Lets preference this with I am not a couture designer. I can honestly say I’ve never even thought about a couture gown….not one of my own anyway. (I’ve definitely creeped Met Gala photos and thought, oh hellz no….obviously) I applied to this design challenge after the competition had already started. I expected the “thank you so much for your interest, we’ll put you on the mailing list” email.
I didn’t get that email.
I woke up one morning and before my first cup of coffee began scrolling through my email. Let me tell you, I jumped up real fast after seeing an acceptance letter from Montpellier Fashion and RISE. (For those of you who don’t know…cough* MUM cough* RISE is the eco-runway of the year. BIG DEAL) Now I had a week less then every other designer and a week to make a couture piece. Oh, and I needed to somehow get seven meters of fabric from Toronto to Ottawa. No big deal.
*Please note I have not been fired from my day job (yet) and I had committed to a vendor’s agreement…which i couldn’t get out of. SO basically. I’m an idiot.
Why did I take on this task you may ask? Well. Besides never being good at saying no to an amazing opportunity, I was actually really excited about it. I wanted the opportunity to really push my boundaries and see what I could do. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I try and do it while also working two jobs? Maybe.
That first night I spent the night with a sketchbook in my lap, my hand furiously going across the page. I had a few that I liked, that would be considered couture, but I had no idea where to start when it came to patterning those. I mean, I could figure it out. But not by hand and not in a week. NEXT. It was a few pages later in my sketch book that I realized I was making my life so much harder then it needed to be. Why was I designing a gown? No idea. I was trapped in this idea of couture. I started playing with the idea of a couture jacket. BAM. I am brilliant! …I mean, sorta. I have my moments.
My original design was to create a suit jacket collar and sleeve with the collar circling the models’ body (I had no model at this point I will remind you) with beautiful long fringe falling to around her knees. Imagine that movement when she strutted down the runway! I was then going to design a 20’s inspired flapper dress with a contrasting fringe. When she walked the two fringes would blend together creating this beautiful movement resembling rain when it hits the pavement and splashes up.
The fabric had it’s own ideas about what it wanted to do though. Fringe was not going to happen. As soon as I got the fabric I began frantically cutting half centimetre pieces of fringe and the pieces of the jacket. As I began sewing the fabric I began to realize something. This fabric frayed. Really bad. How was I supposed to finish all these tiny edges? I tried beeswax, another sustainable resource that I thought would coat the fabric and keep it together. It did do that. It also took away all movement at the same time. I began wrapping each piece of fringe in embroidery thread. Which ended up looking amazing. It gave the piece texture and maintained movement. That is until it got too heavy and began shredding itself. I would pick up pieces of the fringe that had detached itself. This was extremely frustrating and as the days drawing nearer I had no idea what I was going to do. Almost all of my black fabric was shredded and short of melting them back together I was out of ideas.
That’s when I got the call. The call saying I had an extra week. I also had a model. Things were looking up!
I had cut and overlocked my green materials for the dress, intending not to make the same mistake twice. The thicker strips made the dress look like it had tentacles. Given the water inspiration it might of worked but it would have been a HARD sell. What did I do? I cried a bit. I ate some ice cream with my mum who told me to get my act together and I brainstormed with my little brother. Don’t let that six food mechanic with constantly dirty hands fool you. The boy is a fashion genius. It’s not the first time that bouncing ideas off him has landed me with something workable. I began weaving the strips. I cut off the dreadlocks from my jacket and put the collar on my newly conceptualized dress. On to something now. I was able to stop crying.
With dress in hand, completely different then the dress I had originally conceptualized I was off to Toronto and the Aveda Salon. Even though the dress wasn’t what I had envisioned the transformation did turn out really well, all things considered. It was sexy, much more sexy then I would ever design in my branded collection and I was excited that I was able to transform the textile. The Aveda hair and makeup team took my concept and ran with it. They were able to create fantastic volume in the hair and a beautiful jewel tone smokey eye to bring out my model’s features in the best way. A day in the salon and we were off to the show!
Its always incredibly intimidating to look at what all the other designers have been able to do with this challenge, it’s also very inspiring. They were all great and watching the girls line up you get that little smile of being backstage. Theres an energy that circulates the room. The lights go out and backstage is silent. Thats when you hear the muffled music streaming in front the stage and the first girl begins her walk.
Then, fifteen minutes later, its over.
I didn’t win with my look, but I am so proud to have been a part of such an amazing cause. THREAD is a great company, supplying the world with fabric made of completely recycled water bottles. Supplying the people of Haiti and Honduras with jobs and working toward improving their overall quality of life. All of the proceeds from RISE was donated to WaterAid Canada, who's mission is to bring clean drinking water to many countries who still don’t have this most basic amenity.