Blanche Macdonald - Marissa Campbell, A Hard and Soft Collection of Seascapes!

Fashion Illustrations by Marissa Campbell
Runway images courtesy of Peter Jensen

At the recent Blanche Macdonald 2014 grad fashion show titled Wandering Stars, over 35 graduating design students sent their collections down the runway. Fashion is such a personal experience, I imagine every single design had someone in the audience who felt it was the best. So in the end, how do I choose which ones to feature in solo articles?  For me it's a combination of elements.  

First - I take time to look through the student portfolios. What I want to see are at least a few fashion illustrations. Although this seems to be a fading requirement in many schools - illustrations have an ability to showcase a student's creative potential.  Take away the fabric and sewing skills and you see the raw, conceptual ideas of the artist in plain view. It can be eye opening. 

Second - the collection needs to catch my eye on the runway. This doesn't mean wild.  It could be the proportions, the excellent tailoring, an interesting way of using fabric, a unique design element or a silhouette that is new and exciting. The designer need to stand out in some way as the fashion industry is filled with new graduates wanting to make their mark. Then the construction needs to be clean - no puckered seams and no dangling threads.

Marissa Campbell met both of these challenges - great illustrations and looks that stood out on the runway. Of the two, however, it was the textural element of a material created from both wool and silk fibres felted together embellishing the flowing silk garments that made me want to know more. This detail added a unexpected surprise note and I like being surprised.  I wasn't the only one to sit up and take notice. An Vancouver industry friend in the row in front of me turned around and commented on the collection as well. That's a great sign that bodes well for the future of this rising talent.

Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in SurreyB.C., and lived there until I moved to Vancouver to attend UBC.

What you like when you were young?

I have loved drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. Another favourite as a child was "cutting and gluing," but any craft would keep me occupied for hours.

What were your interests in High School?

They were very similar to my interests today, I did a lot of painting and began to dabble in sewing. At this point my goals were all focused on Fine Arts, I never even considered myself to be interested in fashion. Like many teen girls, I spent a lot of time at the mall or hiding behind the pages of magazines so that was an early sign of where I was heading.

Looking back, can you remember any signs that you would end up in fashion? A personal story would be great here.

Most of my interests have always revolved around creativity, so after high school I attended the UBC (University of British Columbia) to study Visual Arts. I wanted to pursue a more specific design direction afterwards, and was drawn to fashion for both its creative and business sides. Initially it was lingerie that had me look towards fashion. Lingerie can be as simple and practical as needed but with endless room for creative possibilities. The "anything goes" aspect of lingerie had me considering colours and fabrics in ways I didn't usually think about with other clothing. 

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was you family supportive? Did you have some experience in the industry?

I officially decided to pursue fashion in my final year of university. My family was very supportive, to my surprise! It felt like a very natural decision; I never questioned it or felt nervous moving into a new field. My experience within the industry before starting school was limited to retail positions. It was valuable experience for me in many ways, learning about what customers liked and didn't like, how  different clothes and fabrics would drape, what styles were most flattering on each body, and of course the creative stimulation at the mall as new collections arrived and trends constantly developed.

Why did you choose to study at Blanche Macdonald?

I chose Blanche Macdonald for two main reasons. Friends and acquaintances took the merchandising program or did hair or make up spoke very highly of the school, so I felt confident that the design program would also be worthwhile. The program is also shorter than others in Vancouver, with a condensed curriculum. After having just completed 4 year program at UBC, I felt eager to dive right in and ultimately be able to start working full-time as soon as possible.

Talk about your time studying Fashion Design. What was hard for you, what was easy for you, are they any high, low or funny moments you can share?

I had an amazing experience studying fashion. There were some challenges along the way, and in such a fast paced program the possibility of falling behind was terrifiying - in a productive way! My entire class was so driven and everyone seemed to feed off of each other's motivation and encouragement. We became a very close group and that definitely helped everyone get through the tough moments.

One of my lowest points was also the most comical. The silk I used in my collection is all hand painted, and there is a lot of it! I did not entirely think the process through when I came home with 5 meters of silk and had to stretch it across the entire apartment. The living room was in total disarray for days, with furniture up against the walls. The kitchen table ended up turning blue and I had to sell it on Craigslist. I definitely still owe my room mate for her patience.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection?

My inspiration was in west coast landscapes, specifically seascapes. I spent a lot of time on Vancouver Island as a child and there is nothing more beautiful to me than the grey on grey, crashing waves, and rough rocky shores. My collection attempts to capture that combination of hard and soft, and has a very organic aesthetic with a little bit of an edge.

Describe your collection – customer, day-evening-sportswear-separates-casual-highend glamour-stage costuming-punk?

The collection is a luxury lingerie and lounge wear line. It is very glamorous but wearable, with separates that can be worn individually. 

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

My palette choice is largely based around pastel blues and seafood green with some metallics - dark steel grey and a little bit of gold to warm it up. The fabric choices are mainly silk charmeuse and silk chiffon. Because the fabrics were painted and dyed, I found that the colour palette and patterns evolved gradually. I also experimented with felting and appliqué by needle felting silk fibres with wool to create a unique texture. 

Do you have a favourite look?

I do not have one favourite look, but I do love all of the pieces done in silk charmeuse.

What do you think you can bring to the fashion world that is new?

Through this entire creative process I have learned that experimenting with different fabrics can lead to the best ideas. I love to be innovative with fabric choices. I think that my background in fine art has influenced my approach to fashion and the decisions I make while designing, and this will hopefully lead to more and more unique ideas!

Where do you go from here – are you going to work for others for awhile, launch your own line, take a break and travel?

I am currently working for a Vancouver based company called Sewaholic, where we design sewing patterns for home sewers. It has been a fantastic learning opportunity so far, and I am very grateful to be working in a creative position. Eventually, my goal is to move in to doing active wear and I am especially interested in technical design and fabric design.
To contact Marissa Campbell please email You can also check her out on instagram at marissac91.

For more information on the Fashion Design Program at Blanche Macdonald go to