As I’ve been researching certain schools and programs that have caught my interest in the big city – Vancouver, the word ‘portfolio’ has become a very familiar word to my vocabulary. Different post-secondary institutes and fashion institutes have varied requirements for Fashion Portfolio’s, pertaining to the format of the programs they offer; thus giving applicants somewhat of a sneak-peek regarding what to expect out of the course they’re signing up to.
Taking a trip over to the busy city seemed necessary if I was to choose which program would be perfect for me; so off I went, fearless and somewhat naïve to my journey. Starting first at the Capliano University, I had set up an interview a while before as I was interested in the ‘Textile Arts’ Program available there. Coincidentally, the students of the program were holding the Universities Annual ‘Craft Fair’, exhibiting and selling the student’s works to the public. As I had over-estimated the length of my journey from Port Moody to North Vancouver, I had extra time on my hands before the Information Session I had signed up for was to start. Taking a look around the stalls and racks of artwork, I saw some pieces that I was interested in buying, but I also got the feeling that this program I was interested in was for the somewhat ‘unique’ artist. Many of the pieces I saw seemed to be ‘fashion industry’ related, where- as some items were quite out of place when it came to today’s fashion trends and the popular picks of today’s retail customer.
When the group information session began, the director of the program, as well as two current students enrolled in Textile Arts, was there to briefly discuss the aim of the program and what to expect as a future student. As I recall, one of the first sentences out of the directors mouth was along the lines of ‘If you’re interested in a Fashion Program, this is not the program for you’. Catching my interest, as well as losing it, I then listened to her explain that many prospective students assume the program is related to the Fashion Industry, but in fact it leans towards craftsmanship in the Textiles area. Focusing the content of the program towards projects in fabrication as well as weaving and quilting, I recognized that this program didn’t seem to be my cup of tea.
My next stop was the Vancouver College of Art and Design. Making my way through the Vancouver Transit system from North Vancouver back into downtown was a feat for someone like me; who has been defeated by transit also in Europe – The German language can be very confusing. The combining freezing temperatures also did not help my optimism for my next interview. Jumping off the bus on W. Pender Street, I had no idea what direction I was heading, but managed to spot a small sign for the college in what seemed to be an office building’s window. Running inside the building, I asked some stylish looking individuals whether this was in fact the school I was looking for. They were more than happy to help me up the elevator (not that I desperately needed it, I’m not that useless), and onto the 5th floor where I met with the receptionist.
During my interview with an admissions representative for the design college, she went over the program with me, as well as the entrance requirements, tuition costs, course outline and finished with a tour of the new building. The program’s entrance requirements did not however include an artistic portfolio – there’s that word again. Although I had decided to rule out the program offered at Capilano University, to be admitted into the program, applicants were to provide ten pieces of personal artwork of various media’s, for example sewn garments, photographs or drawings etc.
Vancouver College of Art and Design however did not require, as it seemed, any knowledge or previous accomplishments in the fields required for a basic design program. This surprised me, as a large part of the curriculum for the 1 ½ year program was learning textiles, draping, and basic garment production. Taking the tour through the school, as impressed as I was with the course content, seeing the sewing studio was somewhat anti-climactic as the constricting four walls did not seem especially capable of housing the various mannequins, sewing machines and tight student workspace. As a sewer that needs a copious amount of space to work in, I could not picture myself sharing a small table, mannequin or sewing machine with a prospective classmate – I would go crazy with frustration. As we walked throughout the rest of the school, I saw the famous ‘Gerber’ machine that had been discussed earlier in the interview. A Gerber machine is a digital ‘storyboard’, used to create digital patterns to send to producers, creating your garment exactly as you’ve designed. This seemed to be the pride and joy of the program, and being someone who had never heard of this magical ‘Gerber’ machine, this did not have quite the same effect on myself as anticipated. Throughout the rest of the school, I was shown various ‘labs’ outfitted with Macs and PCs, used mostly by the students enrolled in the other programs the College offered – Digital Animation and Design. Once going over the cost of tuition, I decided this school wasn’t the one for me. This was mostly due to the length of the course; as I’m looking for something longer than what was offered if I’m to be learning skills in Textiles, but the fact that I did not want to be spending the following 4 years of my graduation paying off my student loan.
