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Happy 10th Anniversary Ecole Holt Couture!

Happy 10th Anniversary Ecole Holt Couture!

cropped-648x702.jpgWe are celebrating our 10th year in operation! After more than 16 years in the planning, Elfriede Holtkamp, my mother, and the Founder of EHC, who is a European trained Couturier of 60 years practice in both Europe and Calgary, designed and curated the entire curriculum based on her years of professional experience. The school opened its doors in September 2007 followed by passionate promotional efforts, attracting our first intake of students in 2008. After the first run-through of this new program, we continued to edit and tweak in response to what we witnessed being achievable by novices, and in learning how to more effectively transfer all the knowledge and experience in real-time practice. As our environment evolves, we also continue to evolve.

Our desire is that each student thrives and successfully completes the program, which is ingrained into our psyches, we are invested in each student’s training and strive to encourage excellence in all aspects of their learning and in their practice. Its not about competition, or only just meeting standards, or passing the grade, we want every student to become confident and proficient in their skills and abilities to both design, sew, and make garments.

Our curriculum is based on learning modules that must be completed in succession including all prescribed projects – unsurprisingly every student’s project has turned out distinct from another’s throughout 10 years – this is partly due to the unique nature of true couture and tailoring, but mostly because of the very creative minds and talented designer and makers behind them.

There is no doubt in our minds, that to fully comprehend and competently perform at a professional level expected of properly trained couturiers and tailors, is the foundation upon on which long and sustainable careers are built. The direction that each graduate chooses to pursue following training is as varied as the individual, and there are no limits in a career in which there is always more to learn and explore.

Currently we have 5 students who are in their second year of the Certificate program, and although the maximum size of each class is 6, most classes have been a 2 – 3:1 student instructor ratio, providing almost personal instruction. Each of the two programs are 2 years in length with the Certificate being the foundation program, and the Diploma the advanced program.  They may be taken in succession, however, students may for various reasons wish to gain industry experience before returning to pursue the advanced program. Whatever the choice, the Certificate programme must be completed before undertaking the Diploma program.

Over 10 years, Elfriede and I [who also have been trained and mentored by Elfriede] loved teaching together, have taken on two EHC trained temporary teaching assistants, presented 9 Certificate and 5 Diploma awards to our graduates, and currently have more than a handful of accepted applicants on a waiting list for the next intake in 2019. EHC is licensed by Alberta Advanced Education to deliver the programs as an Alberta Private Career College, and is member of the Canadian and Alberta Association of Career Colleges.

Every year EHC celebrates the student’s progress and successes with an end-of-year or graduation dinner, and we go on a class field trip or a fabric buying outing, which heightens the excitement of every sewer! Over the years, the school has hosted its annual fashion runway show, which is open to the public, featuring student’s work that includes vintage pieces created by the founder, Elfriede. In the past we have partnered with Making Changes Association and Inspire YYC charitable organizations for the event, and have welcomed several morning-television local broadcast crews into our studio promoting the event. We’ve also been featured in various news publications. Thankfully, it all comes together with the support of many generous individuals and volunteers.

Ecole Holt Couture’s fashion showcase is an exhibition of student work and a runway show. The narrative is achieved through styling and modelling reflecting and enhancing each student’s work. The audience shouldn’t expect to see or buy the newest or latest trend at the end, but to discover and witness the intricacies and details of couture and tailoring, what is behind and indeed inside a high-quality garment, and what makes a couture garment such a good investment. But mostly, is about making connections with the student creators. After all, everyone desires to have and wear clothes that fit their unique needs and individual style… clothes made specifically and especially for them.

If you would like to attend, here is the link to the event: Ecole Holt Couture 2018 Showcase

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Couture and Watermelon salad…

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One of the greatest pleasures at Ecole Holt Couture is celebrating well deserved credit for the tremendous effort and progress that EHC students have made since beginning in September 2017. This year we are between Graduation goal posts, so we decided that a class luncheon date would be very welcome.

Bonterra Trattoria in Calgary’s belt line district was the restaurant of choice on this sunny Friday afternoon. Of particular enjoyment for me, as lead instructor of this class, was the luxury of just hanging out with 6 amazing talented individuals whom I normally don’t have the opportunity to relax and chat with.

