Friday, May 29, 2015

The Art Institute of Vancouver - Suman Faulkner, Lata Design

By Darian Wong of  Wayward Wanderer
There are a number of ways to catch my attention and I think Art Institute of Vancouver grad Suman Faulkner knew them all. She introduced herself preshow and charmed me with her big smile and generous nature. After the show I was torn. I was seriously impressed with her feature dress, but wasn't quite sure about how all the looks meshed as a collection. And as the portfolios were not available that night, I didn't have that extra input.

No worries.  A short time later Faulkner reached out again with just the right, light and open touch. As I asked questions, she had a great attitude and ready answers. She offered photos of more looks from this collection that were not seen that night. When I asked for some of her fashion illustrations, they were in my box almost immediately. She had already launched her own brand - Lata Design - and then there was her impressive list of awards while in school -

  • · Best of Show at the portfolio presentation
  • · Induced to the Wall of Fame at The Art Institute
  • · Featured video by The Art Institute
  • · Was on their Global marketing package for Fall/Winter 2014 for the Art Institute
  • · Excellence in Execution Award at the Art Institute’s Atelier Fashion Gala.
  • · Was selected for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, but her Burlap Collection did not meet the theme of the runway's collection
WOW! I love determination and when it is paired with talent and business savvy, well the sky's the limit. I was hooked. This designer had to be featured on my website. It was no surprise when I sent her the Q and A to find it completely finished and in my mailbox the very next morning. Oh, and in case you're wondering where you've heard her name before - Faulkner was recently in the news. She created the burlap prom gown worn by a local teen - a story that circled the globe.

Lata Design fashion show at Studio 560 - Image by Paul Fitzgerald, See It Live

Without further ado, I offer you a look into the journey of this talented designer who after a life-changing challenge walked away from her career to embrace a new future in fashion design. I know you'll end up as inspired as I was.

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in the Western town of Lautoka, in Viti Levu, which is the biggest of the 300 Fijian Islands.

What you like when you were young?

I liked the carefree lifestyle I had when growing up - the closeness of my family. People were friendlier to approach, and back in Fiji, things were at a slower pace. There was respect for others. We got to enjoy life more than in the hectic lifestyle people have now.

What were your interests in High School?

I had a hunger for education of any sort. Even though I had a keen interest in sports and participated in almost every event, I was more drawn to my studies. The school system in Fiji is very different from what we have here in Canada. In Fiji it is very structured with a lot of competition. Your time is spent mostly on academic courses during your school years rather than other activities.

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

I started crocheting around the age of 8-10, picking it up while watching my aunts. Next came embroidery from my mom, who was very good at it. Fiji at the time was not as much influenced by the western culture as it is today, so most of the garments were either sew by a tailor or done at home. This prompted me to learn how to sew so I could make something a bit complicated for my mom. I was very academic, so never thought that I would end up in fashion. I learned because it was just normal at that time for girls to learn, and also, I had an interest in it. Let’s just say there has always been an artist side in me that I only explored whenever needed.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was your family supportive?

I have a background in Finance and was an Accountant for the past 12 years,  working in a very comfortable corporate world before I started to study fashion design. I had a life altering situation (medical) a few years ago which almost took my life. After being on medical leave for 2.5 years, and being told by the specialist that he could not help anymore, I prayed and made a decision to change the life I was living, and for who. It was time to do something only for me for the first time in my life - not to be bound by my culture and society. I did return to accounting after being on medical leave, but only survived for 8 months. Too many changes had happened in my work place and I just felt I did not fit into the new environment.

By Claude Duke Photography
I was struggling to decide what to do next - whether to work for another company or to do something that I really loved and was passionate about. This was when one of my nieces asked me to answer without even thinking and I said fashion. Looking back at that moment, I can simply say that I made the best and right decision.  However, I am taking my accounting and finance knowledge into the fashion world.

My family has always been very supportive of anything I did in my life, After all, I have proven myself by becoming a self-made person in Canada. I came to Canada by myself when I was 18 as a nanny and worked my way up with no help to where I am today. My mom and family are still living in Fiji, so I knew I was on my own. They never questioned me on anything I wanted to do. They knew I chose to travel this journey alone without anyone’s influence in my life. I was unhappy with where my life was before Fashion, and it took an illness for me to realize that life is worth living and to not complain. Happiness would only come if I made a change in my life. Today, I can proudly say that I did it alone (although with support from those who believed in me), and this gave me the strength to keep pushing forward.

By Darian Wong of  Wayward Wanderer
Why did you choose to study at The Art Institute of Vancouver?

Before I got sick, I was looking into culinary school as I loved cooking, but with my diet restrictions, I could not pursue that career. So I did know a bit about the campus and the kind of programs they were running. I also knew someone who studied Fashion Marketing at The Art Institute of Vancouver. I had two schools to choose from and I was going to go to both for information. But the other school's next session for Fashion was not for 14 months and I didn't want to wait that long. I would have to go back to Finance while waiting, and the comfort of this world would stop me again from doing something I really wanted. I had done this 7 years prior, so The Art Institute it was. I was enrolled into the already running program within a week of application, and was helped to catch up on the missed classes. Today looking back I am very glad this happened because having already studied in other institutes, I got the kind of study I was looking for here.

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?

There were some courses that were a bit challenging in the beginning, particularly the computer programs.  I got better by spending more time on the program. This was not the first time I was going through post-secondary, so I knew what to expect.  It was hard, but if you listened and followed the instructions and did your homework, it gets easier. The Art Institute of Vancouver has a high standard. The only reason I got good grades was because I tried to meet that standard. When my stitch was not straight and I knew that marks would be deducted regardless of how tired I was, I unstitched and redid it. Just the look on Shainin Hudda’s face was enough to make me redo it, and opening something to redo to is the last thing anyone wanted to happen.

