Category Archives: Calgary
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.
At EHC we are very fortunate to have talented students with varied skills. ‘You’re Invited’ was created by one such student, Amy Zia, as a light-hearted look at what we do as couturiers! But, don’t be fooled, what we do is highly professional whether for special occasions or to create a functional and personal business wardrobe.
This fashion event is created to help raise awareness and funds for Making Changes Association, who provides hundreds and hundreds of women with functional and appropriate work wardrobes each year. Their clients are all making the effort to re-enter the workforce, and perhaps have few resources to do so.
Making Changes programs include guidance on writing resumes, and networking to gain employment, to those who perhaps may never have had to provide these qualifications before.
The wardrobes that are provided are all donated, recycled, reused, and up-cycled from high quality garments that are either brand new or gently used, giving the garments a new life as well.
So although, EHC teaches the skills to create brand new custom couture made garments, we support, believe in what and how Making Changes not only uses perfectly good clothing as their main program resource, but
More importantly, we support and share their values in how they treat women and teens struggling to improve their life situations, by treating them like family. Almost all of the day to day operations are handled by wonderful volunteers who have time and expertise to share.
You are invited, to attend this event! Just click on ‘buy tickets‘, and join us in supporting this wonderful organization.
Ecole Holt Couture School will also have a booth at the event if you would like to know more about us, and become part of this wonderful highly skilled, hand-made and crafted market!
At EHC we are always looking to use 1) natural fibers, 2) environmentally friendly and sustainable fabrics, 3) to recycle, re-purpose and up-cycle already-made garments. And every now and then we come across very interesting new products! We are thrilled with sea fish leather, which is prepared from skins that would otherwise be discarded from commercial fish processing. Sea fish leather comes in all manner of surface textures and colors – and NO, it really doesn’t smell of fish at all!
Stanley Major: “The attraction of the leather has to do firstly with the re-use of a product that is normally discarded. The scale patterns, although different for different species of fish, all share the characteristic of having no counterpart in the animal world. The environmental aspect of the leather is also of interest to consumers” www.sealeatherwear.com
Please read the rest of the article: The Reel Truth About Fish Leather!
Excited to find Elfriede Holtkamp (EHC’s Founder) contributions to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede, has been published in a new book ‘Calgary’s Stampede Queens’ by Glenbow Museum Librarian and Archivist, Jennifer Hamblin. The new book documents the history of Calgary Stampede royalty.
Thanks to my husband, Ian Rogan, of the LV Greyes Partnership, who on a research trip came upon the book. Following his instincts and knowing of Elfriede’s involvement with the Calgary Stampede Queen contest, wondered whether she had been referenced in the book.
As it turns out, there are a number of photographs as well as a newspaper article from 1968, making reference to the work Elfriede did. Between the years of 1964 and 1973, she created outfits for the Stampede Queen and her Ladies in Waiting (later Princesses).
Recalling her association with the Calgary Stampede, Elfriede explains it all began with a serendipitous conversation between her husband, Hermann Holtkamp, and Mr. Jack Gow, a member of the Associated Canadian Travelers (ACT) Stampede Queen committee, whose wife had been designing the Queen’s and her Ladies in Waiting outfits for the past six years. In talking, it was mentioned, that Elfriede was an accomplished seamstress working in Calgary. Shortly after in 1963 Mrs. Orpha Gow, asked if she would consider making the outfits.
In preparation, and while awaiting the final outcome of the contest that year, Elfriede took the measurements of all 20 young women! Meanwhile, planning the colours and styles for the Queens and Princesses, finalizing designs and calculating fabric requirements for the Stampede Queen committee to source. By the time the Queen and Princesses were chosen at the end of May, the sumptuous wool fabrics and brocades were supplied and the work could begin. Fittings took place in early June, a particularly rainy month in Calgary. Often travelling was difficult because of the extremely muddy conditions of country roads. Elfriede, recalls working all-night during a particularly heavy thunder storm listening to the late night news announcing concern about possible lighting strikes.
At the time, Elfriede’s atelier was staffed with just two seamstresses. With the very short lead time available, many hours of overtime were put in by everyone. Without the hard work of her employees, six tailored Western style riding suits, fully lined with embellishments, would never have been accomplished for Stampede opening events in early July.
During these years, Elfriede was also asked to create outfits for some honoured guests of the Calgary Stampede including Lady Patricia Brabourne (eldest daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten) who in 1974, succeeded her cousin Lady Patricia Ramsay, formerly HRH Princess Patricia of Connaught, as Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (SEE PPCLI BLOG) Katharine Duchess of Kent, first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, and Norah Willis Michener, wife of Roland Michener, 20th Governor General of Canada.
