Category Archives: designer labels

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 ], 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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Happy New Year 2016!

We posted this one year ago, but still a good story to illustrate a point about the value of couture sewing skills…Happy 2016! I’ll leave this one with you as well: Without Craft, inspiration is a mere weed in the wind.

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 panels for electricity, running water, and even 4G Internet access. Everything you could possibly need was there. A beautiful house, airstrip, dock, boat house, deep-sea fishing boat, and several guest cottages on its beaches.

He arrived following several strenuous business trips with his wife, who had completed a major shopping spree from Paris, Milan, London, to Tokyo. There was nothing that the couple could not buy. His wife had just procured lengths of the most elaborately hand-embroidered French silk, the softest Kashmir wool, the most luxurious Italian silk velvet, and the finest English worsted. The best that could be made, very expensive and all quite unique.

Because this man was also very generous he regularly invited friends and relatives to his island, but he also invited strangers from time to time to share in his good fortune. This time he 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 saw this opportunity differently. One was very ambitious and viewed each day as potential for new business and so brought an iPhone, laptop, latest look-book, and a few new design ideas to present, just in case. The other viewed this as a good time to get on with a project or two without distractions, and so managed to pack a compact sewing machine, sewing kit (thread, pins and scissors), and some new patterns but decided to investigate locally made materials on the island to experiment with. The third accepted this, as a time to relax and not worry about anything. To absorb, and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

While on the island, which was very tiny indeed, it became apparent just how remote it was from civilization. The owners of the island were very hospitable and made time to visit with each of their guests, making sure that everyone was quite comfortable. One night they invited the three young people to dinner at the big house. Nothing but the finest was offered, the freshest fish caught just hours earlier, the best quality vegetables and most exotic fruit flown in from the nearest islands, and the finest wines.

The conversation turned to each guest to find out what their hopes and aspirations were for the future. One was confident that someday they would become world famous, so that everyone would want to own one of their designs. The other was hopeful, that with experience and some help, they would be able to manufacture highly popular collections selling around the world. The third confessed to wanting to be creative every day, to being content, and wanting to make other people happy. The others all sniggered at the third’s response, and privately thought how impractical and unrealistic that would be.

Curiously, the rich man’s wife asked more questions about why this would be a considered career choice. After all, doesn’t one need a lot of money to be able to have everything one’s heart desires? “For instance, we have everything one could possibly want, a good income, good health, and access to the best of everything. This doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice of course”. All had to agree, and continued to enjoy a pleasant evening of good food, conversation and exchange of ideas.

Later, the rich man’s wife was delighted to show the three young people her exquisite fabric finds, knowing they would share in her excitement. As expected, all three were indeed thrilled. Also, as an almost instant reaction, they offered to design something for her using these fabrics. “Oh, but, I couldn’t just let anyone touch these precious fabrics, only someone with considerable experience”. They asked who she knew, that had such experience. “Well, I don’t really. I’m a bit hesitant about asking anyone!”

The first young designer offered to create the most fashion-forward designs, and would start on it straight away. The second, began to research the latest trends to present. Meanwhile, the third asked questions about what the rich man’s wife dreamed for herself, what were her requirements for the coming year, and what type of things she loves to wear. “This is all wonderful, but it still leaves the dilemma of who will make these amazing designs for me?”

Not to worry the first designer said, “I have some really good people behind me who will get it done right”, the second designer remarked, “I will make 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, it will take some time. I want to make sure everything fits just right, and makes you look marvelous. Your fabrics will deserve the utmost attention, for the most part they will be hand-sewn”.

That night a tropical storm knocked out the 4G Internet access, the docks were damaged, and the airstrip was littered with debris from broken branches. Fuel supplies were so low that the generators couldn’t be run for more than just the bare essentials – such as pumping fresh water. Repairs 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, but I can’t do it without electricity”. The second designer complained that without power the sewing machine was useless, and it was too late to order patterns on-line. 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 on old bed sheets. 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 following days, 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 was skillfully matched at each seam. The garments were fitted a few 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 such craftsmanship, such beauty, but mostly I have not felt so comfortable in my clothes, and felt so good about the way they make me look! I could see your joy while you worked, and why you love creating such wonderful things! How can I thank you enough for what you have done for me?” The young Couturier replied, “The opportunity you’ve given me has been priceless! Here is a detailed invoice of what you have received in exchange for my expertise.” The rich man’s wife never again wanted what everyone else could buy! Do you?

