Blanche Macdonald - Caitlyn Bellavance, “ Fernweh” - The Longing For Somewhere Distant

Images by Peter Jensen Photography
Illustrations by Caitlyn Bellavance

I have not missed one of Blanche Macdonald's annual fashion shows since 2007. Each has offered it's own charm, but I have to admit this one really stood out. I think it was the combination of the theme (The Places In Between), the stunning location (The Permanent Building, a converted bank built in 1907) and this year's truly talented group of fashion design grads.  

In addition to the show overview I am writing, I always select several students who stand out to feature in solo articles. Caitlyn Bellavance is the first from this talented group.  The strength of her design work, the interesting yarn detailing and the combination of her looks being both very wearable and yet eye-catching made this collection stand out. She also received an award from the school for design innovation.

Added to this was a look through her portfolio. I feel fashion illustration is very important to seeing the potential in a future designer. The large selection of illustrations she offered really showcased the depth of her design work. There are many looks I would love to own.  Kudos! 

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Calgary, moved to Hong Kong when I was ten, did my first year of University in Victoria, lived the ski bum life in Fernie, and now I am in Vancouver, British Columbia.

What you like when you were young?

I loved being around my family and being outdoors exploring. I never liked to play with dolls or girl type activities. I loved art and crafts and was always creating things. I played piano and guitar, and loved skiing and biking.

What were your interests in High School?

High school was pretty boring for me. My mom took me out of the traditional High School and registered me in an Independent Learning High school where I finished the rest of High School in 1 1⁄2 years. I was able to spend a lot of time studying art and different mediums. I painted a whole mural on a wall in the High School, which was featured on the CTV news. I started snowboarding and was spending a lot of time in Banff and Fernie.

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

When I was very young, I insisted on dressing differently from the other girls around me and at school. I would mix up outfits and layer clothes to look differently. I started to set fashion trends at an early age and would get really annoyed at my classmates if they copied me. Ironically, now in my career, I want them to copy me!

I taught myself how to sew as a teenager as I could never find clothing I wanted to wear. I started designing and ordering my own fabrics to create the clothing that I envisioned. I had support from friends, family and the online community. My mother always said I would end up a Fashion Designer, and I always rejected that as I wanted to be a Tattoo Artist. But as per usual, Mothers know best. 

When and how you decided to study fashion design. Was your family supportive?

My Family has always been extremely supportive and encouraging no matter what I am doing. They have always nourished my artistic and creative abilities and pushed me to pursue them. I was studying Visual Arts in University and decided to take a year off. It was then that I realized I wanted to learn how to draft patterns and get better at sewing. 

Why did you choose to study at Blanche Macdonald?

My mother explored all of the Fashion design schools in Canada a year before I decided to go back to school. One day in August I read my horoscope, and it said I was about to receive a long distance invitation that would change my life. I later got a call from a representative of Blanche Macdonald following up on our inquiry of the school. She offered me a grant to start the program in November. It felt meant to be, so I jumped on it!

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?

Studying Fashion Design at Blanche was interesting as it is a condensed program. It is effectively designed to have you working your butt off until the very last second. Which I am now grateful for as it instilled good work habits and time management in me. I enjoyed all of it and embraced every challenge, even the countless times I had to work backwards because I had sewn something wrong.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection?

The inspiration for my grad collection was the word “ Fernweh”. Which means, the longing for somewhere distant. To me this meant somewhere beyond this world, a mystical alien world. I tried to imagine what the people who inhabited this world might wear, and designed it. 

Describe your collection.

My collection consists of casual, practical garments that can be worn anytime. The garments can be interchangeable from the 3 looks.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

I wanted to explore natural fabrics and dyes. The fabrics I used are Pineapple fiber, Silk, Hemp, Bamboo, Leather, Cotton Yarn, Mesh, and holographic print lycra. I used all natural dyes and iron and rust. The holographic fabric is quilted in the details.

Do you have a favourite look?

I spent so much time on all of them that its hard to say, but after seeing the holographic tights on the runway I may have to say that one !

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

That is a tough call as I feel the fashion world is so saturated. I think if I can't bring anything new, I can bring something good. Focusing on sustainability, renewal, and ways to reduce our carbon footprint. As well as combining that with unique, comfortable, ethical clothing for everyday life! 

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

At the moment I want to work for others and gain as much experience and knowledge as I can, while continuing to grow my own line on the side. 

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

My favourite quote is “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different” - Coco Chanel. This quote really resonates with me and how I feel about creating clothing from scratch. 

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

My collection can be viewed on my website :

For more information on the fashion design program at Blanche Macdonald go to