Blanche Macdonald - Ninon Parent, For the Strong Minded, Theatrical Soul

Runway Images by Peter Jensen Photography
Illustrations by Ninon Parent

Neon Dreams 2016 show recap -

I was honoured to be at the most recent Blanche Macdonald grad show to see the newest group of Fashion Design students offer their amazing grad collections. As always, I left the event inspired.

Design students may not have the experience and technical skills that come from working a long time in the fashion industry, but they bring fresh ideas to the table that offer a small window into where things may head in the future.

Each season I pick a few students to offer a solo article on and I try to offer a wide range of aesthetics and styles.  Choosing who to feature all starts with a look at their portfolios. I want these to be strong representations of their work overall as well as offer good illustrations. Strong illustrations offer me an idea of the designers potential as an artist.

Next I watch the runway show closely. As someone who sewed professionally for five years, I don't want to see puckered seams or odd threads hanging. I look for proportions that are flattering and interesting ideas. In the end, fashion is very subjective, so I look for what catches my eye.

Ninon Parent is heavily influenced by her work in circus costuming, so she brought some truly unique ideas to the runway. In the evening show, we only saw two of her three looks. Fortunately, photographer Peter Jensen shot both, so I was able to get all the images. Enjoy!

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First Look

Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I am born in Rouyn-Noranda in Quebec, it is located about 30 min of the Ontario border. and 5 hours up from Ottawa. I grew up in Cloutier in an small village in Abitibi-Temiscamingue with the family of my grandmother. D'Alembert and other small villages on the other side of Rouyn-Noranda, is where I lived from my teen years to adulthood.

What you like when you were young?

At Cloutier, playing out side with all the kids around was my favourite thing to do. In winter we would build fortresses out of snow. Summer was to play alien invasion. When we moved to D'Alembert, I found new interests and things to do like helping my friend to take care of her chores on their little farm - feeding and cleaning the rabbits , goats, sheep and chickens, helping to clean their piece of land of dead wood, and storing the bales of grass for the animal. My other friend had ponies so we did horseback riding together. We would also go walking for hours in the wood, go swimming and go skiing.

What were your interests in High School?

School was very hard for me academically. In high school I began dancing with PRELV from Lynn Vaillancourt, something I continued to do for the next 8 years. I also played volley ball.  I found I was very good at sport and art which helped me get through school and boosted my confidence.

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

Second Look
  • At 9 years of age I ask my mom how to use the sewing machine to make a pair of pants for my barbie. I designed, cut and sewed them myself. I made the pattern by laying Barbie on a piece of clothing and tracing around the doll..
  • At 12 years, I made a pair of bouffant clown pants for my friend Rene for his clown bit in the year and school show.
  • For about 6 months I made all kind of hands marionettes, sewing the wool hair and painting the face with Artex paint. I begin to make paper pattern to refined them.
  • At 14 years I modified one of my body suits for my costume for my big dance exam. Years later in the 1980's, I saw that same kind of modification in body suit design.

  • At 15 years, our dance teacher told us that we need to come up with our own skirt for the end year show. After telling us for months, three weeks before the performance we still had no skirts. I said I will make a sample. I did a wrap skirt with a very wavy band. She gave my sample to a mom to use as model to make the 12 other skirts.
Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was you family supportive?

I suffered a knee injury doing a stunt an couldn't work. WorkSafeBC sent me back to school to study accounting. I lasted one month and left, but I had to propose another program I wanted to study. My sister in law Helen put the seed in my head about fashion design. I researched all the schools in town and then gave my list to WorkSafeBC.

Why did you choose to study at Blanche Macdonald?

WorkSafeBC accepted the program because it was a one year program and there was enough money left in my rehabilitation to pay the tuition fee.

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?

The hardest was the memorization of all the fashion terms, the fashion designer names and all the writing. Those of us who are english as a second language had a much harder time in school. The sewing class was the only class that I could do all the exercises in the amount of time that was specified.

Doing the cartwheel during the fashion show was the most fun I had during the program. All my energy was put in studying. It was great, but not for relaxing. One thing for sure - I can understand English much better now.

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

Sky Rise and Big Trees

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

These are individually crafted pieces designed for the strong minded, theatrical soul.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

Brown, beige, blue, green are my palette. Stretchy lace for the cat suits. Whole yarn for the dreadlocks of the first look. False fur, wood, vinyl, and slinkies wrapped with wool for the second look. Dupion imitation and banana leaves sheet for the 3 look.

Do you have a favourite look?

I truly don't have a favourite look. I love the wavy movement and the colour of my first look.
All the different element of the second look make it a very joy full piece. The slinkys add so much movement and the hood gives texture. The third look with the high collar over the face and the cut out have an almost regal Egyptian look.

I've been doing fashion design with out realizing it since I
began doing circus with my husband. This picture is me making
a costume for my husband
What do you think you can bring to the fashion world that is new?

I don't know. I thought that every thing as been invented and I managed to put slinkies wrapped with wool in to my design, which haven't been seen before.

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 would love to work for NASA developing clothing that has multiple uses, but before doing anything I need to rest. I'm going to Japan with my friend in February. My intention was to go to work for the movie industry once I had my diploma, but first I need a break.

Links - 

Circus Company Website -
Underground Circus FB -
Underground Circus Instagram - @undergroundcircus
Underground Circus Twitter - @TheUGCircus
Personal FB -

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For more information on the fashion design program at Blanche Macdonald, please visit their website at