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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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!”
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