Alumni Insights

Colleen Henman

Why did you decide to attend the Fashion Program at Ryerson?

I had decided that the career I was in wasn’t the career for me. After a bit of soul searching and moving from Halifax to Toronto, I made the decision to go to fashion school because I knew that it was a passion of mine. The best advice I was ever given was do what you love. I researched fashion schools in Canada and found that Ryerson was the most credible and would give me the best chance at getting  a job in my industry.

How did your academic experience at Ryerson help you with getting to where you are today? What led to your interest in pursuing Art Direction at Rogers Creative Group?

The program gave me an incredible wealth of knowledge in design/art/fashion history which played a substantial role in my understanding of basic design principles. The great thing about this program was that it give you the option to explore many facets of the fashion industry whether it be events, PR, buying, or design.  I didn’t know my interests would lead me to design but they did and I can’t see myself doing anything else. I was able to take a few classes in all facets and find out what I liked and disliked.  Once I realized where my strength were, I was given the opportunity to develop those strengths as far as I wanted to.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you change about your time here at Ryerson and why?

I wouldn’t change the program, I thought it was great.  I wish I could have changed peoples perception of the program because it was really challenging and we learned so much.  I had so many people think that I just talked about what celebrities were wearing on the red carpet at school all day which was really frustrating!  Our education involved design theory, art history and so much more on the practical side,  if an outsider spent a day in our lives I think their opinion would have changed very quickly!

What does a day in the life of Colleen Henman look like?

It changes from day to day!  My department at Rogers works on 2 different kinds of projects and my role is primarily in Fashion and Beauty:

  • Brand Creative:  creating campaigns and marketing material for Rogers Brands from strategic ideation to concept development to photoshoot (if required) to multi platform design implementation. (Brands I work on are mostly Chatelaine, Flare, LouLou, Today’s Parent, The Shopping Channel)
  • Integrated Sales: Creating co-branded advertisements with Rogers brands and external brand who are interested in utilizing Rogers media outlets as a platform for advertising. An example would be a Joe Fresh photoshoot cobranded with Flare featured on Flare’s cover with Karlie Kloss

My job also has a leadership role to it, I oversee a few designers and work closely with them from start to finish to make sure we are hitting the right brand positions on multiple projects.  My job is about 70% overseeing and 30% hands-on designing myself. 

What is your favorite part about your job?

Conceptualizing! When I was younger I just wanted to create good design–I didn’t think about what the brand wanted and how the brand need to be positioned in the industry it’s in.  Now I realize that good design means nothing if there’s no strategy behind it.  I love researching what the industry leaders are doing and how we can elevate a brand to their bull potential with creative ideas. Then comes design.

Do you have an area of expertise you want to grow and learn about?

I’d like to become a Creative Director so I’m currently working on my presentation and leadership skills.  I love helping others on their path to success!

What is your favorite part about working in the Fashion industry?

The pretty things.  As I get older I don’t care about the fashion industry scene as much but I’ll never turn down a project where I get to work with gorgeous product and create something beautiful. On a day-to-day I think a lot about my personal style and it’s always fun to get into the mind of a brand and help them execute their vision.

What advice would you give a fashion student interested in Art Direction?

It’s tough but rewarding!  I spent a few years struggling to get ahead of my bills and student dept but the hard work and schlepping eventually pays off if you’re good at what you do and always try to get better.  Never stop learning even when you are done school.  This industry is built on technology and knowledge and it’s moving really fast.  Make sure you spend a half hour each day on your learning and development, even if that just means finding a great campaign for Barneys and pinning it to your inspiration board.

Colleen Henman

Art Director, Rogers Creative Group

During her time at Ryerson, Colleen discovered a passion for creative arts and strategic design that ultimately led her to becoming an Art Director for Rogers Creative Group.

Hillary Sampliner Headshot

Why did you decide to attend the Fashion Program at Ryerson?

I chose to attend Ryerson University's Fashion Design program because of its reputation and focus on technical training. I wanted to learn all facets of the industry, not just the creative design aspect.

How did your academic experience at Ryerson help you with getting to where you are today? What led to your interest in pursuing Design?

When working in the design houses of Iris van Herpen (Amsterdam, NL) and Mary Katrantzou (London, UK) it was apparent that the technical skills I learned at Ryerson put me at a strong advantage compared to graduates from other schools both in Europe and the United States. I graduated having mastered pattern drafting, technical design, production and sewing and I was prepared for the competitive nature and long hours required for life in the fashion industry. The diverse training from the fashion program gave me a range of skills which has allowed me to succeed at my current job as Fashion Director of Nuvango.

