The DHL Fashion Scholarship Competition

DHL lives up to its mantra that “DHL is a friend of fashion” by teaming up with George Brown College to hold its first “DHL Fashion Challenge” during this year’s World MasterCard Fashion Week. Students were asked to create unique couture creations from DHL shipping and packing materials, and the creativity, even within the confines of working with limited materials, was outstanding. The chosen finalist designs can all be viewed at

The top 5 finalists displayed their designs during the DHL Fashion Industry Panel on Tuesday, October 22. The top 3 winners were chosen by industry experts and renowned designers on the panel. Aside from some very impressive monetary scholarships awarded to 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place finalists, the top three competitors also received mentorships or time working alongside some of the biggest names in fashion design. This particular scholarship opportunity offers what the DHL panel has deemed the most important assets for these future design entrepreneurs: the financial stability to follow their vision and the ability to learn their craft and about the industry from some of the most successful in the business. This is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that will give these 3 aspiring artists a leg up on their current competition.

The top 5 student finalists were Nagalakshmi Deepak, Tristan Licud, Fatema Kneibei, Lola Awojide, and Isabelle Crabtree; however, like any competition, there can only be one winner, and it was Nagalakshmi Deepak’s design that made the cut, as the designers on the panel were impressed with her unique approach and her ability to stand out among the crowd. DHL is definitely involved in some exciting projects that are an investment in our fashion future.


Published in Fashion Weekly, November 2013


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Fashion Entrepreneur Do’s and Don’ts: Advice from The DHL Fashion Industry Panel

The DHL Panel at the World Mastercard Fashion Week 2013 catered to aspiring fashion entrepreneurs.  The Panel gave advice about starting your own business, how to market your product, and discussed partnerships and investment strategies.

The DHL panel discussion was moderated by Leesa Butler from Fashion Group International and included Stephan Caras (designer), Adam Taubenfligel (designer – Triarchy), Jarrad Clark (Global Creative Director of IMG Fashion), Mark Zimmerman (Senior Advisor & CIO at MaRs), and Greg Hewitt (President of DHL Express Canada).

Stephan started off the discussion on financing design projects and cautioned young designers that they must be “financially stable” and capable of investing “total commitment for at least 5 years” in order to get any business off the ground. They should not expect a 1 year turn around and there has to be constant improvement over those 5 years. Most young designers are excited and ambitious, but Stephan admonishes moving too quickly and notes that before even thinking of a show, you need the platform, the venue, and the back-up capital to put on that show.

Where to look for Investments and Capital:

  1. Risk capital – the 3 f’s: friends, family, fools
  2. Venture capital
  3. Government support – small business grants
  4. Partnerships – align yourself with a brand that is like-minded and forge long-term partnerships
  5. Corporate company sponsorship

Before one can even think of financing, though, there are three core elements that must be in order. First and foremost, you have to have a product and there has to be a market for that product.

The 3 most important aspects to entrepreneurial success are:

  1. Product
  2. Market
  3. Team

Adam reminded the young designers that “some products will work and some won’t” and tells designers to keep that in mind and be prepared for it. It is important to believe in your product, but it is essential to test its marketability. Adam encourages young designers to launch in their local market and test their product out so they don’t over-commit to anything and find themselves in over their heads. He calls this tactic “home ground test runs.” Adam cautions that “until you have a strong base, a good supply chain, and financial stability” you should not be jumping the borders of your country. You can “go after markets,” Adam explains, “but don’t go after all of it all at once.” Growing a business is a slow, organic process that requires balance, strategy, and patience; after all, Adam warns that “retailers don’t give you a second chance, so take the time and do it right.”

One way that Mark suggests young entrepreneurs test their marketability is online. Stephan adamantly agreed, remarking that “social media is the best way for a new designer to market. Social media allows easy access to markets and gets you out there – exposing your work and bringing it to the public.” Although it is paramount to a new business, Stephan also cautions to be strategic with your use of social media and avoid being “guilty of information overload.” Social media is an excellent medium through which to “gauge how your product is being accepted by this initial market.”

Finally, Greg offers advice that can be one of the biggest contenders that make the difference between success and failure, that of a good team and good partnerships, particularly a good supply partner. “Your designs are your livelihood; they need to be in good hands,” says Greg, and he further notes that working with experts like DHL will help reduce initial trial and error. Ultimately one of the greatest assets is a supply partner that understands your business, your customers, and your individual needs as a fashion entrepreneur. Adam supports this view wholeheartedly, remarking that “it’s your job to be creative; form good partnerships so that you can let those burdens go and focus on your job – creating.”