Looking back at it today, this was what gave me the discipline to accomplish the work I do today! It was also a very intense two year course with many long nights… and sometimes into the next day working on assignments. The long hours taught me what it means to work within a deadline, not something I was new to. I would not trade my experience for anything. I got to meet so many new people that are now a huge influence in my life. I say that I lived my 20's while at school with my school mates - the 20's I never got to experience before as I was too busy trying to survive in Canada.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

My grad collection was inspired by my friends and family, and my experience in the South Asian community. After surveying about 100 non-Asians and Asians, both men and women, I realized that I was not the only one experiencing the lack of a fusion in our community.

Describe your collection.

By Darian Wong of  Wayward Wanderer
My collection is a fusion of our multi-cultural society combined with my traditional Indian culture. I am also using cotton. My collection is primarily made out of cotton voile. I am bringing simple cotton into the luxurious world of fashion. I do all of the fabric manipulation, beading and embroidery work myself. It is custom and high end, with my own passion and hard work a part of each garment.

This collection is for anyone who loves fashion and individual pieces can be mixed and matched with whatever is already in their closet.  While aimed at women 16-55 years of age, there are some pieces older women can also wear well. This is also designed for the Non-South Asians. When I did the survey, I found that there are times when the other minorities are invited to events (especially at temples) where they are to wear traditional garments, but they are not comfortable with what is in the stores around here or feel overdressed.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

I originally choose black and red…. two very significant colors in my Indian culture. Black (darkness) is the main color of choice, with red (happiness/success). Then other colors were added after seeing Holi, (the traditional Indian festival) and, and Color me Rad. It’s taking darkness into the light of life - just how the change in my life led me to venture into the fashion world. There are a few additional pieces with green, blue and fuchsia in the collection which was showcased at The Art Institute’s 2015 Atelier Fashion Gala, and RAWartist Vancouver fashion show in January 2015

Do you have a favourite look?

I love all the looks I had made for this collection. Each of the pieces has a story to tell…even with the design. I also like the Burlap collection I made after graduation that was inspired by Courtney Barich, a high school grad. My fast pace into the fashion world started with volunteering my time to design a burlap gown for her prom. That event was in the media not only in Canada, but also with NBC, ABC,, The Mighty Girl  and Daily News UK, and helped raise almost $18,000 for an orphanage in the Philippines.  I did something for charity without expecting anything, but the outcome was amazing. I wanted to start this life with something positive and meaningful. Giving back to the community was my way.

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

Walk around the South Asian fashion stores and see what you can find today. It is all the same mass produced, similar looks store after store. There is nothing that looks fresh and clean, out of the ordinary, or glamour using cotton (a breathable, comfortable fabric of my choice). This is what I am trying to bring - keeping the tradition with a twist to it so you could wear it to any events. At events, everyone is wearing similar looks with the similar fabric manipulations. I also do not believe that “One Size” fits all. A completed garment should not have to go through so many alternations in order to fit one’s body, so I am focusing more towards custom pieces catered towards a client’s individual style and body type.

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

I am working on custom pieces. I recently made the silk gown for Kritisha Nandan who was one of the delegate for the 2015 Miss World Canada. I am also involved in a lot of charities and organizations, i.e, Miss Fiji Canada Pageant, Courtney Burlap Charity. Help Change My City and am a board member (treasurer) with SMOC – Society for the Museum of Original Costumes.. I guess you could say that I am becoming a philanthropist. I am also teaching knitting and crocheting at the Langley Continuing Education, so there is a lot on my plate while I am trying to build my business. I did go back to accounting work for a small company. Fortunately I have a very flexible employer who understands my passion and lets me have my time off when needed.

Can you share a quote on what fashion means to you.?

Fashion is a sense of ones individuality, everyone dresses to express what they are feeling at that moment. There are no rules to fashion, but yes, there are dress codes for different organizations that people normally forget or ignore. I'm normally in jeans and a t-shirt with no makeup, but then there are days I love to dress up, and it does make me feel like a million bucks.

Anything else I didn't ask you want mentioned?

I was unhappy with who I was and where my life was leading. Then one day I decided to do something about it instead of constantly blaming the world and putting myself down. I had no financial support, had just ended a 6.5 year relationship, had a medical condition - prescriptions to buy, medical debt, bills to pay after coming from medical leave and money for basic life survival. But that did not stop me. I was relying on my savings, worked at Walmart while going to school, and I did it. I knew if I gave up, I would always regret it. I am blessed that I have a very supportive handful of friends - as well as my cousin (Manorama) - who were always by my side. It did not come easy for me. It was simply believing in myself and knowing that change would only happen if I let it happen.

To see more of Suman Faulkner's work or to contact this designer, please visit her website at

For more information on the Fashion Design program at The Art Institute of Vancouver go to  And check out my show coverage of all students at Metro Living Zine - just click HERE.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Roasted Vegetables with Maple Balsamic Vinegar

Sometimes the best recipes come about totally by accident. For Christmas one year my kids gave me a bottle of quality Maple Balsamic Vinegar paired with a Chipotle Olive Oil from the Kingston Olive Oil Company. I had stumbled upon this amazing business when I was visiting my daughter one summer and took home several oil and vinegar pairings that were long gone by this time.

One of the beauties of flavoured oils and vinegars is that they easily add extra flavour notes to a dish without adding an extra ingredient or a lot of calories. My previous favourite was Peach White Balsamic with Basil Olive Oil. They made an excellent vinaigrette for salads. I had a few hits and misses with the two new bottles until one day an idea arose that I just had to try. What would happen if I roasted vegetables and then sprinkled them with the Maple flavoured vinegar just as they came out of the oven? It would give the vegetables a hint of maple sweetness with none of the calories. BAM! It was a hit from day one. An added bonus - the aroma was divine.

