Dresses to melt for

[W]hen you think of chocolate, fashion is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But great chocolate, like couture, is luxurious and tailor-made with precision to suit our most imaginative ideas.

When Swiss chocolatier Lindt approached the Ryerson School of Fashion with the idea of collaborating for the launch of their new flagship store at the Shops at Don Mills, many thought it was a great idea.

It’s the first time Ryerson has partnered with Lindt.

“It’s a really exciting partnership and such a fun project,” says Daniel Drak, marketing coordinator for Ryerson’s School of Fashion. “I love the idea of how you can work fashion into this completely different industry and how fashion could be inspired by chocolate.”

Drak said the number of entries for this competition was much higher than the school normally gets – 42 submitted their intent but 32 official submissions were made with illustrations that continued onto the competition. “That’s pretty large considering this is extracurricular.”

On February 12, at the launch information session, students were presented with a box of Lindt Swiss Luxury Selection chocolates. They were challenged to choose any of the chocolates and create a couture creation inspired by the taste, texture, form, colour and overall feeling of the chocolate.

The first part of the challenge was an illustration with a written statement that explained how each dress was inspired by the chosen chocolate. A panel of experts lead by Jeanne Beker, Host of Bell Media’s FashionTelevisionChannel; Robert Ott, chair of fashion at Ryerson; and Bernadette Morra, editor-in-chief of Fashion Magazine, were in charge of narrowing down the applicants to a final six.

Each of the six finalist student designers was given $200 to cover expenses related to garment construction. They also won a $300 bursary from Lindt and are currently in the running for a seven-days, six-nights, round-trip for two to Switzerland with accommodation and $1,000 in spending money.

The gala presentation event will be held on April 9 at the Shops at Don Mills.

Ryerson Folio spoke with the six finalists to ask them about their designs.

Elizabeth Chung

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Fashion Design, 4th year

Chocolate: Dragon Noir

How the chocolate inspires the design: “The chocolate I choose looks quite plain. It’s cylindrical and literally has a dragon embossed right onto it. The Dragon Noir is a dark chocolate and when you eat a dark chocolate it has a bit of a bite, or a sharper taste. One you first bite into the chocolate you touch the dragon with your tongue, then you get into the centre and its softer and a bit sweeter. As you go through the dress, and the chocolate, you get to the centre which is softer and sweeter and that’s where the chiffon panels in the back come into play.”

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About the dress: Chung chose two main fabrics. She went with a sequence that layered over itself in a regular pattern to mimic drag scales. “The main one is a two-tone black and gold sequins, so that means on the one side of it is black, but if you were to flip the sequins over it’s gold. In addition to that, I have long panels of black chiffon.”

Biggest Challenge: “On the Lindt website there was this quick video of a chef spinning chocolate with a mixer and it had a really interesting shape so I thought it would be cool to incorporate that into the dress. But when it came time to bring the illustration to real life, it was difficult to find materials that were suitable for that concept.”

In the end, Chung went with more of an abstract concept, “The idea is still there, but it’s more loosely based.”

Favourite Part: “I think it’s always those tiny little eureka moments that happen along the way. To me it’s the most fun when you’re able to see something and suddenly a great idea comes to you.”

Daniel Finlan

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3rd year, Fashion Design

Chocolate: Amande Croquante

How the chocolate inspires the design: “The side of the chocolate has these nice soft ripples, so I immediately thought of a flounce peplum on a skirt. That really translated nicely into the drape of the dress and then I paired that with a really structured, boned bodice that I made in a raw dupioni silk to translate the kind of grainy texture of the almond on top. The actual silhouette is rounded on the bust line, to look like an almond as much as possible.”
Finlan said when you bite the chocolate there’s the brilliant surprise of an almond cream filling, so he tried to translate that through colour.

About the dress: “The texture of the bodice is most important for my dress. I used a raw dupioni silk, which has almost beautiful flaws within it. I knew using that material I would get the brilliant structure I wanted for the boned bodice. It literally stands up off the chest of the model when she walks. For the rest of the dress, I selected really nice drapes and sheens to keep it really glamorous and elegant because even though I was translating the chocolate, it still had to look like a nice dress.”

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Biggest Challenge: “You think of the perfect materials in your head and sometimes they’re just not offered. I had trouble finding a silk charmeuse for the peplum skirt.” It was also his first time boning a dress.

Favourite Part: “I always love seeing the real dress in comparison to my illustration. I love the beginning and I love the end. But everything in the middle I could do without. I love the end result; just seeing how I can bring something to life is really beautiful for me. It’s such a great feeling.”

Bri Foster

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3rd year, Fashion Design

Chocolate: Crème Brûlée

How the chocolate inspires the design: “The chocolate is circular in shape with rippling edges like a cup. I wanted to incorporate the chocolate in a fashionable and beautiful way, I didn’t just want to use brown and yellow. I ended up working as though the chocolate was inside out, so I used more of the peachy colour of the inside with a brown lining as the chocolate. I used the shape of the chocolate in a cascading rippling effect along the top and the bottom. There are toffee bits inside the chocolate, so I embroidered the mesh part of the dress. Almost like the model was coming out of the chocolate.”

