Canada’s breakthrough designer has a lot of “heart and soul”

April 13, 2011 by  

Mabaquiao's garment that won him the title as Canada's breakthrough designer is a silver sequined dress. (Photo provided by Earl Mabaquiao).

Earl Mabaquiao, third year fashion design student, is the first person to win the Télio Design Competition in Montréal who isn't from Quebec. (Photo by Miranda Gathercole).

Earl Mabaquiao’s recent success as “Canada’s breakthrough designer” at the Télio Design Competition in the Montréal Fashion Week wasn’t just a blockbuster break through for Kwantlen. It was triumph for all of Western Canada.

Mabaquiao was the first winner in the competition’s history to come from outside of the city where it is held each year.

“They called fifth place and then fourth place and I was like ‘Oh, can I just be third, I’ll just take third’ and then second and then I was like ‘Okay, there is no more positions… there’s one more position,’” said Mabaquiao, who is originally from the Philippines and has been in Canada since he was 12.

The competition, which is put on by the Télio textile company, is currently the biggest and one of the most prestigious student design competitions in Canada.

From the 21 fashion design programs across the nation, each school submits its top seven ideas for a clothing design from second- and third-year students to Télio, which then chooses the top 25.

This time around, Kwantlen had three students reach that stage.

Last year, Mabaquiao tried to make the competition as well, but didn’t even manage to make Kwantlen’s selected seven. But someone who continued to believe in Mabaquiao’s “inner light,” was his teacher and coordinator of the fashion design program, Evelyn May.

Mabaquiao's attention to detail, like his work on the back pocket of these jeans, is one of the things that makes him such a dynamic, young designer. (Photo by Miranda Gathercole).

“Everyone is different,” she said. “But I think for him, every piece he does is not just an assignment. He puts more of himself into his work and his philosophy.

“One thing I’m really proud of with Earl, especially with him placing first, is that we, all the faculty, were very ethical in the production of his design. We did not help him, we did not touch his design… he did it himself.”

One of the biggest challenges that Mabaquiao had to face was the amount of time that went into planning and making his garment.

“I have a lot of friends that are really talented that didn’t do it because there is no time,” he said.

Mabaquiao shows off a few pieces of his work. (Photo by Miranda Gathercole).

It took Mabaquiao two months, outside of the already hard work that he puts into his school assignments, to create the silver sequined dress that stole the show.

May said its Mabaquiao’s continual dedication and diligence to each piece that he puts his hands on that makes him unique.

“He doesn’t do an assignment just to get it done… never does he do that. Everything is special to him and that’s what makes him special.”

For Mabaquiao, winning on Feb. 10 wasn’t just about the satisfaction of becoming number one in the country, but about being the creator behind something that attracted so much attention. To him, that is the beauty of his craft.

“Creating something new, that would surprise someone or that would shock someone else you know… being innovative and creative, that’s the best part I think of designing.”


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