With this network in play, the panel decided on two main points that will determine success.

Cardinal Rules for young designers:

  1. Have a clear vision and business strategy that is also malleable.
  2. Industry Knowledge

Jarrad urges young designers to “own your vision and take it through all of the barriers, but be willing to adapt.” Young entrepreneurs should indeed have a clear vision and a clear business plan, but should also know that it will change and therefore it should be a plan that is malleable. Not only the business plan, but how you “get there” or achieve your vision must also be open to change. Ultimately things won’t always be in your control and you have to roll with the punches. Adam cautions along the same lines, mentioning that “you’re not going to be the one that dictates a lot of the change that will happen, even if it’s your business” and expresses that “adaptation is not compromising your vision.” This is not a linear journey; all successes are achieved through a long road full of twists and turns.

Finally, the entire panel unanimously agreed that as a new designer you MUST have knowledge about the industry. You must first learn from others who have knowledge. The most beneficial but least utilized resource is other successful designers. Do not underestimate the benefits of internships and apprenticeships; mentorships are the most effective way for you to learn your craft, develop your business sense, and become familiar with the industry.


Published in Fashion Weekly, November 2013


Mikael D Runway Show

Mikael D’s 2014 spring line offers a unique juxtaposition between class, femininity, and elegance and a more risqué sexual allure. The collection boasts a lot of beading, lace, and sparkle, along with a lot of eccentric design work and an intricate attention to detail that adds a certain haute couture element to his work. Definitely high-end materials, Mikael’s work evokes class and high-fashion all the way. The central theme of this 2014 spring collection is a mock-nudity that takes every elegant piece that little step further towards seductive and alluring. With a lot of lace overlay and nude linings, the garments and the person wearing them seem to blend. Truly a collection for those whose fashion sense is an extension of their personal identity, these pieces are sensational and inspiring. My favorite piece, what I have deemed his “naked dress” out of his entire mock-nude collection, is a beautiful curve accentuating dress that is nude with sparkly blue accents. The dress hugs the model and covers the body in a way that it seems to be an extension of the girl herself. Definitely head-turning quality, Mikael D’s 2014 spring collection will get your pulse racing and take your breath away.


Published in Fashion Weekly, November 2013



Narces Studio Show

The Narces 2014 spring collection couples pieces that are fun, flirty, and hyper feminine with others that are classy, elegant, and a little bit sexy. The type of creations that can adapt to any setting, whether professional, social, or intimate, Narce’s collection has every look that your wardrobe needs for spring 2014. In the flirty and fun portion, you’ll see a lot of beading, lace, dots, and sparkle. The dresses maintain shorter flirty skirt lines, including ballerina and A line, with some flowing longer options as well. Here styles are light and flowy, with a colour palette that boasts softer pastel hues, giving the collection a very fresh and feminine feel. In the more sophisticated and classy portion, you’ll still see a lot of lace and beading, but this is most often darker hues and black over nude or lighter metallic linings, and designs fit a little closer to the body. If I could describe this collection in 3 words they would be feminine, flirtatious, and fun. Her designs are perfect for spring and I’m confident that we will see many of these adorable designs leave the runway and resurface on the streets of Toronto this coming spring.


Publishin in Fashion Weekly, November 2013


A Celebration of Life and Beauty

Posted on July 17, 2014 by Amanda Labelle in Features // 0 Comments


From “She” to “We,” the SHE Project by After Breast Cancer is a collective effort to sponsor the cure and to support the beauty and strength of the female spirit. The SHE Project is a photography competition judged by Toronto’s talented media personalities. Taking place on the afternoon of July 16th at the West-end of Toronto, this years’ event will include 12 talented female photographers, 12 Ambassador Breast Cancer Survivors, as well as many of Toronto’s top stylists, designers, and hair and makeup artists.

The SHE project has come to fruition through the tireless efforts of Alicia Vianga, Founder of After Breast Cancer (, a Canadian-based charity providing resources that contribute to women’s quality of life (QOL) initiatives for life after breast cancer, including the donation of bras, camisoles, and breast prosthesis at no cost to women who had to undergo a mastectomy or lumpectomy.


As Alicia states, “these ladies are powerful women, their stories will move you; cancer may take their breast, cancer may take their self-esteem, but cancer does not define who they are.” Ultimately the aim with this event is to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research, but even more so to spread hope and to promote the beauty that can be seen in the strength of these women: “there’s nothing stopping these women from looking and feeling beautiful.”