I first wanted to study fashion design while attending Etobicoke School of the Arts high school and participating in the annual fashion show. I realized how much I loved sculpting cloth around the body, using my classical drawing and sculpture techniques to create clothing. I have always had an interest in the arts, design and architecture, fashion seemed like a natural progression from there.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you change about your time here at Ryerson and why?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Ryerson and have few regrets, however after graduating I realized it may not have been in my own best interest choosing to be in the evening wear category instead of something more commercially viable for my final collection. I had a lot of trouble marketing my skills to employers because my portfolio was heavily focused on evening wear. I realized that it is easy to niche yourself early on, and hard to get away once your work takes on a theme. That being said, I enjoyed a lot of publicity and attention from my gowns but it is important to realize that this does not always turn into a job, or a successful business.

What does a day in the life of Hillary Sampliner look like?

As the Fashion Director at Nuvango my job is fast paced, high stress and pretty much the greatest thing I can imagine doing. I go to work for 9am, spend the first hour checking emails and checking in on the production floor to make sure everyone has what they need from the design department for the days work. This includes checking print files, checking in with the press operator and sewing team. A large part of my day is spent troubleshooting problems to do with sewing and production, and maintaining proper quality standards. Because Nuvango's business heavily relies on technology and a bank of print files, things go wrong, files get lost and troubleshooting often involves trying to find glitches in files over various departments in the workflow, sometimes I feel like a detective. 
Next, I go over the days "to do's" with the project manager and move into the development part of my work day. This usually includes a fitting or two, pattern adjustments, choosing print artwork for garments, testing and sourcing fabrics, making tech packs, placing orders for cutting, organizing photoshoots, and meeting with artists and collaborators. Easily the best part of the day is attending fancy art and fashion parties at Nuvango's gallery/event space/store, which is almost a weekly occurrence.

What is your favourite part about your job?

It is really amazing to work with world renowned artists like Carnovsky, Craola, and Ralph Steadman. I feel so privileged to be able to collaborate with a variety of people and showcase their work in the form of wearable art. I am lucky to be working for a company that has a thirst for innovation and encourages research and development in materials and printing processes. Nuvango also values having in house manufacturing, which was important to me after hearing about the horrific things that happen to overseas garment factory workers.

Do you have an area of expertise you want to grow and learn about?

I have studied 3D printing quite a bit, but I am only scratching the surface of what is possible in textile and fashion design with this technology. I am also curious to learn more about nanotechnology, programable textiles, and biofabrics.

What is your favourite part about working in the Fashion industry?

I am obsessed with visuals, aesthetics and the architectural human form. I get to look at pretty things all day and ponder how to make them better. What's not to love?

What advice would you give a fashion student interested in Fashion Design?

It is a tough, competitive world and it is easy to get caught up in the magic of it all, but don't. Keep your feet on the ground, know when to be practical and savvy. Fashion is a business and a form of art, but mostly a business. Network as much as you can, and work as hard as you can at every job, no matter how beneath you it may seem. Take each setback as a lesson, and don't take criticism of your work personally, use it as ammunition to improve.

Hillary Sampliner

Fashion Director, Nuvango

A lover of design and visual aesthetics, Hillary graduated from Fashion design in 2010 and is now a Fashion Director for Nuvango, where she enjoys the fast paced and innovative work culture.

Ruth Weil 2011
Ruth Weil 2011
Hillary Sampliner
Poseidon 2014
Poseidon Feature

Why did you decide to attend the Fashion Program at Ryerson?

Since a young age I have always been a very hands on person. I loved to create, to play dress up, to get my hands messy in any sort of “artistic” way. In my early teens my mother introduced me to sewing and I ran with the creative freedom it allowed me. I enrolled for all sewing and arts classes at my high school and by the time I was in my last few years of high school, I knew I wanted to pursue fashion further as a career option. I looked into a few schools, but Ryerson felt like the best fit for me as it offered a big city experience with so many opportunities to explore new interests.

How did your academic experience at Ryerson help you with getting to where you are today? What led to your interest in pursuing Technical Design?

Technical design was something that actually found me, but it was a very happy accident as it combines all the things I enjoy most about fashion design into one job. When in my 4th year at Ryerson, I dreaded the question, “So what are your plans for when you’re done?” because honestly, I had no idea. I knew I was in the right field but I had no idea what type of “real” job I wanted. Ryerson has so many good connections that some companies come and recruit right from the school itself and Abercrombie is one of these companies. The whole process was really quite quick, involving an interview at the school, right to a trip to the home office in Columbus, Ohio, and within 4 weeks from the start of the process, I finally had an answer to the dreaded question and a job offer in my hands. While that process was a bit easy, after accepting the offer I had to figure out a visa, moving across the continent and the whole fact that I was about to move to a place I didn’t know and where I knew no one. I’m the kind of person who saw this as exciting rather than scary, but there are definitely a few blind leaps of faith you have to take to end up where you want to be. Going into my first job, I was still a touch unsure if tech was right for me. Tech sounded like it would be a good fit for me, with pattern making being a big role, and problem solving skills required, both things that came pretty naturally to me and that I enjoyed, as well as the hands on approach to working with samples, but it wasn't until I was fully immersed into my job at Abercrombie that I truly knew I had made the right choice. There are still days when I miss the more creative design side of the business, which is partly what led me to start my own small business on the side, but essentially the positives outweigh the negatives and for that I am very happy. Ryerson showed me what the responsibilities are of an entire team at a fashion company. At school, you are responsible for every single aspect from start to finish. In a real company, all those roles are broken down into specific jobs and you take responsibility for one area. Ryerson allowed me to dabble in all areas and really choose for myself what specifics I found exciting and played to my strengths. These areas for me aligned better with a technical design career.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you change about your time here at Ryerson and why?

