Last week I met with Lydia a fourth year design student in the lab for a chat. She is currently working on a menswear collection for her capstone project.
Where did you grow up?
Lydia grew up in a town called Newtonville on Lake Ontario about an hour and a half east or Toronto not far from Cobourg. She described it as a tiny little hamlet of about 500 people.
When did you know that you wanted to study fashion?
She said that ever since she was very young she was artistic and she grew up learning to sew. She likes to write and draw but it did not occur to her until she was in grade 10 that she could be a designer. She said she didn’t really follow the fashion industry at that time and being a designer was just not on her radar. When she realized that this was something that she could do she set her sights on Ryerson and started working toward that goal. She actually took a year off from school to work on her admission portfolio.
What have you learned at Ryerson?
Since she had been making clothes before coming to Ryerson, I asked her what she learned here. She said her experience here pushed her to look outside her own little world – to look at the work of other designers and to look at trends. In addition she learned more about sewing and construction, time management, the importance of being on time for class and getting her work submitted on time, and to do the best work she can.
What has been your biggest challenge in the last three years?
Lydia didn’t arrive at Ryerson with any idea that she would one day aspire to being a menswear designer. She said the biggest challenge was figuring out what she wanted to do and not getting discouraged. Finding her niche and developing the confidence to stick with it and not give up was the struggle of the first few years at Ryerson.
She now knows that she wants to do menswear – she said she has developed a growing fascination with menswear since second year. Menswear feels more about quality, wearability, comfort, and practicality and fits more with how she likes to dress – she described her own style as simple and practical. She spent the summer immersed in menswear working at Hugo Boss and attending Toronto men’s fashion week. Lydia said that she really loves seeing a well dressed guy on the street and has little passion for women’s wear other than her own wardrobe.
Who/What inspires you?
The first thing that inspires her aesthetically is the beauty of nature – she said that this is probably because of where she grew up and that nature makes her feel closer to God.
She also said that she is sometimes inspired by people…most recently older men who dress well. The example she gave is a fashion industry insider named Nick Wooster. She is really inspired by his style, which she described as classic with edge.
Who is your favourite designer or fashion personality?
Besides Nick Wooster she mentioned a designer named Alexandre Muttiussii in Paris who just did his first collection. Lydia loves the simplistic classic look of his work and likes that it still has a streetwear spin. She said that he is very inspired by people on the street and just looking at how guys dress and this in turn inspires her.
What advice would you give to a new fashion student at Ryerson?
Lydia said that she talks to a lot of first year students and makes a point to encourage them and give them advice. She tells them to be really open, be ready to network, try different things, explore and figure out what you want to do. She thinks many first year students are intimidated by other first year students who seem really confident. Her best advice – “its not how you start, its how you finish”…just be open to the experience.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years from now in terms of job, lifestyle, etc.?
Lydia wants to end up working in menswear involved in some part of the design/production process – possibly in Europe. She would like to start out with an internship with Hugo Boss in Germany and then would really just like to spend the next 5-10 years working in the industry getting as much first hand experience and learning as much as possible. She figures that the more she learns the clearer she will be about where she wants to go with her career.
Tell me about your design process.
I asked Lydia about the process she followed in developing her collection. She has been thinking about the collection all summer and started by putting herself in an environment where she could better understand menswear and the customer – hence her summer job at Hugo Boss. She looked at different brands and also was inspired by nature in the form of Edward Burtynsky’s photos of the Vermont quarries. I asked her when she starts designing does she start with a detail, a silhouette, a colour, a fabric…? She said that it depends, but for this capstone collection she started with designing little details like sketching pockets or little pant details.
I also asked her about the feedback she got from the guest designers who visited class last week. They challenged her to simplify things but generally they liked what she was doing. She is developing a collection that has a classic look but with some edge targeted at the older man…one designer warned her about over designing and told her to focus on smaller details. I really look forward to seeing her work as it is in progress and when it is complete.
I loved talking to Lydia – there is a calm, quiet confidence and an openness about her that I think makes her an exceptional role model for new students. I am so glad that she takes to time to share her experience and advice with them.