(Not The End) Just The Beginning – Cheers J

Ecole Holt Couture 2015 Fashion Event opening welcome

Ecole Holt Couture 2015 Fashion Event opening welcome


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Are you a Couturier, are you a Tailor?

389x421Watching a video about makers of fine watches on the Isle of Man, they make every segment of these watches from scratch. It takes several months to create one. Only about a dozen are made each year – and yes they sell at £100,000.00. The present day master at Roger W. Smith, said he doesn’t understand today’s world of fast and cheapness.

He lives in a world where you need to be aware of and think about everything to make a thing of such beauty. Although Roger W. Smith makes mechanical art, it is totally functional too.


But, what he said resonated with me enough to respond, “yes, in mine too”.

In my world, it is not about how fast and how cheap you can make something. In my world you definitely think about the quality of materials and quality of workmanship. In my world, you put your heart and soul into everything you make…

Ask yourself:

Did you design it?
Did you plan everything with your client in mind?
Did you take every measurement?
Did you decide upon each seam placement?
Did you create the pattern with every stroke of the pencil?
Did you decide which fabric was best to use for each layer?
Did you think about and decide how best to support each component?
Did you perform the fittings on your client taking every curve and detail into consideration?
Did you create every segment with all of its detailing and embellishments?
Did your creation serve its function as well as its form?
Were you satisfied that every element was just right, even those that are hidden and will never be seen?
Was your client satisfied?

If you said yes to all of the above, then congratulations – you are a couturier, or congratulations – you are a tailor.
In my world, not everything sells for $100,000.00. It would be very nice, I have to admit, but price is between the client and the couturier (or tailor)! – J


To inquire about enrolment contact



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ECO GLAM – Save the Date! November 17th, 2013

Ecole Holt Couture – School of Couture Sewing Tailoring and Design’s 4th annual Fashion Event Fundraiser for Making Changes Association Calgary – ECO GLAM – is on Sunday November 17th, at the Calgary Winter Club from 1pm to 5pm.

If you wonder how ecology and glamour could possibly synchronize, then you might want to see this year’s fashion event.  Ecole Holt Couture’s shares its view on how using high quality materials, extreme craftsmanship, and on how focusing on individual style can sustain the well-being of the planet, take care of people, and produce a profitable bottom line.

It may still be a secret to most, but it is no surprise that true Couture and Tailoring have honoured these concepts for a very long time. Wouldn’t you like to do something that you really love doing, know that you are doing your best to do the right thing, and earn a living doing it?

Let’s look at ‘Glamour’. Something that most of us can only aspire to, is really expense, and is totally impractical. Right?

The idea of supporting Fair trade practices, paying living wages, working and living conditions, global well being, “blah, blah, blah”- well is so – totally not about fashion. Right?

Wrong! We only don’t care about what we don’t know about, doesn’t affect us, or can’t change, but once we become aware of something it affects our consciousness and we can see and look at things from a different perspective, and affect change – even at our own seemingly insignificant level.

For most of us wearing clothes that actually last longer than a few months seems a bit weird because we  can’t imagine anything that is really worth hanging on to – other than for sentimental reasons….

We haven’t always needed to be so conscious of saving our planet using Green materials and who makes things and how things are made. If you’ve grown up in the last 15 years ‘repurposing materials’ is a new idea, but it is an ancient idea.  But, why would anyone spend so much money on clothing when you can pick up the latest and newest at the big box stores or at places like Top Shop really cheap? Why would anyone care to pay more?

What seems even more strange is that some people really love spending long hours creating something that totally engages their minds and hands, working on something that is not only beautiful, but also something that has more  purpose and meaning behind it than what appears on the surface, and that has taken years to learn and master!

Come and see what we experience:  a satisfying world, one of full of opportunity, beauty, fulfilment and sufficiency. Stay tuned for more…..

