Why Sid Neigum is Canada’s latest designer to watch

Sid Neigum Designer
Photography by Nathan Cyprus

See Sid Neigum’s Spring 2015 collection »

Many male designers say their first flirtation with fashion was dressing their sisters’ dolls. Not Sid Neigum. The 26-year-old self-described math and science nerd was happiest with his Lego and K’Nex, constructing motorized Ferris wheels and roller coasters before graduating to model rockets and remote-control cars. “I was into building anything,” Neigum recalls of his childhood in Alberta.

Flipping through a rolling rack at the Toronto Fashion Incubator, where he is a resident designer, it’s clear that Neigum is still building—but now his tools are padded jersey and laser-cut nylon. “I’m obsessed with geometry,” he says. “Making clothes is a 3-D puzzle that can fit a body.”

For Fall 2014, after stumbling upon a package-design textbook that shows how to fold a box from a single piece of cardboard, Neigum challenged himself to use as few pattern pieces as possible.

The theme has carried over for spring: A spongy asymmetrical skirt has one side seam and a ribbed texture dress is sewn from three pieces (collar, top and skirt). He was also inspired by modular origami, he explains as he rolls a sphere constructed from triangles of black paper across the table.

He sewed together 600 parallelograms of nylon mesh for a long vest and 96 “mouse ears” for a black shawl. And if that last number sounds like a runway-only thriller, it’s not. The Room at Hudson’s Bay bought it, along with many other pieces from the collection.

Neigum was born outside Edmonton in Drayton Valley, population 7,049. His summers were spent raking gravel and driving heavy equipment for his father’s excavation firm. He only started paying attention to clothes when he played guitar in a metal band in high school. “I wore very tight black clothing, so not a lot has changed,” he says, referencing the loose black top over stovepipe pants that is his default look. He did a year of science studies at university, but a part-time job at High Grade Clothing in West Edmonton Mall awakened his true passion. He broke the news to his parents that he wanted to switch careers. Their reaction? “So you want to be a seamstress like your grandmother?” He enrolled in the fashion program at MC College and then applied to Ryerson University but didn’t get in. Undeterred he set his sights on New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, where he spent two years, and interned at Yigal Azrouël.

All along Neigum was entering—and winning—design competitions, the latest being the Mercedes-Benz Start Up (now entering its fifth year), which has put $30,000 into his business and is funding his Fall 2015 runway show at Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week. “Awards are so important,” he says. “Each one has led to something else.” And with the wearable tech trend set to explode, who knows where Neigum’s imagination and love of engineering will lead. “I could easily do what Hussein Chalayan does: Put a motor in a dress and make it move,” he says. “But I don’t want it to be pointless.”