True Pa­triot

So­ci­ety maven SUZANNE ROGERS sets out to raise CANADA’S FASH­ION FLAG with her epony­mous in­sti­tute.

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No one would ar­gue that

Jeanne Beker ranks among this coun­try’s most—if not the most—knowl­edge­able and pas­sion­ate fash­ion ex­perts. I’ve been for­tu­nate to count Jeanne as a friend and col­league—span­ning end­less fash­ion-re­lated events, fundrais­ers, com­mit­tees, and ju­ries—for many years. Along the way, I’ve learned that she and I share a deep com­mit­ment to Cana­dian fash­ion. Though my per­sonal tastes are ex­tremely wide-rang­ing, re­flect­ing a broad world­view, I’ve al­ways re­served sig­nif­i­cant space in my heart (and closet) for the work of Cana­dian de­sign­ers. Canada has blessed the global fash­ion arena with many re­mark­able vi­sion­ar­ies, from Al­fred Sung, Wayne Clark and the de­light­ful Caten twins to com­par­a­tive new­com­ers like the won­der­ful Er­dem and for­ward-think­ing Sid Neigum, who re­cently added a Think2Thing Be3Di­men­sional In­no­va­tion Fund grant to his shelf full of awards. (In­trigu­ingly, the grant will fund in­te­gra­tion of 3D tech­nolo­gies into his de­sign work).

Jeanne and I have of­ten dis­cussed what can and should be done to help nur­ture and sup­port home­grown tal­ent. Not long ago, in a Cana­dian Press in­ter­view, she sounded the trum­pets, de­cry­ing “the stigma of be­ing Cana­dian and hav­ing to scream twice as loud to make our­selves heard. … There’s some­thing to be said about buy­ing into our own as Cana­di­ans, I think that’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant.” Cana­dian fash­ion is, she added, “part of our na­tional iden­tity; it’s what we’re wear­ing [and] what we’re say­ing about our­selves, and plays a large part in telling the world who we are.”

To en­sure the pro­longed growth and es­ca­lat­ing strength of our fash­ion in­dus­try, I’ve long been an avid sup­porter and cham­pion of the School of Fash­ion at Toronto’s Ry­er­son Univer­sity. I know from first­hand ob­ser­va­tion that it holds its own against the best fash­ion ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions any­where. As the school’s chair, Robert Ott, so aptly ob­serves, it is a sin­gu­larly in­spir­ing place “to drive in­no­va­tion, hon­our her­itage, and cel­e­brate di­ver­sity.”

But even the finest train­ing isn’t enough. Which is why I’m so proud to have es­tab­lished the Suzanne Rogers Fash­ion In­sti­tute, a Ry­er­son-af­fil­i­ated fel­low­ship pro­gram in crafts­man­ship and de­sign. More than two years in the mak­ing, and made pos­si­ble through a $1-mil­lion gift from The Ed­ward and Suzanne Rogers Foun­da­tion, the In­sti­tute’s in­tent is to bridge the gap be­tween school and the early years of an emerg­ing de­signer’s ca­reer. Open to Ry­er­son’s sec­ond, third, and fourth-year Fash­ion De­sign stu­dents, the In­sti­tute will sup­port up to six fel­lows per year. Each is pro­vided a spec­trum of ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing mas­ter classes led by fash­ion lead­ers, men­tor­ships, fund­ing to fa­cil­i­tate their par­tic­i­pa­tion in na­tional and in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, and sup­port in iden­ti­fy­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for paid in­tern­ships and work place­ments.

As re­cently an­nounced, the pro­gram’s first three fel­lows are Alexan­dra Ar­mata, Quentin Col­lier, and Stephanie Moscall-Varey. All are re­mark­able young artists, poised to raise Canada’s fash­ion flag ever higher. I will be closely watch­ing their progress, ap­plaud­ing every new step to­ward their richly de­served suc­cess.

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