This side dish quickly became the one my husband requested most for family dinners. While that may not sound like a big deal - this same guy is one who usually just encouraged me to nuke some frozen vegetables.  I like to use a really diverse selection of vegetables for colour and texture. Normally I don't use potatoes as I like to also have a potato, pasta or rice side dish. And remember, if you're using a big variety, you only need a small amount of each. The less types of veggies you include, the more you need of each.

Below is a list of what I used at the last family dinner along with how I prepped each vegetable. There are others you could include. Prep is the only part of the process that takes time. The rest is dead easy.  If you want to do the work before company comes, roast the vegetables and cool quickly. Reheat and sprinkle with the Maple vinegar just before serving. You will probably have to find a specialty shop for this product or order it on line - but it's well worth the effort.

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Roasted Vegetables with Maple Balsamic Vinegar
Servings depend totally on the amount your prepare

Vegetables (a little of each or whatever you like) - 
Brussels Sprouts - cut medium size in half and large size in quarters
Butternut Squash - peeled and cubed
Green and Yellow Zucchini - slice lengthwise and then crosswise in 1/2" pieces
Red or Yellow Bell Pepper - cut in 1/2" squares
Carrots - Baby carrots cut in half crosswise or medium-size carrots peeled and cut in 1/2" pieces
Golden Beets - peeled and cubed (red would stain the other vegetables)
Onion - cut in small wedges
Snap Peas - cut in half crosswise
Broccoli and Cauliflower - cut not too small, not too big as they cook faster
Mushrooms - cut in half
Asparagus - cut in half inch pieces

Other - 
Maple Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prep all vegetables, placing in a large bowl as you go. Sprinkle with olive oil and toss until all are coated. Try to spread in a single layer on a 9 x 13 baking sheet. I always have more than can fit, but do my best to keep it an even layer. The cooking time will vary depending how full the tray is - from 30 to 50 minutes is the average. I try and stir it a few times during cooking to move veggies from the outer edges into the center to even out the cooking times. When done to your family's taste, take out of the oven and place in a warm serving bowl. Sprinkle generously with Maple Balsamic Vinegar (maybe go light the first time to get a feel for how you like it) and serve. Bon Apetit!

LEFTOVERS - I love using leftover roasted vegetables to make  Roasted Vegetable Rice Bowls W/ Maple Balsamic Vinegar & Tamarind/Almond Sauce. I would set aside a portion of the roasted veggies BEFORE you sprinkle them with the maple balsamic as that is best added at the last minute.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Colorado Springs - Sightseeing and Schizophrenic Weather!

It had been 3-1/2 longs years since I visited my oldest brother and his family in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The last time I was down was to attend the high school graduation ceremony for his oldest child. The weather was warm and mostly sunny.  Every afternoon a thunderstorm would quickly roll through, but otherwise it was warm and beautiful.  Not once did we have to change our plans.

Here I was on the plane again with my oldest son in tow, heading down for the graduation ceremony of his youngest child, fully expecting a similar experience.  That belief was shattered while still in transit from Denver as I spoke with the locals returning home. They were having an unusually rainy period that had lasted over a month and all were going crazy. Sure enough - we arrived to see rain and it continued through that first day. The second day was grad and there were occasional moments of respite, but gray clouds and sporadic rain were still the order of the day.

Day three was set aside for sightseeing as my oldest son had never visited Colorado Springs before. The sun would pop out for a moment and then the rain would hit - back and forth. All of a sudden the skies cleared and we felt it was now or never. My brother quickly popped us in the car and off we went on a quick 2-3 hour micro tour.. From that moment on it became a weather gong show with moments of touristing tucked in.

The saying in Colorado Spring is, if you don't like the weather just wait five minutes. As we entered the freeway, the clouds returned and the rain pounded down so hard we couldn't see the lines in the road. Undeterred, we continued on to the five star Broadmoor Resort and Hotel. Fortunately, as we arrived the rain paused, allowing us to enjoy exploring the grounds and hotel.

Construction on this beautiful resort began in 1918. The hotel is a member of Historic Hotels of America of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Its visitors have included heads of state, celebrities, professional sports stars, and businessmen. The buildings surround a beautiful small lake that includes a swimming area, paddle boats and circle walkway.  As I walked inside I was struck by the very luxurious European look of the interior. Even the ceilings were decorated with either paintings or ornate textural elements. Service was top rate. Even though we were just tourists we were greeted, spoken with and offered the use of the umbrellas kept in a stand by each door.

Back to the car and on to our next destination - Helen Hunt Falls.  It was the journey, not the destination, that made this memorable. Access to this falls is up a narrow, winding two lane road full of potholes. The skies opened and heavy rains ensued. Water filled the potholes making them invisible, so we were constantly hitting them.  It seemed like every time we turned another blind corner there was a large truck coming the other way. When we finally made it to the falls, it was raining so hard that we decided not to venture out and were limited to what we could see from the car. Still a beautiful view. For anyone who comes on a sunny day, there is a nice trail to take your further up the waterway.

After a brief look, we did a u-turn and had just started back down the hill when the next weather pattern hit - HAIL! So the rain was pounding, hail was bouncing off our car and we were hitting hidden potholes right, left and center. I could only feel grateful that I was in the back seat with a limited view. By the time we reached the bottom the weather had changed back to light rain.

Next we drove through Old Colorado City on our way to the Garden of the Gods.  It was an area I had never seen before full of smaller historic housing and interesting tourist shopping areas.  If the weather was nicer we would have stopped for a stroll, but looking at those walking around - clothing drenched and hair dripping - led us to just enjoy the view from the car as we drove through.

