Blanche Macdonald - Natalia Pavanelli, A Fusion of African Voodoo, Wicca and Catholicism

Runway Images by Peter Jensen Photography
Illustrations by Natalia Pavanelli

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.

Natalia Pavanelli caught my eye in several ways. The illustrations in her portfolio had a wonderful feel to them. I was captivated by her runway looks, especially the two lighter coloured, flowing ones. Then came the coupe de grâce - I discovered she designed her own prints. WOW - a triple threat! I have included several examples of her original prints from her portfolio at the very bottom, so be sure and scroll all the way down.

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in a small town called Salto, in São Paulo, Brazil. But grew up moving around. I spent a lot of time in Europe growing up, mostly in Germany and Spain.

What you like when you were young?

Dreaming, painting and mermaids. I was a very creative child. Moving to Germany when I was 5, I couldn't go to school or outside to play due to severe winter, so I stayed indoors for a while, creating my own world with colours and lines.

What were your interests in High School?

I've always loved History and Art. High School in Brazil is very hard and technical, there's no room for artistic work, but I kept always drawing and creating on the side of my notebook.

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

My sister and I loved playing with Barbie dolls - we had hundreds. We had a lot of fun creating clothing for them with alternative materials. I also always loved drawing and the garments were always a huge part of it.

When I was very little, my aunt had a Bridal Studio, so I also spent hours gluing pearls and drawing with glitter while she took care of me.

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

At my first graduation, in Rio de Janeiro I was almost a designer, but my focus was on Animation and Game Design. Then I decided to go to Fashion. My sister was the most supportive one at first. It took my parents a little longer, but in the end they supported me as well. They watched me win my first Fashion contest without any experience and right after get hired for a job in France. Finally they gave me my last big push - moving to Vancouver to begin my studies in Fashion Design at Blanche MacDonald. I couldn't ask for better family.

Why did you choose to study at.Blanche Macdonald?

All I can say is that my admission to Blanche MacDonald was destiny's choice. When I decided to quit my job in Brazil and leave to a new life, I didn't know where to go so applied everywhere. Lina (my director) called me one day inviting me to take the course at Blanche and my intuition just said YES. And it was the right 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?

Natalie created the original print seen here.
Sewing was definitely my most challenging task. I've always sewn since a childhood, but by hand. The machines overwhelmed me at the beginning. Also having classes in English is like learning everything again!

Blanche was my second Fashion Design graduation, so starting all over from the beginning at the age of 28 - and after working 4 years in the market - wasn't that easy emotionally. But I believe that with every struggle, comes success. I don't regret a minute of it.

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

ESPIRITA is a collection inspired by a very unique brazilian religion and the culture surrounding it. It is the fusion of African Voodoo, Wicca and Catholicism. My inspiration comes from the mysteries and uncommon stories I have heard around the world. I used fashion as an artistic way of expressing myself with eerie shapes and imagery. The pieces contrast, yet compliment each other and draw on ancient tales.

Describe your collection.

My collection's name is ESPIRITA, and it's inspired by a Brazilian religion. It's a mix between casual and costuming, and it has a witchy mood to it. I wouldn't say it's goth, but definitely touches that magical darkness.

My costumer is a curious woman, she's passioned about stories and ancient tales, and loves iconic pieces that expresses her passions.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

I explored several mixed textures and silhouettes. My goal was to design ghostly, flowing shapes and deconstruct standard forms. Long waterfall sleeves with contrasting styles. I incorporated my illustrations into the garments, helping to tell the story about my roots and personal beliefs.

I used cottons, velvet, linen and some poly. I tried to add as much detail to each fabric, from prints to beading and dyeing.

My colours are neutral: Black and White, Red and Washed Blue.

Do you have a favourite look?

Natalia created the artwork on the back of the denim jacket.
My 2nd look is definitely my favourite. (all black, with a denim jacket)

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

I think I can bring some magic to it. I love stories and mysteries. I feed on it everyday, since I lived in the Black Forest, surrounded by fairy tales and ancient tales. I believe that fashion need it's magic, it's mystery and I'm definitely that person.

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 do work for an amazing company called Syte Industries. It's a new space in Vancouver dedicated to Design and Creation of garments.

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

To me Fashion Design is poetry. A commitment to beauty. It can express the deepest feelings of someone's heart.

Anything else I didn't ask you want mentioned? 

I'm always looking for friends and people to share my story with! 

Links - 

Instagram - @natpavanelli
Facebook -

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