Vancouver Community College - Lou-Lou Sy, Modern Vintage

Runway images by Harry Leonard 
Illustrations by Lou-Lou Sy

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 Lou-Lou Sy. From the moment her first model stepped onto the runway until that final look left, Sy's soft, feminine collection captured the audience's attention. All around me I could hear ooh's and aah's. The choice to stick with a white palette and feature sheers and lace was perfect. Each look literally floated down the runway. I am originally from the U.S., so could not help thinking of hot Southern days will elegant women sipping frosty ice teas under swaying willow trees.

There is a real surprise in this behind the scenes Q and A. You absolutely have to read about her inspiration. Wish I could go back and watch this show again with that in mind.

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Sydney, Australia. I moved to Canada in 2008 to be with the love of my life.

What were you like when you were young? 

I hate to admit it, but I think I was a terror. I was a very high maintenance child who insisted on very instructive details as to how to braid and bow my hair, my white socks had to have a very specific lace flare and Miss Piggy was clearly a terrible role model for someone as young as myself back then... Lucky for me, I had great parents who humoured me.

What were your interests in High School?

When I was 15, I was lucky to have an opportunity to spend a week at a Bridal Atelier which led to a part-time job after school for two years until I graduated from High School. The types of fabric and trims I got to work with, till this day still inspire me.

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

I was an extraordinarily lucky child in that growing up, my mother had clothing custom made for me. I insisted on being very involved with the process from the moment I could communicate, which I'm sure drove the dressmakers crazy. As I got older, I'd spend all my time collecting images of outfits that I wanted, so I was already creating mood boards. Nothing excited me more than the fabric swatch book that was bigger than a bible, I would spend hours pouring over it fantasizing about each and every detail my new dress would entail. Even at the age of four, I think the signs were always there.

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

There was never a question that I would study fashion design. After graduating high school to my delight, I somehow scored a coveted acceptance at East Sydney Fashion Institute which had been my goal. It led to an amazing year long internship at Harper's Bazaar Australia which than led to amazing opportunities to work with some incredible Australian designers. I can't honestly say that my parents were supportive, but I was so headstrong that it didn't matter.

Why did you choose to study at Vancouver Community College?

When I moved to Canada in 2008, I had to put my fashion career on hold and switch to fashion retail as it was the only work available where we were living at the time. It was an extremely tough transition learning a different market and no longer having access to a variety of designs. In 2012, we were relocated to Vancouver and I had an incredible experience volunteering with the Vancouver Opera where I got to meet with the Head Designer Parvin Mirhady. She was exceptionally encouraging and revealed that she had studied under the legendary Blossom at VCC which in turn led me to apply.

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?

Goodness! I could probably write a novel. One of the hardest part of the program for me was definitely having to switch from metric to imperial. As an Australian who was never taught the imperial system, it was definitely a struggle with my drafting classes in particular. Not only did I have to learn drafting, but I had to crash course what Canadians had already learnt in elementary school. It was not my brightest hour I'm afraid. 

However, the most incredible thing about the VCC program for me was that I got to meet some of the most creative and talented group of ladies. We all bonded and supported each other throughout the program. I can honestly say that if it weren't for Amanda Amos, Krissy Bishop, Laura Ewert and Nicole Persak's unfailing belief in me, I wouldn't have made it to the end of the program. I honestly was hoping for just one buddy in the program, but I ended up with four of the best girls who I can now count as friends for life. It makes me realize what a truly blessed person I am.

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

I was inspired by the Donnithorne Estate in Sydney, Australia. It was rumoured to be the real life inspiration behind Dickens's character Miss Havisham. The legend is that Eliza Donnithorne, jilted by her groom on her wedding day, spends the rest of her life in her darkened house with her wedding cake rotting on the table and leaves her front door permanently ajar, just in case her groom ever returns. I was inspired by the notion of her wedding dress decaying on her body as time went on. How fragile, sheer and translucent the fabric must have become. How Eliza must have faded into a living ghostly memory of herself.

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

I would describe my collection as Modern Vintage. I am always inspired by details from the past, but I focus on modern tailoring techniques so that my pieces are more wearable for today's woman. The type of woman who wears my pieces is a very confident woman who is not afraid of her femininity, who isn't afraid to shine and sparkle in a crowd.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?
Originally, the palette was a pastel concoction of pinks, blues and lilacs but after the first fittings, I saw greater potential to move the palette to a blank canvas of whites, ivories and gold. The fabrics were mainly a mixture of tulle, flocked swiss-dot and laces. I worked with a variety of laces that included Chantilly, corded and guipure to name a few, and hand worked beading into the trim.

Do you have a favourite look?

I love all my looks for different reasons, so it would be very hard to single out a favourite look.

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

I'm going to have to quote Carolina Herrera on this one "fashion has always been a repetition of ideas, but what makes it new is the way you put it together". Rather than focusing on new, I want to design clothes that revive and rekindle the little girl in us where fairy tales, ball gowns and bows inspire us to be modern princesses.

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 plan to take some time to develop my line and launch a website. Whilst I love designing pieces for those special moments in our lives, I want to make every moment a special moment, so a lovely capsule collection is in the works so that women can feel special all day too!

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

"Whoever said that money can't buy happiness, simply didn't know where to go shopping" Bo Derek

Anything else I didn't ask you want mentioned? (links, upcoming events, etc.)

I've been approached by several people interested in learning how to make their own heirloom pieces for their weddings, so a workshop for making lace veils and beaded trim if enough people are interested may be organised for the upcoming spring. Anyone interested can contact me at for further information and updates on this workshop.

For more information on the Fashion Design Program at VCC go to

For more information on Lou-Lou Sy, please email the designer at .