There is not much I would change about my experience at Ryerson. Good or bad, everything I experienced shaped my understanding and personal opinion of myself and this industry. I do find myself relying much more than I expected on my internship experience, so if I had the insight I do now, I would likely participate in a wider variety of internships.

What does a day in the life of Corinne Furniss look like?

Thankfully my days are never the exact same, but there is still enough structure to keep me organized and balanced. I begin my work day around 9 a.m. by answering emails from my vendor partners overseas. These emails consist of confirming samplecomments, send dates, and other logistical commonalities. I also generally will have emails regarding problems with a few samples, including photos and sometimes measurements, asking how we want the factory to proceed. All of these issues need to be responded to quickly, clearly and as concisely as possible, as most of my vendors speak English as their second (or third or fourth!) language. From there I will usually prep my fits for the day. This consists of measuring each garment, looking over the construction, and checking it against the tech pack standards for the style. I will also look at the garment on a body form. This is an essential step in my job as it allows me to better speak to the fit of the garment later on in fits when I’m with my team.

My late mornings/early afternoons are usually filled with either team touch bases or fits. Team touch bases are when the whole team (merchants, creative design, technical design, CAD design, and sourcing) for a certain department, in my case swimwear, get together to go over any issues or concerns we are experiencing. These could be things such as fits not meeting our planned timing schedule, cost issues, print/pattern not meeting our colour standard, or any other issue that needs to be addressed. Discussing as a team helps us all stay informed and on the same page so these meetings happen very often. Fit sessions also involve the whole team and are led by technical design. My job is to present the garments on a live body to the team and go over all the fit corrections that need to be made. Creative designers also play a large role, ensuring their vision is being executed correctly. After fits, I will send out comments on the samples, either telling the factory they are approved and should begin production, or they are not approved and what corrections need to be made for the next sample submission. Comments can be simple and quick or incredibly complex and long depending on the style. Again, clear and direct communication works best, so lots of photos, diagrams, and patterns are sent along with written comments. If I’m lucky and we’re not overly busy, my work day will end between 5-5:30p.m. From there I will usually go home and spend the evening relaxing with one of my friends, most of whom I’ve met through work when I first transplanted myself to Ohio. I also run my own online shop where I sell my own accessory designs, so that takes up a lot of my free time as well. The side business allows me to satisfy my designer/creative needs while making good use of my basic business skills that I learned while at Ryerson. Someday I hope it will become a bigger part of my life and be my main source of income, but for now I’m liking the balance I have established for myself between the big, corporate design industry and my own small, handmade world.

What is your favorite part about your job?

My favourite part of my job is having ownership for my specific area. What I mean by this is that I know that all swimwear that is sold will have made it through my hands, and because of that, it should be perfect fitting every single time. Now I know that’s optimistic, and even a bit daunting, but I like knowing that my job has a big impact on the final garment, and consequently the overall company, and by meeting my responsibilities the customer should have the best fitting garment possible. Still being relatively new to this industry, I think it still amazes me that what I do every day impacts the final product on such a large scale.

Do you have an area of expertise you want to grow and learn about?

I would like to continue to evolve my knowledge of the intimates industry, especially swimwear and lingerie. These areas have many specific challenges and constructions, and although I have learned a lot in the past 3 years, I know there is plenty more for me to soak up. I have taken the steps needed to surround myself with some of the best mentors in this industry, each with vast and unique knowledge, and I hope that by working with these experts day in and day out, I will be able to further my knowledge and specialties.

What is your favorite part about working in the Fashion industry?

There are many perks to working in the fashion industry (sample sales are not an urban myth and associate discounts are awesome) but my truly favourite part about working in the fashion industry is getting to do what I love and actually being able to support myself with it. The people I work with are dedicated, hardworking, and some of the most talented people I know, not to mention they are incredibly friendly and openminded. Constantly being around these talented people and having a goal that we reach towards together every day allows me to positively grow and learn in a professional and personal way.

What advice would you give a fashion student interested in Technical Design?