Our teaching intern, an EHC Diploma graduate, is an invaluable asset to the group contributing many hours of advice and support to each of the students. Having plans to travel the world in the future, will do very well combining her couture training and experience, cultural background plus a university education under her belt. We are very glad to have her on staff while we can!

We are interested in our students beyond their training and performance at Ecole Holt Couture. Their range of ambitions is wide and far reaching from further developing a career in Indigenous Fashion [see also http://ifwtoronto.com/ ], or taking control of unique design ideas by introducing them fully developed to the market, and transitioning from or combining Eco rehabilitation with fashion, or offering truly appealing and well fitting fashion for the not-so-common shape or size, to a career based on theatrical fashion culture.

Whatever, their plans and aspirations are, the students will acquire the tools and skills to begin traveling upon their life-long creative journey which will certainly evolve from one form to the next, and I’m enthusiastic for each one of them.

In the meantime, required term projects must be completed and submitted and another school year will commence after a well-deserved summer break – or is it a longed-for period of uninterrupted sewing time! (Hm-mm, perhaps that may be my own aspiration for this summer).

Cheers! J

 

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String Theory | Not just a FABLE

I know I’ve posted this before, but with a few edits since the last time, it may be fun to read it again. To all my dressmaker, couturier, and tailoring friends out there, enjoy!

Once upon a time there was a very rich man and his wife spending some quality time together on their private south pacific island. Even with its remoteness it had every modern convenience. Solar collection panels for electricity, fresh running water, and even the most reliable Internet service. Everything you could possibly need was on the island. Beautiful gardens and house, dock, yacht, boat house, air landing strip, and several guest cottages dotted along its beach.

He arrived there following several extensive business trips, with his wife who had at the same time indulged in luxury retail therapy during their stops in Paris, Milan, London, and Tokyo. There was nothing that the couple could not buy. His wife had just procured several lengths of the most elaborately hand-embroidered French silk, the most luxurious Italian silk velvet, the finest English worsted wool, and the softest Kashmir wool. The very best that could be made, very expensive and each piece quite unique.

Because this man was also a very generous man, he regularly invited friends and relatives to his island, and he also invited complete strangers from time to time to share in his good fortune. This time he was interested in and invited three young, and very promising, fashion designers to the island as a reward for their contribution to one of the many charities he supported.

Each of the three individuals viewed this opportunity differently. One was very ambitious and viewed each day as potential for new business and so brought along his iPhone, laptop, latest look-book, and a few new design ideas to present, just in case. The other saw this as a good time to get on with a project or two without distractions, and so managed to pack a traveling sewing machine, sewing kit (thread, pins and scissors), some new patterns, but decided to try experimenting with locally made materials that may be available on the island. The third accepted this opportunity, as a time to retreat and to not worry about the future, only to fully absorb, and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

While visiting on this south pacific island, which was very tiny indeed as it turned out, it also became apparent to the guests just how remote it was from civilization. The owners of the island were kind and very hospitable and made the time to visit with their guests, making sure that each one was settled and quite comfortable.

On the first night they invited their three young guests to dinner at the big house. Nothing but the finest was offered; fish caught earlier that day, organically gown vegetables from the gardens, the most exotic fruit flown in from the nearest islands, and the finest wine available from around the globe chosen from their impressive collection in the wine cellar.

The conversation that evening moved spiritedly from each guest in turn to the next, revealing what each of their hopes and aspirations were for the future. The first was confident that they would become world famous, and that one day everyone would want to own one of their designs. Having good connections, hiring the most talented people, using the newest technology from around the world, and with the best marketing strategies, this would certainly be possible and highly profitable.

The second was hopeful, that with more experience and attracting venture capital (said with a wink directed toward the hosts) they would be able to manufacture their seasonal collections that would become highly popular and sell around the world. Many people will be employed in the process, solid supply chains will need to be set up, they’d make sure that only ethical methods were being supported at every stage, and if profit margins are substantial, it would be a successful career and quite satisfactory.

The third agreed that those goals are valid, but confessed to wanting to have the freedom to express their creativity every day, to being secure and content, and to make other people happy by offering something they really wanted and needed, would be very fulfilling. Supporting suppliers, artisans and specialized craftspeople does sustain jobs locally, as well as globally, by keeping these special skills alive and well. To feel that what they are doing is a positive step in the right direction, trying to be responsible in protecting our earth and its limited resources, appreciating and treating people with dignity by paying them a living wage, that is what I want and am working toward.

