High school student eyes world fashion design crown

Fashion will become a district-wide program next September

Eric Hamber secondary student Donna Lu celebrated winning gold in the fashion technology division of the national Canadian Skills Competition two weeks ago. But her fashion design and merchandising teacher Nina Ho expects tears when Lu starts training for the world competition in Germany next year.

"There's going to be a lot of tears, a lot of frustration," Ho said. "It's going to get to the part where she's going to hate me, she doesn't want to see another piece of fabric. But then we'll come out at the other end after it's all done. It's like, 'Wow, I'm part of Team Canada.'"

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The judges at the world event in Leipzig will seek top-notch construction. "It's not so much how creative you are in terms of this competition, it's how well you can do something," said Ho. "It's like an athlete. You just keep training, training, training to get really good at whatever it is you're doing."

Lu, who graduates from Hamber next month, won gold for the jean jacket she sewed in six hours at Skills Canada B.C.'s regional competition, gold for the denim coat she made in eight hours at provincials, and gold for the wool coat she produced in 12 hours at nationals. Competitors receive patterns in advance. Seventeen-year-old Lu made three practice coats in 40 hours over two weeks.

The collar and armholes couldn't be altered and the final design had to include two pockets and a central front zipper. Lu closed the darts in the pattern to fashion smoother seams, constructed four pockets instead of two and embellished the back of the sleeves. Her sky-blue coat is shorter in the front, longer in the back.

"It's the mullet look," Lu said. Hamber's fashion program first participated in Skills Canada competitions in 1997, winning gold that year. Lu is the second student to progress to worlds. The first student went in 2009 after winning silver because the gold-winner withdrew.

The fashion program at the South Cambie school will become a district program in September.

Lu is enrolling part-time at Simon Fraser University this fall. She'll study part-time at Hamber so Ho can help her train. A fashion consultant from Montreal will fly to Vancouver to provide expertise and Lu will visit her in Montreal.

Ho says Lu will initially practise 10 hours a week and at least 30 hours a week when she completes her university courses.

Lu doesn't know whether she wants to pursue fashion beyond Germany. "Even though I might not be going into fashion, it is a great opportunity to have, and not many people do get this chance, so I might as well take it while I have it," she said. She first travelled to Europe with the school's Eyes on Design tour of London and Paris last year.

Skills Canada B.C. is a nonprofit organization and charity composed of volunteers from industry, labour, education and government that promotes technical and trade skills among youth. Templeton secondary student Luis Aguilar won bronze at nationals for baking. Categories include 3D character computer animation, carpentry and welding.

crossi@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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