By Kelly Skjerven
There’s no doubt that fashion is a big deal on Ryerson’s campus.
With so many styles on campus, it can be difficult if not impossible to pinpoint just one to represent a whole campus of over 37,000 people. But Rebecca Halliday, a professor with the School of Fashion came up with the term “downtown diverse” to describe the fashion culture at the university.
“I think its a combination of the really fashion forward dress that you see in downtown Toronto and that you can see in the stores in downtown Toronto especially at the Eaton Centre, but also combined with a sense of the very strong diversity that we have on the campus and students own self-assuredness in expressing who they are. Or in experimenting with how they want to express who they are,” said Halliday.
“I do feel that the variousness in dress and in cultural expression is part and parcel of an overall increase in diversity in the makeup of Toronto as a whole and in the students that are moving to the downtown area to attend school.”
She also mentioned the fact that the Eaton Centre is introducing more international retailers such as Nordstrom, Uniqlo and AllSaints which may influence a student’s decision to expand their wardrobes.
There is a downside to this, according to Halliday. With more retailers taking up space on Queen Street W. and in the downtown core, local stores and brands that were previously there are being pushed out.
“It is a relief to see students on campus wearing clothes from independent stores or brands that operate closer to Parkdale as I know that those stores are still finding a consumer base in Toronto,” Halliday said.
Halliday also noted that some students are dressing for their respective industries, a trend she’s noticed especially with fashion, communications and business students.
Some Ryerson students say arriving on campus has influenced the way they dress. When fourth-year journalism student Emma McIntosh moved to Toronto from Seattle, she was taken aback by Ryerson’s fashion.
“There’s definitely a sense that no one just rolled out of bed and came here, I’ve visited friends at their universities and it is never like this.”
It was a big change for McIntosh, who only packed sweats and hoodies and upon arriving at Ryerson realized not many students were dressed in the same attire.
Tiffany Estoesta, a third-year social work student, came to Ryerson from George Brown College and said she noticed an immediate difference in how Ryerson students dress compared to George Brown students.
“There was a lot of more, I guess you could say gym wear or casual wear but coming here there’s a lot of people who really do put in some effort, that also makes me want to try more different trends,” Estoesta said.
Estoesta says Ryerson’s fashion culture given her a push to experiment with her style more. She draws a lot of inspiration from being on campus.
For fourth-year journalism student Prescylla Veronique, Ryerson was a big change from the uniform high school she graduated from.
“[In high school] I was kind of limited as to what I could wear on a daily basis,” she said, “Coming to Ryerson I really got to dress how I’ve always wanted to dress and there’s no limits to what I can wear pretty much.”
Halliday said she also notices students dressing in clothing and accessorizing with pieces that may be specific to their culture or religion in a space where they feel free to do so, which she believes is “a strength at Ryerson.”
Veronique is one of those students.
“As of lately I’ve been trying to really make my style connect with my background. I’m African, I’m Congolese-Angolan and I think that’s very important to me. So just wearing little jewelry that represents my African heritage is important to me.”
First-year journalism student Rhea Singh also felt a bit more freedom with choosing her style after coming to Ryerson.
Since moving from Dubai to Toronto, Singh says her style has changed from what she refers to as “bougie” style in Dubai to something more affordable, like clothing from thrift stores. Singh said she prefers this style because it didn’t conform to societal norms she faced back home.
But her family and friends picked on her change in personal style as soon as she went back home for winter break.
“My parents weren’t exactly thrilled with the new look of having clothes from thrift stores because we were so into this culture in Dubai where everything had to be new and had to be fitting into what they wanted you to look like,” said Singh.
First-year business management student, Ali Mohamed, moved from Egypt to Toronto in August to attend university and said he also felt more freedom to dress a certain way at Ryerson.
“It doesn’t change but it became easier for me to choose whatever I want,” Mohamed said about his personal style.
Melissa Edré, a fourth year journalism student said since attending Ryerson her style hasn’t changed but rather “evolved” as she’s matured and become more confident in expressing herself and her style.
“For me, personally, I’ve always loved fashion. It’s a way for me to express myself. Because I’m not a talker, I’ll let my attire speak for itself,” Edré said.