By Shane Dingman
For the second year in a row, Ryerson fashion students have dominated the Canadian round of the International Young Designer Competition and will send five students to the finals in Paris, France.
“We had no concept we’d basically take half the competition,” says Brian Wickens, the Ryerson fashion grad and instructor who has coordinated the competition since it started in Canada in 1991.
The students competition, held in Montreal on Nov. 21, judges garments designed and produced by students, looking at everything from sketches right down to the stitching technique on the finished outfits. Last year Ryerson broke the mould by having five garments in the top ten — the most by a single school up to that point. This year, Ryerson went one better and had six pieces out of ten, and fourth-year student Yolanda Ng also made history by being the first Canadian designer to qualify two garments for the Paris finale.
“I was actually very shocked,” says Ng. “When they first called my name I was really happy, I was just so ecstatic that when they called my name the second time I thought I was going to pass out.”
The students travelling to the Paris finale Dec. 8 will be swept to parties at the Canadian Embassy and the Quebec General Delegation, visit the haute couture fashion houses and participate in the final gala on Dec. 14 at the Louvre. They will be competing against contestants from all over the world including China, the United States, Japan, Italy and Russia.
Each year, the young designers are given a new theme to focus what they creates, says Wickens. “This year the theme was undefined, very vague: Fashion in materials.” Use of leather and embroidery are encouraged.
It looks even more vague when compared to last year’s theme: Business women set to travel in the 21st century.
Ng’s interpretation on the theme was obviously well-received — her three entries all finished in the top 15, out of 56. “I believe in using very luxurious materials like leather, fur, feathers and very natural fabrics so it’s kind of materialistic, a sort of play on words.”
The red leather of her two entries all had to be hand-worked, including the intricate rose-patterned cut-outs on the long jacket. All of this work had to be completed in three weeks between Ryerson’s Oct. 16 in-house contest and the Nov. 7 garment submission deadline.
Wickens says this year 65 students applied to be one of Ryerson’s 10 representatives to Montreal. The competition is usually open to third and fourth-year students, but this year entries from second-year were considered. None were finalists at the competition.
Ng, 21, says the contest’s intense schedule convinced her that if she could handle it, she could do anything. This will be her second trip to the Paris finals — she was a finalist last year as well, and she says Ryerson’s recent cominance of the contest is a result of a little rebellion.
“In the past a lot of people complained that there’s not a lot of creativity in our program,” she says. “We’re just going beyond what is just normal clothing, we really push the limits. It’s serious art now, I guess students are starting to realize that.”
The grand prize of the contest if 20,000 francs (almost $4,000), a round-trip Air France ticket to anywhere in the world, and a year-long scholarship at the Ecoles de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.