London was calling to four Ryerson students, whose Canadian-inspired fashion designs caught the eye of Hudson’s Bay Co. executives and British retailer Topshop.
The team created a 10-piece fashion line and business plan for Topshop to enter the Canadian market, and won a trip across the pond to present it.
“It was a really great experience … it makes you so much more engaged with school, and so motivated. You realize what university can offer,” said retail management student Julia Hart.
Their challenge: appeal to the hearts and minds of Canadian consumers, while staying true to the British brand.
The winning team — retail management students including Hart, Michaela Atkinson, Mary Jinny Kim, and fashion design student Elizabeth Chung — presented a collection they called Memento. Atkinson says each piece was inspired by a specific place in Canada.
“We wanted it to really embody the whole country, and not just be so urban-centric,” she said. “A lot of the time people only think of Toronto or they only think of Montreal when they think of Canada, but there’s so much more to it,” said Atkinson.
The final collection sectioned off into six regions: the North, the East and West Coasts, the Prairies, central Canada, and French Canada. The results are pieces like a warm, northern Canada-themed jacket with a colour scheme that evokes Auyuittuq National Park in Nunavut, or a strapless dress with a print of the Gatineau Lakes area in Quebec.
The project started in the classroom of Donna Smith’s special sectors class for retail management students, which has them studying fashion. The third- and fourth-year students split into groups of three and, with funds from Topshop, “hired” one fashion design student to help develop their line.
The groups showcased the results: a research book that included brand development information, sketches for the line, financial and marketing plans, and a press kit, to a team from the Hudson’s Bay Co., who decided which team was London-bound.
With the Topshop executives, the line was a hit. “They really liked that our marketing plan (tied) in consumers with an emotional connection,” Kim said. She added that the executives were “so supportive and welcoming, (and) as young people in the industry it was really encouraging.”
The Memento line is not going into production, but the team says they learned a lot from the experience. “Having the opportunity to put something together from start to finish was a really big part of it,” Hart said.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on September 18, 2013.