My Atlantic Fashion Week

This year was my first year at Atlantic Fashion Week and it was a great opportunity to explain to people what a Surface Designer does.  I am not a fashion designer and I am not someone who can sew well.  I would never want to take credit for that, or pretend that that is what I do.  Moreover, I am the person who creates pattern, motifes, and dyes fabric.  I am the person who a fashion designer can turn to if they want something special or unique made for them.  The goal of my first solo line was about showing off the textiles by themselves, and the beauty of hand dyed silk.

Movement, high contrast, and pops of bright colour were the inspiration behind my line at AFW.  (Of course I had to compliment it all with black as black is my favourite.)

Black and white are HUGE right now, so I kept this piece simple by printing large black jungle leaves on it.  I tied it all together by adding a shinny black ribbon around the waste.

Lance strutted down the runway wearing my green and turquoise silk yardage wrapped around him as a long billowing scarf.  Nothing says style like a man who can pull off a scarf;)

I felt like my first line needed pops of warm colours as well as cool, so I added this golden yellow/saffron piece of silk.  I wish I had made the flowers larger, but hey, live and learn:)

A true man is never afraid to wear pink;)  Sean rocked the runway in this large piece of pink and purple hand dyed silk.  I wrapped it around him like a circle scarf.  Needless to say, he nailed it.

For Tina’s look, I tied my lime green yardage around her almost like a kimono.  This is something you could duplicate with any large piece of fabric, and looks super stylish.  You could wear this to the office, or out for drinks with your friends.

This piece was a little different from the rest of my line.  It was (in comparison to the rest) a little muted and more “earthy”.  You can not see in this shot, but from the back this piece was covered in tiny, organic lines which I LOVED!  (Check out my instagram to see what I mean.)

PINK BABY!  As I said above, this line was all about high contrast and bright colours – this piece totally accomplished that!  (Shout out to my husband Ryan for convincing me to use this colour!  I was actually going to dye it more of a bubble gum pink, but Ry persuaded me to keep exploring this one, and I am so glad I did.)

Again I want to thank all the volunteers who helped make this event a success and who did so much behind the scenes.  Also, thank you to Angela Campagnoni who was so organized and helpful during this process, and gave me this amazing opportunity.  Thank you again to Brent McCombs of AlterEgo photography, it was a pleasure working with you, and finally, HUGE thank you to my amazing models!  YOU GUYS ROCKED IT!! 🙂

“Colour can raise the dead.” – Iris Apfel



Feature Friday: heartSTRINGS Jewelry

Melanie Brown is creative in so many ways.  She is a talented photographer, and makes super cool jewelry out of new and used guitar strings.

Melanie started heartSTRINGS Jewelry in the spring of 2014 while she was going to school in Nashville, Tennessee.  She did it as a hobby for about six months and then decided to try it out as a business.  Words cannot describe how excited she was when her first order came in.  She was so happy that others seemed to enjoy the jewelry as much as she did.

Each piece of jewelry is designed and made by her, using new and/or used guitar strings, copper wire and a variety of stone beads and fresh water pearls.  Melanie loves the simplicity of the materials and how well they complement one another.

You can find her jewelry online on her Facebook page and on her Etsy online store.

“But if you cut a piece of guitar string I would wear it like it’s a wedding ring.” – Josh Ramsay, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tavish Crowe


One, Two, Three!

Photographer: AlterEgo Photography Surface Design: Dee Wilkie Model: Katie McDonald (Assistance provided by: Sarah Bottomley)

During Atlantic Fashion Week I had the privilege to work with Halifax based photographer Brent McCombs of AlterEgo Photography  (I have strongly admired his work since I met him at the model call for AFW).  Brent welcomed me and my silk yardage into his studio and shot for close to three hours.

Photographer: AlterEgo Photography Surface Design: Dee Wilkie Model: Katie McDonald (Assistance provided by: Sarah Bottomley)

The concept I was after was showing the movement and gracefulness of my hand dyed silk.  I had met Katie McDonald at the AFW model call and after seeing some of her instagram pictures, I knew she would be the perfect fit as a model for my shoot with Brent.

