By Hilary Hagerman
Lately, Jessica Biffi’s days have been consumed with raw silk, pots of coffee and angry sewing machines.
You may know Biffi as the runner-up from Project Runway Canada 2. Now, the 26-year-old Ryerson grad is debuting her first signature collection at Toronto’s LG Fashion Week, which runs from Oct. 19-Oct. 24.
For Biffi, Project Runway helped her find her niche. “I didn’t really know what my esthetic was at the time. The show really helped me find my voice as a designer.”
A Guelph, Ont. native, Biffi graduated from Ryerson in 2006 after her Mass Exodus costume collection, under the label Aphid, received rave reviews. She said Ryerson’s fashion design program helped her get where she is today.
“The program is difficult, but it’s difficult for a reason,” she said. “The fashion industry is not easy. Anyone who thinks it’s all fun and games is mistaken.”
“I’m very proud of Jessica,” said P.Y. Chau, a fashion design professor at Ryerson who taught Biffi patternmaking and construction. “She was a vivacious leader and just had that personality that you need to succeed in the people-based fashion industry.”
Biffi said every single thing she learned at Ryerson she’s applying to her career now. “Sometimes at school I would be like, ‘Oh, what a weird project,’ or ‘Oh, why are we doing this,’ but now that I’m in the industry, everything has some application.”
After graduation, she landed a job at Addition Elle as head of visual merchandising, where she stayed for three years. “I think it’s important for a designer to work in retail, at least for a little while,” she said. “You get to connect to the customer on a different level, and see the hanger appeal of a piece of clothing.”
With her experience from Project Runway giving her some major cred, Biffi is becoming more of an integral part of the Canadian fashion industry. Last year, she showed a Fall/Winter 2009 collection at LG Fashion Week with the other two top three contenders in Project Runway. Now she’s debuting her first solo Spring/Summer 2010 collection, filled with tailored pieces that accent the structure of the body.
“I like having fun with the sex appeal of clothing,” she said. “I want to make clothes for people that if they put it on, they feel like the best version of themselves.”
After Fashion Week wraps up, Biffi plans to keep building her brand and open a couple of stores featuring her designs.
“I’m just going to keep running with the momentum that happens. I mean, I’m 26 years old and I’m known nationally as a designer, which is ridiculous for someone my age to achieve, especially in the Canadian industry.”