Ryerson School of Fashion student Curtis Oland was awarded the Emerging Menswear Designer Award (EMDA) last month at the Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOM*) showcase.
But that wasn’t all. At the event, Oland also won a cash prize of $10,000, a feature in Vogue Italia, a full-year mentorship at the Toronto Fashion Incubator, and a runway show at the TOM* Fall/Winter 2017 showcase.
Oland recalls the bright lights and cheering crowds at this year’s TOM* showcase while he anxiously waited for judges to announce the winner. To his surprise, he won.
“I was waiting to hear another designer’s name called, but I heard my name instead. It was crazy… I was like, ‘wow, I can’t believe I pulled this off,’” Oland said.
A reluctant nature child
Oland, who had less than 4 weeks to complete his Spring/Summer 2017 “Oyama Lake” collection featured at the showcase, said he believes he won the award not just because of his designs, but also because of the story behind his collection.
“My story is very personal and for some people it’s very relatable,” he said. “It’s Canadian. It’s heritage.”
Oland grew up in the Okanagan Valley, B.C. His Indigenous (Lil’wat First Nation) and Scottish–Canadian roots, along with his childhood experiences, have shaped him as a designer and are his main sources of inspiration, Oland explained.
Stories about his family’s camping trips in the mountains are reflected in his “Oyama Lake” collection.
When Oland was younger, his father taught him how to fly fish. He became fascinated with crafting fly fishing hooks.
“For me that was a really creative outlet because you use feathers, hair and different things to make little flies and get the fish to come up and eat,” he said. “When I would make a fly, I would make it really crazy and eccentric and not make it look like any fly that exists, or what the fish would want to eat.”
While Oland enjoyed creating fishing hooks, he didn’t easily adapt to the outdoor lifestyle. Rather, he said he was often a headache for his parents, fussing about the fishing attire he had to wear out in the wilderness and on the lake.
“It was always about the aesthetics and I was always so concerned about which vest I wore,” said Oland. “I was this little bratty kid who was constantly concerned about his fashion. So, my collection was kind of a reflection of that reluctant nature child. It was part fantasy and part utility. I played on those memories.”
Check out Oland’s “Oyama Lake” collection
(Photos courtesy of: Che Rosales)
Facing a panel of judges
Oland said the experience of producing an entire collection in less than a month helped him grow as a designer. “It showed me what I’m capable of and it showed me that I’m able to pattern draft, cut and sew 12 looks in about three-and-a-half weeks and present it to a panel of judges.”
The industry professionals on the panel included Canadian fashion designer David Dixon, Toronto Fashion Incubator executive director Susan Langdon, World Financial Group Canada head of marketing Taylor Stavenjord and Vogue Talents’ and Vogue Italia’s Vincent Law.
Oland has one credit to complete before graduating from Ryerson’s School of Fashion.
Oland said he plans on using the $10,000 wisely by continuing to work hard and jumpstarting his brand.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Oland was a graduate of Ryerson’s School of Fashion. In fact, he has one credit to complete and is applying to graduate. This version has been corrected.