Danier picks a winner in their student design challenge

John Hillifer's winning jacket

The competition was tough enough, with 65 third-year Ryerson School of Fashion students competing to have their leather jacket be chosen as the winner in Danier‘s Design Challenge. The fact that none of the top three contestants had ever worked with leather before made their achievement especially impressive.

Danier and Ryerson dreamed up a three-stage competition that allowed students to test their sewing skills by creating a women’s leather jacket. The challenge began with participants preparing a two-minute video presenting a sketch of their garment. The videos were then posted online and the public got to vote on who made it to the next rounds–25 students got to create a muslin (dummy garment) and only 15 got to create their final leather piece.

Along with the public, a panel of judges, which included Jeanne Beker, Ryerson Fashion chair Robert Ott, stylist George Antonopoulos and Globe & Mail style writer Tiyana Grulovic, chose the winning design. The prize, $5,000 and the opportunity to have his design sold in select Danier stores this coming fall, went to 28-year-old B.C. native John Hillifer. The surfing aficionado, whose scuba-esque creation was pieced together with curved seams, wanted to create something innovative and exotic, but “not too avant-garde—still sensible.” Of his first experience working with leather, Hillifer admits he simply “winged it.” However laid-back that sounds, using his intuition obviously paid off: Judge Olga Koel, Danier’s chief merchandising officer, said that “the judges all gravitated to [Hillifer’s] jacket as the winner.”

The second place prize of $3,000 went to Pamela Card, who stitched up a Marlon Brando biker look inspired by a purse found at Value Village, while a double-zipper jacket that blended masculinity and femininity netted Tanya Wiebe the third place spot.

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