The Road to the Podium

Photo by Daniela Olariu.

[D]ressed in all black with a pop of teal nail polish on her nails, Chantelle Hastick reaches out and grabs the $5,000 cash prize award from Danier Leather. In front of her stands her model, showcasing Hastick’s winning leather jacket design. Hastick appears to be shocked and takes a few seconds to process the award she has just won, before walking to the podium.

“I’m shaking,” says the Ryerson fashion student as she accepts the cheque from Danier CEO Jeffrey Wortsman.

A huge smile lights up across her face as she holds the giant cardboard cheque in her hands.

The audience of fashion students, company representatives and media applaud loudly.

“There wasn’t many thoughts going through my head but I felt really flattered, happy, as well as scared,” Hastick said about winning.

Along with the cash prize, Hastick will also receive a summer internship at Danier and the opportunity to have her jacket modified for in-store sale. The jacket can be seen in select stores that were not immediately named.

The jacket will be featured in Danier’s Fall 2014 collection.

Chantelle Hastick's sketches for her winning jacket.

Chantelle Hastick’s sketches for her winning jacket.

Hastick’s winning jacket is black leather with pleated lines along the bottom and up the zipper line to a high neckline. The jacket zips up on an angle, adding a degree of sharpness to the look. But she didn’t forget practicality – there’s a pocket on the top right chest.

“I was inspired by contemporary Artist Ai Weiwei and his work ‘Straight,’” said Hastick, which she titled her design after.

In his structural installation “Straight”, Weiwei straightened out 180 tons of bent steel rebar, rescued from schools during the Sichuan, China earthquake. His message was to raise awareness to the vast amount of student causalities due to the collapsed buildings.

The Danier Design Challenge started in September and consisted of five phases. First, all third-year fashion students were invited to enter by submitting an illustration of a women’s leather jacket. Second, a panel of industry professionals judged each students submission and narrowed the search down. Third, the designers presented their ideas to the judges. At this point the top 11 were chosen. In the fourth phase, the final 11 produced promotional videos, and had interviews with the judges.

In the final deciding stage, the designers prepped their models for the winner’s gala.

Every year the competition has a “cliffhanger,” a term used by the president of the School of Fashion, Robert Ott, to describe a surprise award that is revealed at the gala. Last year, the summer internship with Danier was introduced. This year Ott announced an additional forth place honourable mention.

In the prep room, Hastick assembles her model’s attire, which consists of a white body-con knee-length dress with horizontal pleating to match the leather pleats on the jacket.

“The easiest part was coming up with the concept of the design, but when it came to actually executing it, that is when it got a bit challenging,” said Hastick, explaining that the hardest part of the competition was working with muslin, a lightweight cotton cloth that is used to test designs on.

This was also Hastick’s first time sewing an entire garment out of leather, but she was focused.

“It was nothing I couldn’t handle,” said Hastick. “The hard work was worth it and I am proud of it.”

Hastick hopes to gain credibility as a designer through her internship with Danier, which is set to begin this summer. Besides the internship or the money, her biggest thrill is having her jacket sold in stores.

“I think it is the ultimate compliment to see someone that has purchased your design and enjoys wearing it,” said Hastick.



Sketch by Wesley Burness.

For second-place designer and $3,000 winner Wesley Burness, the journey to the finals was different.

Behind his jacket creation is the concept that clothes serve as a “Second Skin,” which he titled his design.

“Our skin is forever unchanging. We dress ourselves in a second skin, however, to reflect our changing moods,” said Burness. “The second skin jacket serves to satisfy this transformative role of clothing.”

Burness displayed this transformative role of clothing by creating a black leather jacket with five different collar variations. A straight zipper with different closing points at the collar is used to achieve the multiple styling options. The collar is folded over creating a dramatic focal point.

The idea of art blending with the material of product design is what inspired Burness to get into fashion design.

“Creating garments that leave a personal and emotional impact on others is my ultimate goal,” said Burness.

Burness said he always longed to master leather design, describing the entire process as “organic.”

“Each new design element stems from the last, resulting in a natural balance between each part of the jacket, giving it a streamlined quality,” said Burness.

From the initial sketch to the final product, the modular aspect of the jacket was consistent. The wearer has the freedom to customize the collar by styling it to their personal preference.

“The more I played with the collar myself, the more possible styles I discovered. I designed the jacket to feature multiple styling options, however even more looks emerged than I had first expected,” said Burness.

For him fashion is ultimately a business and plans on using his experience from the competition to further his designing.


Sketch by Hamish

Sketch by Hamish Thwaites

Third-place designer and $2,000 winner Hamish Thwaites created a rustic brown leather jacket, setting him apart from the rest.

Thwaites’ rustic brown leather jacket takes on a peplum shape and with a belt around the waist and buttons up the front. The belt buckle and collar’s light brown colour match well with the military camouflage design lining hidden inside the jacket. The jacket also features breast flaps and low pockets on both sides.

Thwaites’ design is called “The Roamer” and was inspired by photographer Raja DeenDayal’s portraits of colonized India in the 1800’s.

“My jacket focused on unique construction that references safari jackets in an original way,” said Thwaites.

Thwaites used to keep his love for designing a secret.

“I was uncertain and uncomfortable with pursuing a field that would make me stand out and seem different,” said Thwaites.

The most important part of the challenge according to Thwaites is the physical construction of the jacket. To ensure the garment is good quality, fine details such as topstitching and fit must be taken seriously.

Thwaites says his initial drawing was far different than his final product.

“I had so many initial sketches that I can not remember The Roamer’s first, but I am certain that for quality purposes I compromised my design a few times,” said Thwaites.

For the forth place designer, it was all about the details.


Sketch by Olivia Rubens.

Sketch by Olivia Rubens.

The honourable mention, receiving $500 was awarded to designer Olivia Rubens.

Rubens’ jacket is black leather with sharp angled sleeve. The front of the jacket has horizontal stripes of black leather and a cream coloured fabric. The sleeves are peaked, the collar is high and the back of the jacket has a vertical pleated design. Her design is called “Intricate Delicacy”

“I picked feelings and words that felt the most relatable to my aesthetic and what I wanted to get out of my jacket. These words are intricate, delicate, raw, natural, and unique…” said Rubens.

Having never fully worked with leather before, the hardest part of the challenge for Rubens was the physical construction. Since her design couldn’t be taught from a book, she says she had to practice on numerous muslins before she felt comfortable.

Rubens said she had to add multiple seams to her design in order to make the leather more cost effective.

Rubens didn’t seek an interest in fashion until Grade 11. She began going to Value Village and experimenting on the clothes by cutting them up and remaking them with other fabric.

“That’s when I decided that it was something I wanted to pursue as a career because I just couldn’t get enough,” said Rubens.

Rubens couldn’t attend the gala since she is doing an exchange in Hong Kong, but she previously expressed that becoming a winner would help finance her future clothing line, which she plans on opening after she finishes school.