Addressing the group of 16 young designers assembled at London’s historic Somerset House for the culmination of this year’s International Fashion Showcase (a joint effort by the British Fashion Council, British Council and London College of Fashion to support nascent talent around the world), Sarah Mower, BFC’s Ambassador for Emerging Talent, said: “You’re change-makers and activists and you will improve our industry. I’m certain you are the future.”
From Ryerson University in Toronto, to presenting his designs at the International Fashion Showcase at London Fashion Week and beyond.
Part of that hopeful future is Curtis Oland, a Canadian designer of Lil’Wat heritage who grew up in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Oland studied fine art with a concentration in sculpture from Emily Carr University in Vancouver, which is where he also got interested in costume history and textiles, began watching fashion television, and discovered Alexander McQueen. “I realized fashion could be sculptural, and a medium of expression,” he says.
“I realised fashion could be sculptural, and a medium of expression,” Orland says.
So he went on to enrol in a fashion design program at Ryerson University, winning a menswear competition for emerging designers as a young graduate and starting his eponymous brand. As a designer fresh out of grad school, though, Oland found the Canadian market “quite conservative” for him at a time when he was experimenting and still trying to find his voice as a designer. He decided to move to London to get some experience, landing an internship at Savile Row where he went on to become assistant designer. Soon Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto (IFWTO) reached out to him for a project, eventually nominating him for the International Fashion Showcase, for which he revived his own brand.
At the heart of indigenous fashion is honouring the raw, natural state of materials, something that features heavily in Oland’s work.
“I want to highlight the fact that clothing doesn’t last forever, it’s a living thing,” he says. “It kind of has its own essence, its own spirit, so I allow it to become what it will become. There’s only so much I can control.”