For anyone with an interest in technical design, I would highly encourage them to become very familiar with pattern making and pattern corrections, both by hand and on CAD software. Research how to manipulate a pattern in more than one way to expand your pattern making abilities. Look further into things such as grading and marker making, as these are not usually things you have to do manually, but you need to have enough knowledge and a solid understanding to be able to direct another person (or a computer) to receive the outcome you desire for all aspects of making a pattern. I would also recommend being comfortable with Illustrator, as this is used daily by any technical designer. It would be a great idea to start looking at clothing on a dress form and being highly critical of the fit of the item on the body (whether it’s something you or a friend have made, or something you’ve bought from a store). Most people can tell once they put on an item if it fits well or not, but when you are a tech designer, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be able to try on all the items that you will be responsible for fitting. Take some time to evaluate a garment on a dress form and try to pin and fix the item so that it fits the form perfectly. My last piece of advice would be to truly evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses, and make sure that technical design is the role that will fulfill your career goals. I love my job so much because it’s a great role for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. If you love what you do, it will truly reward you.

Corinne Furniss

Associate Technical Designer for Swimwear, Lane Bryant

Corinne graduated from the Fashion Design program in 2013 and found her calling as a technical designer in her fourth year at Abercrombie and Fitch. As a technical designer, Corinne takes pride in having input into every piece of swimwear produced by Lane Bryant.

Nadine Nevitt

Why did you decide to attend the Fashion Program at Ryerson?

I decided to study Fashion at Ryerson (Communications specifically) because of the co-op opportunities and it's reputation as a university. I really wanted a practical skill set in combination with theory/history studies to challenge my way of thinking. It was the perfect combination of creativity and technical. Moving to Toronto from Caledon, Ontario just seemed like the right thing to do as a next step in my growth.

How did your academic experience at Ryerson help you with getting to where you are today? What led to your interest in pursuing Product Photography?

My academic experience definitely helped me get to where I am today. Most importantly, Ryerson taught me to be adaptable and gave me insight into many different creative industries I had never thought of. During my time studying I met industry professionals and I worked closely with my peers and fellow students. I said yes to every creative opportunity that came my way and each job I had gave me a bit more confidence and experience to get to the next. I worked restaurants at night, had class in the mornings and spent my afternoons interning. I spent a lot of time hearing how I could improve, what I should be doing more of, and what I should be doing less of. I tried my best to listen. My ears are still open and I have juggled between being product graphic designer, a textile fabric designer and now a product photographer. You have to be a little crazy at times, really scared of failure but able to embrace it and move on. You don't have to have one profession these days which is very exciting. People often ask how I got my current job I say it's about working hard and sharing that hard work so it's noticed. Meet as many people as you can because I have never had a job without being referred from someone I knew, even for a brief second.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you change about your time here at Ryerson and why?

If I had to do it all over again...I would have used a ruler while creating my first project for my fundamentals of colour and design class. I received a grade of 50% for incorrectly following instructions and using the wrong pen thickness to rewrite the alphabet. Never skip the fine print and learn from your mistakes. It could always be worse, but it could always be better.

What does a day in the life of Nadine Nevitt look like?

If someone were to follow me around for the a day it would probably involve the following: waking up early and going to a spin class at my local spot, Cadence. Having a quick shower, food, and taking a ten minute bike ride to the lululemon head office in Kitsliano, Vancouver. I work on the Brand/Community team which support's the girls' company, ivivva. I spend half my day in the studio photographing young models/athletes wearing ivivva clothes. I have to keep up to date on my Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus fun facts, latest music and make sure I'm well versed with all new slang/trends. I love being away from my desk and being creative in the moment. I then upload and edit all of the images I've shot. Re-touching skin, sharpening and cropping my favorite selects for the e-commerce website. I also help to plan imagery for social media and our blog. After work, I love being creative for me. I illustrate my own line of products (textiles, cards, prints), take photos, life draw and connect with other artists. I also love to ski and play soccer so I make sure to sprinkle that in too. 

What is your favorite part about your job?

I love my job because I work with some of the best humans. Talents aside, I work with caring, inspiring and diverse people. Everyday they show up regardless of circumstances and they make my day fun. 

Do you have an area of expertise you want to grow and learn about?

I would love to learn more about business and being an entrepreneur. I have all of these products I would like to make and sell but I'm just scratching the surface on all of that. I have some more mistakes to make.

What is your favorite part about working in the Fashion industry?

I love fashion because it's the study of people, places and things. It's rarely boring and it helps bring confidence to people around the world. It's an expression of individuality. It's art. I love art. On second thought, it's whatever you want it to be.

What advice would you give a fashion student interested in Product Photography?

