U of A student to strut her stuff at Montreal Fashion Week

(Edmonton) Winter in Canada—especially this year— isn’t usually cause for celebration, but turn it into high fashion, and suddenly there’s a reason to get excited.

That’s because Lauren MacDonald, a clothing and textiles student in the Department of Human Ecology, is one of just 25 young hopefuls across Canada—and the only one from the Prairies—whose custom-designed winter outfit has been chosen for competition during Montreal Fashion Week Feb. 7–10.

Sponsored by high-end fabric company TÉLIO, “Canada’s Breakthrough Designer” competition puts MacDonald, 19, in the running for one of five scholarships provided to winners of the contest, which range from $1,000 to $3,500 each.The competition’s theme is The Great Canadian North, and MacDonald delivered with an ooh-la-la capelet coat and shorts, a pairing that thumbs its nose at the standard winter gear of clunky ski jackets and scruffy wool toques.

Her talent has already won her a trip to the annual landmark fashion event in Montreal, where she will watch her ultra-hip outfit glide down the runway on a sleek size 4 to 6 model. On Feb. 10, the winners will be announced, and MacDonald hopes to be one of them, though she admits to a case of the jitters.

“I feel quite nervous. Everyone’s entries look so good and I feel intimidated—but very excited.”

Choosing from a palette of colours and textiles provided by TÉLIO, MacDonald spent 60 hours constructing a five-piece ensemble that also includes a pair of long, silky socks and a hand-beaded bustier, whose peaks and jagged angles represent mountains and icebergs. A snowy, mile-high faux-fur collar and capelet provide the icing to a sleek fitted coat, celebrating the traditional Inuit parka. A pair of faux leather shorts round out the avant-garde outfit. She wanted to make sure the faux furs and leathers on TÉLIO’s palette were part of her final creation. “The materials spoke to me in terms of being Canadian fabrics you’d associate with winter wear.

“I wanted to portray the North in a wild and untamed way, and I also drew inspiration from the chill of winter,” said MacDonald, who admits to being pleased with the end result. “You always have insecurities about your work, but it turned out fairly well.”

MacDonald’s design was one of 25 chosen from 750 submitted from across the country—no small feat, considering that the U of A’s apparel design course was competing with entire post-secondary institutes devoted to fashion, said Vlada Blinova, MacDonald’s instructor. “Our course offers good fundamentals.”

The U of A has only had one other finalist, Corinne Ludwig, who competed in 2009.

“Being in this show as part of Montreal Fashion Week is almost like the Olympics for athletes,” said Blinova, who will accompany MacDonald to the event Feb. 9 to 11. “When students like her succeed in reaching such competitions, it’s always something to be proud of for everyone at the U of A. It’s great recognition of Lauren’s talent and our program’s support of our talented students.”

Despite tight deadlines and some snags along the way, MacDonald stayed focused and positive, Blinova said. “When she had to re-do some things, she was always cheerful about it.”

When MacDonald earns her bachelor of science degree in human ecology later this year, she hopes for a dream career of designing high-end, high-quality women’s wear; “special pieces that people will enjoy and wear.”

She’ll leave the U of A with practical knowledge about fabrics as well as product development and economics. A study exchange to the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, allowed her to travel while she earned her degree, and gave a further global perspective.

“I know that wherever I go from here, what I’ve learned at the University of Alberta is going to play a part in helping me get there,” MacDonald said.

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