Interview with EFWA2017 Upcycling Challenge Designer Sam Stringer (Vancouver)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

I have been sewing since I was 8 years old, so I always knew that fashion would be the path I followed. I had an interest in evening gowns from the moment I learned how to drape, and I started making grad dresses in high school and eventually earned my degree in Fashion Design from the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 2016, specializing in eveningwear. My first collection featured a line of elaborate gowns for black tie events, and I have since continued on focuses even more on custom design and fit.

I know you trained at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Talk about the highs and lows of studying fashion design. What did you find easy? What was a challenge?

Choosing to pursue my education at the Wilson School of Design at KPU was by far one of the best decisions of my life. It was hard to decide where I wanted to study, but I knew that I wanted a very hands on, and very business-minded education as I planned to pursue this as my career. the program was no piece of cake, the workload was extremely intense and the hours were long, but I enjoyed absolutely every minute of it. Even when I was designing something that was completely the opposite of my aesthetic, the skills I learned proved to be extremely helpful later on. By 4th year I was spending a minimum of 15 hours a day in the sewing labs, I am not going to sugar coat it, the hours can be very intense, but I was doing what I loved.

The best part of the program was the family that developed through the small class sizes and mentorship with the faculty. Our faculty are so incredible at what they do, and they all have massive amounts of industry experience which make them to relevant to what we were learning. The connections I made with the faculty and my peers and classmates was so strong that I ended up going back to work there, I am now the Program Assistant for the Fashion and Technology Program, I just couldn't leave the family!

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

I view myself as a very artistic designer. It is no secret that art has had a great influence on my life, my entire family has an art background, so I definitely try to incorporate this into my designs. The aesthetic of my brand is very strong and powerful, with lots of focus on hand work, detail, ad luxury. I really put an emphasis on value as so much fashion is so wasteful nowadays with fast fashion. 

The pieces I make are meant to evoke self expression and showcase a fusion of art and fashion, while still remaining completely wearable. I currently have an annual showcase (possibly semi-annual) but the majority of my business focuses on custom design. I love collaborating with women on pieces that will showcase their own brands through my own, I aim to have a majority custom business with the option of limited ready-to-wear collections and gown rentals for special occasion.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

I have created a few unique upcycling pieces through school, but I am EXTREMELY excited to create one in my aesthetic for this challenge! I am so used to working with silks and draped fabrics, so working with cotton will be a challenge in itself, but I can't wait to see how the idea in my head turns out!

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

The audience can expect to see an edgy fusion between masculine and feminine design details, I love the idea of playing with androgyny and working with the garments we are will be a very interesting challenge for my brand's aesthetic, I will definitely be creating a gown, but something very different than anything I have ever produced!

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

Whether that is an artist and their work, a motivated entrepreneur who is looking to showcase her personal style, or the girl I met in the grocery store who wants her garments to speak to her values, my inspiration will always come from the women around me. I am constantly inspired by the strong, motivated women in my industry and across all mediums of art and expression, and hope to continue to design in a way that allows them to showcase their own personal brand through my own.

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

My business is currently 100% custom designs run out of my home studio, with the aim to sell out of a showroom in the upcoming years. The business will always remain with a custom base, but smaller exclusive ready-to-wear collections in international boutiques is one of the goals of the company. My clients contact the designer directly and collaborate on custom designs for events such as film premiers, weddings, bridal, grad, galas, charity events, etc, and can connect with the designer through the website or social media.

I am also incredibly excited to announce that I will be showcasing my SS18 collection at Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo this October in partnership with VFW! I am so thankful for the opportunity to show overseas at such a prestigious fashion week, and to have the support and constant inspiration from my VFW family will make the trip even more valuable! Stay tuned for details of our show on October 20th!

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