If you are interested in being a Product Photographer find a mentor to teach you, guide you and coach you. Learning photography is about experimenting, trying it until it works and having attention to detail. You can't really read a text book or blog and learn the trade easily. Be confident and stand behind your work, regardless of craft. Trust that you made all of the necessary eliminations to bring you to your final product. The art of success is in your pitch. Sell your work with a smile and good posture.
 

Nadine Nevitt

Product Photographer, Lululemon Athletica

Nadine embraced every creative opportunity she encountered during her time in the Fashion Comunication program, which ultimately led her to discover a passion for Photography.

Product Photography
Bri Foster Headshot

Having acquired a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Education prior to coming to Ryerson, what motivated you to go into fashion design?

I have always loved fashion, even from a very young age. I have been sewing since I was 9 years old. After teaching professionally for a little while, I realized my true passion was in making clothing. There were no good fashion programs in Winnipeg, so I didn’t see it as an option until I was a bit older. I applied for Ryerson, and hoped for the best. I told myself if I got in, then it was a sign that I was supposed to be doing this. When I received the acceptance letter from Ryerson, I knew it was the right path for me.

You’ve accomplished so much during your Ryerson career, what experience was been the most defining for you and why?

Helping to organize Tambour Beading and Embroidery workshops at Ryerson has been a big achievement. Tambour style beading and embroidery uses fabric stretched over a frame, and a hook that grabs the beads and threads, filling in the designs as you work along. It’s a traditional technique, and very rare, especially in North America. I was trying to teach myself how to do it, but it was proving too difficult on my own. I went online and found a man named Robert Haven from the University of Kentucky. He had been teaching tambour in North America ever since he apprenticed at the Lesage school in Paris. When I told him about my interest in learning the tambour, he suggested that I gather some students together and he would come to Toronto to teach the course. It was such a success that he has continued to come back to Ryerson twice a year for the past three years. It has proven to be a very rewarding skill, as I have used the technique to blend my artistic and fashion talents, creating interesting images not often seen in traditional embroidery.

What did you learn from your experience at Joe Fresh and Jeremy Laing?

Having interned at these brands has given me two very different experiences in how Canadian fashion companies are run. Jeremy Laing offered me an inside perspective on how high-end, designer clothing is made in smaller production runs. We were able to see the entire design process, from conception and design, to pattern drafting, sewing, and shipping off to stores. It was very hands on. Joe Fresh was vastly different in that production is done is very large quantities, often on the other side of the world. It was a great experience working in a fashion office like Joe Fresh, and it has prepared me well for a career in fashion.

You entitled your capsule collection “Paper”. Can you explain the meaning behind the collection name?

As an artist I use paper all the time. It’s a medium for which to place my ideas, and create new ideas. I wanted to translate the idea of paper as a means for communication through my garments. I like to challenge the limits of what is considered wearable, and I often seek out unique fabrics to use in a surprising and unexpected way. For my collection I chose papery looking fabrics to symbolize practicality of use, and I incorporated tambour embroidered hands onto the garments, as if they were doodled on.

What are you up to in Montreal now that you’ve graduated?

I was very lucky to land a job designing womenswear for Le Chateau. I get the chance to analyse trends, sketch up garment ideas, create colour stories, and watch collections come to life. It’s such an excellent experience. Montreal is very receptive to the creative arts, and there is a lot of support from the community. I would definitely recommend it to anyone graduating from Ryerson Fashion Design. There is a good balance of independent designers and large fashion brands here in Montreal, while still remaining very affordable to live.

Bri Foster

Womenswear designer at Le Chateau

Since her first day at Ryerson, Bri has been determined to achieve great things and reach high levels of success in the fashion industry.

Bri Foster Collection
Bri Foster Collection
Kirsten Schaefer

Why did you choose to pursue an MA in Fashion at Ryerson and what did you gain from completing the program?

I chose the program because it was the only one of its kind in Canada and moving to another country was not an option. Also for a convenience factor – I had just received a part-time teaching position at the university, so doing my MA there would allow me to do both.

What are your research interests/areas?

Sustainability & design. For my MA I focused this in the bridal design industry. For my PhD I am looking more to technological opportunities within fashion design.

Where are you now and how has your degree aided you in your current position?

I am doing my PhD in Communication & Culture in the joint Ryerson/York program. My PhD research is building upon my MA research. The fashion program prepared me to continue more theoretical and practical exploration in my areas of interest, and it encouraged self-guided learning, which is invaluable at the PhD level. My supervisor (Henry Navarro) was pivotal in creating a self-propelled learning environment. He was always available for consultation and guidance, but I was given complete freedom to explore and experiment on my own schedule and at my own pace. That was exactly the kind of relationship I was looking for so it worked very well for me.

Who’s your favourite fashion theorist or practitioner and why?

It would be a combination between Holly McQuillan, Timo Rissanen and Julian Roberts and the entire field of zero-waste and non-traditional design approaches. They are exploring fashion research from a practice-based/practice-led approach and shining light on the valuable role that practice plays in the study of fashion in culture.

