Vancouver Community College - Annie Kuan, Metamorphose of Paradox

Runway Images by Harry Leonard
Illustrations by Annie Kuan

Fiat Mode XXVIII was held in a new venue this year. Vancouver Community College (VCC) offered their annual fashion showcase on the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW). This year there were 24 graduates featured, each showcasing five looks - 120 looks in all.

What an amazing opportunity for this strong class of design students to be a part of an established fashion week - and how daunting. Their collections would be evaluated by more than just a supportive group of family and friends. The audience also held a wide range of media and industry professionals there so see a wide variety of shows. I am sure there were a few nerves backstage.

With a group this large, it's impossible for me to feature every student. I have written a show overview for Metro Living Zine offering the collections of ten students selected by looking at both their runway garments and the fashion illustrations in their portfolios. From those ten I have chosen three to offer individual spotlights here.

Today's interview is with Annie Kuan. There was a depth in this collection that made me want to see more. For grad collections the students usually design a full 20 looks and then at VCC, they complete five to show in the grad showcase. I have a feeling it would be very interesting to see all the other looks in between the five we saw on the runway. There were two soft, white ethereal looks followed by two harder edged black looks and then a very edgy floating number in soft watercolour hues for the final look. Interesting!

Great way to get my attention. I couldn't wait to know more!

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I am from a beautiful island called Taiwan. I was born in a city of Hualien, Hualien is by the both mountain and sea. It is a simple yet beautiful city full of natural resources. I have been living in Vancouver since high school, I came here over ten years ago. I really like Vancouver. It is similar to Hualien with gorgeous weather and close to both the mountains and the sea.

What you like when you were young?

When I was young, my mother brought me to children’s art class. I immediately started drawing; I liked drawing stills and scenery. My usage of colors developed then and I started to make puzzles and crafts. I still remember designing my own yearbook in middle school and elementary.

What were your interests in High School? 

In high school I fell in love with sewing. I started making detailed hand crafts and basic clothing. I also took a course in sketching that introduced me to penciling the human body. I especially enjoyed tracing women’s silhouette. It helped me understand women’s bodies.

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

The clothes in the mall are always selling a similar style without any uniqueness. I think it’s monotonous to chase fashion blindly. So, I began my interest in fashion design in earnest in grade 9. I enjoyed reading books and magazines about fashion and fantasizing about creating and wearing my own designs. It would be great if I could wear what I wanted to with no regard to judgment.

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

I always wanted to study fashion design after high school, but due to financial problems, it did not happen for me right away. The tuition and supply fees were not affordable due to my financial situation, I worked two full time jobs for few years and struggled to save. When you are living on your own, everything is not easy. Finally I felt I was ready for this and I am glad I did it. I am also appreciative of my family giving me financial and mental support during the study period.

Why did you choose to study at Vancouver Community College?

This is a great question. Before I applied to college, I did a lot of research and compared many fashion design schools. VCC is an official public college; compared to private schools, VCC has a higher entry requirement and correspondingly has better benefits. I think the skills I learnt in their two years diploma program were much more varied when compared to a one-year diploma in private college. Of course a four year degree is also great, but it would have been too time consuming for me and too costly. After considering all the points above, VCC is the best choice.

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

It had been few years from when I left high school to when I entered VCC. At first I was not used to such a huge volume of course study. My time at VCC was very difficult and I struggled. It was overwhelming to take eight courses each term. During my two years of study at VCC, my life was crazy. I had no time to do anything but study. I am not the studious type, nor am I quick with my hands, so the first year was incredibly difficult for me. 

I have also rarely interacted with people in arts, so the competitive pressure in each class was intense. My classmates were also quite talented. They all had one thing that they are good at and knew well. It was a shock to my confidence when I began at VCC. After I got to know them better, I realized that they each had their own unique artistic visions born from their characters. Their visions were reflected in their work, showing different cultures and backgrounds. I saw a great variety of design work, which was very intriguing and sparked my interest to get to know them better.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection?

My collection “ Metamorphose of Paradox” is a pre-fall 2016 collection. It represents my passion for designing, sculpture and my own artistic vision. The metamorphosis of Paradox concept means to rebirth into something inconsistent. It is my wish that this collection raise the spirit of my audience’s perspective.

The collection relates to perception - people’s frame of mind - and three dimensional design developments. The design approach varies from sculptor and sensualists, forming ideas through fabric manipulations, laser cutting and layers of abstraction. I drape all the concepts directly onto a dress form, allowing my fabric to speak to me.

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

My target market is women working in occupations such as; businesswomen, stylists, merchandisers, buyers, artists and more. My client is the kind of woman who that - no matter where she is from or whether she is old or young - is not afraid to express her individuality through the clothes she wears. She would be somebody who knows what she wants and what she likes and knows how to use embellished elements to speak to her own identity. She likes one-of-a-kind garments, unique, anti-sameness, not things that can be bought elsewhere in retail. She is a sensualist - seductive, and resilient. What these clients see in my designs is the promise of quality and unique personal aesthetics.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

I love to work with natural fibers and utilize things that others have not simulated before. I combine alternative techniques; such as using laser cut machine to cut out each applique applied on the clothing. It takes layers and layers of abstract appliques to finish a single garment. Another example is using laser cut on real carp skin and then transforming it into a beautiful garment. I also love to shape the fabric using 3D manipulation with different varieties of silk such as organza, chiffon, satin, and crepe. Then I combine all these varieties of soft lightweight fabrics into a layered movement on women’s body. The color palettes in this collection are mainly black, white, grey, and variety of ombre dyed blue.

Do you have a favourite look?

My favorite look is the laser cut carp dress and the ombre blue dress. The end result of both of these dresses was better than I expected. They were very successful pieces in my opinion. They reflect my inner world and its colors.

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

My creativity and my brain.

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

Although I have strong skills I don't have practical experience, I would like to work for someone before launching my own brand. I also want to travel to Europe to work in fashion. It would help me gain a lot of experience and expand my world view. A few years down the road, I hope to launch my own line.

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

"Fashion passes, style remains." – Gabrielle Bonheur.

For more information on the Fashion Design Program at VCC go

For more information on Annie Kuan, please email the designer at