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Designer Corinne Monique

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Corinne Monique long has been sketching and sewing since she was a little girl. Corinne attended the University of Alberta, Canada, graduating in 2009 with a BSc degree in Human Ecology with a Major in Textiles and Clothing and a Minor in Design and Product Development. In her graduating year, Corinne organized and produced the Faculty Fashion Show, in collaboration with Edmonton Fashion Week. During her studies, Corinne traveled to Paris, France, and attended the Paris American Academy. There she trained intensively, learning the haute couture techniques of Nina Ricci, draping methods of Madame Gres, millinery skills of Jean Paul Gaultier, and the handbag and accessory craft of Anne Valerie Hash, as well as Japanese Shibori dyeing and nuno felting techniques. During her stay in Paris, Corinne also worked as a backstage assistant and dresser for Elie Saab during his Fall 2008 Haute Couture Collection runway show.

In 2009, Corinne was chosen from 116 Canada-wide entries as one of 25 Télio Design Competition finalists and was featured during Montreal Fashion Week, as well as in the press nation-wide and on television. That same year, Corinne was honored with the Dr. Elizabeth Feniak Award for Excellence in Writing for her essay entitled ‘The Little Black Dress,’ published in the Journal of the Home Economics Institute of Australia, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2010. In 2010, Corinne competed as a finalist in the Nuit Blanche Art of Fashion Design Competition, and was featured in various media including The Toronto Globe and Mail. Corinne has worked as a design and production assistant for many Canadian as well as American designers, including Greta Constantine, House of Spy, Jade Kinrade, Mariah Amine Couture, Penicullus Bellum, Sofiss Apparel, Stefanie Bezaire, and Wildhagen Hats. Corinne has gained an excellent appreciation of colour, pattern, texture, materials, construction, and current trends. Corinne currently freelances. Through Rogues Gallery Presents Emerging Designer Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week, Corinne debuted the launch of her own eponymous fashion label, Corinne Monique, an innovative, timeless, luxurious line for the modern woman. Corinne draws design inspiration from her lifelong passions: art, music, photography, dance, film, literature, travel, and nature. Corinne designs for the strong, confident woman, choosing clean, feminine lines to enhance her form. Her current Fall/Winter 2013 collection, ‘The Year of the Serpent’, focuses on a sense of wanderlust surrounding the exoticism of the Far East and is a modern take on the Orientalism of bygone eras for the global warrior-empress of the future. The decadent and dramatic yet controlled collection examines the symbolism of the poisonous serpent, a powerful mythological creature familiar to all cultures, by conjuring up folkloric images, opulent finishes, seductive colours, and sensual textures, such as brocades, silks, wools, velvet, and lace in crimson, persimmon, ruby, fuchsia, ultramarine, midnight, cobalt, emerald, malachite, onyx, and gold. Cloaked in mystery and majesty and a hint of danger, each gilded piece combines the techniques of haute couture methods with ready-to-wear ease. The combined effect is an escape into a dreamlike, narcotic state of enlightenment.

Q: How long have you been designing clothes?
A: I have been drawing and sewing since I was a little girl. This past February saw the launch of my eponymous line, Corinne Monique, but I've been freelancing and doing commission-based design work since 2007.

Q: Creating a style that will stand out from the rest. Easy or not so easy to do?
A: If you listen to your inner creativity and aren't overly swayed by trends, it isn't too difficult. Having said that, when I come up with a design, very rarely do I just go with that first idea. Usually it requires a lot of editing and reworking to make sure you're saying something worthwhile that hasn't been said before.

Photographers Brian Branch Price, You Studios, Brooks Fotographie, Dana Broeker Photography.

Q: Do you have a designing background or did your talents come natural?
A: I have a degree in Human Ecology with a Major in Clothing and Textiles and a Minor in Design and Product Development from the University of Alberta as well as a diploma in Fashion Design, Haute Couture Techniques, from the Paris American Academy. But I was always interested in all aspects of art and design. I don't have any designers in my family, although I think my mother is very gifted and would have done well with a career in the arts had she been given the opportunity and training. She taught herself to sew and in turn taught me to sew as well as giving me plenty of input into things she sewed for me as a little girl. She has always believed in me and encouraged me in my creative pursuits, somehow scrimping and saving so I grew up having opportunities for artistic development that were beyond our economic boundaries.

Q: Growing up is this what you dreamed of doing when you grew up?
A: When I was growing up, many careers crossed my mind. Most of them had an artistic link to them - artist, dancer, musician. I also had a stint of thinking I'd make a good doctor, which would have been more practical but I think wouldn't have fulfilled me as much as fashion design has. It's a hard life, but I do what I love and what makes me happy. When I think back to when I was little, I was always thinking and drawing up some beautiful gown, then when I was a bit older sometimes draping or sewing it from old sheets, and then creating hair, makeup, and sets to go with that creation and photographing it. I'm a creator, I guess.