Photographer: AlterEgo Photography Surface Design: Dee Wilkie Model: Katie McDonald (Assistance provided by: Sarah Bottomley)

Brent started off the shoot by explaining to Katie and I that this was going to be a difficult shoot.  He told us that there were three very important factors at play here… The first being Katie and her dance moves.  Even if she got her poses, positions and jumps right 100% of the time; the fabric would only look right 50% of the time.  Then, Brent clicking the camera at the exact right moment would bring the odds down even more…

Photographer: AlterEgo Photography Surface Design: Dee Wilkie Model: Katie McDonald (Assistance provided by: Sarah Bottomley)

Words can not describe how happy I am with how this shoot turned out.  As I mentioned before, things turning out the way you had them in your head only happens on a rare occasion.  When it does, it feels like Christmas morning.

Photographer: AlterEgo Photography Surface Design: Dee Wilkie Model: Katie McDonald (Assistance provided by: Sarah Bottomley)

“One, two, three” will forever be ingrained in my head from this shoot, as Sarah (Brent’s wife and assistant) I had to choreograph when we would throw the silk at the same time Katie hit a post and Brent clicked away at his camera.)

Blue Water Silk
Photographer: AlterEgo Photography Surface Design: Dee Wilkie Model: Katie McDonald (Assistance provided by: Sarah Bottomley)

“It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer.” -Shanna La Fleur



Getting Ready for Atlantic Fashion Week

Purple and Pink Silk Yardage
Being a Surface Designer kind of puts me in a weird place, especially because I focus more on textiles than digital print.  I don’t fit the graphic designer profile, and I don’t fit the fashion designer profile (also, can I just take this opportunity to say that a fashion designer is NOT just someone who can sew!!!  There is a lot more talent and skill involved in creating a garment and making an original pattern than buying one and making something that has already been designed by someone else.  Rant over).

This fall, a model who I have worked with before (Athenais Testi), suggested that I put my silk into Atlantic Fashion Week.  I thought she was crazy!  I don’t sew!  I had nothing ready.  Athenais encouraged me to do it anyway and said the models could walk down the runway draped in my silk.  The more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea!  So this year, for the first time ever, I will be participating in Atlantic Fashion Week.
Blue Silk YardageRecently I have learned: even though something might not turn out the way I had it in my head or might not be as glamorous as I pictured, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it!  Creating new things and dying fabric is what I love.  Even if I am not at the point where I want to be, that doesn’t mean I should sit around and wait until I have things figured out.  You have to start somewhere.

Green Silk Yardage
My line, this year, will feature colours that are forecasted for Sping/Summer 2016.  I am more than excited about the colours that we will see this coming season!  Pale pinks and neutrals look like they are still going to be popular. Lime green, magenta, aqua, and BLACK (my favourite) also look like they will have a strong presence this year.

“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.” – Les Brown


Feature Friday: Bronwen Robbins

6386518To me, there is a big difference between costume designers and costume designers who do it well.  To me, Bronwen is one that does it well!  She is also one of the designers for SEVEN and I am so excited about what she brings to that collaboration.

Q and A with Bronwen Robbins.

1.) Describe your art/fashion/design.

I think the best way to describe my aesthetics for costume design would be nerdy/ historical. I’m a big fan of cartoons and comics, which eventually dropped me into the world of cosplay, but I also worked at Kings Landing for 6 years right out of high school and have a deep love for historical costume. My favourite era is the 1880’s-1890’s when the bustle made a comeback but the silhouette became thinner.  I also really love the art and various historical fashions of Asia.

2.) What inspires you?

Cartoons, history, fashion, fabric and individual items. Inspiration for me can come from anywhere and quite often as I am trying to get to sleep at night): For example, I bought a pair of Steampunk goggles at a convention in 2014 and based an entire costume around them.

3.) What is your favourite piece you ever made and why?