We were close to giving up on our last stop, but pressed on as I truly wanted my son to see this wonderful work of nature.  As we neared the Garden of the Gods - in true Colorado Springs fashion - the clouds vanished in the blink of an eye and we were driving in beautiful sunshine with intense blue skies.  After all the rain, the view sparkled as the air was so clean.

I always feel like the Garden of the Gods looks like an alien landscape. Surely they must film here. Giant slabs of red rock thrust up out of the earth at strange angles. As you approach it looks like just a few isolated rocks, but as you drive through it just keeps getting bigger and more impressive.

There is one tourist spot everyone stops at called The Balancing Rock. This large rock only has a very small attachment at the bottom to the rock beneath, yet tourists not only stop to photograph it, but climb on it to take pictures.  I can only assume the park regularly checks it's stability.  Even driving by it made me hold my breath.  Here and at a few other viewpoints we popped out of the car to stretch and enjoy the view. At the edge of the park there is a fabulous store you just have to stop in.  While it has a large clothing section as well as the standard tourist items like coffee mugs - they also offer many other unique items. One sections has a wide selection of crazy hot sauces as well as things like spicy Habanero microwave popcorn.  There is also fudge, baking mixes, jewelry and home decor.

While returning to my brother's house, the weather slowly turned back to gray. I could only think back over the last 3 hours and the very schizophrenic weather we experienced. I was glad there was only two places we couldn't get out of the car. However, as I said before - if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. Don't let this article put you off visiting Colorado Springs. It's a beautiful area with lots to do and the weather usually includes tons of sun with just a late afternoon shower that blows through quickly.

I would go back again in a minute, especially if I could work in a few days at the Broadmoor! And next time I want to take a trip up to Pike's Peak - the tall snow-capped mountain  you see in all the scenic photos. If you're able to stay long enough to adjust to the altitude, there are numerous trails to hike. And listen to all the locals - DRINK LOTS OF WATER!  It's an important requirement to avoid an altitude headache.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

University of the Fraser Valley - Janna "Jam" Kingma, Smelly Jam

Images courtesy of Peter Jensen Photography

Time for another article on a brand new fashion designer!  The University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) showcased a truly eclectic group of fashion design grads in their April runway presentation - Absolute Style 2015.  I love variety and in my pre-wander through their portfolios, I was drawn the the pin-up/rockabilly style of Janna "Jam" Kingma.

As always, the question becomes, "Would the potential I saw in the portfolio be realized on the runway?"  The answer was yes. Kingma had a nice mix of pieces that offered great pin-up style - each reinforced by the choice of colours and fabrics chosen - that were still very wearable in today's market.  

The dress from black and  print fabric in particular could be worn anywhere by anyone. And if I still had the body - I would wear the ensemble featured to the left featuring a leopard print crop top with skinny pleather skirt.  Time to hit the gym.  Or perhaps I can talk her into making me a top just a tad longer!

The third look - a coverall - was definitely aimed at the younger market.  The detail that took this design to the next level was the use of red piping to create the illusion of a sweetheart neckline and curvy waist/hip shape.  The simple black/white tee completed the look without overpowering this detail. Kingma also had three looks featured in the Designs For The Specialty Market - a coat, a jacket and a bustier.

I was fortunate to connect with Kingma to learn little more about her journey and what she will be bringing to the local fashion scene.  Enjoy!

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Prince George, British Columbia, lived in Richmond until the third grade and spent the remainder of my childhood in Langley, BC....although I wouldn't say that I've fully grown up! I hope to forever remain a child at heart.

What you like when you were young?

I was a creative, shy ​kid. I always loved art class better than any other subject. Starting from a very young age, I would draw designs just for fun - not just clothing but house plans and jewelry. I could get lost in magazines with house plans or fashion magazines for hours!

What were your interests in High School?

​I just couldn't wait to be done high school! I wanted to move out and travel! I did fill my time with a lot of dog walking and drawing.​  ​My favorite classes were art and social studies, learning about the past and being creative are just a couple of my interests!​

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

​As I said earlier, I loved to sketch fashion ideas. When I was younger I would draw something up and then head to the mall to find something similar, but always ended up frustrated when I found nothing! I've always had my own sense of style​ and I love seeing what other people are wearing!​

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was you family supportive?

​I started leaning towards fashion in high school, but I wasn't given much support from the guidance counselor to pursue this dream. Instead I was pushed towards more practical options like a librarian. I think the arts are definitely not supported enough in schools. I ended up moving to Alberta and working at a saw mill for five years before finally making the decision to go back to school for fashion. Part of me still likes working with machinery but even in a veneer mill I couldn't keep fashion out of my mind. Sometimes I would be dreaming up dresses while pulling veneer from the line or watching the machines!

Why did you choose to study at the University of the Fraser Valley?

​I had actually already studied for a year at a school in Vancouver, but the program wasn't really taking me in the direction I was hoping to go. I was introduced to the program at UFV and all of the hands on classes like surface design and the business options really caught my attention. ​Also having the option of going forward with a Bachelor of Fine Arts or advancing in the future because of University credits was a comforting option to have.

