“Honestly, I’ve only wanted to be in fashion for maybe the past five years,” says Sarah Stevenson, an up-and-coming fashion designer from Toronto. “I’ve always loved clothes and painting and drawing, but I never considered it as a career.”
This is a shocking statement from a designer who has already garnered much press around her Avant-Garde, eco-friendly clothing line.
She started out in fine arts and psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, and briefly considered a career in art therapy before she realized she wasn’t getting the fulfillment she wanted out of her job.
“I knew I wanted to do something creative, but it was the people [I was helping] being creative, not me,” she says.
After much soul searching, she decided to venture into fashion. Stevenson attended the George Brown College for fashion design. Afterwards, she won a full scholarship from the Fashion Design Council of Canada to complete her Master’s degree in fashion and textile design at the Institute of European Design in Milan, Italy.
“All of a sudden, I was with designers from all over the world, who had studied and worked in the industry for years,” she says. “So there was a huge learning curve to get up to where they were … it was a lot of pressure.”
She didn’t do too badly for herself, however, graduating in the top three of her class, and securing an internship with Giorgio Armani shortly after school.
“[But] I always wanted to come back here to start my own line,” she says.
So Stevenson turned down the Armani internship to pursue her dream.
“Some people think it’s nuts to turn down that opportunity,” she says.
“But I just had to go with my gut, and my gut was telling [me] to stay here [in Toronto] and do my own thing. I don’t regret it yet.”
After her return from Milan, she sat down with the Council to show what she had learned abroad. It was then the Council offered her a coveted spot in the upcoming Toronto LG Fashion Week.
“They were like, ‘Oh my god. You have to be in the show,’” she says.
Coupled with a trade show hosted by the Toronto Fashion Incubator, she says she’s garnered a lot of press and much interest in her Avant-Garde print dresses.
“It was really overwhelming – I didn’t even know if I’d get one article written about me, [but] the response was amazing.”
Despite missing the 2010 buying season, she says she’s had a lot of interest from retailers since her debut at the fashion week.
At the moment, she’s working hard to get her line ready for the next season.
“I want my clothing to be as eco as it can be,” she says, admitting it’s been a huge challenge trying to find natural fibers and waterless printing techniques.
She hopes in the future she can use organic fibers and less toxic dies, and adds customers don’t have to sacrifice feeling pretty and comfortable in fashion to be environmentally friendly.
“I want the customer to appreciate it,” she says. “It’s like wearable art.”