What interests you most about the discipline of Fashion Studies?

I am interested in innovative pattern design, and pattern cutting as a research method – particularly when it comes to bringing technology into the innovative pattern design process, and integrating digital media into design – making it even more interactive than the CAD platforms that currently exist. I am also interested in human centred design and working with people and communities that have functional apparel needs that are not being met – whether health-related, athletics-related, or other unmet need.

What item in your wardrobe could you never part with and why?

My short brown Frye boots (the “Carmen Harness Short”). I absolutely love them – the softly rounded and upturned shape of the toe, the asymmetrical cut of the boot shaft, the slightly edgy harness ring on the side, the functional double pull tabs at the top that also add just the right amount of texture, the chunky Cuban heel. They are wonderfully broken in and they are the only heels I can comfortably wear all day. Plus, they look great with both jeans and casual dresses. I love the style so much that I bought a new pair in black to wear on my wedding day!

Who’s your favourite fashion designer and why?

I tend to follow the overall silhouette and design detail of various designers rather than being loyal to just one. I look for quality fabrics and construction, asymmetrical balance and feminine silhouette – like in Mackage coats. I love unexpected combinations in colour, texture or shape – often seen in Vera Wang’s wedding gowns. There are too many awesome things going on in fashion to pick just one!

What course did you most enjoy and why?

I enjoyed the Studio I course with Henry Navarro and the Human Centred Design course with Sandra Tullio-Pow. Both these courses gave me the opportunity to try something new in design (a wedding gown made with garbage in Henry’s class, a functional pair of rock-climbing pants in Sandra’s). Each project was based in theoretical research, so I was able to work at the intersection of research and practice. Balancing the practical with the theoretical continues to be an important factor in my research today.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d pass on to a student interested in applying to the program?

The program is young, so there is flexibility to make it fit your own goals. You will get out of it what you put into it – don’t wait for someone else to determine your path, set your own goals and make every class project something that will help you achieve those goals. At the same time don’t bite off more than you can chew. Pick a topic that you can complete, and preferably something you can potentially publish afterward.  The best MA is a completed MA!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years and/or what’s your dream job?

My dream job would be to earn a tenure-track position teaching fashion design at the college or university level. 

Kirsten Schaefer

PhD Candidate, Ryerson/York & Contract Lecturer, Ryerson

Kirsten is currently researching the ways that technology can create a more efficient, sustainable, and creative design process for fashion designers.

Jessica Miniaci

Why did you choose to pursue an MA in Fashion at Ryerson and what did you gain from completing the program?

While studying art history at the undergraduate level at the University of Toronto, I especially enjoyed studying the link of class imagery depicted in art to a greater societal context. I chose to purse an MA in Fashion at Ryerson University because I wanted to learn more about how historical fashion objects have successively progressed in an interconnected way to shape contemporary societal attitudes. Not only was I able to specifically analyze paintings by incorporating critical theory analysis to better understand culture, status and gender roles while in the program but I was also able to interact and connect with School of Fashion faculty and students who share similar interests.   

What are your research interests/areas?

Material culture, social history, and art history

Where are you now and how has your degree aided you in your current position?

I conduct research at Ryerson University. I collect data pertaining to School of Fashion alumni and generate quantitative conclusions. Having been taught a variety of research methods in the MA Fashion program has made my job a lot easier. Also, being a part of the School of Fashion community for the past 3 years has made my research relatable.   

What interests you most about the discipline of Fashion Studies?

What interests me most is how critical theory can be applied in so many different ways in order to investigative the social history of fashion—broadening the horizons of how we analyze and perceive the way we dress, consume the things we buy and value the things we make.

What item in your wardrobe could you never part with and why?

I love my skinny jeans -- they are very comfortable and I love having the option of dressing them up with heels or dressing them down with a pair of sandals or sneakers.

Who’s your favourite fashion designer and why?

Ralph Lauren because he has created a lifestyle brand with Polo Ralph Lauren that appeals to status. From the label’s luxuriously decorated retail stores filled with leisure associated paraphanalia to the “big pony” logo itself which can be found on all merchandise, Polo Ralph Lauren emulates an upper-class lifestyle that my personal research has revealed to be desirable; people want to at least look as if they are rich and powerful. Having constructed an image relating to old wealth status, “fine breeding” and success and taking that into consideration when designing his clothes, Ralph Lauren has certainly allowed his customers to look the part.

What course did you most enjoy and why?

I enjoyed all of Elizabeth Semmelhack’s courses because her research interests closely align with my own. Learning about how objects of material culture as represented in painting can reflect a broader social history was exciting. I also enjoyed creating a sample museum exhibition in her curation course as the assignment promoted a greater appreciation for not only the objects contained in museums but the museum space itself. 