Having opportunity for just a single fitting, measurements for honoured guests were sent in advance. In one instance, measurements supplied were obviously taken or recorded in error. Suspicion they were erroneous were confirmed when Elfriede met the Duchess at a pre Stampede event “and I discreetly reviewed her figure”.
For security reasons, fittings for both Lady Brabourne and the Duchess of Kent were held at the Palliser Hotel, where they were staying. On these appointments, Elfriede was chauffeured to and from the hotel and escorted to their suites. Elfriede recalls it being a special time, Lady Patricia Brabourne shared some personal thoughts and a few family photos with her, in particular a recent photograph of her son’s birthday present which was a miniature horse tied with a large bow around its belly.
Another year, the Governor General Roland Michener and his wife Norah Willis Michener arrived in Calgary for Stampede via the Royal Train. As the spouse of a Governor General is titled, the Chatelaine of Rideau Hall, the fitting was held in their private carriage. Even with only limited time and one fitting guests of honour remarked on how out beautifully fitted and finished their costumes were.
On one memorable occasion, Elfriede remembers the Stampede Queen took a tumble from her horse. With a great tear in the knee, they sent the riding trousers to Elfriede to mend. With time at a premium and needed for the next event, the entire Stampede entourage made a detour to pick up the trousers. Unfortunately, no camera was at hand to record the impressive convoy of ten vehicles with RCMP escort in front of Elfriede’s atelier! … cheers! J
You’ve got your studio planned out, your theme, your furniture and equipment all ready to move in. Paint colors and wall coverings chosen, except you still need to decide how to light the entire space.
Light is light, all you do is flip the switch, right?
You may not completely understand what you need for your space, but like any keen observer you can learn a lot by visiting trendy and upscale retail shops and restaurants and also professional office spaces to find out what appeals to you. And like any research you do, you should evaluate why something appeals or works for you and why it doesn’t.
What there is to know about lighting is almost overwhelming. About its various functions, about the myriad of products available, how lighting effects influence customer behavior, its reflective properties on various surfaces and so on. The great thing is that there is also ton of information freely available on the internet.
Assuming the primary existence of your studio is for work and to meet with your clients, lighting it is pretty straight forward. Natural lighting is a must, and not just because it makes you feel and look better. It has been proven that working under artificial light for prolonged periods of time cause us to be less alert and feel more stressed.
Windows near your work surface is very important, but do consider the direction of incoming light over your work so you don’t work in your own shadow. You may need to re-orient your work surfaces to achieve the most effective illumination. Light coming in from north facing windows is normally more consistent throughout the day and generally better than south facing – which can be extremely hot, glaring and tends to fade textiles rapidly.
Working evenings or during dark days, you will also need good ‘general lighting’ which means artificial overhead light. It should be evenly spaced and with sufficient coverage so that there are no dark spots in the studio.
You’ll also need ‘task lighting’ – direct light to illuminate particular working areas shadowed by equipment for instance. Next to your sewing machine, on your drawing board, beside the laptop or comfortable chair that you use to do hand sewing all benefit from additional lighting. Set up several independently switched task lights and use them as you need them. Research types of fixtures with flexible arms and with light bulbs that cast diffused light and that do not create a lot of extra heat.
Your fitting room will benefit by a source of natural light, plus artificial lighting that will flatter skin tones and won’t alter how the coloring of fabric appears. Again consider the direction of the light to prevent casting irritating shadows.
The more decorative spaces in your studio will likely be the entrance and reception area. Although you may not have a say in how this is lit, the entrance just outside your studio should be well lit inviting your clients in. Your reception area should be treated similar to a retail space. The fundamental principle being: first impressions are what count. If the entrance and reception areas are well illuminated, it underlines the assumption of convincing design and work on the inside.
Lighting must have good color, contrast and balance between different surfaces to accomplish interesting effects which suit the mood and theme of your studio. By using several layers of lighting you can create an appealing hierarchy of light that will pull the space together bringing it to life. These layers are defined as Ambient, Accent and Perimeter, Display and Decorative lighting, and you could easily employ all of these techniques in one space.
All bulbs are rated based on the color of light they emit. This is a general guide to Color Temperature measured in degrees Kelvin (K), if you happen to come across the information.
