Blanche Macdonald - Liis Sober, Inspired by Vintage Tennis Photos

Illustrations by Liis Sober
Runway Images by Peter Jensen

I am thrilled to include this piece on recent Blanche Macdonald grad Liis Sober! Why? I met her when she worked with Shelly Klassen at Blushing Boutique and watched her walk in this designer's show at Vancouver Fashion Week. In fact the first time I walked in the boutique I thought she was Klassen - a mea culpa we quickly sorted out. When she went to work for lululemon 3 years ago, we didn't get a chance to connect as often.

I love meeting an artist early on in their career and following their journey as they grow and mature. Just being in the audience, seeing her name in the program and then watching her grad collection become reality on the runway gave me a thrill. Here I was watching her new career as an artist unfold.

But despite our history, her looks and illustrations still needed to stand out in a field of over 35 talented designers - and they did! This vintage tennis inspired collection all in white was very classic in terms of silhouette. The element that added interest was the open, basket weave detailing reminiscent of the strings in a tennis racket created with wide, flat strips of fabric.  I particularly liked the jacket seen paired with a basic top and pants on the right in the runway images below. Looking through the illustrations, I can see several other strong silhouettes I wouldn't mind having in my closet - although with my track record with white, I might need it in colour instead.

I hope you enjoy this Q and A filling in all the details of how Sober came to this moment as much as I did!

Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Tallinn, Estonia. Moved to Finland with my family when I was 7. I moved to the U.S. to attend the University of Kentucky on a tennis scholarship. I have a bachelor's degree in merchandising apparel and textiles. During my last year of university I completed a managerial internship with Nordstrom in San Francisco. After graduation I moved to San Francisco to work at Nordstrom as a department assistant manager. When I moved to Vancouver I had the pleasure to work with designer Shelley Klassen as her store manager and merchandiser for 3 and half years. After working for Shelley I got an opportunity to work for lululemon as a merchandise information associate (assistant buyer ) and I currently work with the lululemon concept team as a design room assistant. I have been with lululemon for almost 3 years.

What you like when you were young?

I was an athlete. Tennis was my first love and I was very competitive. My father is a professional basketball coach, and he instilled in me the love for sports.My mother is passionate about arts and theatre, and she instilled in me the love for creative fields. I had the chance to travel all around Europe playing in tennis tournaments. I grew very tall and was a bit of a tomboy. Sports helped me to gain confidence and later modeling added to this.

Love this image and quote from the Lululemon site in an article on
this talented designer.
What were your interests in High School

I was a competitive tennis player since I was 9, I played tennis throughout high school and university. I started modelling when I was 14. This helped my interest in fashion develop. I had the opportunity to work with many of the major magazines in Finland, even traveled to Spain for a photo shoot.

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

Definitely starting modeling at 14: being able to see the fashion world made me want to be part of the industry

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

Yes, I had a lot of experience in the industry as I had studied merchandising and worked in retail management and buying for years. I came to realize that I enjoyed working in the industry and I needed to also be creative and this is why I decided to go back to school. My family was very supportive of me going after my dream.

Why did you choose to study at Blanche Macdonald?

I chose Blanche Macdonald after I spoke with many designers that work in Vancouver. I found out which schools they went to and many of them had graduated from bmc. I had already done 4 years of university, so the 1 year program suited me well.

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 loved the whole program and the year was a the perfect challenge that I wanted. I learned so much about the industry, about garment construction, pattern drafting, and fashion illustration . The teachers are amazing at bmc as they provided me with skills and knowledge to take on the industry.

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

My inspiration was tennis: playing tennis on a competitive level gave me so many opportunities and taught me so much about life. I looked at vintage tennis photos from 20's and 30's. I also used tennis equipment as my inspiration, such as the tennis strings and net, I added an idea of the large scale basket weaving that mimic tennis netting and strings. My collection is all white to represent the classic tennis color. Using tennis as an inspiration was a way for me to also say thank you to my parents for encouraging me to play this beautiful sport.

Left - action shot from competition // Right - lululemon ad

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

My customer is a confident woman who trusts in her own taste and opinion. As a professional woman she wears pieces that are transitional from day to night. Having a taste for modern silhouettes, she is the leader not the follower. She works hard and is passionate about what she does and expects high quality and high standards from everything in her life. The collection is sportswear category pieces that are transitional from day a to night from casual to dressy.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

The palette is different shades of white to reflect tennis as inspiration. Highest quality fabrics: silk satin, dupioni silk, linen, cotton, tencel jersey.

Do you have a favourite look?

I love the three looks that I made for my grad show because they are all so different yet all carry through the same story.

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

I will bring my experience from merchandising/managing combined with my skills in fashion design which will allow me to understand the complex industry as a whole.

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 the design room assistant at lululemon.

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

"It is very important to take risks. I think that research is very important , but in the end you have to work from your instinct and feeling and take those risks and be FEARLESS " - Anna Wintour

For more information or to contact Liis Sober you can email her at

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