The designers behind the stitches

A closer look at the designers behind the Vogue Charity Fashion Show

Zelia Bukhari, one of the student designers at the Vogue Charity Fashion Show.
Credit: 
Photos supplied by Alex Johnson Dingee and Zoe Zimmerman

Each year, the Vogue Charity Fashion Show brings student designs to campus with a fresh twist. I sat down with some of this year’s designers to get an idea about who they are and what they’re bringing to the show.

Zelia Bukhari

Tell me about yourself.

I took a personality test earlier today and I got ENFP if that tells you anything. My blood type is A+ and, so I’ve been told, it does add some key factors to my personality. Last but not least, I’m a Virgo, in literally every sense.

Why do you design?

I design because it’s an outlet for me, fashion always has been a source of comfort. It’s a way to define yourself, better ground your identity whilst making a statement. To design is to open up completely and put your thoughts, worries, actions, interests and opinions into one piece which will grace a body and impacts those who are observant enough to witness the constant change and patterns.

How would you describe your art? Who influences you?

My art is constantly changing; it differs day to day honestly. [It’s] very dependent on the circumstances and situations I am living through at the time, or what issues are clouding my mind. It’s always bright, that’s something I don’t stray too far from. I’m influenced by my parents, they, in my eyes, are the epitome of fashionable and elegant people. The two of them have taught me everything I know, and I’ve never bothered to search for more.

Where do you see your fashion career going?

Honestly, wherever life chooses to take me fashion-wise, I’ll be happy to go. My fashion career could never be limited to just designing, as much as I love it, I would need a break. So ideally I would rather be in a position of fashion journalism, a retail buyer or a mix between that all. Something with flexibility for sure.

Habiba Esaad

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m in my second year at Queen’s, in Fine Arts — so naturally my focus is art and all it includes. Within this, however, I’ve been exposed to many opportunities that arise from a Fine Arts background. Specific to Queen’s, I am the vice president at the Union Gallery, the art director of Queen’s Fashion Photography, as well as a designer for Vogue Charity Fashion Show. In my own time, I enjoy working on art films and collaborating with like-minded individuals in the art’s field.

How did you get into fashion?

Fashion has always been a consistent interest of mine — but mostly, the development of fashion and art, or fashion as art. With the growing and changing industry itself, there is so much to explore and re-construct, so much to consider. For myself personally, being an artist allows me to share with others the manner in which I view the world. The same can be said about fashion — it enables individuals to express themselves and for this reason, is in itself an art.

Describe your personal style? Who or what inspires it?

My personal style comes from various different sources — some being a kin to high fashion and others taking from vintage, punk or self-constructed aspects. For the most part, I enjoy piecing together designer items with vintage or thrift items, adding a more personal and obscure factor to my wardrobe. On a similar note, I often create much of my own attire, whether that be knitting a fall sweater, or silk-screening my own designs. In terms of my own current fashion icons, I tend to sway towards the blend of grungy feminine wear, like Rihanna or Alexa Chung has appropriated, or the more androgynous wear from designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy. Basically, this means my style shifts from a Helmut Lang slip dress and fur heels one day to boyfriend jeans and an oversized Rick Owens shirt the next day. Staying unpredictable is probably my most important fashion rule.

What can we expect from your collection in the show?

As previously mentioned, this coming year I am working with Vogue Charity Fashion Show on my own collection. This collection, titled, ‘Bad Reputation’ combines influences from musical icons like Joan Jett and the Runaways, and more modern artists, like Kendrick Lamar. Because of this, my collection encompasses various punk elements with an overarching social concern for the issues these artists place so highly within their own work.

Sissi He

Tell me about yourself.

I’m a fourth-year Life Sciences major and I’ve spent my life switching between but always having some sort of art-related hobby. However, even with all my love for art, I’ve had an interesting relationship with fashion — I didn’t even begin to understand fashion until probably the start of university, so never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d be designing a collection one day. But here we are.

Why do you design?

I design because I hope that my ideas inspire others, both in terms of the construction of the garments themselves and the way people feel when they interact with my designs. If I manage to create something that hasn’t been done before, then it’d be fantastic to be able to contribute to the fashion world in that way. However, the greatest reward for me is if someone who’s either wearing or looking at my pieces discovers something new about themselves — that they’re beautiful or bold or deserving of all things wonderful — that they didn’t embrace before. Sometimes, and I know this from experience, it’s easy to just go through the routine and mundane motions of life. I design because I want my designs to make people feel alive.

Who influences you?

