By Samantha Chio
Amanda Mah grew up watching her grandmother sew and knit clothing for her. When Mah took her first sewing class, she was hooked. During her time at the Wilson School of Design, Mah discovered her desire to promote inclusivity. Seeing fashion as a vehicle for inclusivity, this guided her to her final collection, NRG.
NRG creates activewear to suit the needs of an in-betweener woman: women that are a size 14 to 16. These women have different fit and support needs than what the current activewear market has available. NRG aims to empower women of all shapes and sizes to feel confident while being active.
NRG will be unveiled at the 2019 The Show on April 18 at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) newly opened Wilson School of Design building in Richmond. The beautiful and innovative $36-million building houses a range of design programs including the fashion-design-and-technology program.
Event details and tickets can be found online.
Samantha Chio: Who or what was the inspiration behind your line?
Amanda Mah: The inspiration behind my line were in-betweener women. The in-betweener woman is a size 14 to 16 and find it hard to buy clothing that fit them well. Mass market sizing typically goes from a size zero to a size 12, and plus size goes from a size 16 and onwards. When people are able to find size 12 to 16, they are not made to suit their fit needs.
Even more interesting, the average North American woman is a size 14! Activewear is exclusive in their own way because most apparel options available are designed for low-impact sports such as yoga and running. Low-support options aren’t optimal for in-betweeners because they need more support! I wanted to be able to create a solution for an already under-serviced market.
SC: Who are your style icons?
AM: I think the closest person to a style icon for me would probably be Lady Gaga. I like how emotionally connected she is to her clothing. She is very fluid in the way that she dresses; she can be wearing an ethereal ball gown one day and then be wearing a casual outfit the next day. I remember her speaking in an interview about how her sense of style changes depending on her comfort level, and that she wears avant-garde garments when she’s the least comfortable. It really resonated with me because I had always seen clothing as a vehicle to emotions and well-being. Clothing is meant to make you feel good and to provoke emotions.
SC: What’s the most helpful thing you learned at KPU?
AM: The most helpful thing I learned is probably time management. When I was in high school, I was not good at managing my time partially because I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. Coming into the program made me want to do everything better because I truly enjoyed it. I wanted to do the best I could on every single project, but then I would spend too much time doing one thing and not spend enough time for other things. As I progressed through the program, I realized I needed to plan my time really well in order to accomplish what I want to do within a given time frame.
SC: Describe your educational journey.
AM: I never thought I would end up in fashion design because I almost went into sciences and business—that was what everyone else was doing. I had always wanted to look into design, but never really took it too seriously because my peers were going into sciences and business. I was talking to a student teacher, who graduated from the Fashion & Technology program, about sewing and she mentioned the Wilson School of Design.
It got me thinking because my sewing class was the only thing that I really liked to do and the only thing that made me excited about going to school. Since coming to the Wilson School of Design, I quickly realized that a fusion of technical and creative design is what interests me. I really like zero waste as it is a mix of creative and technical—it makes me think about how to make things aesthetically pleasing, but also functional and within certain constraints.
SC: What word best encapsulates you as a designer?
AM: The best word that encapsulates me as a designer would be inclusive. Fashion can feel exclusive, and it makes me mad because everyone needs to wear clothes. People are unique, so why can’t clothing fit and express everyone? Everyone should to be able to wear clothes that make them feel confident. I want people to be able to find clothes that do what it needs to do, function where it needs to be, and fit the way it needs to be fitted. A lot of people want to look good, and finding a balance between all three is the goal of making clothing inclusive for everyone.