Behind The Fabric Curtain

Before the year-end show this April, we spotlight three fashion students readying for their big showcase

Kate Scheiner (Viktoria Kampbell / The Runner)

Along with many of the other students developing their own fashion lines in the 2016 Bachelor of Fashion Design and Technology graduating class, Kate Schreiner is working hard to perfect her ‘Hetki’ woman’s fashion line. Although she has dabbled in men’s wear and children’s wear, her main passion is creating a women’s line with a menswear feel.

“I like the idea [of] how their designs are so simple, it’s in the little details that make it so interesting,” says Schreiner. “In the sense of little intricate details and the choice of fabric to really mesh the two in a very feminine way.”

After graduation Schreiner says she hopes to move back and maybe find a job in Scandinavian Europe where she did her student exchange in third year, saying that it was probably the highlight of her whole experience in Kwantlen Polytechnic University. “Getting the opportunity to study the program that I love and all the courses that I love, but in another country and get a completely different take on it, was really amazing.”

With her time on exchange Schreiner was able to take advantage of one of Kwantlen’s international study connections. Kwantlen has networks to five fashion institutions across the globe—London, Helsinki, Berlin, Taipei, and Melbourne—and is working on continuing to expand their exchange opportunities to connect to more schools globally.

Schreiner started sewing when she was about eight years old, and continued sewing in her high school textiles class. She was ready to head off to New York after graduation when her sewing teacher told her to hold off applying out of town because she could study locally at Kwantlen’s School of Fashion and Technology. Upon looking into it further she found that Kwantlen was close to home, would be cheaper, and had a very good program.

KPU’s fashion and technology program covers a range of industry topics, from design process, to finding the right market for your work. “They teach you everything,” says Schreiner. “This program has been an incredible source of information, knowledge and experience. Our teachers are so incredibly knowledgeable and they have worked in the industry for years and years.”

Most teachers at the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design are themselves program alumni. After gaining years of industry experience and contacts, many alumni come back and share their learned expertise with the classes, which allows students to build lasting connections with them.

Ultimately, this program is a huge network of people in the industry. Many local companies have a handful of designers that have studied at Kwantlen and are working in the industry.

“I think that’s probably my favourite thing about Kwantlen—knowing that everyone is connected, just from being in this program,” says Schreiner.

Sam Stringer (Viktoria Kampbell / The Runner)

Sam Stringer, another fourth-year student in the Fashion and Technology program at KPU, is focusing on designing formal wear for women who attend charity and black-tie events. She cites an incident from her first year in the program where students had to attend a fashion event where they didn’t know anyone and introduce themselves in the hope of establishing a connection as a particular highlight of experience at Kwantlen.

Labeling the experience as “terrible and wonderful,” she said that she did meet a lot of “cool people” through the event. As she became more comfortable introducing herself, Stringer began attending more and more events, such as Vancouver Fashion Week, and even ended up working at Fashion Week as a photographer.

Unlike Schreiner, Stringer didn’t commit to a student exchange, but instead worked at an internship here in Vancouver with bridal couture dressmaker Joanna Delaney. “That was pretty incredible,” says Stringer. “It was just me and her in the studio all day long, so I got to learn all of her tricks.”

Delaney also runs her own business, so Stringer was able to learn a lot about how she ran her business, how she works with clients, and how she is able to simultaneously balance her home and studio.

Students in the KPU fashion and technology program spend most of their time at school. Stringer claims that, though they only have class a couple of days a week, she basically spends from up to 15 hours a day at the school.

“I’m here a lot,” she says. “Every day, pretty much, that I don’t work. I am pretty much never home, but I love that because you just never stop.”

Ashley Warren (Viktoria Kampbell / The Runner)

Ashley Warren also works with women’s garments, but rather than dealing with the outerwear she is focusing on undergarments for bigger-busted women with a small frame, starting from 30DD to 34G. Her line, “Ginger and Flora,” is essentially for helping women of larger bust size break out of the market which is generally designed for smaller-busted women.

Warren claims she was introduced to costume design through music. Over the course of 13 years at the Royal Conservatory of Music she attended quite a few operas, where the costumes caught her eye and planted in her a passion for fashion.

She began sewing for fun after taking textiles in high school, but once she realized that she liked the challenge of working with different fabrics and figuring out the math for the patterns, she continued on with the class into grades 11 and 12.

When some of the girls in the higher grades were getting ready to go off to KPU, she became comfortable with the idea and asked them to share a bit of info about the program. This then helped Warren fix her portfolio to improve her application into Kwantlen’s fashion program.

What Warren finds most appealing about the fashion design and technology program is the variety of topics her courses were able to explore during the four years of her degree. Developing a dress project in second year, collaborating with Lululemon Labs on knitwear, working on technical outerwear jackets in third year, and then examining what they’ve done and choosing something to run with in fourth year  were together just a few of the highlights of her education.

These students, along with their fellow classmates, are currently working on their final collection to show at the 2016 Year-End Fashion Show in April, but before that they held a smaller showcase for all the designers to present what they are working on. Their show was located on the main floor at the KPU Richmond campus, where they each had about a 5 sq/ft. area to present their work to other students, media, fashion representatives, and businesses.

Walking through the showcase it was easy to see that the students were covering a wide range of markets, from the ‘Iridescent’ Tween line by Justine So, to the mature women’s line “Nuage” by Clair Cormeau, specifically designed for women over the age of 50.

A large portion of the 2016 lines are geared towards women, but the men are not completely left out.  Fashion student Shyan Owtram is creating a stylish men’s upscale casual collection called “Athletico” for the chill-yet-trendy male. As well, student, Alissa Segal is creating “The Weaker Sex” clothing line which is geared towards both genders.

There will be a few changes to the grad show this year—rather than being at the Richmond River Rock Casino, it is set to be located at the Imperial on Main and Cordova. Although it seats the same amount of people, it will have a more “intimate” and “fashion show” feel, according to the students. There will be one show on April 6 and three shows the following day, which will be the most shows they have ever had in any year.

Each student will present two or three outfits where they will put the skills and knowledge that they have learned over the course of their time here at KPU to the test. With 37 students there is going to be an extremely broad range of product lines, which should make for a fantastic show.