The global fashion industry is shining a big spotlight on British Columbia.
The Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, B.C., has been named the best fashion school in the country and among the top undergraduate programs in the world by Business of Fashion (BOF) magazine.
The magazine’s annual assessment is determined by the BOF Education Council, which includes representatives from the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue Italia.
The council judges according to an institution’s global influence, student experiences and the career successes of graduates.
“I think it’s about time,’ said 2019 graduate Wendy Schindler, who recently launched her own line of luxury evening wear for plus-size women called Devotion Designs.
Schindler said the program’s focus on the business aspect of the industry, as well as a new course about how to create less fashion waste as a designer, were highlights for her.
Schindler and classmates also had access to technology they say gave them an advantage in the field.
“I was able to get a lot of use with a laser cutter, which most students likely wouldn’t get access to,” said 2017 graduate Olivia Bickerstaff, whose Vancouver-based swimsuit line Akoya Swim began as a final project at school.
Bickerstaff also praised her teachers who, she said, all have industry experience and keep an open-door policy to help graduates with career advice.
Acting dean and former graduate Andhra Goundrey said the global recognition is validation and the program is “thrilled to be on the map with such good company.”
That company includes Parsons School of Design in New York City and Central Saint Martins in the United Kingdom, where graduates include Alexander McQueen and John Galliano.
Goundrey said graduates are working with many of B.C.’s recognized apparel companies such as Lululemon, Arc’teryx and Mountain Equipment Co-op.
“Industry tells us they’re hiring our grads because they want them up to speed … and they can get up and running right away,” she said.
Sam Stringer, administrative coordinator at the Wilson School and a 2016 graduate, has shown her eponymous line of custom evening wear at Vancouver Fashion Week and said the increase in events on the West Coast has elevated the region’s fashion reputation beyond yoga wear and hiking clothes.
Stringer said the diversity and multiculturalism among West Coast designers inspire a lot of creative designs in the classroom and in the field, and events like Vancouver Fashion Week have showcased that to the world.
Kwantlen’s program is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary. About 20 students graduate annually.
BOF’s Education Council collected data from 66 global institutions and from surveys completed by 13,500 students and alumni.