Kirsten Schaefer

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.

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.