STYLE / CAREER
From Issue #2
Is Fashion Design For
Chair, Fashion Design
International Academy of Design, Toronto
to be a fashion designer.
How do I get started? What should I know and how will I find
out? Should I go to school or try to get a job? Do I want
to start my own company? So many questions in my head, where
do I start and where will I end up? Sound like you? I remember
the feeling exactly like that myself!
I've learned a lot about the industry since I began and I'm
still finding out there is always more to know. I've worked
for giant manufacturers and I've made one of a kind pieces
for private clientele. I've had my own label and my own store.
I've sold other peoples clothes. I've been unemployed and
I've had great jobs that I've left for even better ones. I've
realized that it's an industry where art is joined and, in
fact, led by commerce. Some people have made it in a very
short time with no training and others have graduated from
university with degrees before climbing their career ladders.
I started in fine arts, then fashion design and am now the
chairperson and teacher at a fashion design program.
are your answers? After witnessing both success and failure,
I believe that most importantly you must first discover if this
is really what you want to do! Start by getting involved in
this industry. Your local mall probably has someone on staff
that's involved in fashion show production and fashion promotion.
Make an appointment and let them know what you're interested
in and volunteer to help on the next project. This is a great
introduction to the glitz and glamour side of the business,
however, you will still need to get a broader picture.
for a store in your neighbourhood that makes and sells its own
clothes and see if you can meet the owner and a designer (often
one in the same). Try to talk your way into a tour of their
studio or factory or ask for the opportunity to see what a typical
day is like. Ask as many questions as you can from as many people
as possible: this will help you gain a real sense of the industry.
Ask about the hours they work, how long it took them to get
their own store, if they went to school, what were their greatest
hurdles, what is the toughest part of the job.you get the picture.
Some may be too busy preparing for a show or new clothing line,
but don't be discouraged. You really should make every effort
to get a feel for the business-I assure you it's not all catwalks
If you still want to be a fashion designer, then dig in some
more. Go to your local fabric store and see if they offer any
lessons, or try buying some fabric and making something for
yourself. Contact your local community college to see what courses
or programs they offer in fashion. Check to see if they have
any visiting professionals that are willing to give a workshop
or talk at your school. I know the International Academy of
Design in Toronto offers an intensive two-week summer studio,
perhaps your local school has something similiar. Check out
books on fashion design at your local library. Don't forget
the Internet: it is a wealth of fashion information waiting
to be tapped into.
Alana Berry and Alexander Labayen, both former students of Toronto's
International Academy of Design, have taken somewhat different
approaches to world of fashion design.
Before studying fashion, Alana pursued a career in business
and feels it is the best thing she could have done. "When I
look at the big picture now, I realize it's not just about being
creative: fashion is also a business. If I didn't have a strong
understanding of business, it would all be just a hobby."
...and her partner, Diana Calma
Once she realized that fashion was calling out to her, she enrolled
at the Toronto International Academy of Design. When asked about
her experience there, Alana says, "I know that some people have
been very successful with little formal training, but I would
never pass up what I learned at the Academy-not to mention,
that's where I met my partner, Diana. Developing a strong network
of contacts in this industry is very important."
When Alana left school she almost immediately formed, 'Alana
Berry,' her own fashion company and label. She has teamed up
with one of her former Academy classmates, Diana Calma, and
is designing elegant custom-tailored formalwear for her clients.
Alana believes owning your own company can be very rewarding
if you're prepared for "long hours and hard work!"
Three designs from Alanaberry's ladies formalwear collection
Instead of immediately heading out on his own, Alex Labayen
decided to apprentice with one of Canada's hottest new labels,
'Misura by Joeffer Caoc'. By the way, keep your eye on Joeffer
as he has already won the Canadian Designer of the Year award
three times, including 1999.
sketches to develop ideas
Alex feels that becoming an intern has been a valuable stepping
stone to one day going out on his own. His experiences at Misura
have already taught him some of the subtler aspects of fashion,
"You have to remember it's not for you, the clothes I mean,
you just can't design what you like - you have to adapt to what
other people want."
has realized that, "People have reasons why they purchase what
they do. You have to know what makes people tick, what influences
their choices, you really have to learn how to observe what
is happening around you and be aware of the past and develop
your own ideas of the future."
as an apprentice has become an extension of school. Alex says,
"I have fun, but it's long hours and hard work (sounds familiar).
I've been able to learn about the business side of the industry,
things like production, distribution, custom laws, sourcing
and marketing. I think this is a great route I've taken because
I can learn from someone else's mistakes, learn the ropes, make
great contacts and eventually go out on my own better prepared