Q: What is your biggest challenge getting your career off the ground?
A: Fashion is a difficult market to break in to, especially if you don't have much money or many connections in the industry already. Also, where you live and grew up makes a big difference. Networking and getting your name out there is important, but so is showing that you know what you're doing so that you have something solid to offer sponsors and buyers. RIght now, since I'm a one-woman company, I find it extremely challenging because I have to wear so many hats simultaneously, all the time. Not only is there the creative side to attend to, but the business side. There's a lot that needs to get done every day and also many roles that I need to jump into and educate myself about very quickly.

Q: What do you look for when picking your material for your designs?
A: When I'm choosing material for my designs, sometimes I immediately fall in love with something and other times it takes me many, many trips to the fabric stores to finally choose something that works with the rest of the collection, but is still special or fills some hole. For my Fall/Winter 2013 collection, "The Year of the Serpent," I let myself run wild and picked out things that I absolutely loved. But I also had to make some tough decisions, cutting choices that didn't work as well or were too expensive to produce. I was also lucky enough to have been given some fabric from one of the studios I previously worked for as an Assistant Designer and I was able to work it in to the collection. To add some originality and use some of the techniques I learned while studying in Paris, France, I created some fabric for 2 of the 21 looks by hand-felting silk.

Q: What are some of the biggest obstacles you face being a woman in business?
A: The biggest obstacle I face being a woman in business is people's perception. I remember going to a reputable Canadian fashion school when I was quite young and being immediately dismissed because I wasn't the right 'type' of person to be a designer, whatever that means. I suppose I was quiet, taking everything in. I'm not really what you'd call flamboyant, I guess. The director of that school then had to eat her words after viewing my portfolio, but by then of course I wasn't really interested in the school. Also, when you're dealing with others in the industry, sometimes you really have to fight to be taken seriously, even though it's a largely female-run industry. The industry itself is a strange little world that you need to learn how to navigate without losing yourself. Beyond the fashion industry, people have a funny conception of what running a fashion design business is really like. Sometimes people assume I just sit around all day playing with bits of fabric and feathers, when in reality its an exhausting race of constant work of varying types that you may or may not have been trained in, 24/7, 365 days a year, nonstop, whilst fitting in other odd jobs to pay the bills.

Q: Tell us about your creating process.
A: I am involved in every step of the creation process. An idea for a design may come to me from any number of sources of inspiration - a beautiful flower, a sunset, a painting, a piece of music, a film, a new culture, a dream, an item I wish I had to go with those new shoes... Sometimes it has more direction - you need another design which fits in with your theme and design elements. Sometimes you have to hurry the creation process up a bit because you need that new design yesterday to round out your collection. After the initial idea, it's time for reworking and editing until everything looks just right. Sometimes I do a lot of this stage in my head, thinking things out, or I alternatively draw and drape fabric until I like where it's going. Then it's time to draft a pattern and see how it works out, altering it as needed to fit just right. After that, I make up the sample by cutting the pattern out and sewing it up. If I like the sample, it will get finished properly, be checked for quality control, and pressed. For orders, I'm still a very small company with small orders, I simply repeat the process from cutting onwards, unless another size is needed. I also really love to create runway shows - I love choosing everything from hair and makeup to music to accessories so everything is one big fantastic experience. From start to finish, I work with fabrics and colour like a painter works with his brush and palette.

Q: At what level of success would you like your company to be 5 years from now?
A: I've always been quite an ambitious person. Someone recently asked me something similar and I said I didn't want to be successful. I wanted to be wildly successful! I tend to dream big and I truly think that's what had gotten me from a little girl growing up in the what's-Vogue- magazine-middle-of-nowhere Canada to where I am now. So, I would love to see my company flourishing 5 years from now, making a profit, perhaps having a boutique or selling to some major department stores. I'm also in the midst of toying with the idea of moving to another country, so we'll see where I end up. Most of all, I'd really love to be in a situation where I could employ talented and trustworthy staff to take over some of the many positions a design house needs to have filled.

Q: What advice would you give to other aspiring designers?
A: I always find this a very difficult question because I wish it had a different answer. I guess I would say, it's only glamorous about 2% of the time. The rest of the time it's a struggle. So, unless you're one of the independently wealthy crowd (which I find is very rare), make sure you love it and you're committed. If you are, then go for it! Believe in yourself and don't listen to anyone who won't. Whatever you don't already know, you can learn, so don't let anything hold you back.

Q: What celebrity would love to design for and explain why?
A: If I could go back in time, I'd want to design for Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, or Audrey Hepburn. As my circle of friends includes quite a few up-and-coming Canadian artists, musicians, and models, I feel like I've already dressed some 'celebrities.' But if I had the chance, I would love to design for someone I really respected as an artist and a person, someone who inspires me, someone like Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tautou, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, or Penélope Cruz. Although, I most likely wouldn't say 'no' to any celebrity if they asked me ;) Dressing someone for the red carpet...there's a goal!

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