For some, being a student at the Ryerson School of Fashion means completing assignments and passing classes so you can one day walk across the stage at graduation. For others, this program is seen as an “in,” because of the contacts that can be made and the countless opportunities to take advantage of.
It’s easy for students to get caught up in the endless cycle of commuting, working to afford tuition and long days of lectures and labs. But, if students are able to take advantage of the opportunities the program offers them, they could leave with pieces for their portfolio, experience in design competitions and a Rolodex full of contacts from networking events.
Ryerson fashion grad Adrian Arnieri pulled off this tough balancing act.
Arnieri, 22, is a freelance fashion designer based out of his home in Mississauga, Ont. He said his knack for designing colourful gowns and costumes was not always a path he saw himself pursuing.
“At a young age, I was very much into drawing and (I) would redraw my sister’s Barbie doll outfits,” he said. “The knack for fashion really didn’t kick off until my last year of highschool when I had to decide where I wanted to go. Ryerson was the only university I applied to for fashion and as soon as I got in, I knew this was the school I wanted to go to and the path I wanted to take.”
Arnieri graduated from the fashion design program in 2017. During his time at Ryerson he enrolled in courses like apparel design, tailoring, computer aided design and international marketing.
It’s also mandatory for fashion design students to complete 400 hours at an internship placement during their four years and, in his second year, Arnieri began working alongside Toronto fashion designer Farley Chatto for his internship. Most notably known for his 1988 haute couture menswear line, Chatto has dressed celebrities such as Drake, Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker and George Clooney.
Throughout his time with Chatto, who is also a contract lecturer at Ryerson teaching fur design, Arnieri designed and constructed a red fox fur winter jacket with leather and cashmere details. This design was modelled on the runway for the Remix Canada 2015 Fur Competition.
“Adrian is a young talent to watch for. From the first day in Fur class to his graduation collection, he has taken to fashion, pushes his borders to gives all he can to create the best work he can. I’m proud of him and what he has accomplished,” Chatto said.
The jacket was later awarded first place at Montreal’s Style Lab, a trade show that offers the best fashion collections of the year from Canada, the U.S. and Europe. With the success of his creation, photos of the fur jacket — labelled as The Foxy Femme Fatale — were sent to Italian Vogue to be viewed and judged by designers and editors in Milan.
“Ryerson was really great with offering competitions and opportunities to network and find internships,” Arnieri said.
Though Arnieri was busy with his school schedule, he refused to let his passion for fashion design fade.
“I just felt that it was really important to take advantage of the opportunities while I was still in school,” he said. “Putting myself out there and getting more exposure through the competitions offered through Ryerson, I believe, really gave me the upper hand.”
What may have been his biggest break so far into the highly competitive world of fashion design was his entry for the 2017 White Cashmere Collection, a student design competition that also raises awareness for breast cancer research. More than 150 students from design schools across Canada designed their pieces for this showcase exclusively with Cashmere bathroom tissue.
At this competition Arnieri claimed second place with a jacket that was inspired by fur coats. Beyond the $2,000 cash prize, Arnieri’s participation in the competition caught the attention of TV host Sangita Patel, landing him an opportunity to take the first step towards becoming a recognized Toronto fashion designer. Patel and the style crew from Entertainment Tonight Canada found Arnieri after the show to look at his portfolio and discuss potential collaboration for future projects, Arnieri said.
Arnieri’s first project for Patel was to prove he was the right designer to dress her for the 2018 Golden Globes. The black gown that she wore for the red carpet event took Arnieri a week and a half to design and sew together.
But what most people don’t know is the black dress Patel wore for the event wasn’t the original one-of-a-kind creation.
“Originally, we had planned out a month in advance that I was to design her Golden Globes outfit and I had constructed a yellow dress for her,” Arnieri said.
On the day of Patel’s final fitting, where Arnieri was going to hand over the dress, Patel told him that women in Hollywood were going to be wearing black to protest the pervasive culture of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, as a part of the #MeToo campaign. Arnieri restarted the design and construction process for a new dress over his winter break.
“I told her, ‘no worries at all,’ and that I would have a new design ready to go for her,” he said. “Our first fitting was two days before she had to leave for L.A. and was the last time I was able to see her before the event, so luckily it all went well and she was able to take it from there.”
Patel wore the gown on the red carpet, and posted pictures to her social media accounts and personal blog to applaud the young designer for pulling through on his commitment to dress her for the Golden Globes.
“He is incredible, so talented, brave and willing to take a risk,” Patel said. “After finding out I needed a black dress, instead of stressing out about it, he said, ‘no problem,’ and made my dress in a week.”
Arnieri has used his skills to establish his unique mark in the fashion world. He now has launched his own brand, Arnieri, and hopes to advance his career as a freelance designer to one day design stage costumes for celebrities.
“I definitely get a lot of inspiration from women in music and pop culture such as my first love, the Spice Girls,” Arnieri said.
With the announcement of the Spice Girls reunion tour, Arnieri has already designed costumes for the five group members and posted them to his brand’s official account, hoping they will be the next celebrities to wear his designs.
From tracing Barbie doll clothes to dressing reporters for the red carpet, Arnieri pulled off opening doors to his dreams, while also getting his degree.