After all the glamour and glitz displayed on the runway of The Show 2011, a fashion show produced by fourth-year fashion students, it’s hard to imagine the tears and sweat that made went into making the garments so fabulous.
In fact, there’s an entire years worth from a class of 32 students.
Caitlin Butcher, one of these fourth-year students, said the amount of preparation that goes into such an event is incredible.
“There’s so much to do and so little time,” she said.
The Show is the end product of the entire fourth year of the fashion design and technology program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
From September until April, students learn all aspects of what is needed to run a clothing line and a fashion show in the real world. They begin by creating a niche market and designing three complete outfits. The most important part of this step is proving that this niche exists and is underserved in the fashion world.
“A lot of people come into the program thinking ‘Oh, I love clothes, and I like to draw clothes’ and that’s kind of where I was in first year. I didn’t have much experience in the industry,” she said.
But by the time fourth year comes around, this all changes.
Everything becomes real-life based. If the instructors do not think your niche is developed enough, you have to repeat fourth year. It’s as simple as that.
“It can definitely get a little crazy,” Butcher said.
The next step is hand-sewing each garment, a process which can take months.
Butcher created her pieces for “women working in the creative field.” She describes them as fun investment garments for artists and musicians.
With 11 separate pieces in the collection, Butcher said the most surprising thing for her has been “the details that go into producing garments, especially for production.”
“Before I came into the program, I used to make clothes for myself and would cover up any mistakes, and little holes, but I can’t do that anymore,” she said.
Her line, titled Patience For Now, is “a reminder to myself to take it slow and be patient.” Mistakes can happen and as she has learned, and freaking out is not always the best option.
She said one of her worst moments was during an assignment to make tailored coats for The Bay. Butcher had spent 80 hours sewing the garment and, just as she was finishing it, her arm slipped and she ripped a hole in the lining. Everything had to be re-done.
“It’s those kinds of frustrating things that bring you to tears,” she said.
In the end though, Butcher says it is all worth it.
“The process is always so fun, and actually seeing the final product when it becomes tangible — that is so rewarding,” she said.
“It starts as this little idea in your head and then you go through all these motions and it’s tons and tons of work and lots of sleepless nights and sometimes tears when things don’t work out, but it’s just really rewarding.”
Fashion is not all glitter and glamour at Kwantlen. Andee Jasper, a third-year fashion design student, has learned that becoming a fashion designer isn’t as easy as it was fantasizing about.
“Coming into the program was an eye-shocker. It’s marketing… You don’t just make a pretty gown and put it on a model and take a picture and think you’re a designer,” said the 20-year-old Jasper.
“It’s one thing for me to be like, ‘Oh that dress is pretty, lets make it,’ and its another thing for me to be like, ‘How can my target market wear this, and where’s she going to wear it to, and how much is she willing to pay.’”
Kwantlen’s Bachelor of Design, Fashion & Technology program is the only one of its kind in western Canada and has become known as a prominent stepping-stone to get eager students into the industry.
“Kwantlen is known for their niche markets… and that’s why we get jobs and that’s why we start our own businesses,” she said.
Jasper defines a niche market as: “finding a really small market, like a specific target market and selling your clothes to those types of people.”
Throughout the four-year degree program, fashion students acquire the marketing and production that lead to The Show, which is put on by all fourth-year students at the River Rock Casino Resort Theatre and which attracts hundreds of employers in the Vancouver fashion scene.
“Everything we learn goes into fourth year,” Jasper said.
“I think a lot of people who like fashion, its typically what they think, like, ‘Oh its so easy, I can draw and I can sew and make things like pretty things.’ But its like no… reality hits you and you’re like ‘shit.’ You get to do pattern-making and things from all aspects, so its eye-opening that way… the amount of work that goes into producing garments.”
Jasper’s career goal is to start her own clothing line, common to many aspiring fashion designers, but from her experience at Kwantlen, has understood that it won’t happen right out of university.
“I know the amount of work that goes into it… so I’ll slowly build up to it,” she said.
For now, Jasper continues to work hard, spending almost her entire days at the Richmond Campus in the design classrooms or the computer lab, and preparing for her internship next semester.
“It seems like a lot of hard work, and yeah, it’s really tedious sometimes, but you’re still doing what you love.”