I don’t really have a favourite!  I am really picky and critical when it comes to my own work. Everyone else tells me how awesome it is when all I see is a garment and where it could be improved.  The other reason is I usually cosplay as characters who are my favourites from a book or show even if they are obscure. To me, the fun and enjoyment comes from bringing that character to life rather then recognition due to popularity. So in the end they really are all my favourites I guess.

4.) What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to design and creating your work?

I’d have to say time! That goes back to what I said previously, that I am very picky and critical of my work and that I refuse to work when tired. Working when tired leads to melt downs, mistakes and re-making the entire garment. I always joke I need a TARDIS ( the space/time machine from Doctor Who) of my own so I can just go in there, sew to my hearts content, sleep as much as I like/need and then come out 5 minutes later ready for work or whatever else needs my attention. Other then that I’d have to say my cat is my biggest obstacle. She always wants attention the second I start drafting and sewing.

5.) Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’d like to say in a studio of my own and/or a costume shop of my own inspiring myself and others, but a lot can happen in 5 years. So I am going to say that in 5 years I will still be doing what I love at a rate that doesn’t make me crazy.

6.) Can you tell me more about what you do with cosplay and costume making?

Oh man, where do I start? It’s not just one thing or one skill, it is a whole army of skills both old and new that conjure up a cosplay costume.  I guess it is a way to show my love or appreciation for a fictional character, someone who is not real, but has to some extent left a mark on me to the point that I want to thank them (for lack of a better way of saying it) by creating them for real. I’ll use a trio of costumes I’ll be making for Anime North next spring as an example: Sailor V, Sailor Venus and Princess Venus. All three are the same character from the series Sailor Moon, a series that is very dear to my heart. I’ve met pretty much all my friends because of that show and I always thought that personality wise, I was probably closest to Sailor Venus. To make those costumes, I’ll be making: a full floor length gown, the iconic Sailor scout uniform and V’s costume (which is more of a modified school girl outfit), a light up sword and learning to cat epoxy or resin to make some gem stones. Cosplay is not only about fandom, it’s about continually learning new skills to improve your game and therefore improving what I can offer my clients.

Bronwen on the left, made her costume. (Helmet made by her friend Anna who is a sculptor.) Bronwen also made the Edge costume (white hair, gray mask on face) in back.
Bronwen on the left, made her costume. (Helmet made by her friend Anna who is a sculptor.) Bronwen also made the Edge costume (white hair, gray mask on face) in back.

7.) What was the most difficult thing you ever made and why?

To date, the most difficult thing I have made would probably be a full suit of Worbla armor. Worbla is a heat molding plastic. It was an entire set of new acquired skills for me, which like anything I got better at, learned short cuts and got faster with the more I worked with it. It took me nearly a year to complete. As to why? It was because the character Kain Highwind, was my absolute favorite character from the game Final Fantasy 4 and remains, to this day, one of my favorites from the entire series. I recorded most of the process for making it on my blog starting in August of 2013

8.) What is something you have always wanted to make but have not?

Someday, I want to make Princess Fireball from Sailor Moon Star (it always goes back to Sailor Moon). Ideally I’d like to make the costume so that I can switch to her Sailor Scout costume via tear away snaps/velcro. It’s not impossible for me to make by any stretch, it’s just her hair! Her hair intimidates me, wig styling is not my thing.

“Be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn, In that case, you should always be a unicorn.” ― Elle Lothlorien

Keep up with Bronwen on:
Facebook or her Website.


Lake Goddesses

Lake goddesses
Photographer: Nathanael Patriquin
Surface Designer: Dee Wilkie
Models: Chantal Allen, Hiroko Kosuge, Chantal Hiltz

Last month I did this great, very cold shoot with Nathanael Patriquin, Chantal Allen, Hiroko Kosuge, and Chantal Hiltz.  The concept was “swamp babies”.  I wanted the girls to be kinda dark and eerie, but it turned out with them looking like gorgeous lake goddesses.  I really love how Nathanael edits his photos.  His work has such a soft effect.  Here are a few of our favourite photos.