What’s the one piece of advice you’d pass on to a student interested in applying to the program?

I recommend that interested applicants brainstorm potential topics for their MRPs, investigate the School of Fashion’s resources and research each faculty member’s areas of expertise. This in my opinion would allow for the applicant to assess if the program would be a good fit.

Jessica Miniaci

Industry, Community and Alumni Outreach, School of Fashion, Ryerson University

Jessica works in the School of Fashion's main office, collecting data that pertains to Fashion Alumni

Emily Risley

Why did you choose to pursue an MA in Fashion at Ryerson and what did you gain from completing the program?

I chose to pursue an MA in Fashion because I wanted to gain more knowledge about something I have been interested in my entire life. After receiving my undergraduate degree in Fashion Merchandising from a school in the US, I decided to go to Ryerson for my MA. By completing the program I was able to understand Fashion in a far more complex way. I had never thought about Fashion through a theoretical lens before, so I am happy to say today that I completed what I set out to do – which was ultimately gain more knowledge about a lifelong interest.

What are your research interests/areas?

My research interest was looking at collections created by Alexander McQueen specifically those, which exhibited Goth and Fetish themes, and considering them through the eyes of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan.

Where are you now and how has your degree aided you in your current position?

Today I am living in working in NYC. I’m the Public Relations Manager of a company called Skinfix Inc. I’m not sure if the program has aided me in my current position, other than it has allowed me to better understand the many facets of the beauty/fashion industries, which I work quite closely to.  I will say the program strengthened by writing and public speaking skills tremendously.

What item in your wardrobe could you never part with and why?

A Hermes scarf I found at a vintage store in Paris, and a set of pearls my grandmother received on her 18th birthday

Who’s your favourite fashion designer and why?

Gareth Pugh, and Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy. Their collections are dark, strong, multi dimensional and they empower women on the runway the way Alexander McQueen once did.

What course did you most enjoy and why?

I don’t think I had just one that I enjoyed the most. I enjoyed them all. They allowed us to discuss important topics in a safe environment amongst a small group of people that were all genuinely there because they wanted to be.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d pass on to a student interested in applying to the program?

It’s a lot of work but worth it! In the end, you’ll be happy you were part of one of the few programs in the world that offer an MA in Fashion.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years and/or what’s your dream job?

Continuing to work in Beauty or Fashion…we’ll see! 

Emily Risley

Public Relations Manager, Skinfix

Emily lives in New York City, where she works as the PR Manager for the Canadian skincare company, Skinfix.

Dylan Martin

Why did you choose to pursue an MA in Fashion at Ryerson and what did you gain from completing the program?

My undergrad degree was in media studies and I always wanted to be a fashion writer so I thought the MA degree at Ryerson was a good fit. The program propelled me to think about fashion & dress on a more theoretical and complex level —  I was opened up to the diverse points-of-view and insights of my classmates and professors who came from a broad spectrum of academic backgrounds from art history and women’s studies to apparel design and marketing. In the future I’m confident I will be able to take a more sophisticated and intellectual approach to fashion writing and have the skills to look at the industry from a critical distance (thanks to important research we debated surrounding gender politics, queer theory, sustainable design, etc.)

What are your research interests/areas?

I’m interested in how conceptions of gender, sexuality and masculinity influence the dress sensibilities and shopping habits of male consumers. For my MRP I completed qualitative interviews with a diverse spectrum of Generation Y men to uncover how they used clothing to express their gendered identities. I sought to reflect on shifts in the menswear industry and broader cultural landscape that have encouraged young males to participate in fashion and pursue an idiosyncratic personal style.

Where are you now and how has your degree aided you in your current position?

I continue to work as a research assistant with Dr. Ben Barry and am in the process of getting several academic articles co-authored with him. One of these papers looks at the rise of male body image issues and the other explores the subversive dress choices of queer individuals that transcend gender conventions.  I also work in the fashion retail industry as an online copywriter for Harry Rosen. I get to write about Harry Rosen’s product and brand offerings and assistant with some more creative projects as well.

Who’s your favourite fashion theorist or practitioner and why?

I’m inspired by Shaun Cole’s work. He explores the role of dress within the formation and expression of queer identity — he takes a fascinating look at how gay men adopt clothing styles and have historically accepted and rejected hegemonic masculine ideals.  

What interests you most about the discipline of Fashion Studies?

Fashion really does speak to the cultural zeitgeist and provides a compelling avenue to reflect on contemporary values and interests. Prevailing beauty and gender norms have a strong impact on our self-worth so it’s important to question and perhaps challenge unproductive hegemonic ideals.

What item in your wardrobe could you never part with and why?

My great grandfather’s engraved pocket watch has sentimental value.

Who’s your favourite fashion designer and why?

