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by Kathy Kuc 

Le Château’s donation of $100,000 to Ryerson’s School of Fashion is aiming to “add significant value to the lives of fashion students,” but some aren’t so sure it will benefit them individually.

“It’s not like the cheque is made up in my name,” said Christian Hernandez, a second-year fashion communications student. “I’m sure it will help the school en masse, but it will probably benefit me indirectly.”

The donation, formally known as the Le Château Enrichment Fund, will be divided into installments of $20,000 and spread over the next five years.

Some of the money will be used to create six scholarships each year — three for fashion design students and three for fashion communications students.

The rest will be used to support a Le Château Inc. Lecture that will feature a “visionary” leader from the fashion industry and focus on issues relating to the culture of fashion.

But having Canada’s leading specialty retailer on campus is making some students wonder about the fine line between advertising and fashion education.

“The information presented in the lectures will probably be biased,” said second-year fashion communications student Meredith McCrae. “But students know enough to know that there are companies out there other than Le Château.”

Lucia Dell’Agnese, fashion design program co-ordinator, also believes that Le Château’s presence on campus isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“It’s wonderful that industry can come in and help out with funding where the government can’t,” she said.

“Any information about business is good information for students,” said McRae.

Last year, the high-end retailer Holt Renfrew occasionally came into fashion classes to talk about trend and merchandising, as did workers from other companies.

“It’s nice to have people from the industry to come and speak to us,” said Tamina Cassinath, a second-year fashion design student. “There’s only so much you can learn in the classroom.”

Cassinath doesn’t think students can be swayed to design for anyone but themselves, since most are already set in their own style.

“I think of Le Château as a lower-end place —  it’s good for knock-offs and accessories or a cheap shirt for a night out,” said McRae.

The founder and CEO of Le Château, Herschel Segal, who was awarded an honorary doctorate from Ryerson in 1999, believes that Le Chateau’s ties to Ryerson will benefit the fashion industry as a whole.

“Over the past nine years, we have expanded Le Château’s design and marketing team with over 20 graduates from Ryerson, 17 of whom are still with the company in major positions,” he said in a press release.

“The Le Château Enrichment Fund will provide necessary support for the students and fund future generations of students who will ultimately join the fashion industry and contribute to its continued vitality and strength.”

“I think it’s fabulous that Le Château has sent the message to everyone that we need to promote design in this country,” said Dell’Agnese.

“The fact that Le Château has shown interest signifies that they want to be part of one of the best fashion schools in Canada.”

Correction: In the Sept. 28, 2005 print edition, the Eyeopener reported that Holt Renfrew held a popular lecture series for fashion students the year before. The following week they printed a correction stating that instead workers from Holt Renfrew, and others fashion companies, occasionally come in to speak to classes about the industry.

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