The next morning; after having dinner with a wise uncle, watching some TV with my two hospitable friends and researching some more into Capilano and VCAD, I had come to the conclusion that the preceding schools were not for me, and I was beginning to get semi-downhearted. Sporting some wool socks, toque, iPod and an energy bar, I headed into downtown Vancouver with less optimism than I had had at the beginning of the trip. Almost missing my stop – due to amazement a school would be located in what seemed to be an unfriendly neighborhood, I wandered towards what I figured was the correct direction. Spotting a sign for John Casablanca’s did not seem to raise my hope as much as I had anticipated – until I walked into the warm, friendly and inviting foyer. Filling out a basic information form, I began to regain a semblance of hope – maybe this school could be less disappointing than the last two had been. Meeting with a representative of the Fashion Design Program, hope kept growing as my interviewer began conversation with me regarding my personal life rather than the program itself. Feeling more at home in this school than I had yet, we began to discuss what I wanted out of a program in the Fashion Arts. As the program offered at John Casablanca’s did not offer any sewing aspects to the diploma earned, Erin - the interviewer, began to recall her own experience in schooling with Fashion. Coincidentally, she had gained her diploma at Vancouver Community College in the Fashion Design program offered there. Though she absolutely loved her time at the school, and had learned a considerable amount throughout her schooling, she expressed her regret in choosing to learn the business aspect of the industry before the technique and production side. After discussing the course content that the institute offered, my excitement began to mount as visions of myself attending this particular school were painted in front of me. The course, being 11 months long, was offered several times throughout the year, the nearest date being in January. As I have been dreaming of moving to Vancouver since I decided to learn about the Fashion Arts, the reality of how close my dream was at being achieved made my desire to attend this school even greater. Taking a tour through the school, I was able to go into the classrooms and observe some of the students at work in the school’s environment – something that was very helpful in making my decisions on attending the school. Stepping into the Fashion Design classroom, an air of excitement and passion overwhelmed me as many of the students in the room exclaimed to me their adoration of the program in which they were enrolled. After meeting various professors and hearing about the ‘mixers’ held between students – a combination of cosmetic, hair and fashion students creating photo shoots used to build portfolio content, we went back to discuss tuition and fee costs. As this school turned out to be much more affordable than the last, that seemed to be the cherry on top of my dream schooling experience.
Although the likelihood of myself being able to enroll and attend the January semester was very slim, the prospect of starting as soon as May was enticing. Withholding my desperation to sign up right then, I left this particular interview excited – something drastically different than what I had expected as I stepped off the bus just an hour earlier.
Realization began to hit me as I walked toward Pacific Centre to meet up with my cousin for coffee. I would not be able to attend the May semester at John as I had already planned a non-refundable trip this coming July to New York City, Cape Cod, Boston and Connecticut. As the breaks in this course were only one week between semesters, I would not be able to enroll for the May semester, but would have to wait until August or even September. As Kwantlen University’s Bachelors program was also in the back of my mind, I began to reconsider my previous eager desires of registering to John Casablanca’s as soon as I could.
Now, as my decision for school has yet to be decided, I have decided on one thing – Fashion is the career I want to pursue. Having previous doubts in my passion for fashion seemingly melted away as soon as the close reality of my dream hit. Although I haven’t fully decided between schools, I have decided to continue my application to Kwantlen University, and am charging ahead with the seemingly endless portfolio looming ahead of me. Unable to determine whether I have been accepted or not until after a three hour long portfolio review session in April, I feel as though I will have a better understanding on which program is best for me. So, as I step into the month of December, working towards a January Portfolio Assistance Workshop has become one of my priority’s as well as balancing everything else. John Casablanca’s is definitely still a strong schooling option for myself at this point, but why settle for one right now? Limiting myself is the last thing I want to do – might as well work as hard as I can for something I’ve always wanted.