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 think the hardest part about the program is the short deadlines. Sometimes you just want a little more time to play around with your ideas, but you learn to work fast. I think some of the best moments we had as a group were working late at night and making trips to Denny's for a quick bite to eat. Or singing and dancing around the sewing room at all hours of the night. I couldn't have asked for a better group of girls to spend the last two years with! ​

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

​I took quite a bit of inspiration for my collection from the pin-striping on vintage cars. Its a beautiful art form that takes a steady hand and a good eye. The results are amazing. ​ 

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

My collection is made for the Rockabilly/Pin Up market. I wanted the design lines and the cuts to accentuate curves and pull out the wearers inner bombshell! For this market some of the pieces could be worn day to evening, but it is essentially more of a day wear collection. Everything that was designed for this collection I pictured being worn at VLV (Viva Las Vegas), a car show or a roller derby event. ​

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

​My color palette was a lot of black. What Rockabilly girl doesn't love black! My accent colors were red and a touch of white. Since this was a F/W collection, I used some heavier weight fabrics such as denim, sweater knits, pleather and cotton sateen. ​

Do you have a favourite look?

​I just love how my overalls turned out. They were a lot of work but it really paid off! I was also thrilled with the leopard print crop sweater/pleather skirt outfit. Seeing my models in the clothes and how excited they were to dress Pin Up was really great, the models did a fantastic job!​

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

​I would love to work in the Pin Up market and focus on pants or fabric design and bring forward some new prints and fabrics that may not be seen so often. I'm obsessed with cotton sateen right now, its a gorgeous fabric! ​

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

​A travel break has been on my mind for a while! What better time than the present!? I'm not sure what the future holds but I would love to work a Pin Up company such as Blame Betty (greatest Pin Up store in Calgary!) or Steady Clothing. ​ 

Please share a quote on what fashion design means to you.

There's no such thing as a standard size movie star or woman for that matter. - Edith Head

I really believe in dressing for your body shape. I got into pin up because what was trendy at the time didn't fit my shape. I went through a long phase of hating my body and trying to dress like everyone around me and I just felt miserable! The first time I put on a pencil skirt and a pair of heel it was just YES! This is me!

Anything else I didn't ask you want mentioned?

One of the biggest factors that pushed me towards vintage style fashion was watching one of the two TV channels we had growing up and there was a Marilyn Monroe movie on called "How to Marry a Millionaire." I just fell in love with how the clothes fit, how they moved and how classy and sexy it was at the same time. Still one of my favorite classic films! I get a lot of inspiration from watching old movies, I just cant get enough of them! ​

For more information or to contact designer Janna "Jam" Kingma of Smelly Jam Clothing go to

To learn more about the fashion design program at the University of the Fraser Valley, go to

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Kwantlen Polytechnic University - Sofia Fiorentino, No Paradigm

Runway images by Christopher Pike Photography
Editorial images by Sansitny Ruth, SOT Photography

As I have shared previously, Kwantlen Polytechnic University's April event - The Show 2015 - offered the grad collections of 39 fashion design students on the runway at the River Rock Casino Theatre in Richmond.  My highlights from the show were published on Metro Living Zine - to read click HERE 

Over the next few weeks I struggled to try and select a few young designers from amongst the strong number of grads to feature in solo articles. I definitely wanted a mix of aesthetics and target markets as well as interesting design. Sofia Fiorentino caught my attention with her gender neutral line of easy to wear garments released under the brand name - No Paradigm.  

"No Paradigm is a genderless clothing line, a reflection of a paradigm shift based on removing boundaries. Each piece is versatile and made to change with the wearer, featuring all natural fibers and hand applied surface design." - Sofia Fiorentino

Soft neutrals and natural fabrics were molded into very wearable looks. Sometimes these looser silhouettes can end up looking shapeless. Not so in this collection. Looks were both stylish and modern with great proportions. I enjoyed Fiorentino's exploration of gender neutral clothing and loved the dark, spidery shawl accenting one look.

I hope you enjoy the following Q and A with this rising talent as much as I did.  She's definitely one I will be keeping my eye on.

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I grew up in Nuñez, neighbourhood home to the legendary soccer team River Plate.

What you like when you were young? 

A little brat. Also a total actress, always looking for my few seconds of fame on grandpa's videotape recorder.

What were your interests in High School?
It started with things such as philosophy and social sciences, then moved on to art, photography and acting. It came to a point my last 2 years where I was mostly skipping class to make things in the graphic arts room. I was also interested in languages since I moved around a lot with my parents.

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

My lovely grandma Esther would keep a sewing kit in her room to mend clothes mostly. I always viewed it as the ultimate treasure chest and would go through it over and over making sure I was familiar with all the pieces in it. I started hand sewing for the extensive crew of Barbie dolls that lived in my house. They clearly needed dresses made out of socks with buttons sewn all over them. I think this was a sign that I liked making things and I liked dressing others.
Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was you family supportive?

The original plan was to go to art school. I got accepted, but just didn't feel it was right, I needed more functionality behind the pieces I was going to be making. Fashion seemed like a great idea as I would be able to make wearable art. I am really lucky to have such wonderful supportive parents. My dad was a designer himself and my mom a language teacher. They had me at a young age, so we've always learned through life together.

Why did you choose to study at Kwantlen Polytechnic University?

I started my studies in fashion design at Angewandte Kunst Schneeberg (Contemporary Design School in Schneeberg, Germany) and did my first 2 (foundation) years there. I decided to transfer to Kwantlen and finish my degree in Vancouver to have the best of both worlds Europe and America in one degree.

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?

The hard part has always been to stay focused and to find balance. A lot goes on in your personal life when you are 19-25 which is how long it took me to finish my degree (with some breaks in between to save money and relocate). Easy isn't really a word for it, but I always found it uncomplicated to find inspiration and design direction. It is something that is deeply embedded in me and I just have to focus and listen to it and follow. 

