Through an immaculate eye for design, and intensive fashion education, Tarah Kennedy discusses her “big break” in the Canadian industry, and reveals which advantages have contributed to her success thus far.
From costume design to backstage manager, Tarah Kennedy demonstrated her love for fashion throughout varying fields in the industry, before finding her true calling in womenswear. The Butternut Bay native, and now Toronto resident, exerts herself in all creative facets, combining her love for fashion, photography, writing, and music on a daily basis.
Having worked as an intern for a few Canadian designers in the city, and completing her diploma in Fashion Design and Technique, Tarah was able to translate her own visions into a reality this year, by showcasing her first collection at FAT (Fashion Arts Toronto). I was able to catch up with Tarah to ask her a few questions regarding her design background, as well as ask her advice for breaking out into the ever-changing industry as a young designer.
1. What first sparked your interest in fashion design?
My interest sparked when I was very young, I would sit for hours in my grandmothers closet admiring her furs, her shoes and her cashmere. My cousins and I would put on fashion shows during the holidays starting before I was even able to stand on my own two feet. My mother also dressed me impeccable well, mostly in beautiful dresses she smocked herself. I began dressing myself at a very young age and from there my love for fashion just kept on building as I grew older.
2. Did you have any big role models growing up that may have helped influenced your career choice today?
Growing up my siblings and I would perform in musicals in the summer as well as during the school seasons. Our mother would build a lot of the costumes for these productions; she continues to do it as a hobby to this day. Costume designing was my first career move after I graduated. As mentioned before, she used to make me beautiful smocked dresses, and continued making pieces for a while after that. My parents also exposed me to a lot of diverse films when I was younger from Gone With The Wind to Pride and Prejudice to Star Wars and I just loved the diversity and imagination that went into the costume pieces.
3. Did you attend school for design? If so, do you feel it gave you experience you may not have had otherwise?
I attended George Brown College for their Design and Techniques program. It was a very intense two years, it definitely taught me techniques that I needed improvement in. While there I had a few internships with designers who had also graduated from the college, which were wonderful. I was also fortunate to be chosen to backstage manage their annual fashion show in 2011 as well as have my own mini line featured in it.
4. What was the application process like to showcase your first collection during Fashion Arts Toronto (otherwise known as FAT)?
My process was quite a wonderful ride for me. I decided in October of this year that I was going to submit and for the next couple of months thought about the concept and what I wanted the feeling of the line to be. All of a sudden the deadline date snuck up on me so I began to sketch furiously and thankfully everything I had wanted Oriflamme to represent was on the page. Having a project that was fully myself go from my whirlwind imagination, to illustration, to pattern and now to these beautiful pieces I can physically wear was so much more rewarding than I ever could have imagined.
5. Your first collection was titled Oriflamme. Why did you decide to give it that title, and what does it mean to you?
I first heard this word a few months prior to creating my line and it, for some reason, has a huge impact on me. Oriflamme is a symbol or standard that inspires confidence, devotion, or courage. This is what I wanted my line to represent and exude.
6. How did you first start networking your self-titled label?
I began with creating a Facebook page for my brand, updating it every few days with little “sneak peaks” of pieces as I created them. I was also using my personal Instagram and Twitter accounts in connection with the page. I then had a friend of mine create a website for me, which I am so pleased with. Of course, I’m continuing with these and am beginning to find new ways to network myself.
7. Do you find being a fashion designer while living in Canada has its advantages or disadvantages?
Toronto is wonderful; I find it to be a lot more of a small world, especially in the fashion industry, than we think. Everyone has been incredibly supportive and encouraging throughout my process. I haven’t had the experience of working in another country, but hope to be able to have that opportunity in the future. I have always been intrigued with the idea of working in the UK.
8. What are some future goals you have in the industry, and how do you plan to execute them?
I’m really enjoying where I am right now and plan to continue on playing with different opportunities as they come.
9. Any advice to those looking to start designing womenswear in Toronto?
Have fun, be yourself and never stray from your vision. Also make sure to keep influenced and inspired. I fully recommend submitting to Toronto Arts & Fashion Week, they are very accepting and really encourage and allow you to be your true self and express that creatively.
1) Designer Logo, image courtesy of Tarah Kennedy
2) Tarah Kennedy, image courtesy of FAT
3) Tarah Kennedy, image courtesy of Seanna Kennedy Photography
By: Jenn McNaughton, Toronto
You should follow me on Twitter @jennmcnaughton
Are you an employer? Post your job here.
Are you a job seeker? Find fashion jobs here.