The others quietly sniggered at this revelation, and privately thought, “admirable, but how narrow, utterly impractical and unrealistic those goals are”. Curiously, the rich man’s wife became intrigued and asked more questions about how this path could be a viable career choice. After all, doesn’t one need rather high monetary returns to be able to live well and be happy? “For instance, we have everything one could possibly want or need. A very good income, good health, access to the best of everything, we can buy anything we desire. All this doesn’t come without a lot of hard work, money and sacrifice of course”. No could disagree on these points, and all continued to enjoy a pleasant evening of good food and wine, with lively conversation and exchange of ideas.

Later when asked by the three guests, the rich man’s wife was delighted to show them her exquisite fabric finds, knowing they would share in her excitement. As expected, all three were indeed thrilled. Also, as an almost automatic reaction, they offered to design for her something very special using these fabrics. “Oh, but, I wouldn’t just let anyone touch these precious fabrics, I could only trust someone with considerable knowledge and experience”. They asked whom she knew, that had such knowledge and experience. “Well regrettably, I don’t really know anyone to fit the description and I’m a quite hesitant about asking my friends for a referral – they do like to keep things like that a secret!”

The first young designer took that as a perfect opportunity to present her one of the most fashion-forward designs to date, and would start on it straight away. The second, began to research the latest trends and present the best for her choosing. Meanwhile, the third asked her questions about what she dreamed for herself, what her social obligations and requirements were for the coming year, and what type of things she loved to wear that made her feel happy. “Thank you for your offers, and it is all wonderful” she said, “but it still leaves the dilemma of who is capable to ‘make’ these amazing pieces for me without wasting or ruining the fabric?”

Not to worry, the first designer said, “I have some good people behind me who will quickly get it done right”. The second designer remarked, “I could do it myself, it won’t take long. I can usually run things up in a few hours, a couple of days at most!” The third’s reply was “I would love to make it for you, but it will take some time. I want to make sure everything fits you just right, and makes you look outstanding. Your fabrics will deserve the utmost care and attention, for the most part they will be hand-sewn”. The rich man’s wife considered all three offers.

Unfortunately, during their stay on the island, the sky became dark for three days and then a huge tropical storm followed causing much damage in its path. It knocked out the Internet service, the dock was smashed apart, and the air landing strip was littered with debris from broken tree branches. The generators and batteries were reserved for the barest of essentials such as pumping fresh water from their tanks, and supplying the kitchen with electricity. All lives were safe and secure, no one was harmed. Repairs on the island started immediately but would take some time.

The first designer conceded, “Well that pretty much finishes my plans, without the internet I can’t communicate with my team, my laptop battery is low and in need of recharging, and without the internet…”. The second designer lamented that without power the sewing machine was useless, and it was impossible without the right patterns. The third said, “No problem. Let’s get started”.

In wonderment, the rich man’s wife asked how this is possible without any equipment! “I have my hands, I never travel without my emergency sewing kit, and if you have a ball of string somewhere, that’s all I need.” And so, proceeded to take her measurements with the ball of string, sketched some ideas on paper for her approval, and drafted the patterns using old bed sheets that were soon headed for recycling. After assembling the mock-up designs, they were fitted exactly to her figure. Then used as the pattern to cut her prized fabrics.

During the days following, the rich man’s wife witnessed how the garments were being created piece by piece, all with the greatest care and attention to detail. Every pattern piece was skillfully cut, matched and hand sewn. The garments were fitted upon the rich man’s wife several times making sure they were comfortable and flattering to her figure. Then – one day the clothes were complete! “Oh my, I have never in my life seen so much care taken, such skilled craftsmanship, such beauty, but mostly I have not felt so incredibly comfortable in my clothes”, and she added, “and I feel so good about the way they make me look!” She noted, “I could see your joy as you worked, and now I understand why you love creating such wonderful things! How can I thank you enough for what you have done for me?”

The young couturier replied, “I must thank you, the opportunity you have given me has been priceless! If you are satisfied with the results, may I present you a detailed invoice of what you have received in exchange for my work.” The rich man’s wife read over the invoice very closely, while the couturier sat quietly trying to interpret her varying facial gestures.