The second year at Kwantlen was brutal, so many lows, but I was so lucky to share it with one of my best friends who dragged me through and who I dragged through as well. Not sleeping and bad food is just the tip of it. The highest point was the reward of seeing my final line pieces become alive in the many collaborations I did with my photographer and film maker best friend Sansitny Ruth. Looking at your line on beautiful models was inspiring, but having other artists feel inspired by the clothing you made is a whole different level of amazing.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

I was inspired by the ability of removing boundaries, social, territorial, as well as the most obvious one, gender boundaries. I am very interested in gender issues and our ability to question things and reinvent the rules. Pushing boundaries through clothing is just the beginning.

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

Avantgarde inspired genderless clothing

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

Neutral colours, natural fibres.

Do you have a favourite look?

No, I love all of them as a whole.

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

A step back and a reality check. We are all the same - humans, imperfect and vulnerable. Embrace it.

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 with a pretty influential Vancouver based company as a full time designer. I will also be travelling to Argentina for a month with my family to see my beautiful folks over there. Then I will be showcasing my own collection in Vancouver Fashion Week this upcoming September.

Please share a quote on what fashion design means to you.

Just like many other design disciplines, form follows function. Fashion is not an exception. It also generates conversations, shows the social and political landscape of a society and serves as a platform for expression. If used as a tool, it could turn the everyday decision of what to wear into small statements.

Anything else I didn't ask you want mentioned?

One of the most important messages of my line, is the sustainability of a community through a shift in perspective and values as a society. I believe clothing helps with this shift and would love to stimulate change and break the mold and challenge perceptions.

To contact Sofia Fiorentino or see more of her work, please visit her website at

For more information on the fashion design program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University go to

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lemon Saffron Rice With Chives

Stock image - I didn't have time to
snap one with company arriving.
Family dinners - sometimes they are easy and other times a struggle. Both sides of the family come from the meat and potatoes background. They want a slab of animal protein with fixings. As a former Vegetarian and someone who loves diversity in my food, I get bored. One of my bonus family members doesn't eat cheese, so easy alternatives like lasagna and enchiladas are out. I do love roasted and mashed potatoes but long to spread my wings.

While my early years I didn't wasn't served rice and pasta side dishes at home, in my teens it did become more popular - mostly Uncle Ben's converted rice or Minute Rice.  My kids have had a lot more rice, especially when I made began to make stir fry dinners, but I was struggling to find a rice dish to serve with meat at family dinners that hit the mark.  I tried a recipe here and there with not a lot of positive response. Light fluffy rice seemed to get cold on the plate very quickly. It's also a bit hard to eat with a fork.

After exploring a way to make non-traditional Paella that would suit my family's tastes - see recipe HERE - I became intrigued by Italian Arborio Rice.  This short, round grain is used quite a bit in creamy risottos.  I do like risotto, but had no intention of standing over a stove stirring and stirring while adding small amounts of water, especially as company walked in the door. But the wetter, starchier nature of dishes created with Arborio rice meant they would not only hold heat better, but would be a little easier to eat.

With another family dinner approaching, I decided to do an internet search to see if I could find inspiration and stumbled across this intriguing recipe offering a mix of saffron, lemon juice, lemon rind and chives. The rice was also only stirred at the start and then once during the cooking process - so low maintenance.  The saffron would give it a beautiful yellow colour, the lemon juice and rind a nice tang, and the chives a pop of green. The aroma that wafted from the casserole when I uncovered it immediately caught everyone's attention. It was a hit!

I did change the original recipe slightly to change the number of servings. While it said it served 8, I knew those would be VERY small helpings and I hate to run short. So I made a few slight increases to make sure there would be enough for everyone. Also - while this is a risotto style rice, this recipe does not create a creamy, labour intensive risotto. No worries as it worked out perfectly.

(Note - I found the recipe on the Epicurious, but the website notes say it is originally from Bon Apetit 1990)

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Lemon Saffron Rice With Chives
Serves 6-8 depending on serving size

Ingredients -
3 T Unsalted butter
3 Large shallots, thinly sliced
Pinch (generous) of saffron threads
2 C Arborio (Italian) rice
4 C Low-salt chicken broth
4 T Fresh lemon juice
3 T Finely Grated Lemon Rind (about 2 large lemons)
1 Large bunch chives, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
Salt and freshly cracked white pepper

Preparation -
Melt butter in heavy, large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and saffron and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice and stir to coat. Add stock and lemon juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, stir and cover. Let simmer until creamy and tender, stirring vigorously every 10 minutes, 20 to 25 minutes. Add lemon peel and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Stir vigorously until well combined.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Kwantlen Polytechnic University - James Knipe

Portfolio images by James Knipe

Kwantlen Polytechnic University's fashion design grad presentation - The Show 2015 - was held at the River Rock Casino Theatre in Richmond on April 9th. This year 39 strong student collections graced the runway, making it very difficult for me to choose just a few to highlight in solo articles.  (You can check out my show overview for Metro Living Zine at -

Menswear is something I always enjoy seeing and there were several strong collections to choose from this season.  In researching the different students, I quickly settled on James Knipe.  He had strong illustrations and, in addition to his grad collection called Habits of Youth, his portfolio showcased a couple other concepts including West & Ford and a child's line called Riley James. This designer is also a multi-talented artist involved in Graphic Design, Film and Photography.

Knipe's collection had a nice mix of classic silhouettes with modern elements - digital graphics, interesting prints and neoprene - that bodes well for his future in this competitive industry.  The three looks shown were what I would call great mid-range pieces - they could be combined in a more casual day look or mixed to create a more upscale evening look.  A nod to his graphic skills was offered in the form of two digital prints - one on a t-shirt and the other on a short-sleeve dress shirt. The palette also offered that great mix of the very marketable black and white, but with a turquoise pop as a surprise element.

Want to know more?  So did I.  The Q & A below offers a great step behind the scenes with this talented new designer.

