When he’s not baking or indulging in Christmas carols, Daniel Drak is trying to make people think differently about fashion.
Drak, an instructor at Ryerson’s fashion school, has been involved in Mass Exodus, the School of Fashion’s end-of-year runway project, since his first undergraduate year in 2009. Throughout his creative and professional career, Drak has advocated for more diversity and inclusion, working on runway projects like Parallel, that dismantle gender norms and empower the LGBTQIA+ community. Now in his capacity as instructor, Drak wants to empower his students with the same message of self-empowerment, positivity and hope.
We visited Drak at the Mass Exodus office to find out more about what he’s up to these days.
(Video by Natasha Hermann and Isabella Perrone)
How have you tried to bring more diversity to the runway?
“It’s a lot of fun to get people to see themselves as models. Specifically in an industry where, for the longest time, they’ve been told that they’re not models. So by giving people that opportunity, putting them on stage and really celebrating their ability to go down that runway with an awesome, inspired look, it’s really just rewarding to make people smile…”
What are the challenges of putting together Mass Exodus?
“When you get a lot of different creatives in the room, obviously there’s a lot of different opinions, and Mass Ex has over a hundred stakeholders, so it can be really difficult to get that kind of consensus working with a team that big.”
What is the most important thing for you to teach your students?
“Perseverance and optimism. Really seeing that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel and that they can push through whatever challenges that they’re facing and keep going. I think that’s one of the best things we can get our students to take away from their experiences here.”
If there’s one thing you need more of in your life, what is it?
“I could always use more love, but I’m going to go with more baking. That’s something that I’m trying to actively do, learning how to bake, because I’m going to make it for myself going forward.”
What has been your proudest moment working in the fashion industry so far?
“There’s been so many of them, from my biggest show to my first time teaching, and my students’ first show. But I think my proudest moment is whenever I get people to think differently about fashion, to get them to see what we know about fashion to be [different], and to see that there is a way for this industry to be positive and to advance social change. That’s happened now at multiple events, and I see that same kind of pride and accomplishment every time.”