vote – Danier Design Challenge


Sheila Ramsey usnaps her jacket

Right now students from my old fashion school are competing in a design challenge sponsored by Danier.  As a modern twist, their nerve-wracking design presentations are videoed and uploaded online for rating and commenting.  Watching these videos fills me with nostalgia, embarrassment and relief that I was not videotaped as a fashion student.  Fashion students have their own unique type of intensity, and the videos are a bit too revealing of the bathos of young fashion ambition.

Most of the designs do not live up to their breathless sales pitches.  The cliches of student design – too many snaps, too many zippers, too many buttons, fussy buckle closures, funnel necks, detachable pieces with no practical purpose, mismatching sleeves, restricted mobility for the wearer – are all there.  If you think I’m making fun – just wait until I show you some of my early “designs”.  There is a very good reason why I know what a fashion student effort looks like.  A few entries went above and beyond the rest though – here are four designers whose jackets piqued my interest.

John Hillifer explains his jacket

John Hillifer (above) is not charismatic at the beginning, as he avoids making eye contact with the judge – but his conviction becomes apparent as he shows his design – it shows that he has thought of his design in three dimensions, it features a collar which looks terrific both open and closed, and a unique pocket concept including a hidden pocket.  All on a muslin with exceptional finish.  “Dark industrial” may not be very Danier and yet it is apparent that this designer will produce an excellent leather jacket.

Valerie Crisp was the only designer with the guts to go for less instead of more.  While in a muslin this jacket may seem slightly unconvincing, the remarkable restraint for a fashion student shows that she has a working understanding of the Danier brand – and a burgeoning sense of taste.

Monica Kisielewicz has that peculiar intensity to her presentation that is bordering on overwhelming, stating an obsession with status with remarkable candour.  Though her design borders on the obvious/clever interpretation of her inspiration – the zipper placket looks like a highway – it is saved by a sense of simplicity.

Eric Tong‘s jacket is so of the moment, and the finish is very confident as was the designer’s presentation – it could have fit in very well in any FW09 runway show, but somehow seems a stretch for Danier.  But maybe a stretch in the right direction?

Right now all 15 finalists are hard at work on making the final leather version of their designs before Christmas.  I can’t wait to see the results.

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12 thoughts on “vote – Danier Design Challenge”

  1. Hillifer’s looks really nice, would that be considered a raglan sleeve? It looks very well designed and sewn. Love the shape at the shoulders.

  2. wow…very interesting…thanks for sharing.
    it’s funny though…you’re right about everything you’ve said…when we were in school we all thought that our designs were so unique, so invincible…but really all of those added elements, they aren’t commercial.
    they will learn…however there were a few jackets that i dug.

  3. oh you and me both dear…you and me both.
    sometimes i let it come out in my hats and then other times, i realize…oh wait…that won’t sell and i pull back.
    dear god…what has commericalism done to us.

  4. As a design student @ Ryerson, I can totally attest to the challenge of “not saying everything in one garment.” In first and second year we sew about two masterpieces which gives us little opportunity to showcase our abundance of ideas and enthusiasm – and so it all gets shoved into one over-designed garment.
    For the purpose of this contest, yes to be a winnning piece simplicity is the correct route but should commercialism really be our main focus when we’re a student?

  5. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for commenting – I’m not sure if commercialism should be the focus, but it could be the focus. Andy Warhol said that “Good business is the best art.” Commercial does not have to equal boring. Personally, I find the mysterious combination of qualities that makes a garment worth buying a fascinating goal – probably because I don’t have to do it for a job ;).

    I think Hillifer’s winning jacket did a great job of achieving a sophisticated commercialism just by being a passionately created object – and its a tremendous jacket, not at all watered down.

  6. Hi Danielle,
    I was in highschool when our teacher told us we might be going to Ryerson on a field trip to watch the famous Mass Ex. The excited me tried to find out all about the designers before we hit the show, and your designs were tremendously inspiring. Which is why i was able to find this blog, ur collection designs and illustrations were amazing.
    As a third year fashion design student at Ryerson, its nice to read your input on the Danier challenge. Im in the middle of my design process and a friend of mine who works at Danier made me take out all my buckles, haha. To some degree I agree with the focuz on simplicity and commercialism. Although once in a while i think to my self, if I dont experiment now and learn from my mistakes then when? Im proud to say however that my eveningwear was fabulously simple which is why I still love it, a good lesson learned from my first year daywear dress 🙂

    Ooh and I also read about your illustration book in the Metro on my way to school and I thought that was very cool. Im not enough of a nerd to research people but your stuff just pops up everywhere 🙂

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