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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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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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Me a model figure? Get real!

Kate Moss

Kate Moss – Super model wearing strapless summer beach frock

Ecole Holt Couture challenges the notion that couture made or tailor made garments should be presented by professional models on its runway.

Each year we hear a few strong opinions following EHC’s annual fashion event on this subject. And they make a valid point. If you want to attract your market sector, sell your designs or collections, you need to appeal to your audience’s strong desire to be this ‘beautiful’, ‘in’, ‘thin’, and ‘fashionable’ etc. so they will buy into your conceptualized vision.

Through all types of media, this is how style and fashion is essentially sold. Sample sized garments for each new collection are created specifically for professional models to display in incredulous theatrical settings.  You only need to open a style magazine or watch a fashion video to understand what I mean.

An advantage to using professional models is that they are well practiced walking the runway with supreme confidence implying that every woman should or will look this way when they wear this garment. Models are a predictable size, usually 5’8” – 6’0” (175 cm) tall, a size 0 – 6, age thirteen to twenty-two, right?

I love theater, and it is most entertaining!  But, as couturiers and tailors we take particular issue with the popular belief that most of us and you:  look all wrong, have the wrong hair, walk all wrong, are the wrong shapes, or are the wrong age, unless you aspire to or do look like the model image. Yes, glamor is still a tantalizing fantasy, but not the reality of most people’s lives.

Please tell me if you really walk the aisles at your office, sit at your computer, take the bus or drive to work, take your children to school, attend a business meeting, arrive at the restaurant or your friend’s wedding ‘strutting your stuff’ like professional models do on the runway? I thought not.

Couture and tailor made (fashion) both exquisite and practical is essentially different. It is the voice and vision of authenticity. Authenticity of your style, shape and personality.  Because, couture is created specifically for you, your vision, your lifestyle needs, and your shape and curves, the best model of course, will be you.

Here is some juicy insider knowledge. Collections shown on the runway or through look-books must ultimately sell themselves in shops. They must have superior ‘hanger appeal’, meaning they must grab your attention whilst hanging on the rail or over the mannequin, and the most effective way to achieve this is to produce styles that have little extra shape or size, and no complications in them.

How is this different from true Couture or tailored garments? It is well known, and most obviously seen when on the hanger, that couture made or tailor made garments truly have the worst hanger appeal! Why so? Garments fitting your shape and around your curves, and sometimes complex in construction, absolutely need to be filled-out by your body to show at their best.

At Ecole Holt Couture’s fashion event each year the students model garments they’ve made purposely for themselves or for their client model, to fit their own unique shape and not a typical model ‘size’.

The deliberate aim of using non-professional models is to affirm that couture made and tailor made is intended as exclusively for ‘you’. No matter what your unique shape, age, and lifestyle, you always look your best when the fashion you wear fits you well, suiting your personal style and makes you feel comfortable within your own skin. This in turn produces genuine self-confidence, helps you stand apart from the crowd reflecting your wonderful and beautiful true self – a concept everyone can relate to.

Although the projects shown on EHC’s runway are firmly part of the learning program in the curriculum, each student’s creations are completely unique in their presentation. The garments reflect students own personal style. We encourage you to follow the students’ progress through EHC training, pay attention to their developing skills and creativity. They will one day be the ‘designer makers’ helping you to create your own unique look. True couture and bespoke tailoring is not just for the rich and famous, it is for you!

Kelsey in Dress Code

Dress Code – Kelsey showing one first year robe project: brief – must be quality 100% cotton flannel, capped seaming, perfectly pattern matched, gladiator style shoulders, custom quilted shawl collar and cuffs, patch pockets, self twisted thread detailing, etc.

Ecole Holt Couture 'Dress Code' fashion event

Ecole Holt Couture ‘Dress Code’ fashion event

 

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