Stefanie Ayoub is a talented, Toronto-based fashion design gem. With a family background peppered with artistic types, the young designer started off at an arts high school with dreams of becoming a fine artist. While illustration was her first love, she soon realised that her drawings tended towards clothing, and she made a natural transition into fashion design. Ayoub graduated from Ryerson University studying Fashion Design and also spent six weeks studying with the Arts of Fashion Foundation at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Joel Yum spoke to Ayoub recently about her inspirations, discovering creative freedom in Paris and her plans for a no-rule future.
Joel Yum: I imagine that studying fashion in Toronto is quite different to studying it in Paris - how did the two experiences differ? Did it make you reevaluate your outlook on fashion - life, even?
Stefanie Ayoub: Ryerson, and Toronto in general I think, takes a very practical approach to design. It's really all about being an apparel constructor. Considering I didn't know the first thing about sewing, Ryerson gave me all those crucial technical tools. But a lot of the time, I felt like I was missing out on the creative process. There were so many rules about what you can and can't do, what's practical, what's marketable.
When I went to Paris, I learned the value of having a completely open mind to the vastness of possibilities in designing. First ideas are never the best ones and designs should waver and shift and change throughout the process. Being in that environment of creative freedom really made me change my outlook on what the experience of designing can be. There are no rules. It is so hard to let go of rules but I'm trying to live my life that way now too.
JY: Your thesis project was about "layering familiar memories until they are no longer familiar." Personally, I feel like this is a perfect way to describe your designs. Is this a concept you keep in mind when designing your pieces?
It's definitely a strong undercurrent in my work. And it really explains my design process as well. I like the way we can suddenly be surprised by something we think we "know" but turns out is actually entirely strange to us. I like strangeness.
But I also have a lot of other references that I draw from, so I'm never consciously "choosing" one concrete concept. I don't really believe in concepts as entities. You could say that my ideas layer on top of one another until something new turns up! In a way, I start off with an idea, and that idea becomes intertwined with other ideas and they all become vague and blurred and, suddenly, a dress pops out and it makes all the sense in the world.
JY: Are there particular memories you have that you like to draw upon for inspiration?
SA: For me, it's not necessarily about specific memories but really about that distinct experience of daydreaming or remembering a moment and reliving that intimate memory in some way. It is rare to be able to get lost in a memory but I think everyone knows that feeling. So I don't want to draw from something specific but rather I try to conjure up that feeling.
JY: Do you have a specific type of person that you design for?
SA: I guess I design for people like myself. I know that I want to wear clothes that are intelligent and beautiful and made by someone's hands. So naturally, I want to design clothes that reflect my own values.
JY: You've been working as a design assistant at Greta Constantine; how have you found the experience?
SA: Working at Greta Constantine has taught me that I know absolutely nothing. It's a humbling experience! Watching Stephen [Wong] come up with incredible designs and ideas is thrilling and Kirk [Pickersgill] literally keeps the whole machine going. They are such a strong duo and I feel so lucky to be able to work beside them. I get to be part of every aspect of the process, from discussing preliminary ideas and fabrics to sketching and pattern-making and right through to production. They have made me feel like I have a design voice within their company, which is such an honour.
JY: Now that you've graduated you must be looking towards the future. What are your plans?
SA: Right now I have plans to be irresponsible and live without plans! I'm moving to New York in a few months to see what happens… Why not? I'm still young enough to be able to live without rules.
For more Stefanie Ayoub imagery, head over to The Image Interview.
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