Where are you from?
Lana came to Ryerson from Fredericton, New Brunswick. She was born there and lived there her whole life.
When/why did you decide to study fashion?
In high school she had planned to study Chemical Engineering but in Grade 11 started to think about fashion as a career. She learned to sew at a young age from her grandmother and her mother, who she described as creative people who sew, quilt, etc. In high school she had an idea for a very specific style of coat that was impossible to find in Fredericton and decided to try and make it herself…that was the beginning. She also took an advanced English class where she had to document and keep a journal about her efforts to improve on something that she was good at…she chose to use the creation of the coat for her writing project. After high school she then attended the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design and completed a diploma in fashion design. The focus of this program was on doing custom made work for individual customers not on mass production and larger scale manufacturing.
You learned to sew at home and learned a lot at school in New Brunswick – what have you learned in the program at Ryerson?
Lana said she has learned more about the commercial side of fashion production and specifically she learned “grading” (sizing a pattern up or down while maintaining the intended proportions of a garment). She really came to Ryerson to get a degree. She has also learned how to make things more simply to reduce the price-point of a completed design. While she started at Ryerson with some well developed skills, she has felt at some disadvantage being so far from home and away from her family, her dog and her boyfriend.
She is very aware that going back home to pursue a career in her field once she graduates is not an option as the fashion industry is really in the big cities in Canada…she expects to stay in Toronto but also mentioned the possibility of moving to the west coast of Canada or the US.
What has been your biggest challenge?
She knew that she wanted to focus her work and her career in menswear and she had come to this determination at college in New Brunswick. So not being able to do all her work at Ryerson focusing only on menswear has been a challenge. She prefers the precision of tailoring and the small details that come with working in menswear design. She also listed other challenges such as being away from home, managing her time between school and working, and trying to get through courses that she was not interested in and left her feeling unmotivated.
Who or what inspires you?
She said the people who will ultimately wear the clothes – younger guys. She really lit up when talking about the menswear scene now – describing it as super exciting. She talked about street wear and a resurgence of sneaker culture…in fact she was wearing her favourite sneakers that she told me were the same age as her, having been designed 24 years ago. We talked about the fact that younger men seem to be a bit more adventurous with their clothes and with colour. She talked about there being a bit more gender fluidity with younger men. She has a really good handle on her target market because she works in retail and interacts with the customers on a regular basis and knows who they are and what they want to wear.
Who is your favourite designer or fashion personality?
She said Vivienne Westwood – Lana said she loves the connection between fashion and music which certainly explains an affinity with Westwood as the intersection of music and fashion was really the genesis of her career.
What advice would you give a new fashion student at Ryerson?
Her answer surprised me because I suspected to hear work hard, or believe in yourself but she said “be nice to people”. She has seen years where the fashion co-horts at Ryerson can get cliquey or competitive but said that she feels lucky that this 4th year class seems to get on pretty well. She said that since the fashion industry in Canada is so small you are bound to run into folks again in your career and you should just be nice to people. Networking and making friends can only help you.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
Lana said she will probably be working for a street wear or men’s casual wear label. She really stressed that she wants to be an integral part of a team. She is not interested in being her own boss or having her own label – she would prefer to work with a team of people who share her values, where she can make an important contribution to the shared vision.
Tell me about your collection.
Lana is creating a men’s street wear line focused on a customer that is leaving school and entering the workplace. She thinks that young men feel like they have to drop their individual style in favour of a corporate personality in the way that they dress when they get their first job. She wants to create pieces that can transition to a workplace so that young men can make the most of their wardrobes. She described her vision for pieces that a bit more grown up without losing the ability for young men to have some fun with their clothes.
When you sit down to prepare your collection…where do you start – do you start with a detail, a colour, a fabric, a silhouette – where do you start?
Lana described herself as a textile junkie – she starts with the fabric. For this collection, she started with a perforated lambskin in black and grey (she had shown me some swatches of these in an earlier class), a quilted nylon fabric, some wools and tweed. She mentioned the fun of mixing the various fabrics and textures.
We talked about various fabric stores and where to get the best service. There was a theme to her advice related to the “be nice to people” advice she gave earlier. She talked about having worked in retail and customer service jobs in New Brunswick including McDonalds and Canadian Tire and how you learn in those jobs how not to treat folks who are serving you. If you are kind and friendly as a customer, staff in stores will often do more to help you.
Bottom-line take away from my really fun conversation with Lana… “Be Nice to People!”