Tradition meets fashion in KPU chancellor’s recently unveiled regalia
A design by KPU design graduate honours the chancellor’s Coast Salish and Tsawwassen heritage
Culture / November 10, 2020
Fusing historical Indigenous design with modern fashion technology, the regalia for KPU’s newest chancellor was recently unveiled.
Kim Baird was installed as KPU’s third chancellor in a ceremony held on Oct.19, and her regalia was unveiled during the virtual convocation on Oct. 20. The regalia was designed by KPU graduate of the Wilson School of Design and fashion designer Sam Stringer.
Stringer and Baird collaborated to design a regalia that features Coast Salish and Tsawwassen design elements, reflecting Baird’s heritage and the land that KPU itself is built on.
Baird says the new regalia reflects her heritage more than previous chancellors’ robes did, and that it’s symbolic to reconcile her heritage and new chancellor role by accommodating the change in regalia.
Stringer consulted with Baird and others to create a fashion fusion that would incorporate both carefully chosen Indigenous and KPU designs. Baird says that Stringer treated the process with sensitivity but also respect.
“She’d clearly done a lot of research and listened to my ideas and incorporated many of them into the design,” says Baird. “I thought she did an incredible job of … reflecting and celebrating my heritage through her design.”
Stringer’s forte is in creating evening gowns and formal wear, so designing a special type of gown with an academic background was a unique opportunity.
“It was a huge honour,” Stringer says. “Not only because it was a really interesting creative design piece, but it’s something that is really special and has a lot of meaning to it. So I felt really honoured to be able to work with the people I did on it and to get to learn more about a different side of design that I hadn’t really worked with before.”
Stringer’s goal was to modernize the regalia. To avoid heavy fabrics, she decided on a linen blend that was both lightweight and sustainable. Instead of traditional full-length sleeves, Stringer chose shorter, angular sleeves, as the 53-degree cuts align with KPU’s branding.
She also utilized negative space, which is often found in Coast Salish designs, and introduced cedar weaving, which was laser cut and then imposed on the sleeves. The lining and hood piece was created with traditional art, which was turned into a print, then laser cut out of a hand-dyed material. The president’s regalia is black and charcoal, while the chancellor’s is black and red.
“It’s not a shallow reflection,” says Baird. “From the textile used, and the dye techniques, and all those things, and … to incorporate cedar onto the sleeve, and all those touches really make the regalia exceptional and special.”
From start to finish, Stringer put in about 60 hours of work over two months into designing and constructing the regalia, adding that this included a couple of 15-hour long days of sewing.
Baird had sneak peeks of the regalia on paper during the design process, but when she was presented with the finished product, she “was thrilled and overjoyed with how beautiful it was.”
Likewise, upon seeing Baird wearing the completed regalia, Stringer says, “I was just blown away. I loved seeing her spirit come out through the piece.”
“Some people think, of course, that reconciliation needs more than just symbols like this, but I think it’s starting things off in a good way,” says Baird. “It’s a point of pride for not only me but the university as well. So that’s an amazing and auspicious start.”