Thinking that there may be objections to field, the couturier added that what she is paying for were the years of training and experience that were required to reach this level of expertise, the number of hours spent in carefully handling her fabric – that had also been hand crafted by others, and to put a fine point on it, she was the only person in the world who owned these pieces designed just for her.

“Goodness”, she said, “I’ve just come to realize what a treasure you are, and I certainly have no objection to the price!” She happily compensated the young couturier, and never again did she want what everyone else could buy! Would you?

Not the End -Just the Beginning

– by Jutta Holtkamp

 

 

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Couture Lives Here: École Holt Couture to Host Annual Showcase Nov 12th

Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of working with École Holt Couture (EHC), school of couture sewing and fashion design. Not just an exceptional client, EHC is doing some exceptional things for fashion in Calgary. As far as the local “scene” goes, the school has undeniably made its mark. And yet, it remains one of our cities best-kept secrets – something I’d like to see change.
Not known as a fashion capital exactly, C-town’s industry is most definitely growing. In 2016, I was part of the launch of the Canadian International Fashion Film Festival that chose Calgary as its home. More recently, I was introduced to The Field Group, the city’s first designer coworking studio housed within The Bridge Cowork space downtown (a cool story in and of itself). This, of course, is in addition to everything else “fashion” that has been emerging in our city as of late.
Perhaps this is one happy consequence of the local economic downturn, which seems to be galvanizing people to pursue their passions. Or, maybe it’s just indicative of a city that’s reinventing itself, shedding old definitions and claiming its cosmopolitan status. In any case, it’s a shift that I, like many others, am happy to welcome.
École Holt Couture launched in 2007. Put simply, it teaches its apprentices the craft of authentic haute couture sewing – the same used by those in the great fashion houses of Europe. It’s the real deal and there’s nothing quite like it in the country. The school’s curriculum, which took 10 years to complete, was created by founder and distinguished couturier Elfriedé Holtkamp and combines her 60 years of experience with classic techniques.
A fifth-generation Calgarian, I’m fascinated by how others end up residing here. I’m particularly curious about Elfriedé who is as bona fide a local as I, but who is Romanian born and trained in Europe.
I’m not asking questions though; I’m just reveling_DSC5115a in the fact that we’re home to someone and something so unique. Although not an aftereffect of the downturn – École Holt Couture’s story originating long ago – I do believe, as our attentions gravitate to new opportunities, it is the school’s time to shine.
Not only that, the industry seems right for custom apparel with a market leaning more towards individuality over name brands. Oft associated with the intangible designs donning the high fashion runways of New York and Paris, couture is not as exclusive as many have come to believe. EHC’s couturiers are here and they’re making beautiful, custom garments as we speak.
I’m talking about this now because, on November 12th, École Holt Couture will be hosting their annual exhibit and runway event. EHC Showcase 2017 will highlight designs by the school’s graduating couturiers and feature a vintage collection by Elfriedé Holtcamp. This year’s theme is winter-inspired which is appropriate as the season officially turns.
I’m as excited about EHC’s upcoming Showcase as I am about the future of school and its role at the forefront, not just of couture, but also of fashion in general in Calgary. For tickets or more info, visit www.ehcfashionshow.myevent.com.
As always, much love and respect.
~ evie
Evie Eshpeter | Director & Founder, Jelle
403.918.4292 | evie@jellepr.com
Instagram: @ Jellepublicrelations
 

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Tips about Contracts and your [successful] Couture Business

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As a business operator, and yes this includes artists, dressmakers, couturiers and tailors, we all use contracts, everyone should be aware of and know what a legally binding contract is.

Very few creative types like to talk about them, and like even less to think about them until something goes wrong. The purpose of designing your own contract for your business is not only to secure work and lay out the terms of getting paid, but also planning what would happen if [or when] something doesn’t go to plan.

So, exactly what is a contract? More specifically what are the elements of a legally binding contract. We kind of make and fulfill contracts everyday without realizing it, like agreeing to meet up with friends for lunch and you promise to pay for desserts ‘if’ you all go the restaurant of your choice this time. This is a contract if your friends mutually agree to it – by phone, email or text message. What?!

