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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

Oct 5 poster jpg

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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 | Fashion & Philanthropy

It’s important to give back to the community and Ecole Holt Couture is fortunate to do this while sharing the art of couture and the work of our students in support of InspireProjectYYC.

This is the first year the event will benefit new-kid-on-the-block INSPIRE Project YYC. Started in 2012, by a group of Calgarian creatives, passionate about social justice, the Project funds organizations seeking to affect change in difficult areas. Their first recipient? Dare to Care, whose mission is to address the pervasive and crippling issue of bullying.

Step by Step  will focus on explaining what couture really is, how it is achieved, and why it matters and more importantly how it can change your outlook towards your fashion style!

Join us on November 13th, 2016 at Festival Hall in Calgary’s Inglewood community, hub of live music venues and is known as the one-stop shop for art fans, culture buffs, foodies, fashionistas, scrappy hippies, and hipsters.

 

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Creativity everywhere! within everyone!

Creativity everywhere! within everyone!

Over the next few days, EHC will be doing its post mortum of Dress Code – this year’s title for our annual Fashion Event Fundraiser for Making Changes Association Calgary, which also raises awareness of the School and features work of the current students and where they are at in terms of progress and the curriculum.

Looking back over the day, it was a whirl of excitement, joy, expectation and successes. The space was packed. Latino flavoured music of ‘Los Morenos’ engaged guests, all the seats were taken – through the tremendous support of our partners and sponsors, all of which does not happen without the +or- 60 volunteers giving time and lending talents to the event.

The VIP Event one hour before the runway show, was a new feature this year at which the VIP ticket holders had the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes get up close with all the couture garments and the students, see how we prepare for a runway show, have some quiet time with the sponsors, have a good look at all the great prize baskets to be won, drink champagne and enjoy chocolate covered strawberries, shake hands with and meet the 2013 Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses Calgary’s Royalty and Ambassadors to the world, and listen to our guest speaker Sarah Vann (Singer. Therapist. Writer. Music Therapist. Performer) talk about Creativity – perfect fit with EHC and really, what you (can) do everyday.

Sarah delivered a moving talk about how creativity lives within us and how it lives with her daily not only through her music but through hundreds of children. It was worth sharing with you….click on the pic below and go directly to Sarah’s own blog accompanied by her music, or read below….

Sarah Vann – Creativity in Our Daily Lives

The first time I met Jutta was at a volunteer appreciation dinner at the Lougheed House Historic Site 2 years ago. Before leaving for that particular night, a girlfriend of mine had introduced me to the concept that she had begun to adopt, where she would head out to an social event where she knew she’d be meeting a lot of people and intentionally avoid the question “what do you do?”. This is a safe question. It’s something many of us ask someone we’ve never met before as a fallback to asking anything more intimate. It’s a non-threatening subject and the answer either carries the conversation forward or leaves it writhing in the dust.

I decided that night that I would employ this technique. It would force me to ask questions of people that would surprise and, hopefully, engage us beyond our definition as workers in the world.

Jutta sat down beside me a red dress – which you always notice, no matter the woman, no matter the cut-sometimes because of the woman, sometimes because of the cut- “What a beautiful dress” I commented. “Where did you buy it?” “I made it”, she said. “What do you do?” I asked.

So. I failed. At an experiment. And gained great success with an important personal and professional relationship. She told me about EHC which she ran with her mother and sister. She told me where it was and how it worked, that they were in their first years of the school and hoping to grow it into a crucial and important part of Calgary fashion.

Meeting Jutta coincided with my reading of “The War of Art”, a wildly inspiring book written by Stephen Pressfield that talked about a force that exists within us called Resistance, how we can combat it and what lies beyond that point for us. To quote:

The Unlived Life
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever resolved on a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever felt a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

Maybe there are some of you can relate or even see yourselves in some of the analogies and comparisons. Maybe not. If not, congratulations. You are doing 1000 things right.

Whatever creativity we can put in our lives makes us better because of its ability to open us to inspiration and our defuse our judgment and cynicism.

My calling as a music therapist at the Children’s Hospital here in Calgary requires me to write music on the spot, 4 days a week for every age, demographic, nationality and personality you can imagine. The skills I have developed in my lifetime allow me to walk into a room and read each person to figure out what the mood at that moment is, whether the child has any interest in anything I might be holding in my arms (guitar/ukelele/rainstick), if the English language is useless in this environment, whether mom/dad/grandma/grandpa could use a break from the prison cell that a hospital room can become.

We might play instruments without any direction. We might look up YouTube videos on the iPad. We might sing endless versions of twinkle twinkle or you are my sunshine or down by the bay or baby beluga. I might hold a round of chimes over an infant’s head for 15 minutes while they incessantly bat at it with their hands. There are an infinite number of musical possibilities available in those moments, only limited by my tools and imagination.

I have spent time with a child whose creative cup got filled by recording an Eagles song from the original recording through the microphone on my computer. So the same song put through a microphone.

