Green students have designs on the future

Photo: Finalist Tracey Horner (left), photo Lee Schnailberg

Toronto design students win at the Organic Cotton Competition Winners.

Seneca College's Fashion Arts Program has always been a groundbreaker. What other fashion college can boast a Member of Parliament? But Vivienne Poi, a graduate of the program, is now a Canadian Senator.

Seneca had another first last week when two of its fashion students had their designs snapped up by manufacturers before even graduating from the program. Tracey Horner and Jane Hazelgrove won finalist and runner-up respectively in the first Organic Cotton Company Design Challenge.

Design challenge
There were more than 12 finalists, with designs made from certified organic Prima cotton. John Cloud, president of the Organic Company, first introduced this incredibly soft cotton to Canada in his Clean Undies line. Cloud has been a keen supporter of the organic agriculture in Canada for over 35 years and sponsored the Seneca contest.

Prima is a fairly expensive fabric and most of the participants had never had the opportunity to work with this kind of high-end yarn and fiber, spun in Montreal. The students had to use a minimum of 97% of the fabric to create something functional. And since it was a design contest, the other rule was no printing on the fabric and no dyes. Students had to create their design with just the plain cotton.

Winning designs
Horner's winning designs were for nightgowns, or day dresses that can be worn with tights and cotton bras. "In the summer when it gets super hot, you don't want to wear something synthetic against your skin," she says. "You get sweaty and gross, so this is something that's really nice and cool for the summer - breathable." Hazelgrove's designs showed her off her pattern-making skills so there was no waste after cutting the fabrics.

Since both students were part of the School of Fashion and Merchandising, they knew they should get to know their potential licensee. They did customer research and studied the Clean Undies website, so they knew their market and what kind customers were drawn to the product. And, Horner admits, it was time to bring out the big guns—her parents, who are about to build a solar cottage. "I actually called my mom because she's kind of their target market. I said, ‘Mom, if you could have this organic Pima cotton garment what would you want?' And she told me she'd want a nightgown, and so I made something that's a little more versatile - a nightgown/day dress you can wear at the beach as well."

Horner and Hazelgrove were both keen on eco fashion even before entering the Organic Cotton contest. "I want to help with the changes in the fashion industry in terms of recycling and organic materials, and change fashion's rep for wasteful pollution," says Hazelgrove. Both designers have upcoming lines made from a variety of green fabrics. Horner's line uses organic cottons, hemp and low-impact dyes. Hazelgrove has reconstructed and recycled anything she salvaged from the depths of Value Village. "I've always recycled garments, since that was the main resource I had when I was younger," she says. "Then then I found PreLoved, a company I was really, really interested in and I worked there for the summer and I loved what I was doing. And that helped me with my collection this year."

A jury of fashion peers, retailers and media/fashion-production people judged the competition. Watch for these eco-designers and their positive impact on our threads.