I wanted to write this week about a project—the Danier Design Challenge—that is close to my heart. Over the past few months I’ve had the pleasure of helping judge a competition among third-year students enrolled in Ryerson University’s undergraduate Fashion Design program.
Sponsored by Danier, I worked with fellow judges Julia Seidl, the fashion and beauty editor at HELLO! Canada, stylist Alexis Honce, and Backseat Stylers blogger Sharon Ng—along with Olga Koel, Danier’s Chief Merchandising Officer and Robert Ott, Chair of Ryerson’s School of Fashion. The challenge? Design and create a women’s leather jacket. We slowly edited the group (going from 60 initial contestants to 11 finalists), then met several times to look at sketches and concepts, a marketing video, a cotton muslin, which is a first working of the design in physical form and, finally, the jacket itself in the leather of their choice.
Chantelle Hastick took home the $5,000 purse and an internship opportunity with Danier for her impeccably made minimalist sheath, which was inspired by the Ai Wei Wei installation, “Straight.” The jacket, with its banana sleeves and cocoon feel, is modern and easy-to-wear. It will produced and sold with Danier’s fall collection, a huge coup for a student designer.
The second and third place recipients were Wesley Burness, who took home $3,000 for his zippered, high-collared jacket and Hamish Thwaites, who won $2,000 for his brown leather, safari-inspired coat. Olivia Rubens’ avant-garde overcoat was awarded an honourable mention and $500.
From the very beginning, each and every one of the students blew me away with their creativity and talent. None had worked formally with leather prior to the contest and all demonstrated true grit and ingenuity. This was the fifth year that Toronto-based Danier has sponsored the competition, and it’s a great example of how we can help nurture and grow the Canadian fashion industry—and one that other companies should follow.