Eco Glam Fashion Event

Eco Glam Fashion Event


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What’s on your wardrobe menu!

What do you have in your wardrobe: ‘haute couture’, ‘ready-made’ and ‘home made’? Using the analogy of dining is a good comparison, because everyone understands it and enjoys food on a basic ‘need’ level all the way to a luxurious ‘connoisseur’ level in some way.

Impulse buy garments made of synthetic or cheap fabric, plus using quick fixes such as safety pins to hold something together is like grabbing a quick cookie, chocolate bar or a bag of crisps – it’s fast but really  only a remedial solution to your sudden pangs of hunger between meals. 0 – $

Inexpensive throw-away clothing items are ones that you wouldn’t be wearing more than a few times is like noshing on frozen microwave dinners or reconstituted pot noodles – it’s fast and easy but doesn’t adequately satiate or nourish you properly. $

At home casuals like T’s, yoga and pajama pants not meant to be worn outside the home, are items that you don’t want a whole wardrobe of either, is like picking up take-away chicken, or burger & fries from a drive through – handy on road trips and cheap dates, but you shouldn’t eat it every day. $

Home sewing for your family using Simplicity patterns, Vogue, Burda or other commercial patterns is practical, provides some instruction, and mostly does the job but is not necessarily inexpensive. However, you do know exactly what goes into it, and is like growing your own vegetables or shopping the farmers market choosing your own ingredients – it does require experience, planning and time to prepare a wholesome, nourishing and tasty meal. $$

Your favourite chain store brands or department store clothiers offer far more variety and much wider range of styles and sizes for jeans to business and day to day garments – is like eating at family style restaurants and buffet style serveries that have varied menus with a little something for everyone. $$

Boutiques and high end designer label shops are like delis, and up-scale cuisine eateries where you can take your time; expect better quality product and better customer service – all of which you will pay quite a bit more for. $$ – $$$$

Flagship stores which sell ‘couture fashion’ of markedly higher quality are akin to Michelin Star and celebrity restaurants where you not only come to dine but you come for the service, unique experience and atmosphere.(if you have to ask you can’t afford it)

But what tops all of that is owning investment pieces in your wardrobe that are uniquely yours in style, yours in fit and yours in purpose – items that are perfectly suited to your lifestyle and your preferences – it’s like having a World Class chef come into your home, discuss your wishes and desires, does the research and gets the best ingredients, prepares everything for you, let’s you taste it, and then serves it to you personally. You would have to be wealthy right? $$$$$

But imagine that this World Class Chef is someone you know, or is your best friend or your mother or father!  They would do everything they could to make it happen for you with the best ingredients, passion for they do, insider knowledge, and loads of experience.  Just like what we do as Couturiers and Tailors, we are those experts at your service. (possibilities are endless)

Getting to know about ‘You’ and providing you with the best investment wardrobe you can afford, working with you to make it all happen with the best part being that what we can do for you is long lasting which makes your investment wardrobe work for you for the long term. $ – $$$$$

How can we be of service to you?


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Act of Genius or Progressive Solution

This topic came up in class at EHC regarding ‘haute couture’, related to a newsletter article, and was worth looking into more closely. Are fashion designers born geniuses or is it a matter of learning?

Designer Madeleine Vionett is considered to be a design genius for her bias cut methods, which was fundamentally different from other construction methods of the time. Christian Louboutin is mentioned as a genius of shoe design. Charles James and Alexander McQueen are referred to as design geniuses. What exactly does genius mean and why are they labelled geniuses?

There is no scientifically precise definition of ‘genius’, and indeed the question of whether the notion itself has any real meaning has long been a subject of debate.

A genius is someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight.

According to philosopher David Hume, a person with the characteristics of a genius is looked at as a person disconnected from society, as well as a person who works remotely, at a distance, away from the rest of the world; or Immanuel Kant: genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person.

According to philosopher Bertrand Russell: genius entails that an individual possesses unique qualities and talents that make the genius especially valuable to the society in which he or she operates … it’s also possible for such a genius to be crushed by an unsympathetic environment during his or her youth.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th century American essayist, lecturer, and poet who was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society says of Genius
“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.’’ Emerson discusses two factors that discourage people from trusting themselves: societal disapproval and foolish consistency – “For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure”.

