Almost ready to wear

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By Mike Drach

Two Ryerson fashion students have been given a chance to take a deep drink from the well of success, international fame and glamour.

And it tastes a lot like that sweet water of life — vodka.

Olivera Savic and Robert Lieu, both third-year fashion students, are among the 16 Canadian finalists out of 500 entrants in this year’s Smirnoff International Student Fashion Awards.

The Canadian finals are at the Dock in Toronto on May 31, and the winner goes on to represent Canada in Hong Kong. Designers from 30 countries will have models strut their stuff in a final, winner-takes-all competition.

Smirnoff is offering a grand prize big enough to make any aspiring fashion designer drunk with envy — $10,000 cash plus a bursary and guaranteed position in the prestigious Cnetral St. Martin School of Arts in London, England.

The competition, open to any fashion student, required a submission of two designs: one ready-to-wear piece and one avant-garde piece (in other words, one off the rack and one off the wall).

This year’s theme is virtual nature, meaning the designers must use elements of nature in their designs. But, Savic said that her and Lieu’s works are “totally different things,” meaning nobody necessarily has an edge.

“Everything comes from nature and everything returns to it,” said Savic in explaining her artistic motivation. She used earthy materials such as wool and mohair to mimic naturally occurring aesthetic patterns. “You can use and copy things from nature, and you can make beauty from that.”

Lieu based his designs, intended mostly for spring or summer wear, on butterfly patterns.

“Butterflies are very modern,” said Lieu. “It represents the fashion industry, because they both have a very short life, and they are constantly changing.”

Lieu has been in similar contests before and is well aware of the fickleness of the fashion business, but he competes mostly to show of his skill.

“I’m not entering for an award or anything,” Lieu sad. “I just want to get my name out there.”

He also said that liquor companies such as Smirnoff often sponsor artistic exhibitions, which many artisans accept with some reservations.

“A lot of designers don’t smoke, don’t drink — they totally don’t think it’s cool,” he said.

Savic, on the other hand, knows a good product when she sees (or tastes) one.

“I haven’t had a drink for a long time,” she laughed. “But I like it on the rocks.”

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