Diversity, functionality and sustainability are the major themes at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s fashion show this year.
The annual show allows the 20-or-so graduating students in the fashion program to show off their collections—hand-sewn looks to be worn by models on the runway.
The clothes all target an under-served area of the fashion market, from children with sensitive skin to women who want couture dresses above a size 12 to elevated lingerie inspired by ancient Korean royalty.
Clothing that works for eczema
Samantha Chio created a clothing line for children with skin conditions, inspired by her own experience growing up with eczema.
“In Grade 7 I had a huge breakout, and I actually had to stay in the hospital for two weeks,” she said, describing the experience as one of the hardest in her life.
She remembers how hard it was to find clothes that wouldn’t irritate the blisters, and how living with the condition was mentally and physically challenging.
For her project she’s made soft, colourful pieces from organic materials to give kids with eczema something fun to wear.
“I realized that the market (for) organic clothes, which is what most of these parents would buy for their kids, is usually quite plain.”
She dreams one day of having her own clothing brand.
“Functionality in fashion means a lot to me. So whatever I do, I hope that I'll be able to help people in some way.”
Size-inclusive high fashion
Wendy Schindler, owner of Devotion Designs, is also sewing for a cause. She wants to make couture available to plus-size women.
“The average sized North American woman is a size 14-16, and designer luxury brands stop at a size 10-12,” she said. “So, it's like, you're missing out on such a huge part of your market.”
She pulled out a red gown she’d poured more than 1,000 hours into beading by hand. The frock was made with curvier bodies in mind.
“I want to give women in that size range the opportunity to wear something handcrafted and beautiful.”
After graduating, Schindler plans to move to the U.K., and one day has dreams of being the first Canadian fashion house invited into the French couture association.
Angela Jihea Cho, a third graduating student, created an intimates collection inspired by traditional Korean hanbok dresses. Crafted from luxurious fabrics, the pieces look like they could be at home on the red carpet.
“My launch collection is heavily inspired by ancient Korean royalty,” she said.
Cho grew up in White Rock, and didn’t feel particularly connected to her Korean heritage in the mostly white community. But she said checking in with her culture for her final project has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
“I really want to empower women. Especially people who were born in my shoes—women who grew up here who are Korean or maybe even any other culture that is a little bit more conservative,” she said.
“I hope to empower them, to know that you can do whatever you want. You don't have to fit into whatever stereotype your minority is.”
Nabi means butterfly in Korean, and Cho likes how the colourful insect evokes ideas of love and beauty in Korean culture and growth and self-actualization in the West.
You can see all the students’ designs on the runway on April 18 at KPU’s Wilson School of Design. Other collections focus on women who work in the trades and landscaping, plus environmentally conscious streetwear looks.
There will be five opportunities to watch throughout the day.