Kwantlen fashion collections hit the runway in grad finale

Students in the Fashion Design and Technology program will be displaying results from skills they’ve amassed over the past four years

It’s going to be a grad celebration unlike any other for a trio of Richmond students and their classmates in the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU).

On Wednesday and Thursday evenings (April 5 and 6), students in the Fashion Design and Technology program will be displaying results from skills they’ve amassed over the past four years to produce apparel that will be displayed on the runway during the program’s annual fashion show at the Imperial Vancouver on the eastern edge of Gastown.

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Each of the students will have an opportunity to show three of their outfits from the line they developed over the course of their final school year.

“We started designing last September and the whole second semester has been about producing the collection,” said Emily Wong, 24, who graduated from Burnett secondary where she first started sewing in a Grade 8 textiles class.

“I am very visual and like doing hands-on crafts, that’s why I got into it. Plus, my aunt used to sew and owned a little boutique. So, watching her, and my mom, also, was a lot of fun and I wanted to be good at it.”

But it took some work.

“No, I wasn’t all that good at the start,” she said. “I thought it would be easy. And I thought that because my mom did it, I should be good at it, too,” she said. “But it took me a little while.”

Classmate Roxanne Lee, 31, and a grad from McRoberts secondary, said her interest in apparel design came from a deep-seated love for clothes.

 “I’ve always loved clothes,” Lee said. “And I’ve always wanted to know how they were made.

“Plus, I’ve always been crafty, as well,” she said, adding that after completing her biology degree at UBC she got to a point in her life that she wanted another challenge.

“So, I went for it and entered the program,” she said.

As for Spencer Varsek, 23, a grad of Richmond secondary, his love for fashion design also stemmed from a textiles class in high school.

“I wanted to create things and my favourite class in school was textiles,” Varsek said. “I had a passion for clothing and apparel design. So, when I heard about the degree program at Kwantlen I thought it was really exciting. Plus, it’s always been a goal of mine to get a university degree.”

As for the lines they will be showing later this week, each of the three have very different target markets.

Wong said her line is focused on the generation X woman.

“It’s designed so she can take it from work to the evening,” Wong said. “Plus, it’s meant for women with the income to make smart decisions about where their clothes come from.”

It’s a nod to SLOW fashion, Wong said, explaining it is meant to emphasise a move away from clothing that is mass-produced in, often, unethical ways.

Lee’s line is targeted at women aged 40 to 50 who are artistic and are drawn towards colourful, bright clothing.

“And they possess a sense of humour and want to have fun with the way they look,” Lee said. “They also like mixing and matching.”

Varsek’s line was inspired by his mom’s demographic.

“It caters to their needs in terms of fit, price point and fabric,” he said. “It’s inspired by the mid-century modern movement in terms of colours, styles and fabrics.”

But away from the glitz and glamour of the fashion showcase, all three know the opportunity to display their work is only part of the exercise.

The chance to interact with the audience and network with their peers in the industry is important, too.

“The instructors always emphasise how the industry is so close-knit,” Wong said.

“A lot of people in the business come from Kwantlen, so it’s been important to get to know students from all the different years (grad classes) because when we finally get out there looking for a job, it will probably be with many of those same people.”

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