I love Yohji Yamamoto’s work. He presents an inimitable and challenging aesthetic on the Parisian catwalks — communicating a unique idea of beauty. He experiments with movement and layering and unusual proportions in an artful way I really admire.

What course did you most enjoy and why?

I enjoyed the studio workshops as they pushed me to creatively explore fashion theory and step outside my comfort zone. As somebody who feels most at home writing and completing research projects, it was exciting to work with my hands and experiment with mediums like film and photography to create art that reflected my interests in fashion and gender studies.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d pass on to a student interested in applying to the program?

Hone in on your specific research passions and career aspirations. Before taking Ryerson’s MA program I was unaware of how multifaceted fashion academia can be. There are a diverse range of subject matters and accompanying professors to assist you. Whether you are interested fashion more in practice or theory, the clearer your goals, the better you can utilize your classes and MRP to achieve those objectives (and take advantage of the school’s rich set of resources and knowledgeable teaching staff.)

Where do you see yourself in 5 years and/or what’s your dream job?

I hope to continue to work in fashion as both a scholar and industry professional. I’m currently considering a PhD and would love to one day write a book on menswear and conceptions of male beauty. I also enjoy working at a men’s retailer and could see myself continue to write and report on men’s style and fashion trends.

 

Dylan Martin

Online Copywriter, Harry Rosen

Dylan continues to publish academic articles on the conceptions of gender, sexuality and masculinity, while working as a copywriter for Harry Rosen

David Dixon

After graduating from Ryerson in 1993, you launched the David Dixon label a mere two years later. Could you tell us how your experience at Ryerson helped you get to that point in your career?

After graduating Ryerson School of Fashion in 1993, I established my business in 1995. The tools that Ryerson gave me, was a great understanding of what I wanted to be-a fashion designer. The lessons of time management, practicing one's craft, and relationship building were key components outside of the regular curriculum.

While you were in school, you had the opportunity to apprentice with Canadian designer, Alfred Sung.Could you tell us a little bit about this experience and how it helped you with your career?

Part of the Fashion Design Program, co-operative education was an extension of the learning process. I had the opportunity to apprentice in the design firm of Alfred Sung in my earlier years, and had placements with smaller design studios to fully understand the differences and the similarities of running a design firm.

While you were at Ryerson you placed as second runner up in the Smirnoff International Young Designer Competition and the Moore Pearsal Leather Competition. How important do you think it is that students participate in competitions, and do you think they are a good way to get their names and designs noticed?

During my four years at Ryerson, I always pushed myself to be apart of extra curricular projects when it came to National and International Student Competitions. These competitions allowed me to explore my techniques and creativity, and at the same time introducing myself to the Fashion Industry.

You’ve collaborated and expanded your brand into other areas besides your clothing label, how has your role changed since these developments?

Part of my own development for my business is collaboration with other like minded companies to expand the David Dixon Brand into different arenas. For example, Town Shoes. In our 7th year we have carved a niche in the Canadian Market place for a desired line of shoes, bags, and sunglasses at an approachable price point outside of my collections.

This past May one of your dresses was the first sold at the Hudsons Bay’s anticipated launch of Kleinfelds. How has the emergence of big American labels/stores (such as Kleinfelds) within Canada helped local designers establish themselves within the industry?

The growth opportunities for Canadian Design, from American Retailers can phenomenal. My most recent addition to my brand was a Bridal Collection sold exclusively at Kleinfeld Canada. I was approached by The Hudson's Bay to do a collection, and from day one, it has been a wonderful experience. The collection will also be available in Kleinfeld NY, this summer!

Being one of the most established and notable Canadian fashion designers, what advice do you have for new fashion students?

My advice for emerging designers both students and graduated, really is to form a support group of people who believe in what they do. Fashion is an extremely competitive and an expensive business. The understanding of building valuable relationships, based on trust, good design, as well as professional are essentials. Egos and entitlement must be left at the door.

We’ve been spoiled to have you as a frequent guest at Mass Exodus, how does it feel to see the emerging Ryerson talent?

Over the years I have been delighted to be asked to judge graduating collections and viewing their vision at Mass Exodus. Each year, it brings back memories for me as a student, and that feeling of accomplishment at the year-end show. It is such a pleasure to be witness to that of the students and their families to see a summary of four years of work.

What were some of your most memorable experiences at Ryerson?

My most memorable experiences at the Ryerson School of Fashion, was really being in a environment of like minded people. We all had the passion to do what we loved to do. There were of course challenging times, but looking back it really was character building. I also learned If you wanted it bad enough, you had to work for it, and be authentic to yourself.

David Dixon

President / Designer, David Dixon Inc.

A leader in contemporary Canadian fashion design, David Dixon created an international name for himself after graduating in 1993.

David Dixon Coco Rocha
David Dixon