaign for a major fashion house.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Bradley Fairall

Vancouver is a long way from London, but Bradley is keen to point out that the lessons he learned at Blanche Macdonald were beyond helpful once he found himself in the offices of the world’s leading fashion photographer.

“From my time at Blanche Macdonald I had the feel for fashion and a knowledge I could bring to Mario Testino +. I knew who the designers are and who the big photographers are and were. A lot of the research we were doing was based in the 50s, 60s and 70s, which I was exposed to through Peggy’s classes. Having that base of knowledge to draw from and expand from was probably the most useful thing I learned at Fashion School. Tyler’s class really helped me develop an eye for things. When you’re looking for inspiration or trying to convey your vision to a client everything becomes much easier when you know and understand your references and why they work together. There's a certain level of quality that you need to present when you're working in Mario's World. You need to know the markers of quality.”

Bradley’s back in Vancouver now, adding Graphic Design skills to the Creative Direction expertise he’s already absorbed. On his ride to success he understands that knowledge, combined with a professional attitude, can take you a long way.

“You need to develop relationships with people. You need to make a good impression and take advantage of connections. So much of this industry is, ‘do you know someone who would be good for this?’ You need to have a base knowledge of forecasting and how to develop a trend. You need to know all the photographers, models and designers. If you want to get into this industry, absorb everything you can about fashion.” 

Top Fashion School Graduate Bradley Fairall

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Tue, 14 Oct 2014 00:00:00 PST