My biggest inspiration is my friends, and their passion for what they do outside the classroom. Whether they’re helping services on campus grow, being a leader to students, making sure everyone around them feels appreciated, or working tirelessly to make future dreams happen, they inspire me to be the best version of myself, to keep being curious, and to keep feeding the curiosity.

Leigha Stiles

Tell me about yourself.

I’m a third-year Fine Arts student. As well as being designer for VCFS and Project Red, I’m a member of the Queen’s women’s rugby team. I’m no stranger to having a busy schedule and this year is no exception.

Why do you design?

I design because of all the possibilities fashion can be used for. It can be seen as a wearable art. It can also be used as a way of expressing oneself outwardly. I love the whole idea of being able to make something no one else has, making it that more personal.

How would you describe your art?

My art began being more in the realism and surrealism category. As I begin to develop as an artist, I’m moving more towards abstraction. I’m exploring themes of sexuality and aggression through different mediums. Painting and printmaking are my specialization this year, but I have a special interest in new media as well.

Alyssa Neelin

Tell me about yourself.

I am in my final year of art history studies.

Why do you design?

Art has been one of few constants in my life pertaining to my interests, and it naturally led me to VCFS. Because I’m in my final year, a lot of thoughts about what to do following graduation have been percolating in my mind. One possible career path I’ve considered is costume design. Once I started considering this career path, I started preparing for VCFS 20. I impulsively bought a sewing machine and $200 worth of fabric and just started sewing. The design process is much the same as any other art production process. You begin with an idea in your mind, one that expresses your ideas, and eventually, you begin to put this idea to work — you make it reality.

How would you describe your art?

Something I've noticed about my work, and indeed, people have noted the same, is that very rarely do more than one of my works look like any other. I like art and continue to make art because unlike so many other things, there are no rules for me to follow. Every time I start with a blank canvas, I’m free to make anything. This is liberating for me, although sometimes I get caught up in the fact that I don’t yet seem to have a 'style'. Everything that comes out is almost entirely different from the last. I’m mostly self-taught. I've taken classes and the like, but I honestly didn’t always take my lessons to heart. This further contributed to my 'lack of style' but grants me that freedom I like so much about making art.

Who influences you?

In terms of influence, I’d say myself. I’m still trying to find that 'essence' that makes me who I am; that makes me different. I like exploring the various parts of me to see what can be brought forth and put to canvas/fabric/clay etc.

Where do you see your fashion career going? Do you plan to include fashion in your future? I might like to pursue costume design. If not, I’m grateful for this opportunity to learn a new life skill. I'll be grateful for the times I can make my own clothes in future, if nothing else!

Helen Nguyen

Tell me about yourself.

I’m a first-year student at Queen’s University studying Commerce.

Why do you design?

It’s a great way for me and my mom to bond, especially being away for school. I always get to talk to her about new fabric and designs, because she taught me a lot of what I know. It’s now an inside joke in my family, where we’ll go out and see like a scarf for $20 and instead of buying it we’ll be like, “I can make that”.

How would you describe your art?

Simple, comfortable, fun.

Where do you see your fashion career going? Do you plan to include fashion in your future?

I really don’t know what I’m going to do in the future, but I hope it has something to do with fashion and business. For now, I like to design for the fun of it aside from schoolwork because it’s a really good break sometimes just to be creative without limitations.

Parker O’Connor

Tell me about yourself.

I am a fourth-year student with a major in art history and minor in drama. My life is spent looking at the visual world around us. I’ve been given the gracious honour to design with VCFS for three years now, and it has been a pivotal part of my undergrad. I’m sort of weird, but we all are, we just have to embrace it.

Why do you design?

The reason I design is purely just because I love it. Design is a social art, and the world can be changed through it. So evidently it provides a great sense of gratification. And really, it just keeps me busy.

Who influences you?

As cliché as it is, the world is an influence. Both in the virtual and real world, there’s a constant flow of inspiration as long as you stop long enough to notice it. My phone, notebooks, and sketchbooks are all filled with sources of inspiration that have passed before my eyes. We, as designers and artists, have to use the high-speed rate of visuals in our society to our advantage.

Where do you see your fashion career going? Do you plan to include fashion in your future?

Fashion hopefully will be a part of my future. Although, I don’t think designing is what I’m going to be doing. I hope to pursue further studies in fashion history and go on to share my love of fashion with others. It’s undoubtedly the most accessible art form given that we all interact with it on a daily basis, yet it’s the art form most overlooked academically.

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