If one of your friends couldn’t make it to lunch, not really a problem for you, but likely hugely disappointing if no one turned up but you. But what if everyone turned up but you? I’m guessing hard feelings would be one major downside, but you also did break an agreement or rather you breached a contract. Your friends could take you to task over it (in court), especially if they could prove your offer, that you broke your promise and they were put out of pocket as a result! Say what?!

In all seriousness though, that probably wouldn’t happen, but it could be enforceable in a court of Law. [Very briefly, Contract law covers contracts, etc. as differentiated from Criminal Law: conduct perceived as threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people.  But a breach of contract could certainly overlap with breaking a criminal law]. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t have all the details, but I do know this from my college business law class.

A legally binding contract has 3 crucial elements (plus 2 provisions).

  1. An offer. You offer your couture service or offer your creation for sale [see point 5] personally, online, by email, however you put it out there.
  2. Acceptance. Someone accepts your offer [see point 4], personally, online, by email, however they let you know.
  3. Consideration. There is an exchange of something of value: cash, services, goods or specifically to withhold an exchange of cash, service, or goods.

Provisions:

  1. You must be of legal age of consent, and/or of sound mind and body or fully competent to participate.
  2. And the object must be legal. If what you are selling or buying is illegal, then the contract is not valid or void. The object is not misrepresented.

Both written and verbal agreements are legal. Verbal agreements are legal contracts even though they were not memorialized in a writing. Assuming the contract is valid, the verbal agreement between two parties is binding although it is very hard to prove if it were in dispute. Beware, even emails and text messaging can constitute a legally binding agreement!

The body of a contract also should include essentials like date(s), the names of the signatories, the details, and the ‘what ifs?’ What if something were to go sideways, or someone didn’t fulfill their end of the agreement, such as non-performance or interference with the other party’s performance. This then would become a ‘breach of contract’ or a broken contract.

It’s prudent to identify what happens if your client doesn’t turn up for an appointed fitting, or doesn’t have the money to pay you on time. Or what if your client is unhappy with your work during the process, how can you prevent that from becoming an unsolvable problem. If everyone knows in advance, what the possible problems and consequences are, commonly known to happen from time to time, then all parties do much better in preventing them from arising in the first place.

Informing all parties involved about what is expected of them and what they can expect from you prevents heartache and hardship. Try to avoid being overly wordy, but be clear. No one wants or expects things to go wrong doing business, but it occasionally happens. No one wants a surprise ending, everyone wants what they expected.

Every transaction can be a learning experience. You’ll soon figure out what works best for you, and especially what doesn’t. The path to success really does look like this:

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Ecole Holt Couture ‘Dress Code’ fashion event

 

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Lesson #2 – Petite is Powerful – tips for a great fit.

If you are like me, considered a petite size, then your proportions are slightly shorter from the shoulders to the waist than a standard size, and you all know what I think about ‘standard’ sizes. But being ‘petite’ may also reflect that you may perhaps be relatively shorter in stature than most of your contemporaries in North America. Not at all if you are in most parts of Asia and in some parts of Europe.

Wearing off-the-rack and ready-made garments always seem to appear slightly ‘off’ because, petite manufactured garments are mostly only adjusted for the above mentioned variance, or worse – adjusted for shorter arm and leg length as well which may not apply at all to you (or to me). These adjusted variances may greatly reduce the choice in ready-made or off-the-rack for you to look amazing.

If you want to look your perfect-size ‘perfect’, then every component needs to be made in proportion to the whole. That doesn’t mean a petite cannot wear a large pattern print, or conversely that being tall you cannot wear small prints. Only that the proportions must be adjusted accordingly as is true to haute couture and bespoke tailoring.

In this example, notice that in her riding jacket all the components – lapel size and stance, buttoning, pockets, sleeve length (and armhole circumference), waist cinch, and jacket length are all relative to proportion. The trousers again are the right length and leg width. Any one of these elements out of proportion will throw the whole look ‘off’.

A petite can look positively overwhelmed or underwhelmed because of the lack of choice. Remember that in garment manufacturing, realistically it can only serve a small section of the market offering a limited range of ‘sizes’ to be profitable. That pretty much excludes the other 90% of the population. It is not you, you are a perfect size.

Cheers! J

 

 

 

 

 

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