Does a designer have to be a genius to be successful designer, or is a matter of learning from the past.

Jan Michl, teacher of history and theory of design in Norway at GJØVIK University College, says that it is a myth that fashion designers somehow ooze originality from their pores and that true design abilities are the creative application of what went before — the connecting of the dots and those dots were someone else’s effort to do the same in “Design as Redesign, An Exploration of a Neglected Problem in Design Education for… those wrestling with design derivative issues.

No solution is ever the ultimate solution. Each design always begins where others have left off, are improvements on yesterday.

A watchmaker cannot create a watch ‘out of the blue’ – a watchmaker who has designed and made a watch always bases himself on a long tradition of watchmakers consisting of both large and small contributions on the part of vast numbers of watchmakers.

All new products and designs are deeply indebted to earlier products and solutions to earlier designs – the cumulative character of the design process is the evolutionary process of designed objects.

All this does not alter the fact that in reality designers always begin, not from scratch, but with solutions formed at an earlier stage; most of the time by other designers, and they too started on that basis. All designers, whether they want to or not, enter some kind of collaboration with both their living and no longer living predecessors, a collaboration that looks both forward and backwards in time.

On self-worth, Emerson made a case that individuals have not only a right but also a responsibility to think for themselves and that neither societal disapproval nor concerns about consistency should discourage these. He writes that individuals who obey the admonition to “trust thyself” should value themselves highly and consider themselves equal to the great men of history…. »

To sum up Jan Michl:  No designer starts from scratch – they all start from the solutions achieved by another designer.

If (we don’t believe that), then we pay for the satisfaction of seeing ourselves as ‘sole creators’ in the form of mental isolation and fear of underachievement.

We are not alone – not forced to think of everything ourselves, but part of a team of distinguished, inventive, imaginative colleagues that perhaps we have never met, the majority of which are long dead.

Successful design in fashion can be measured in many ways, depending on the desired outcome. Some designs are impractical and for the delight of the senses alone, or purely for fantasy. However, designs must be lifted off the paper and made into three dimensions to be considered as remotely successful. Designs which keep returning to us in somewhat altered forms are true successes. These successes become design classics and who then can take the credit – as being the genius who invented them – becomes very hazy in the distance and blurred perspective of time. Perhaps the design was a stroke of genius, associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight – but only for a short while until it morphs into a design which is better, updated or ‘redesigned’.

From part of an exhibit about Charles James – America

Madeleine Vionett – collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum UK

from the official website of the current house of Vionett


left: Madeleine Vionett – Victoria and Albert Museum   Photos


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Calgary Herald feature article – Nov 15th, 2011

We had a whirlwind couple of days – Monday morning we had Jill Belland of Breakfast Television with us,if you want to see the video of the show with our segment click on the link or copy and paste the link into your URL bar because have not as of yet figured out how to make it work on this page – dear me!–november-14/

The Calgary Herald published a feature about Ecole Holt Couture by Theresa Taylor on Tuesday Nov 15th:

and it so happens it also ran in the Vancouver Sun!!!!!

Yesterday, Beverley Parkin of Lia Sophia Jewelry swung by with cases and cases of jewelry for the students to choose from to feature at the show to accessorize their looks – that was fun – we didn’t want her to leave as the piles of glistening gold and silver heaped up! Guests will be able to purchase anything they see at the show with the proceeds going to Making Changes Association of Calgary.

Tomorrow Stylejunction will be visiting to tell us about their new online portfolio program for up and coming designers.

But today, we will calm back down, focus and finish our projects for the Term and in preparation for the show on Sunday. And, of course, all the finishing touches to the featured couture bridal gown!

Sunday will be a fun time with Sarah Vann opening the event with Lisa Jacobs and Los Morenos playing the show! Wine, and food, silent auction with over 40 items worth upwards of $6000.00 to bid on, and of course the fashion show itself!

Update later…....ELEGANZA get your tickets now online or at the door.

Ecole Holt Couture School of Couture Sewing and Design!


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