A Ryerson fashion design alumna, Alex Armata is nominated for the 2017 Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA).
Returning to her Ajax, Ont. home after a night out on Jan. 30, Armata found out about her nomination after the CAFA nominee announcement at the Distillery District’s Thompson Landry Gallery.
“I just saw an e-mail from Robert Ott, the head of the faculty saying ‘Congratulations, you’ve been nominated!’ It was a big surprise and then I went to bed… well I hardly slept,” says Armata.
Last year, Ryerson fashion design alumnus Hamish Thwaites won the first Fashion Design Student Award. Armata is nominated for the Simons Fashion Design Student Award.
Armata is one of nine School of Fashion alumni nominated for this year: Erdem, Lucian Matis, Caitlin Cronenberg, Elizabeth Cabral, David Dixon and Curtis Oland, and Joe Fresh Centre Innovators Christian Daniel Tang and Wear Your Label. She is nominated alongside menswear designer Curtis Oland for the same award, who was also in her graduating class of 2016.
The 23-year-old’s thesis collection, cut + paste, was first seen at Mass Exodus 2016 and has already been featured in publications such as ELLE Canada and Pull Magazine.
Her thesis collection featured all-white dresses with sewn on duct tape which was designed to appear as though the girl constructed the garment herself. She was inspired by what she learned about dress identity in her first-year fashion theory class.
“The idea around the collection was a girl that has these panels of fabric she’s taped to wrap around her,” she says. “She’s constructing the way she looks and therefore the way people perceive her.”
Armata admired how her favourite designers, Alexander McQueen, Martin Margiela and Rei Kawakubo, used subtle symbolism. The white fabric symbolizes the blank canvas, and she used primary coloured duct tape because she liked the texture, which contrasted with the fabric.
“I thought of those sorority parties people go to when they make their own dresses out of duct tape. So I thought it would be interesting if I included the spirit of that idea into my collection,” she says.
Last summer, Armata worked for Vejas designing clothes for Drake’s Summer Sixteen Tour. She had e-mailed them in April 2016 asking if they needed interns and “the stars aligned” because their interns quit due to exams.
“There’s a picture of Rihanna grinding on Drake and it was the highlight of my career. I was like ‘Rihanna’s ass touched the jeans that I made, it’s amazing,’” she says.
Vejas, which is designed by Vejas Kruszewski won the 2016 LVMH second prize of 150,000 euros and a year-long mentorship. LVMH is a European multinational luxury goods conglomerate that includes fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton and Dior. Every year, the LVMH Prize is awarded to a young designer, and three graduates from fashion schools can claim the prestigious prize. With the win, the brand gained attention, so production doubled and the small team of five had to hustle. Her time working with Vejas, she says, was surreal.
“In school, you have a month to make a shirt and everyone complains about how hard it is and the next thing you know, I have to make seven pairs of jeans in a week. But it was worth it.”
Armata plans to pursue fashion design grad school in Europe. She has already been accepted to University of Arts London: London College of Fashion. “The struggle I had with my undergrad with my thesis collection was a lot of the teachers were concerned if anybody would buy it. But that was never my frame of mind for the collection, it was how can I make it innovative or explorative,” she says.
The fourth annual CAFA gala will take place on Friday, April 7 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on 100 Front St. W.