Sometimes I think that Hamish lives in the design lab. He is there every time I go. Some mornings, before my work day starts, I arrive at the lab at 7 am. to fit something on the judy or jimmy or to lay something out on the large table. Each time I have done this Hamish arrives shortly after I get there. He is the first student to arrive in the lab and starts his day there everyday. He clearly loves what he does and spends most of his time working in the lab.
Where are you from- where is home?
Hamish is from Vancouver…he said that he was thinking of studying art history as a foundation for design and then decided to jump right in and enroll in a design program…he only applied to Ryerson.
When did you decide you wanted to study fashion or be a designer?
He knew since he was a little kid that he wanted to work with clothes. He said when he looks back at photos of his childhood he sees that he always had an eclectic approach to dressing and costume. His mom is an artist and he grew up in a creative environment with few boundaries with respect to self-expression. In grade 4 he took a sewing class with his sister but he stopped sewing as an early adolescent because he was embarrassed about it. This made me really sad. (When will we live in a world that does not shame people for what they love and their talent when it does not fit artificial expectations about what is “appropriate” for their gender, race, age, etc. etc. etc. – enough already!)
In high school he got a sewing machine from his mom for his birthday and although upset by the gift, he started sewing again. The next year he received a dress form for a gift and by grade 12 he was designing and draping clothes on his own.
What have you learned since coming to Ryerson?
He immediately said…”a lot”…he surrounded himself with older students when he arrived and learned much from them about hard work. He learned a great deal through his internships…initially about what he does not want to do – he then worked for two years with Comrags and learned a great deal from them. They triggered something in him “that is about subtle intelligent creative design that is still wearable”. After going into their store and seeing how impeccably made the garments were he knew that he wanted to learn from them. He appreciated the time that people took with him at Comrags and the opportunity they gave him to make patterns and cut out garments and earn their trust. He said that they helped him understand the the beauty in quality and attention to detail.
He spent the first three years at Ryerson experimenting with different aesthetics and last year really started to discover who he is as a designer and develop a clearer point of view, particularly after participating in the Danier Leather Design Challenge.
What has been your biggest challenge at Ryerson?
At first Hamish said that he has faced no real challenges but then he did indicate that he finds having to devote time to the “academic” courses challenging as he would rather be focusing on designing. He said that he hates writing papers, hates computers, and just wants to design.
What or who inspires you?
Many things inspire Hamish. He said that he really doesn’t feel like he has had a creative education…it has been more technical…so he has spent a lot of time educating himself related to creativity and inspiration. For his collection he spent the summer thinking about his collection and talking mostly to women about what they want to wear, reading the book about the Dries Van Noten Inspirations Exhibition in Paris (link goes to video of Dries Van Noten discussing the exhibition), a book about the work of John Galliano, etc.…in the end he ended up creating a little world in his mind and sketches from which he collection evolved. This world included multiple references including the character, The Artful Dodger from Dickins’ Oliver Twist, various artists such as sculptor Henry Moore, flamenco dance, etc. He has collected sketches and ideas in a book that he showed me and allowed me to photograph (I have included some of those photos here). He said that the final collection is really about body movement and posture.
Who is your favourite designer and fashion personality?
He gave me three names. John Galliano first because he has a very British sensibility and creates whole worlds around his collections as well. Vivienne Westwood because of the empowering sexuality of her aesthetic and the fact that there is always “something off” about her garments that he loves. And finally Dries Van Noten because his work is subtle, light and enriching.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
He would like to move to London after spending next summer with his family in Vancouver. He eventually hopes to enroll in a masters program at Central St. Martins, an art and design school in London, England.
Talk to me about your collection. How do you get started?
It started with a picture of Artful Dodger from the film Oliver. This brought to mind details, fabric ideas and sketches…all of which went into his book of ideas and inspiration. He began looking at the sculptures of Henry Moore and the idea of achieving a similar weight and distortion within garments. He just let the ideas guide him. It all came together when he started getting fabrics and experimenting with them. Hamish said that he makes multiple muslins for each garment and that the final muslin is different from and evolves from the first muslin…so he does not just explore and work out his ideas through extensive sketching, but also in the process of experimenting on the judy and creating and making the garments.
He started really early in developing muslins so that he could be sure about his final plans before the design book was due. He really feels the need to play around on the body because the garments on the body look different that the idea in the sketch. He acknowledged that most of his fellow students do not work this way or wouldn’t have had time to work this way unless they had also started as early as he did.
What advice would you give to new students in your program?
He said that if you want to go and work in the high-end fashion houses you have to live fashion. He loves his work and spends his time living, thinking and working in the context of fashion and design. He suggests being realistic about what you want and what you are prepared to do and how you are prepared to live to get what you want.
What would you change about your experience at Ryerson?
He said that the instructors are really great. He feels that there needs to be more encouragement of creativity and self expression in the program. He acknowledged that this would be difficult while also ensuring that there are clear and consistent standards for all students. Hamish said he is okay with being a bit of a rebel regardless of the fact that he may lose marks by not following all the rules. He intends to be true to his creative vision and design sensibility above all else.
I so appreciated being given the opportunity to have a peak into Hamish’s sketchbook and world and to be able to share it with readers here. Such talent. Such dedication. I am no expert but I think that this student is one to watch.