SHE Project has partnered with a host of clothing and jewelry designers like Naomi Shapiro of Rock n Karma, Kurve Jewellery, Blu Ivory, Premier Jour Lingerie and Belo Boutiques. SHE has also partnered with Delectable Sweets and Confections supplied by ChocolaChocola and Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts. Renowned hair and makeup team, Beauty Concept by Shirley Wu, with celebrity stylists, Dale Hodder of Shut up and Dress Me have donated their time and talents to help showcase the before and after shots of the 12 brave Ambassadors. This showcase consists of an intimate and raw portrait of each woman and her scars alongside her story outlining the struggles and challenges she has faced and her vulnerability. The photographers each have 60min to shoot and tell their photographic journey.

The photo shoot will take place on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 starting at 6pm at Humber Bay Park at Parklawn Avenue and Lakeshore Blvd. W.

Eight judges have volunteered their time to select the best images from the showcase. Once shortlisted to 2 per individual, the judges will announce and select the best photographs to be unveiled at the After Breast Cancer Gala taking place on September 28, 2014. The final selection will be part of the 2015 Calendar.

The Judges include:

  • Cynthia Mulligan – Canadian television presenter on Citytv’s CityNews
  • Patricia Jaggernauth – Weather Specialist & TV Reporter – CP24
  • Christine Bentley – Canadian journalist and former news anchor on CTV
  • Veronica Chail – Host of Bollywood Boulevard, OMNI TV
  • Angie Seth – On Air Reporter, Global News
  • Shellina Ebrahim – Editor-in-chief of Fas magazine
  • Meera Solanki Estrada- Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Fusia Magazine
  • Taylor Kaye – Radio & TV Personality, Kiss 92.5fm, Steven & Chris Show

Ultimately this event is about giving back: giving funding towards the cause, for sure, but just as importantly giving confidence back to these brave cancer survivors. The hope is that each of these Ambassadors can enjoy her personalized experience of being styled and photographed, without being judged, and will feel confident, triumphant, and beautiful.


Published in Fusia Magazine, July 2014

Yellow & Teal Cocktail Party for Ovarian Cancer Awareness

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Amanda Labelle in F Sake: Insight // 0 Comments



On Saturday July 19th I was able to attend a heart-warming event, the Yellow & Teal cocktail party fund raiser for ovarian cancer: an event organized and orchestrated by two dedicated daughters for their mother who is living with ovarian cancer. “We did this because we really love our mother and it’s been very hard recently watching her not do so well,” said Sheleigh, “and we figured that she has always done so much for us as we were growing up, so now, in her time of need, we figured it was time for us to do something for her.” This was a classy and intimate affair held at the Keg Mansion in Toronto; the food was spectacular and those in attendance were all close friends and family. It was a time to share support and to marvel at the unassailable optimism of the guest of honour, Wendy.



Wendy was diagnosed on April 1st 2011 with sever epithelial ovarian cancer. She is undergoing chemo as well as naturopathic complementary treatment. She continues to keep an open mind, an over-flowing heart, and an unparalleled, upbeat, optimistic attitude that is inspiring to see. Wendy is the first to state: “don’t get me wrong, I do cry […] but I have many blessings in my life: I’m still alive!”

The event was also attended by Catherine Argiropoulos, Community Engagement Manager at Ovarian Cancer Canada who gave an address on current awareness efforts and some statistics on the disease. She calls ovarian cancer an “unjust disease” because there is unfortunately “no early detection test, the signs and symptoms are difficult to recognize, and there is so little funding: only 2.1% of cancer funding in the country is directed towards ovarian cancer,” and yet “2600 women in Canada are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.”

Ovarian Cancer Canada is the only national charity in Canada that is dedicated solely to this disease, which works to eradicate the disease and support the 17 thousand women in Canada living with it. Their educational and fundraising efforts have made significant impacts, but there is still a long way to go. The Ovarian Cancer Walk of Hope is the single most powerful fundraiser to raise awareness for ovarian cancer in Canada. To date, it has raised over $17 million for ovarian cancer. The walk this year will be held on Sunday Sep 7th, 2014 and Sheleigh, Lindsey, their cousin, and her braver mother will be participating in this year’s Walk of Hope, their 3rd annual “Walk for Wendy.”


Published in Fusia Magazine, July 2014