Chelsea Cox’s design for a coat made entirely from Cashmere bathroom tissue will be on the runway in Toronto Sept. 28. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Aspiring South Surrey designer scores runway event

Bathroom-tissue couture could win design student up to $4,000

Chelsea Cox didn’t grow up dreaming that one day clothing she designed would be showcased on the runway to fashion-industry leaders – let alone that it would be something created from toilet paper.

In fact, the 23-year-old didn’t even plan to go into fashion – after graduating from Semiahmoo Secondary in 2012, she took a year of general arts at the University of Victoria, then took “a couple” of years off school.

Applying to study fashion at Kwantlen Polytechnic University “was really just kind of a random thing,” Cox admitted last week, in an interview with Peace Arch News.

“I never thought seriously of it as a career.”

Now in her third year at KPU’s Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design, however, Cox is thinking differently, and understandably so – a coat she designed for this year’s White Cashmere Collection Student Design Competition is one of 16 to be presented on the runway at an invite-only event this week at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Cox’s creation – made entirely from beads, nearly 10,000 in all, that she crafted from white and airbrushed-pink toilet paper – was chosen for the showcase from among more than 150 entries received from 11 design schools across Canada. Three other B.C. students are also finalists: Asli Katina Bozdag, Kel Dumana and Zohre Alipour.

The competition challenged aspiring designers to create couture using only Cashmere bathroom tissue – “to showcase their creativity, technical proficiency and design devotion to reflect their interpretations of iconic Canadian style in celebration of #Canada150,” according to information on Cashmere’s website.

As the White Cashmere Collection is a fund and awareness-raiser for breast cancer, Cox said the designers could only use breast-cancer pink as an additional colour.

Wanting to step outside her own comfort zone of practical fashion, as well as step away from the perhaps more expected design of a gown, Cox chose to design a coat. To incorporate the #Canada150 theme, she gave a nod to the four points of the classic Hudson’s Bay pattern, alternating white and pink stripes instead.

Cox said she spent up to eight hours a day over the course of about three weeks putting it all together – all while also attending school and working part-time.

And while it was enough to earn her a coverted finalist’s spot, she’ll learn Thursday if the effort gets the nod of the judges.

Three of the 16 finalists will be chosen to receive bursaries – $4,000, $2,000 or $1,000 – to pursue their fashion-design dreams.

Regardless, “I’m happy,” Cox said.

In addition to the opportunity to meet “so many people in the industry” – Cox and her family will be in Toronto for the showcase – the competition was a chance to test her own boundaries, something she described as important in any business.

“You can’t always stick to the mindset of what you like,” she said. “I had to think outside of my own personal style.”