Young designer wins prize for new take on the winter coat

Just as Toronto started slipping into summer shades and sockless shoes, aspiring fashion designer Meghan Dunsmuir won a national award for her answer to a colder Canadian challenge: How do you make a winter coat that is warm and stylish, too?

Organized by the Design Exchange, Canada’s design museum, Dunsmuir won first place and a $500 cash prize for her entry in the junior fashion design category: the TriLeaf seasonal coat.

Dunsmuir design

Writing alongside sketches and fabric samples, Dunsmuir told the judges her goal was to avoid big, puffy shapes and shiny materials that scream “winter coat.”

To do that, the Grade 10 student chose a slim, classic-looking shape, drawstring waist and down insulation to make the coat warm.

What makes the design unique is that it can be zipped into three lengths, from a long coat to a bomber jacket, plus the military style of its epaulets and padded elbows.

At the awards ceremony, a Sears Canada rep said they could take Dunsmuir’s design and hand it straight to a manufacturer.

Dunsmuir said she learned a lot about designing and sewing her own clothes at The Sewing Studio, a workshop where she worked on skirt and jacket projects.

Her art classes at Malvern Collegiate also helped, she said, and she is looking forward to starting at the Etobicoke School of the Arts next year. Dunsmuir also volunteers at the Design Exchange, guiding five to 12 year-old boys and girls in the museum’s fashion and toy design day camps.

It’s an inspiring place to work she said, surrounded this year by the work of French shoe designer Christian Louboutin, famous for his four-inch stiletto heels and red-lacquered soles (romance writer Danielle Steel is said to own more than 6,000 pairs).

Asked about street fashion in Toronto, Dunsmuir said the city is pretty fashion-forward, especially on Queen West, where many shops sell original clothes.

“But Toronto also gets a lot of American and international brands,” she said. “So we’ve kind of adopted that as our style too.

“Stores that go international – it’s kind of making all fashion similar.”

Dunsmuir hopes to counter that trend someday, perhaps after studying fashion design at Ryerson University.

Meghan Dunsmuir
Meghan Dunsmuir

“I’ve always loved Coco Channel,” she said, noting Channel was an outsider who avoided the grand, eccentric designs common in the women’s fashion of her day.

Her mother Erin Dunsmuir said that when it comes to fashion, Meghan’s independent streak has been showing a long time.

“I haven’t picked out her outfits since she was two,” she said.

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