KOKO lake
Photographer: Nathanael Patriquin
Surface Designer: Dee Wilkie
Model: Hiroko Kosuge
Chantall Lake
Photographer: Nathanael Patriquin
Surface Designer: Dee Wilkie
Models: Chantal Allen
Lake Chantal
Photographer: Nathanael Patriquin
Surface Designer: Dee Wilkie
Models: Chantal Hiltz

“You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou


Feature Friday: Michelle Duncan

Time to Get Comfortable with Your Wardrobe:

The foundations of a fashion line by Michelle Duncan

Sketch: Michelle Duncan
Sketch: Michelle Duncan

I love fashion design. Many people do. What I love about fashion design is design – in fact, I don’t care for fashion all that much. Trends are fun to follow and explore and they demonstrate so much about culture that I do have a vast appreciation for them. However, today’s fashion seems to be based a great deal on consumerism and that I can do without. With each season boasting a new silhouette, colour palate and fabric compilation, it’s become difficult to afford quality pieces as they will most certainly become passé in only a few short months. This is the challenge I am striving to overcome.

Sketch: Michelle Duncan
Sketch: Michelle Duncan

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy fast fashion pieces at inexpensive prices, especially when attending events where I will likely never wear said garment ever again. However, I have come to learn that from day to day I have a relatively limited wardrobe consisting of about 20 pieces I wear on a weekly basis. I like to be comfortable. Comfort can mean something different for everyone. I may be comfortable in my fleecy plaid pyjama pants that are about a foot too long for me, but I am very uncomfortable in these pyjama pants when I have to greet an unexpected visitor at my door. I may also be comfortable in my new skinny jeans that make my butt look great when I’m out on the town, but when I get home to chill out on the couch and the crotch starts riding up and the fabric starts bunching under my knees, I am no longer in my comfort-zone. So when I say I like to be comfortable, I mean I like my body and skin to feel relaxed and breathable and I like my mind to feel confident and at ease.

Sketch: Michelle Duncan
Sketch: Michelle Duncan

So how can one achieve total comfort in their garments? Fabric is a HUGE factor. Our bodies need to breathe! Not just from our lungs, but our skin needs air to wick away moisture while we regulate our temperature with layers of fabric. Unless you want to be wearing your workout-wear 24/7, you may want to consider natural fabrics as a refreshing alternative. Each fabric has its own set of benefits and draw-backs. From my experience and research, I have decided to focus my upcoming line on linen exclusively. Why linen? Isn’t it all burlapy and wrinkley? Well… kinda, but (and this goes back to the timelessness I’m aiming for) linen only gets softer with wear! Linen certainly does crease and wrinkle, but this is part of its nature, allowing it to soften and drape naturally. It is also the perfect fabric for temperature regulation. Linen absorbs moisture, wicking it away from the body allowing it to remain cool in warmer months AND stay warm in cooler months! The fabric itself has antibacterial qualities, is resistant to moths (a common issue with plant-based fibres) and will not pill or break easily with abrasion.  Linen offers longevity and comfort along with some understated health benefits, so with this fabric selected, what kind of garments will I be creating?

Sketch: Michelle Duncan
Sketch: Michelle Duncan

Comfort and subtle sensuality are my design goals. I like gathered fabric with drawstrings and bows because they are both feminine and functional as they can manipulate the fit or shape of a piece of clothing. I also love ruffles mostly because they create texture on a comparatively blank colour palate – Did I mention the line will consist only of neutral colours? White, beige, grey. With these easy to mix, match and layer tones, added texture creates visual and tactile interest and infuses movement and playfulness into the slightly stark pieces. I want my line to be effortless and sophisticated, focusing mainly on what I will loosely describe as “loungewear.” With a lingerie-esque feel, the line will include undergarments and versatile day-to-evening-to-night wear. There is no specific category for the garments as they are meant to be worn however you like – as nightly sleepwear, casual wear for your day off, sexy negligée for a night with your sweetie, or a fab ensemble for a night out – so long as you are comfortable!

I hope my line will inspire you to create your own personal and timeless “fashion” and cannot wait to share more of what is in store as I continue on to develop this new and exciting project! xo

“Be comfortable in your own skin.  If you’re not you’ll never convince others you are.”