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Sunday 5 May 2019

Bespoke Adventure, Part 1 of 3


In January I received an email with this as the subject: VCC Fashion wants to dress you. Oh!

It was from Sarah Murray, the Co-Program Coordinator of Vancouver Community College's (VCC) Fashion Design & Production Diploma program. In essence, she wanted to know if I would like their students to make me some bespoke clothing in exchange for taking part in the process and posting about it. Umm, let me think... Hahaha!

As a first step, I spoke with Jason Matlo, the class instructor and a prominent Vancouver-based designer, to form an initial mood board. He divided the class, who were in "cycle 4" of their program, into three teams of three, and based on the mood board, my Instagram, and a budget, each team had to create an original design that resonates with my personality.

These students had only made a tote bag, a T-shirt, and a draped top during their first six weeks of school. I was curious, perhaps slightly nervous, about what they would come up with. Well, they blew me away with their creativity, technical skills, adaptability, and hard work. Incredible, as you'll see.

For my part, I made three classroom visits over a month as follows:

Visit 1: Consultation and measurements. Each team described its design concept and vision through sketches and fabric swatches. Jason and I joined the discussion to fine-tune the design to my taste, if required. This was an exhilarating process.

Visit 2: First fitting of the pieces, in some cases with a toile made of less expensive fabric as a tester.

Visit 3: Final fitting. The finished pieces were ready for pickup in mid-April.

These three posts will show you the work that the students created. Be prepared!

 OUTFIT 1 - Trippy Shirtdress and Coat

This team was comprised of:
Oh my, oh my!!

I didn't show you my feet in that photo because I think I was floating. 

The next photo shows sketches from the first classroom visit. The team also shared some fabric swatches.

What appealed to me? Heh.
  • faux fur collar; 
  • paisley-ish, psychedelic print;
  • pockets, pockets, pockets; 
  • plaid, plaid, plaid; AND 
  • patchwork. 

Plus, the coat was reversible. I was thrilled by how well they "got" me and the flexibility of their pieces, which could be worn inside-out and as separates. 

sketch and photo by Shawn Avantini
Before I picked up the finished work for my street shoot, I noticed the big honkin' sunglasses Shawn had sketched on the left figure. I knew then that I'd need to wear mine on my shoot. 

Below, the fabric stash. In addition to plaid, the team also integrated red netting, quilted fabric, and other textured colourful patches. The blue/yellow plaid, bottom left, became the coat's foundational layer. There is a better view to follow.

photo by Shawn Avantini

That yellow fabric on the bottom of the pile is popcorn chenille. It's not only a super-soft and warm lining, but it also vibrates like an electric lemon when the coat is reversed. You can see parts of the dress, bottom left, as well.

The students told me they were scouring their homes and stores for bits of plaid.

photo by Shawn Avantini
Below, my second classroom visit for the first fitting with the coat's. That's the foundational layer of blue/yellow plaid. There is no yellow popcorn yet - one step at a time. The shirt dress, with the faux fur collar, just needed fine-tuning. The dress hem was also decided.

In the background, the woman standing is Sarah, who invited me into the program. I had met her briefly before during Vancouver Fashion Week.

photo by Shawn Avantini
Below, Sekai hard at work. The program's studio is spacious, bright and humming with activity. 

Shawn and Carlin finish off the dress closure for the final fitting. Each button has a different design.

And done!

Next are photos from my street shoot of the finished pieces. The coat has substantial heft with all those layers and extra interfacing. Super cozy! I am certain that both of these pieces will get lots and lots of wear as the perfect neutral ensemble (all those patterns cancel each other out).

During my inspiration walk and this shoot, I received many compliments on this outfit.

You can see the different designs on the buttons below. And a better view of the popcorn chenille. Those are the honkin' sunglasses Shawn inspired me to wear.

Below, the stars of the project, the team that made it happen, left to right: Carlin Lockhart @bowsersauce, Shawn Avantini @shawn_avantini, me, and Sekai Fleming @camboikeith.

And there I am with Jason Matlo @jasonmatlo, the instructor. He was so easy to work with and gifted at letting his students shine. Check out that amazing style too, as could be expected.

That's all for Outfit 1.


Vancouver Community College's Fashion Design and Production diploma gives students an immersive experience in the fashion world.  You can read more about HERE. Their campus is in the heart of Vancouver, just a couple of blocks from our city's top fabric stores. It was a joy to meet the faculty working in the program and get an insider's view of their studio/work space. Graduate designs are regularly showcased at Vancouver Fashion Week.


  1. I think you already know that I just love everything the students created. Truly, sincerely, their work is marvelous. They nailed your look, your adventurous spirit, your energy. What a joy it must be to be their muse! And what a great opportunity for the students. As someone who is still learning how to sew, I have admiration not only for the styles they created, but for the skills it took to create them as well. So, so GOOD!


  2. I think the students were lucky to find someone who appreciates colorful, cutting edge and unexpected crafty twists in their look.
    You opened the parameters for these students and freedom is more likely to produce inspired results. Love, Jude

  3. Wow! And the teacher's style is so enjoyable to look at! This looks like fun, Melanie.

  4. This seems like it was an inspiring and exciting experience for you and the students. How cool to have something custom made for you! I love the dress and patchwork jacket. They definitely captured your style vibe.

  5. I hadn't seen this post yet. It is quite lengthy and every time I started to read it, I ran out of time. Now I did read it. What a roller coaster, what a splendid event to be the star of. You are so cool and these students recognized that quality. It will have come as a pleasant surprise that you are such a nice and warm woman as well haha.
    Fantastic outfits on the one and only unique person who wears them so well.


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