North Vancouver-raised fashion designer Grandy C is stepping into new creative territory, and the bold move might just see her named winner of one of the fashion world’s most prestigious competitions.
Grandy C, of Atelier Grandi, has been selected as a finalist for international design competition World of WearableArt. The competition, set to take place in Wellington, New Zealand Sept. 20 - Oct. 8, will see her battle it out against 120 designers from 23 countries.
Grandy said it would be “very humbling” to win the event, a part-competition, part-theatrical stage show experience that brings in more than 60,000 people each year.
It would be her first time entering a competition of such calibre, she said, and there is some fierce competition – other finalists in previous years have included Cirque du Soleil costume designers and costume designers for the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.
“I do have high hopes for the piece I created, but I’m also up against lots of other very competent competitors,” she said. “The calibre of work that makes it to the stage… I’m expecting stiff competition. It would be a very humbling experience, certainly, if I were to win anything.”
The competition is split up into six recurring sections, Aotearoa, Avant-garde and Open, and three additional sections, Mars and Beyond, Gold, and Bizarre Bra, a category that in past years has seen lingerie crafted from everything from candelabras and human hair to old telephones and wire.
Across the categories, more than NZD$185,000 of awards and prizes are up for grabs.
Grandy has worked in fashion for more than a decade but was lured to the more artistic realm of wearable art during the pandemic when she received an unexpected proposal from Cashmere. The toilet paper brand requested she make a dress purely from their wares as part of a fundraising campaign for breast cancer awareness and it ignited a love for design that errs on the more eccentric side.
“It was a really fun experience. There was a lot of figuring out how I would treat the paper without it falling apart," she said. "There was a lot of engineering that was involved in constructing that piece.”
The experience had felt like a breath of fresh air after the monotonous churn of creating clothes for the runway, the seasonal shows that “didn’t really tickle my creativity,” she said.
Now venturing for the first time into wearable art, Grandy said the world is her oyster in terms of what can be visually created and what materials can be used.
“Up until now, a lot of the concerns on designing have been around how easy it is to care for the piece, whether it can go in the washing machine, whether it needs to be dry cleaned, what kind of fabric is needed. It’s always a very textile-based experience, but for creating wearable art, that all goes out the window a bit,” she said.
The whole process feels akin to being back at elementary school and putting together a large crafting project, she said – the possibilities are endless.
“With this, you could literally be shopping at the hardware store or the dollar store, looking for materials. If you have the vision, you can make anything work.”
As for the contending piece itself, the designer said she is sworn to secrecy on the finer details, not wanting to spoil the big reveal to take place at the upcoming show. She is, however, able to divulge that the work is inspired by Roman mythology, and it is crafted from foam. Lots and lots of foam, she said, which has brought on challenges in itself.
“I didn’t even know there were so many kinds of foam. I didn’t know there were so many kinds of adhesive, and I didn’t know certain adhesives, if you put it on a certain foam, will melt it, while others will bind it,” she said. “It’s all about experimenting, figuring out what works, and then slowly assembling it over a couple of months.”
The piece, which took around 500 hours to craft in January and February this year, will go on to be one of the most rewarding for her as a designer, she said. Art, unlike fashion which can be fast and frivolous in nature, tends to be appreciated more deeply and for much longer, she said.
Should her creation do well, there’s a chance the World of WearableArt museum will purchase it from Grandy to keep it in their own collection, where they display it in the museum in Wellington and in galleries around the world.
Alongside bringing home a win, having her works showcased to art lovers worldwide is the designer's biggest dream.
“I hope I don’t see it again other than in a museum,” she said.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.