By Komal Randhawa
Born and raised in Kelowna, British Columbia, a region where only a handful of people understand the depth and art of couture fashion, Wendy Schindler took her dream and dresses to the big city and found herself in the Fashion Design program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver.
“Couture fashion is a dying art, and what people don’t quite understand is that a couture dress is more than just an outfit, it’s a masterpiece,” said Schindler.
Having gone through Montessori school in her adolescence, Schindler has been a “hands-on” kind of gal from a young age, and this is what she thinks triggered her creative mind. Throughout her years in university and different projects, she relates back to historical fashion and the works of her favourite designers to create her own unique pieces for the runway. With her love of handwork and quality production, Wendy is dedicated to preserving couture fashion. Her interest in craftsmanship stems from her artistic viewpoint on design, which is evident in her unique pieces.
Revolution 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.
Komal Randhawa: Who or what was the inspiration behind your line?
Wendy Schindler: I walk through Holts and Nordstrom in Vancouver often for style inspiration and to gauge what’s new in the fashion scene. I like to see how fashion reports are reflected in department stores, but I run into the same problem almost every time: the most fashion-forward stuff is never my size.
I’ve spent a fair share of time dedicated to the research into the average body size of women, and in North America, those numbers range from 14 to 16. The women who have disposable income for luxury wear can’t find what they are looking for because it simply isn’t made in their size. I feel that curvy women should be given the chance to wear the gown they see on the red carpet at the Oscars, or the gown their favorite actress is wearing at the Cannes Film Festival—but it still remains that getting a couture gown past the size of 12 is uncommon.
Women should have access or the choice to wear something handcrafted and something luxury like Ralph and Russo or Christian Dior. Being a plus size woman myself, I haven’t experienced pulling ready-to-wear fashion garments that instantly makes me feel beautiful, and sometimes shopping for something exclusive and luxury can be distressing. I devote my time and efforts to create gowns and garments that I wish were available for myself in the market.
KR: Who are your style icons?
WS: Ralph and Russo remains my biggest style icon. The handwork and quality that goes into their garments blows me away and still gives me goose bumps. I’ve also always admired Dior. Christian Dior plays with the feminine form, and that ties in with my values when creating garments for women. Curvy women at one point or another have struggled with self-image, but that is their natural feminine form and I want to work with these women by accepting them in their rawest form.
KR: What’s the most helpful thing you learned at KPU?
WS: KPU has allowed me to not only discover my own label in a more meaningful way, but to understand the depth of business related to fashion. The ability to research and learn about niche markets, filling gaps in the market, and marketing my label are all elements that designers overlook because we remain so focused on the product. With that being said, from a design standpoint, KPU has allowed me to learn the many aspects of producing a final product: from samples to prototypes to final end-pieces, the garments satisfy a need in the fashion market.
KR: Describe your education journey.
WS: I was fortunate enough that my parents put me through Montessori at a very young age. I think this is what help set off the creative outlet within me. The foundation of teaching at Montessori is very hands on. When I was five, my mom said I was always beading something or coming home with hand-made jewelry and crafts. She had to stop saving all the stuff I was making because there was just too much!
My mother is from the U.K., so I spent about eight months overseas for my education in primary school. Every weekend, we spent time exploring new historical places in England. Through different exposures in the U.K. and Canada, I have always been exposed to different cultures. Europe holds the gold standard for fashion across the globe, and I feel very privileged living in Canada but have a close familial tie to England.
By the time high school rolled around, I had taken all available textile courses in grade 11 in Kelowna. The teachers at my school created a specific curriculum for me in the 12th grade to essentially finish high school. It was my textiles teacher who introduced the Kwantlen program to me, and recommended that I work on a collection in that final year of high school to use as a portfolio piece for entry into the design program at Kwantlen.
I’m fortunate that so many people saw my potential in Kelowna, and helped me navigate my way to Vancouver to help me achieve my dreams. Now, as a fourth-year fashion design and technology student, I’ve seen how Kwantlen has really opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities in the fashion industry. There is a lot more to than just the sewing of fabric. To some extent, that is reassuring to me because if you don’t like typical design, you can go into colour or custom fit and so forth. The opportunities are endless!
KR: What word best encapsulates you as a designer?
WS: Devoted. Ever since I was a little girl, design has been my true love. Anywhere from a well-fitted pair of blue denims to a dress that compliments your body, I am intrigued by how fabrics, colour, and garments can make a person feel good. I moved between cities and left my family behind in Kelowna so I could be in Vancouver and get an education in what I’m passionate about. There is endless devotion in my work, and I would go anywhere to curate the best of what I am capable of doing. I don’t necessarily feel that I need to choose where I live, but I allow my career to take me where it feels I need to be.