Spec 35,40, or 50: 3,500-5,000 K – Good for task lighting
Cool White: 4,100 K – Reasonable for general lighting
Natural Sunshine: 5,000 K – Great for general lighting
Daylight Deluxe: 6,500 K – Very Bright (may be too bright for small spaces)
Ambient is an overall restful and pleasant level of down-lighting. It can be adjustable with dimmer controls. Accent lighting adds depth, contrast and creates focal points upon your sample garments and design accents, but be careful not to add confusion with too many focal points.
Perimeter – floor (up-light) and valance (up or down) light – aids in lighting vertical surfaces. This technique can direct light up on tall shelving and contributes to your space appearing to be larger, more open and welcoming.
Display case lighting sources are usually hidden and only used to highlight small pieces. And finally, Decorative lighting such as a hanging chandelier can make a statement in itself, but be careful not to overdo this kind of lighting as it can easily divert attention away from its primary objective.
At Ecole Holt Couture School we use overhead fluorescent fixtures with additional cool-temperature track lighting and Venetian blinds controlling light coming in from west facing windows the entire length of the studio. While the fitting room has a north facing window, a crystal overhead chandelier and another fixture directly over top the large wall mounted mirror. This works extremely well all year round during the daytime as well as at night.
Transportable task lighting is always nearby, and some students have discovered that wearing headlamps with LED lights (used for camping) and finger lights very useful for doing handwork at home where the lighting may not be as extensive or flexible.
These are just a few examples of lighting applications, but another useful technique (other than for fitting rooms) is in using mirrors, not only for reflecting light, but also for making your space appear to be larger than it is. We will explore this technique more in the future. J
A couturier, tailoring, or any artisan studio requires you to personalize it at the same time make it feel comfortable for your clients, in addition to room for working and storage. An important part of your branding or marketing is how your client sees you in your workspace, and is a reflection upon you personally.
The minute a client comes through the door they should feel connected, easily get their bearings, view your displays, and get an overall impression of who you are. The space shouldn’t be confusing in its design or message.
A bit of background info: Retailers calculate every centimeter of floor space as potential [profit = sales dollars / costs / sq. foot]. Include moving-around-space between the displays (tables, racks, and shelving), and just the right amount of attention given to the design of the entrance, flooring, wall area, ceiling/lighting, smell and sound, they all act as the canvass and give context to the product for sale.
Basically, boutiques with wide aisles and ample space between products on display, and less product out on the floor equates to higher-end product for sale. The profit margin on these products is usually much higher per unit. A lot of attention is given to staging – lighting effects, sounds (music) and smell (fragrances) even if the customer is consciously unaware of the effort behind it.
Shops with narrow aisles, jamb packed shelves and racks, only general lighting and small behind the scenes storage space for inventory indicates a less expensive product on offer. Profit margins per unit are much smaller and therefore rely on a higher volume of sales with quicker turn over.
This is only a general guide and not definitive, but illustrates the importance of conscious design in the space. And neither scenario indicates or guarantees the actually quality of the product itself.
Studios are frequently open by appointment only or open limited hours to the general public. They may be one single open plan area. Clients love to see artisans at work dissolving the mystery of how things are created, but clearly appreciate defined parameters so they know where they, as the client, fit in.
Making your client feel comfortable during a visit to your studio is extremely important. Whether it simply means offering them a place to hang their coat, a clean sturdy wooden stool off to the side of your workbench and a place to set down their freshly brewed organic coffee served up in a perfectly clean mug, or a lush upholstered sofa with your quality printed portfolio splayed out neatly in front, freshly cut flowers and cold Perrier served in Waterford crystal on a unique coffee table. It means you have considered your client’s experience.
Every studio needs some storage space for stock and deliveries. In my opinion, it is best left behind screens or in closed off rooms. No matter how on top of things you may be, clients make judgements about you based on your timeliness and tidiness or lack of it. Sample fabrics on display is not considered inventory – you get the idea.
Make sure the entry to your studio is inviting whether it’s wide open or intimately private and make sure it speaks of the entire space. And the mind loves to make order out of confusion – so the less confusion the better. Your client’s attention will ready and not hung up about confused messages in your studio.
If one element is unseen, this one is no less important than all of them put together. That is to keep the air in your studio fresh. There are few things worse than being assaulted by the smell of stale food or other unpleasant odors. Masking malodour with fragrances or room deodorizers doesn’t work; it only makes matters worse, a definite turn-off.
Natural light and lighting is essential to a studio for more than just working in. It creates desired mood very effectively – just be aware of the fact that people have different reactions to lighting just as they do to colour. However, this topic will be better explored separately in another blog. Have a look at the following for some ideas of the better and the could-be-better – you be the judge. Cheers! J.