This profile is a little different from the others I have posted here. Cathy is not a 4th year student. She is a third year Fashion Communication student who along with her classmates is responsible for planning and executing the year end event – Mass Exodus – which includes a runway show where the 4th year design students will show their collections and an exhibit where the 4th year communication students will display their capstone projects. Cathy was chosen through an interview process to be the producer of Mass Exodus this year which means she has the most senior position on the team. I really wanted to chat with her about being chosen for this role and the work that she has ahead of her in preparing for Mass Exodus which will take place on April 1, 2015.
Where are you from…where is home?
Cathy is from Langley, British Columbia…near Vancouver.
When did you know what you wanted to study?
Cathy went to a fine arts high school and focused on visual arts. After high school she attended the University of British Columbia and spent two years there. She took a lot of different courses and got involved in residence. She found herself drawn more to her extra curricular activities than her class work – in fact she really only stayed on for a 2nd year because she got a job in residence life. After talking through her future with her sister and deciding she wanted to focus on something more creative, she chose to come to Ryerson and study Fashion Communication. Her parents were not really excited about the choice but they supported her in coming to Toronto.
Have you done any internships as part of the program?
Cathy had lots of great things to say about the fashion program at Ryerson and said she has done a number of internships in the last three years including working at the TV program Degrassi as a wardrobe assistant and at Frostbite Media, a music production company. She worked this past summer as the Events Lead on the Ryerson Orientation team. All of these experiences certainly helped prepare her for the role of Producer for Mass Exodus.
Tell me about the role you will play with Mass Exodus?
Cathy is the Producer. She answers to two faculty members and works with 4 other members of the executive team – Communication Director, Creative Director, Art Director and Associate Producer. Each of these 4 students oversee two committees of other students. Some of the committees are Sponsorship, Hospitality, Visitor Experience, Design & Brand, Stage & Show, PR & Marketing, etc. In her role she is really responsible for all aspects of event ultimately. They actually held a mini-show this Fall term to give the team an opportunity to learn to work together and to get a taste of what is coming in the winter. This mini-show also gave some of the 3rd year design students the opportunity to show some of their work.
We had some good conversation about the challenges of leading a large diverse team. We talked about the need to rely on others, learning to delegate and not being able to control all the details when you can’t do all the work yourself. She also expressed the desire to make sure that all her peers are engaged and have a good learning experience in the process of putting this huge event together. All of this is part of a class and the grading is done through final reports, self-evaluation and peer evaluation.
What has been your biggest challenge at Ryerson so far?
Given her involvements here she knows many people who are working in the various offices at Ryerson to make it a better place for students, but can see that many students don’t see this and complain about stuff without understanding what really happens behind the scenes. She has come to realize that many of her peers are not nearly as engaged in the life of the institution as she has been…she can see what some of her peers are missing in the student experience as a result.
This really resonated with my experience in this project. I think I always knew this but despite how much we try to do with respect to student life and the student experience the vast majority of students really only experience the institution through the classroom and have little understanding of what is happening and what is offered for them outside of the classroom.
What do you want to do when you are finished this program?
She said she is not completely sure yet and talked a lot about her parents’ expectations as first generation immigrants who don’t speak much English. She said that it is hard for her to explain to them what she does and will do in her field – she only speaks to them in Vietnamese and there are language barriers in trying to describe occupations that are not typical. She probably won’t return to work in Vancouver but can’t say for sure…she has made lots of connections in Toronto and has a ten year plan that she hopes will land her in New York City. She still has to complete 4th year in 2015/2016 so she has time to think through what comes after school.
Any early inside info about mass exodus?
They have a new project in the works for this year…it is an e-commerce initiative and will give the students the opportunity to market and sell their work. It is a pilot project and will be an interesting additional to Mass Exodus 2015. It is still in development so I suspect there will be more to share about this closer to April.
What else can you tell us about the show from your experience last year?
For the day before the show and the show day there is a 5 – 7 am. start for all the students working on the show and with over 70 students who each have 5 models plus hair and make-up people there will be hundreds of people backstage. It is a huge production and takes a great deal of organization. All 4th year students show their collections in the afternoon and then 15-20 are chosen to show in the evening by a guest curator. The team producing the show don’t know until about 3 pm. who will be showing at 6 pm. and they have to redo the line-ups, music and production elements in just a few hours before the evening show.
What type of classes do you take in the communication program?
She listed…fashion journalism, typography, digital illustration, product development, fashion promotion, art direction for photography, etc….at this point I realized why I was struggling more with understanding the requirements of the communication capstone than the design capstone. I have none of these building blocks to draw from, unlike in the design capstone, where I know fabric, how to make patterns and clothing construction.
Cathy said that in fashion communication there is much variety – some of her classmates focus on photography, some on graphic design, some on web development, some are most interested in PR and events – there are lots of options. She said it is challenging because you want to do well in all the classes but you can’t be great at everything.
Last question – who is your favourite designer or fashion personality?
She named a few people…
– designer Prabal Gurung….in an industry that has some negative influences, she likes that he is described as a nice, kind, genuine person.
– model Coco Rocha who is really engaged in social media and in touch with her fans
– Eva Chen the youngest Editor in Chief at Lucky magazine who turned the magazine into a fashion magazine for all not just the elite fashion clientele.
one last thing she shared with me…she said that each of the executive team gets a design student in their year to design them a dress for Mass Exodus and she is very excited that one of the 3rd year design students has agreed to to design her dress…she described him as super talented and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for her.
I really enjoyed chatting with Cathy and these kind of one on one conversations remind me how amazing our students are…I have no doubt that she will do great things after leaving Ryerson.