I had many dreams growing up of what I wanted to be when I was older. A nurse (which my mom would have loved), a singer, an archaeologist, a criminologist, a makeup artist. But the one career path I never thought I would follow is the very one I am on now – fashion designer.
An element that appealed to me most was that one did not necessarily require a portfolio to be accepted into the program.
One thing I have always known is that I would find a career in the creative field. It was not until I was entering my final year of study in Anthropology at the University of Alberta did I have what some would say, an epiphany. I spent the summer researching only a couple of schools, one of them being Blanche Macdonald. After receiving the necessary program information I was contacted by Mary, an admissions advisor who answered any and all of my questions. She would keep in touch with me for the next year before my start date. I was also fortunate to have a friend who kept me informed about the program while in it herself. I was reaffirmed of my decision to attend Blanche Macdonald a few months before I was to move to Vancouver when I toured the school. The Downtown campus was beautiful, in an ideal location, and the positive energy or vibes resonated with me.
An element that appealed to me most was that one did not necessarily require a portfolio to be accepted into the program. I had a more than basic knowledge of sewing and no experience in illustration or much knowledge about the industry in general, but my admissions advisor believed in my seriousness and passion.
I would suggest any prospective students to have a general understanding of sewing should one not want to fall behind at the very start of the course. Other skills will be taught.
It’s Intensive For a Reason!
The program is comprised of 4 consecutive semesters with 3 days of classes per week. However, in taking account the time needed to complete homework and projects, it is more likely to be closer to 5 days if not more. Self-discipline and time management skills will prove incredibly useful. Pattern Drafting and Garment Construction are taught and practiced for the duration of the program as well as Fashion Illustration and Design. Numerous other courses such as Fashion Elements, History, Production, Textiles, and Past/Present Designers encompasses the remainder of the program.
Tuition is fairly steep and could cost upwards of $16,000 not including fabrics and materials let alone rent and living expenses for those coming from outside the city or province. Conversely, by registering and reserving a spot in a class early, one can save a few hundred if not over a thousand on tuition. It may not sound like much but it does help.
As for the instructors, they are fantastic. They are a wealth of knowledge and full of support during and after the program finishes. They themselves have worked in the industry and are willing to share their experiences. The TA’s or teacher’s assistants are almost always available for help. They are graduates of the program, recent or otherwise and may be available for private tutoring sessions – an ideal option for those requiring additional help.
I strongly suggest prospective students own a sewing machine as access to the school’s machines are available only during one’s own scheduled classroom time.
As a student, and with space permitting, one has access to available classrooms and drafting tables to work on during days off, and the sewing room (with supervision only) which holds both domestic and industrial sewing machines, sergers, and dress forms. I strongly suggest prospective students own a sewing machine as access to the school’s machines are available only during one’s own scheduled classroom time. A basic domestic machine will do fine – and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and leg! Most construction assignments will have to be completed at home.
The best part of the program is that it is a one year program! Intensive? Definitely. But for someone already having undergone a 4-year degree program, I was drawn to the shortened time frame. The “worst” (for lack of a better word) part is that it was only a one year program. With a limited number of time to learn all the necessary knowledge for our craft, the program doesn’t allow for classes such as draping, and fabric and surface manipulations.
Blanche Macdonald does provide its students and graduates with a firm foundation for a career in design but it is important to note that it is up to the student to put these newly acquired skills to use – to gain hands-on experience through internships for example. And the more work experience attained, the better prepared one will be on the job.
Keep On Keepin’ On
The effects of the recession could be felt upon graduating and obtaining a paid position in the design field proved difficult as many local designers and companies either closed their doors or cut back on hours and staff. The career advisor will help as much or as little as one wants, but it really is up to each individual what happens after.
I am working in the industry in one way or another. Like learning a language, I cannot stress how important it is to keep working on our craft – it is easy to lose when momentum and opportunities slow. I continued to intern after graduation as a way to keep on learning and have since, participated in several design and PR internships in New York City to further sharpen my proficiency. I have also worked under a self-titled line as a way to stay and work in the field, build my portfolio, and gain industry presence. One’s portfolio is a fundamental tool and if built further will aid in securing opportunities whether internships, features, or jobs. I try to design collections each season (complete with illustrations) even if I am unable to create samples.
I highly recommend Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Design Program.
I highly recommend Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Design Program. I had a wonderful experience and I was thoroughly impressed (and awed) by the amount I had learned in a short period of time. One gets back what one puts in by twofold, to this program.
Examples of my work can be viewed on my website: www.genettesalgado.com.