Stitching up third place

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By Silk-Anne Kaya

Five Ryerson fashions students dominated a Paris runway in December, helping Canada place third out of 11 countries at the International Young Designer Competition. Entries from France and China placed first and second respectively.

Cheri Louie, a third-year fashion student who was part of the nine-person team, won Best Canadian Garment for her “Re Mode” dress, which was made by using pop cans for the bodice, shopping bags for the train, and a paper-based material for the skirt. She was shocked to discover she had won when the models showcased the winning designs at the matinée gala, held at the Carousel du Louvre.

“I could see her behind all the other girls and I was like: ‘Omigod, that’s my dress up there!’” Louie, 23, says. “I was just asking: ‘What should I do now?’”

Her dress, influenced by a fall fashion competition she entered that had a recycling theme, served two purposes. It met the theme of the Young Designers competition (Fashion and Material) by introducing new materials in fashion, and it also encouraged recycling and preserving the environment.

Louie, who won 3,000 French francs (a little more than $600) and a certificate for her entry, still thinks that being able to visit one of the design capitals of the world with her team was the best prize of all.

“How often do you get to go on a plane with a bunch of students, dragging their carry-on dresses and helping each other out?” she says. “Just the fact that we were going to Paris as a group of Canadian students was the biggest highlight to me.”

The annual gala event in France, held Dec. 14, gave the fashion students an opportunity to showcase their work in front of industry reps, journalists, and well-known designers. The Canadian students also visited two world-renowned fashion schools, enjoyed cocktail parties at the Canadian Embassy and the Quebec General Delegation, and visited fashion houses such as the Haute Couture House of Christian Lacroix.

“The students got to touch, try on, and play with haute couture one-of-a-kinds in [Lacroix’s] latest collection,” says Brian Wickens, the fashion instructor and competition co-ordinator for Ryerson.

“The general public would rarely have an opportunity to even see these garments.”

Many of the students hope to return to Paris to get their master’s degrees at one of the schools they visited. Louie says traveling, competitions, and outside experience are invaluable to students pursuing a career in fashion.

“During our trip we had an analogy: our school is a box, and we have to get out of the box,” she says. “You have to have the initiative to do it yourself because no one’s going to help you after you graduate.”

Louie is already busy working on designs for three upcoming Canadian competitions, and hopes to either work for a larger design firm or get her master’s in London or Paris when she graduates from Ryerson next year.

Wickens hopes and expects to continue seeing such strong results from Ryerson’s fashion students.

The school of fashion broke records for the second time at the national stage of the competition held in Montreal in November. Ryerson students made six out of the 10 designs chosen to represent Canada in France. In 1999 Ryerson set the record by sending five designs to France.

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