Fashion In The Heart Of Toronto

By Sarah L. who graduated in 2007.

It’s one of the most comprehensive Fashion programs in Canada and I wanted in. With many alumni embedded in the fashion industry, this was the only program that offered degrees to Fashion Communication students. A fashion degree is difficult to come by when it’s viewed as vocational or plainly as an applied art. I wanted Ryerson to prepare me for the real world of fashion, build contacts while in school, and learn the different aspects of fashion that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. I spoke to a few alumni and they said that the grueling four years would do all of this for me – one of them even joined the Escada team in Munich.

Prior to Ryerson, I also attended then Kwantlen University College’s Fashion Marketing Certificate program which was a great precursor to this program. I must admit there was a vast difference between the two programs, Ryerson being that much more intense.

If anything, it was hard NOT to be part of the fashion scene in Toronto.

The School

Ryerson is located in the heart of Toronto, and anything remotely fashion related would always trickle into our school. We’d be at every event; volunteering, representing, and most of all learning. If anything, it was hard NOT to be part of the fashion scene in Toronto. As the largest city in Canada, the event list from the annual Fashion Week to the Film Festival meant bigger opportunities to meet and mingle with the who’s who of the industry.

The curriculum was always changing and with new heads of programs coming in, I found the transition to my 3rd and 4th year very encouraging. New higher level courses were being offered that looked at fashion more as an academic discipline and gave us more variety for our degrees. Your last year is mainly comprised of a written and creative thesis, and a major reorganization of your portfolio to showcase during the Fashion Communication event.

I think the school definitely gives you insight to what employers expect, given the types of projects we were assigned. For example: develop a private label, create a mood board for the upcoming season, art direct for a fashion spread, create a magazine-format show, were just a few relevant projects. There were many industry professionals conducting courses and with their background and knowledge, their advice was immensely crucial to guiding our careers. Year after year, we learned how to keep improving our portfolio for it to be utilized in the working world. But, you have to take ownership of the program and design it to work for you. Otherwise, you’d just be throwing your money away. So as Tim Gunn says “Make it work!” Don’t waste your time if this is not what you want to do. You’d be occupying a space from somebody that might really deserve the opportunity. There are waiting lists for people trying to get into the program because of the school’s reputation and success of the alumni.

The absolute best part of the program was the critiques that we were engaged in within class. The implementation of these critiques really taught us how to analyze our work. With art being so subjective with no right or wrong answers, critical input from your peers is crucial. It really helped us gauge ourselves against one another. Throughout the experience, there were several fashion competitions with Flare, Shiseido, and McGregor Socks that were involved each year.

The worst part of the program was the inability to fast-track or take a semester off without being penalized to stay back another full year. People in the program who had credits fulfilled from other institutions still had to remain in the program for the entire length of the program, even if their last year was only comprised of a few credits. Some students who were gravely ill for merely one semester had to repeat an entire year of courses paying more tuition than necessary. However, I think some curriculum changes have taken place since I graduated, so this many not be as relevant anymore.

Tips About The School

Facilities in the school are fairly sufficient although I’ve been told the program has since grown quite large. Having your own computer/laptop would probably be ideal. Being versatile in both Mac and PC is also very important because your time will be split between both computer labs. Also, simple knowledge of sewing is very useful! This is a really hands on program, so knowing as much as you can beforehand will help; but the great thing is that you’ll also learn how to adapt those skills and use them in the workplace. Make great impressions with the faculty members because they can offer you sincere guidance. Never be afraid to get more help.

I would recommend the program for any student who is interested in other aspects of the fashion industry aside from design and construction.

The Verdict

I would definitely recommend the program for any student who is interested in other aspects of the fashion industry aside from design and construction. This program is built on the principles of understanding design and translating it through various mediums in the fashion world. It teaches you how to critically analyze it using background knowledge from art history, design history and costume history while arming you with an understanding of business/entrepreneurship/marketing concepts.

In 4 years, you will be exposed to the different areas of fashion whether it may be fashion illustration, web design, publishing, styling, marketing/business, photography or even fashion journalism. As each year progresses, your strengths become more evident and your specializations become more in-depth. Countless industry professionals help create a standard and let you know where you should position yourself in the industry. Although very grueling at times with project due dates and lack of sleep, I wouldn’t pick any other program in Canada. Ryerson is a great school and when you’re tucked into the heart of Toronto, there’s no doubt that some of that downtown buzz will give you a nice push into real city life.

The caliber and quality work of my peers is incredibly encouraging and exemplifies how this program nurtures our raw talent, ideas, and propels us to succeed in the fashion world.

Finding a Job

To find a job in fashion is not especially difficult, but I’d say target a good company and pay your dues. As you become more experienced and qualified, it’ll become easier for you to climb the social ladder. Many friends in the program ended up working for their favorite companies while still in school. A few years since graduating, I’m hearing about their successes writing articles for Flare, working in textile companies, TV stations, setting trends for labels like Holt Renfrew, Puma, Urban Outfitters, or Le Chateau. The caliber and quality work of my peers is incredibly encouraging and exemplifies how this program nurtures our raw talent, ideas, and propels us to succeed in the fashion world.

I’ve taken a couple of interesting turns after graduation and now I’m a TV Host in the entertainment industry. I definitely have utilized the skills learned at Ryerson even outside the field of fashion. Working with media/pr/advertising companies, I understand their objectives with my knowledge from my Marketing Minor. In the future when I’m out of the entertainment business, I intend to continue my education with a Masters degree, possibly something related to fashion journalism.