I met a child whose favorite sound was that of an air raid siren in 100 different forms.

I have a client currently who constantly educates me on the prevalence of anime in the eastern world.

I have a colleague whose favorite sound is that of a drumstick screaming along the top of a ride cymbal.

I have recordings of my nephew making up songs about airplanes and pies in the skies.

I have a photographer friend who believes that your image becomes public property as soon as you hit the sidewalk. (This was news to me.)

This past week alone, I spent some time with a 3 year old who has been on isolation in his room for over a month. We played instruments and sang a few songs, played a few finger games. His play area has recently expanded into their bathroom, where the shower is wheelchair accessible, (so no tub). His mom (young, stoic, unfailingly patient) had taken a bed sheet and hooked it around the shower head, tied one corner to the handrail on the wall and brought in the medical waste receptacle to tuck another corner behind. She had created a credible and perfect fort.

After he gestured me in (I became very conscious of the heels I had chosen to wear that day) and crawled in behind me(and reclined onto the couch cushions laid on the floor), we sat and I chatted. “this is your fort?” “yep” “it’s pretty great” “yeah” “Did your mom build it?” “yeah”. His arms were flopped out open on either side of him and he stared up at the rooftop of the sheet. Completely relaxed in his own private refuge.

When relaying this story to a friend of mine, she said “isn’t it incredible, the creativity of the human spirit?” I asked her what she meant. “that that mother would find the willpower and ability in an unbelievably dire situation to look at a shower space and say ‘that would make a perfect fort’”.

My work requires me to be creative, to reach further, to find ways to distract my patients from the wretchedness that being in a hospital encompasses. I have learned and found my strength and patience and poise and peace in the mothers and the fathers of my patients.

I am in a place 4 days a week that puts on the rack my creative capacity, my belief in the human spirit and the fabric of my soul. And I know how important it is that I carry on doing this. Not even for the families I work with, but for my own sense of self and doing what it is that I was placed on this earth to do.

Placing yourself in a creative place can feel scary and uncomfortable. It’s risky. We say things to ourselves that we would never let another say to us. The demons come out to play. The ones who say “what’s the point? Who will love it besides you? There’s nothing to pursue there” “why?”

And none of it’s true. You are the only one who decides what role creativity will play in your life.

I have listened to young women talk about how playing music has saved them from a bottomless pit of self-hatred that only an eating disorder can create. I have met a father who, after losing his son to cancer (and having no prior music experience), couldn’t stop writing songs.

I meet artists that create on sketchpads, iPads, in craft lounges and garages. I have met entrepreneurs who spend hours in front of their sewing machines in their desire to create what pristine image exists in their head. I have been witness to live art, bad art, musical wretchedness and inspired musicianship. I have tasted failed baking experiments (some my own) and been to quilting exhibits in foreign countries. I have seen more bad tattoos than you could shake a stick at. I have also seen some that render me speechless.

Nothing makes me happier than when I find out someone is creating. That someone is trying. That someone is taking a risk.

How I create in my work has leaked endlessly into my daily life. Everyone here has fallen down some version of an internet wormhole. You find yourself at 3:00 in the morning drooling over a Victorian trumeau mirror that someone created using an ikea full length and 8 different kinds of mouldings from home depot.

Recently I saw a project that I liked through a link on apartment therapy of a pallet that had been ripped apart and nailed back together as a sign that read “Believe there is good in the world”. The letters had been painted in different colors so that “Be the good” stood out just slightly.

I found a project where someone had taken a beat up coffee table, lain a piece of lace over it and spray painted over it, leaving a beautiful pattern.

Technology has offered us an infinite number of ways to be creative and it seems there is a higher demand for that ability than ever before. In 2 years the number of instagram users grew a 1000x over from 100,000 to 100,000,000.

People are constantly blogging and vlogging about their creative lives. Pinterest gained 30 million users in a year. You can find the DIY instructions online for everything from building a perfect Lego replica of the Starship Enterprise to the construction of lady Gaga’s meat dress. 50,000 blogs are started every day.

Obviously there is a hunger out there not only to create but also to share the creative experience. To show our accomplishments, however small, to a community that we have sought out.

There are 2 reasons that I love making music with children.

Firstly, they are fearless. And that makes ME fearless. They have not yet had someone communicate to them “that is not good enough. You shouldn’t do that.”

Secondly, music carries only the element of fun. There is no pressure to learn or be bettered by this experience. There’s no concept of skill or ability or what you should or shouldn’t try. There is only music. There is only creativity.

If only such simplicity could be put back inside of us. If only we had the unburdened and shiny outlook that only children seem to possess.

I’m willing to bet that we do.

And it’s not a matter of time or space or availability or inspiration. It’s just a matter of will.

©Sarah Vann 2012

http://sarahvann.com/fr_blog.cfm?feature=2788753&postid=3031987
 

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