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in Cranbrook, BC.  I moved to Victoria after graduation.

What were you like when you were young?

When I was young, I was always a very adventurous and creative kid. One of the favourite things I liked to do in my spare time was to get together with my friends and make movies. It was always me and my best friend who rallied up our friends and forced them to be in our films. When they weren't around, it was just the two of us who played all the characters and produced the whole movie. I was also really into drawing caricatures of my friends and family.

What were your interests in High School?

In high school I seemed to put my creativity aside and focused more on academics and playing sports. I had a really good time playing both volleyball and basketball, which seemed to take up most of my time.

Looking back, can you remember any signs that you would end up in fashion? 

Every since I was young I always seemed to take an interest in clothing - what people were wearing and how they expressed their style. It wasn't until later in high school where I started sketching and designing clothing. I still suppressed that side of me for fear of being different or standing out – especially growing up in a small town where most people I went to high school weren't that open to anyone who expressed their differences.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was you family supportive?

After high school I immediately (the day after graduation) moved to Victoria, BC, where I would live for the summer before attending my first semester in University. I was enrolled in the business program because it had always interested me. I figured it would be great to fall back on if I ever did pursue a career in fashion. After not liking my courses during the first semester, I decided to talk to my parents about my concerns and how I wanted to do something more creative. I wanted to be in fashion. My family was super supportive. It was actually my dad who encouraged me to look into Kwantlen and told me about how great their program was.

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?

The thing that I found hardest during the program was all of the production aspects which included manual and computer drafting as well as sewing. I had to learn how to sew coming into the program, so it was frustrating when I wasn't able to perfectly convey my ideas due to a lack of skills. Towards the end of the program however, I began to enjoy sewing and pattern drafting now that I had the confidence to execute my ideas properly. The parts I enjoyed the most were design related and when we had to put together a whole brand. In 2nd year there’s a project called “Lifestyles” which basically challenged us to create a brand that everyone wanted to be a part of - not because of the product, but because of the brand itself. This is where I fell in love with branding and all of the steps involved and realized how important it is when building a business or a clothing line.

Why did you choose to study at Kwantlen Polytechnic University?

I chose to study at Kwantlen because it is the only University in western Canada that offered a degree in Fashion Design and having a degree was very important to me at the time. The only other school in Canada is Ryerson. However, I had heard that their program is less hands on in terms of sewing and pattern design. With the fashion industry, these are vital skills that one needs to have, which Kwantlen provides.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

My grad collection was inspired by my love of minimalism as well my time I recently spent in Europe. I spent 6 months on exchange living in Helsinki, Finland, and also had the opportunity of travelling to the other Scandinavian countries. I was so inspired by the architecture and how minimal, clean and stark it was – especially in Helsinki. I also found much of my inspiration from the street style over there where everyone just seemed to have such a cool, sometimes over the top style that just worked. I wanted to bring those influences back here and marry them with my love of American sportswear.

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

In Vancouver there seems to be a large emphasis put on active and outdoor clothing because of how active this city is and how many great natural sights there are to see in the area. It’s great that so many companies are catering to those kinds of people. However, Vancouver also has a large arts and fashion community that many people don’t know about. I wanted to give clothing to those creative individuals who don’t want the “heritage, hipster” look that can be found all over the city. It’s great for those companies who have established themselves and are successful doing that, but I personally wanted to offer something different. I wanted to produce clothing that made you stand out and be noticed for something that is a bit more fashion forward and contemporary. 

Because it’s catered to a younger market, I also wanted to make sure it was still accessible in terms of price, but still retain a high quality. The collection is for day and evening and is a mixture of sportswear inspired separates that can all be interchanged and worn together. I also wanted to integrate custom pattern and graphic designs that I had developed myself. I’ve took an interest in photo manipulation graphic work so I wanted to showcase this side of me as well and give each piece a personal touch.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

The colour palette was monochromatic which was inspired by the architecture and art in Helsinki, but because it’s for Spring, I added in an accent teal colour to give it a pop and keep it fresh. I used a variety of conventional fabrics for the t-shirts and bottoms, however for my outerwear I wanted to use fabrics that had a more futuristic hand to them. I used a neoprene for the jackets and a textured, three layer fabric for one of my sweaters. Both of these fabric held their shape very well and I was able to achieve the boxy, modern silhouette I wanted.

Do you have a favourite look?

My favourite look is definitely the all white look which is a pair of white shorts and an oversized sweater with a graphic of a manipulated face on it. It really conveys my line as a whole and I believe that when people look at it, they can really get a sense of my customer and my brand message.

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

I think that there is a great deal to still be done in the world of menswear out there. More and more these days, men are caring about what they’re wearing and really paying attention to new styles and silhouettes but are often afraid of trying something new. I wanted to make high end, fashion forward menswear that can be accessible to any man. That being said, there are so many inspiring menswear labels out there that are already pushing the boundaries and being successful so to be a part of that world is where I would like to be.

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 had the opportunity to travel last year and saw so many places that it’s not at the top of my list (although there’s still much more travelling in my later future). For right now I want to work for a company and gain industry experience. Whether I choose to launch my own line in the future will ultimately depend on the market and if there’s something new I can bring to it – but I am not ruling out that option.

Can you share a quote on what fashion design means to you if possible?

To me fashion can mean anything. I think it’s more than just the clothes themselves, it’s about being able to express your creativity through style and to express who you are as an individual without saying anything. Fashion is something that everyone takes a part in each and every day when they wake up and get dressed, so I never want to take it too seriously but rather have fun with it and enjoy the creativity behind it.

