What happens when you give 6 designers a jean jacket and thousands of crystals?

Denim Jackets
Photography by Carlo Mendoza
Denim Jackets
Photography by Carlo Mendoza

The internet is full of denim hacks – from frayed fringe to razor slashes. But are any as stunning as these created by Canadian designers for a silent auction at tomorrow night’s Mad Hot Ballet Gala? (I swear I would say that even if I weren’t the co-chair for this annual fundraiser for the National Ballet of Canada Gala.)

Nicholas Mellamphy, ex of The Room and now cooking up another exciting retail project, came up with the idea at one of our committee meetings. Gap and Swarovski quickly jumped on board, as did the Canadians in Toronto, Montreal and New York. More than 80,000 crystals and hundreds of hours later, the jackets are ready for bidding, starting at $250.

Some are a sartorial smooch to Karen Kain, whose 10th anniversary as artistic director will also be celebrated tomorrow night. Others are a more abstract expression of fondness for the art of ballet. The VIP dinner is sold out, but tickets are still available for the after-party where you will find me on the dance floor with artists of the National Ballet. Now there’s a performance you won’t want to miss.

And just what does 80,000 Swarovski crystals look like anyway? Click through our gallery to find out.

Denim Jackets
Photography by Carlo Mendoza

Alan Anderson

Jewellery designer Alan Anderson has made 3D florals his signature, so he took inspiration from The Nutcracker’s Waltz of the Flowers.

“I ordered 7000 Euros worth of crystals in pinks, lavender, orange, yellow and seven difference shades of green,” he explains. “There are bleeding hearts and water lilies and tiny sprays and even the stamens are very dimensional.”

The jacket took Anderson and an assistant more than 100 hours to assemble.

“It weighs 30 lbs.,” he adds. “I was worried it would break the heavy-duty hanger.”

Denim Jackets
Photography by Carlo Mendoza

Atelier Wonder

Paulina Wonders of Atelier Wonder took her inspiration from costumes for the National Ballet of Canada’s Sleeping Beauty. The famous fairy tale, turned into one of the greatest Russian Imperial ballets, combines themes of fantasy and royalty, which Wonders riffed on with hand-painted details and Swarovski crystals in shades of yellow opal, graphite, and more.

Wonders used more than 5,000 crystals on the jacket.

Christopher Paunil

Christopher Paunil works in bridal and evening wear, so it should be no surprise that he took two Gap jackets and whipped them into a full-on couture gown.

“I wanted to do something more than just embellish the jackets with the beautiful Swarovski crystals,” he says. Did he ever. He shaped the chopped up denim into a sexy mermaid gown with an explosion of undulating tulle around the hem and finished it with more than 20,000 crystals.

“Karen Kain is such an icon in the dance industry, I wanted our creation to speak to her history,” he explains. “You’ll notice that across that bodice of the gown, we used pieces from the sleeves to form an “X” to represent her 10 years (in Roman Numerals) as artistic director with The National Ballet of Canada.  We’ve also used the letters “kk” for her initials among the thousands of crystals on the gown.”

No surprise, the gown took 60 hours to create.

 Lucian Matis

“Every time I think of the ballet, I think of hope, love and positive energy,” says Lucian Matis, whose childhood in Romania included lots of live symphony, opera and ballet.

Matis’ starting point was a tapestry he is using for his spring 2017 collection, which he is already working on. He created the fabric from photographs he took of peonies in his own garden north of Toronto.

The abstracted flowers were cut out and hand-appliquéd in bush-like clusters, dripping down to the waist, which Matis nipped to give it more shape. Punk-inspired spikes are scattered throughout, like thorns, he says. “I want to break the prettiness, to make it younger and trendier and add a little edge.”

Denim Jacket
Photography by Carlo Mendoza

Sid Neigum

Sid Neigum translated Karen Kain’s strength as an artist and artistic director into an armour-like jacket that took more than 150 hours to create.

“I was very inspired by the materials – denim and crystals – especially the juxtaposition between the frayed denim and the sharp-edge, triangular crystals,” he describes.

Neigum took apart two Gap jackets and used the denim to create a blazer that emphasizes the shoulder and has buttons running down the back. He then dyed the piece three times so it would blend with the large jet Swarovski crystals.

“With the help of my team, I used 6000 jump rings to attach 1500 crystals in a hexagon pattern, and once complete the crystals were hand sewn onto the jacket.” The result is almost 10 pounds.

Denim Jacket
Photography by Carlo Mendoza

Tanya Taylor

Tanya Taylor’s romantic Fall 2016 collection is full of florals and this, along with the bouquets that are presented to a prima ballerina at
the end of a performance, inspired her design.

Multicoloured handpainted florets spray off of subtle branches with petals and stamens emphasized in Swarovski crystal detailing.