Gender-ambiguous design wins Danier Design Challenge

A new winner for the annual Danier Design Challenge was crowned on Friday.

Third-year fashion design student Joobo Shim and his winning gender-ambiguous jacket walked away with $5,000 and his jacket will be mass-produced and sold in some Danier stores.

Joobo Shim says that gender-specific clothing is restrictive. (Courtesy Danier)

Shim said designing gender-specific clothing is restrictive to him.

“To be honest, from the start of my design practice, I have never once believed clothing had a gender. Even when looking at womenswear or menswear I never understood why it had to have a gender,” Shim said. “So for me designing gender neutral clothing was not a conscious decision. It was simply the fact I was and still am always just interested in creating shapes.”

Shim said he’s nervous about the win because it would be the first time he’s ever had his clothing up for sale.

“I’m a little nervous because it’s the first time for me but I feel excited, I’m interested to see how the reception will be and how the average customer will be able to wear my jacket,” Shim said.

The competition is a mandatory course for third-year fashion design students and is drafted in partnership with the Canadian leather retailer. About 73 students were enrolled in the class this year and the top 10 designs were announced in October. The objective of the course is the same every year: design and build a unique leather jacket.

School of fashion chair Robert Ott praised the top 10’s unconventional approach to leather design this year.

A model wears Shim’s leather jacket. (Courtesy Danier)

“The competition this year was just an absolute stunner. It was such an important change in direction,” Ott said. “I think we can truly say that the bomber jacket and the biker jacket in leather are dead. We’re looking at new shapes and modern interpretations of eastern and western heritage. It’s really, really fabulous to witness.”

Before sketching out their garments, students got a tour of the Danier Leather factory and received a brief presentation about what the company is looking for this year.

Several students in the class confirmed that Danier Leather is looking for a design that would suit a younger female demographic; something for a young business woman in her mid-20s to mid-30s.

Despite this demographic, judges Jillian Vieira, assistant fashion editor at FLARE magazine, and Ally Dean, fashion and beauty editor at HELLO! Canada, said Shim’s jacket was the clear winner because of its original structure and gender-neutral form. This makes it suitable to go in women’s or men’s sections.

“I feel like Joobo had this incredible something I’ve never seen before in leather,” Vieira said.

“His design in the leather, in the cowhide, is what made it stand out,” said Dean.

Shim said the construction of the jacket was one of the most rigorous parts of the challenge, taking him “four days straight” to complete.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Jan. 28, 2015.

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