To see more or to contact James Knipe, please visit his website at -
For more information on the Fashion Design Program at Kwantlen go to -

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Art Institute of Vancouver - Jamaree Eiammanassakul

Atelier 2015The Art Institute of Vancouver's fashion design showcase - was held onsite this year at their Vancouver campus located at 2665 Renfrew Street. The new location offered so many advantages. There was a snaking runway that wound through the atrium flanked by a single row of chairs offering only front row seats. Then there were tasty bites to tempt us created by their culinary students. Divine! The evening also featured short films created by the school's marketing and film students.  All in all a great evening.

Two of the designers offering collections this evening had recently showcased on the runway at New York Fashion Week. They offered us larger six look collections which allowed everyone to get a deeper feel for their design aesthetic. One of these designers was Jamaree Eiammanassakul.

I truly enjoyed Eiammanassakul's collection.  Each look offered clean lines, a basic palette, great proportions and excellent tailoring.  There is no doubt in my mind that the future is promising for this young talent. Below is a Q&A offering a behind the scenes chat with this up and coming designer that will offer some insight into her journey and this wonderful collection titled Minimalism meets Thai Spice.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in Thailand. I earned a bachelor degree in Interior Architecture from School of Architecture and Design (International program) in Thailand. I had worked as interior designer and held different jobs for a while before I decided to come to Vancouver.

What you like when you were young? 

I was an artsy girl. I liked drawing, painting, making stuffs also needle works. 

What were your interests in High School?

I was so sure I wanted to be an interior designer. I wanted to design beautiful space for people so I joined interior club at high school and loved it. 

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

I like dressing up - sort of "mix and not match" for some people - but I think it was okay, I enjoyed it. A lot of times, I would buy things that I liked and combine, alter, and/or decorate with other pieces to make "my own" pieces. My mom taught me how to use her home machine and eventually I took sewing class and basic dress making in Thailand. I started sewing things for myself, especially maxi skirts and dresses also bags which some of my friends asked me to make them custom bags. 

Images by Cyrus Wu
Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design.  Was you family supportive?

I like designing not only interior space or clothes, but everything. For me fashion is more controllable compare to an interior space that you have to work with many parties to create the real thing. I was working as interior designer and I did like it, but I felt I did not like every part of it. For example, I love selecting material, fabric and textile for upholstery, wall paper, tile, color and such since I worked a lot in the material room. I also liked selecting furniture to match with design mood and theme. I could do construction drawing and 3d rendering, but I did not enjoy it that much. Fashion was something I had never tried at that time. My family supported me in pursing what I love to do because they know I will do my best even though it might be tough.

Why did you choose to study at The Art Institute of Vancouver?

I did a lot of research online and I met with people from Art Institute of Vancouver at International Education Fair in Thailand and I was interested. I am glad I came here. My instructors are awesome.

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 been in design school before so I was kind of prepared. There were still a bunch of things that were new to me and it took me a while to be comfortable with them. In design school I knew that I had to deal with a lot of stresses like time management, quality of work, unforeseen problem solving, etc. Fashion Design requires both physical and mental skills. You have to be creative and at the same time think about reality - how to make it happen. You actually have to create what you have designed.  In my opinion, there is no such thing that is hard or easy, I always find things challenging. It depends on how you look at it and how hard you push yourself. If you want to be good at it, you have to practice and put effort into it until you get used to and can do it better and faster.

My favorite part is designing, when I can let my imagination go as far as it can. There were frustrating situations when the time was coming and I still had problems with my projects. Most of the time, they were fabric issues which became problematic and I had little time to think about what was the best way to deal with it. When you are stressed out, it is hard to think straight or productively.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

As an interior designer, I am always drawn to architecture. I took a lot of architecture pictures when I was in Thailand and am still snapping them over here. The concept was inspired by modern Thai Architecture. Because of the tropical weather in Thailand, architecture elements directly relate to ventilation flow. Layered and angular roof top, details of mosaic work from temples, geometric shapes and lines have been transformed into fabric manipulation like pleating, piping, smocking, french knots, and contrasts. Putting lots of details into the design and yet at the same time keeping a minimal look was very challenging.
Describe your collection – customer, day-evening-sportswear-separates-casual-highend glamour-stage costuming-punk?

My collection  is called Minimalism meets Thai Spice. It is casual business wear for sophisticated women who are independent and smart. My target market is high ended customers. Details requiring well-thought out and thorough design, drafting patterns that create a flattering and minimal look, quality sewing including hand skills as well as the use of quality materials brought my collection up to a high price point.

What is the palette?  What fabrics did you use?

I pictured my customer as a working woman. She looks feminine, but strong. Therefore I selected a combination of silk crepe de chine and wool. The white, grey, and navy colour palette represented timeless chic and is easy to mix and match. Minimal style with rich details will accent her stylish character.

Do you have a favourite look?

I love every look in my collection. The white uneven pleated dress with navy cuffs and collar is the one I have gotten the most compliments on so far.

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

For me, I did not create any new techniques, but I think I incorporated unusual placement. For example, the white sleeveless blouse in my collection had a honeycomb pleated placket but I made it in bigger pattern and only single roll. Plus I put buttons in between each space so it had a new look. I also got compliments about my pleating that was placed at the back hems of the pants.

Where do you go from here?

I feel like I am a beginner so I want to work for a design company will that boost my passion, some where that I can learn and experience the industry outside school. My dream is to have my own studio.

Please share quote on what fashion design means to you.

I do not have favorite quote, but from my aesthetic so far - "minimal is not simple".  You can tell how plain "simple" looks compare to "minimal" which is well-designed. It requires a lot of thoughts to make minimal look "that simple".

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To see more of Eiammanassakul's work or to contact this designer, please visit her website at :

For more information on the Fashion Design program at the Art Institute of Vancouver go to