About the dress: “I never wanted to do too literal of an interpretation. I wanted to think more outside brown and be inspired by the whole idea and the experience of the taste, smell and luxury of the chocolate. I choose peau de soie and then I fuzzed it to make it even thicker, so it’s a very thick structured dress. The skirt is very full. It’s like six yards of fabric and is enhanced by a horsehair braid along the bottom so it comes out. I used smocking and embroidered the mesh.” She used a metallic thread to highlight the sweetness of the toffee bits of the chocolate on the mesh.

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Biggest Challenge: “This was much more ambitious of me given the way I normally design. Working with that amount of fabric and trying to get it to my sewing machine was crazy. It was like working with bridal gowns, there was so much. That was challenging, but I worked through it.”

Favourite Part: “Definitely being able to see my sketch come to life. Being able to make something two-dimensional into three-dimensional has always been one of my favourite things to do and actually see it come to life and work. It’s more like the end result is my favourite thing.”

Fayann Hung

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Fashion Design, 3rd year

Chocolate: Carre de Stracciatella

How the chocolate inspires the design: “I drew inspiration more from the exterior, so my dress is constructed with a straight-line neck, structured bustier and layers cascading from it. I wanted to play with the amount of layers the chocolate had and the swirls of caramel on the top.” The bottom of the skirt represents the swirls of caramel and “the different layers underneath show how many chocolates were used to make the little bonbon.” Hung also applied little petals and swirls of crystals on the dress to represent the crunchy inside of the chocolate.

About the dress: “I tried to look intro fabrics that looked creamy and represented the chocolate. I think you can see that best in the dark-brown silk organza I used. It has a bit of a sheen and it looks creamy and milky.” The dress consists of about five different types of fabric. The main one is peau de soie. “The top bodice is made from brown silk organza and the top skirt is an off white, kind of like white chocolate, peau de soie to give the dress a lot of body.”

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Biggest Challenge: “I’ve never worked with mesh before, so it was quite a challenge.” Her main concern was that the mesh wouldn’t be able to support the heavy layers of the dress, “I was freaking out because I thought it was going to rip. I decided to use a clear strap, similar to what they use to hold garments on hangers, underneath the mesh to hold the dress up.”

Hung was just about done her dress, tailored to a size six, when she got the email to choose her models. But all the models were either a size two or four, making Hung’s dress too big.
“I had to fully cut out parts when it was already nicely put together. But, I got through it and picked a model with a bigger bust.”

Favourite Part: “Putting all the little pebbles at the end when it was fully finished, just making it look complete with all those final little touches, was my favourite part. I was able to just be like, ‘this looks good here’ and not be technical about it. At Ryerson they teach us to be technical and work from the littlest detail to make the garment perfect, and that’s taught me a lot. But, it’s the little creative touches that make it unique and mine.”

Jeesun Lee

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3rd year, Fashion Design

Chocolate: Dragon Noir

How the chocolate inspires the design: “I chose Dragon Noir because it has Lindt’s trademark dark chocolate, as well as an interesting theme within the praline, a dragon. I tried to research and interpret a number of dragon characteristics, such as scales, tail, fin, atmosphere, bodyline and so on.” Lee used hand beading, pleating and smocking techniques to highlight these features. “The texture, color and taste are portrayed through the use of different textiles, and form, theme and the luxury of the Lindt Chocolate are interpreted with the silhouette, style of the garment, as well as various hand techniques.” Lee chose to work with bridal satin because she felt it captured the thick texture of dark chocolate. She also used texturized pleather and used black beads to create an illusion of the bitterness of dark chocolate.

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Biggest Challenge: “Time-management and organization were the most challenging for this competition,” Lee said. “Controlling ambition and passion is also important as it can kill the design or the actual garment by over-doing it.”

Favourite Part: “I like to keep myself busy and the competition itself really energized me by just participating in it. I also liked the fact that Lindt is supporting the Ryerson fashion design students, as well as supplying us with professional models.”

Jacqueline Tong

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3rd year, Fashion Design

Chocolate: Pointe de Chocolat

How the chocolate inspires the design: Tong focused on the exterior appearance of the chocolate and the entire dress is hand crafted. “I focused on the melting aspects of the chocolate, so my dress is somewhat droopy. The way the chocolate looks is almost a twisting motion. So for my dress, I used the technique of smocking. With smocking I can mimic the twisting through pleats and folds. The final dress, every detail on it, looks like the chocolate itself.”

About the dress: “I used a thicker fabric because of the technique I used on the dress, it has to be thicker. I used a pleather. So with pleather I can make the dress look more structured with the pleats and folds it can make. The chocolate itself it more structured as well. I wanted to emphasize its twists.”

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Biggest Challenge: Bringing the dress to life was a challenge for Tong. “Because my dress requires a lot of details it was very time consuming, it wasn’t just your regular pattern making. I had to drape it on a Judy. That was really time consuming and a lot of details went into it. The hardest part was having patience.”

Favourite Part: “Honestly, my favourite part of the competition was eating the box of chocolates. I love milk chocolate. I don’t like dark chocolate as much, so I gave those away. Making a dress out of a chocolate inspiration was also really cool. A lot of people thought I was making the dress out of actual chocolate.”