When Patricia Te finished her first year in sciences at UBC, she knew there was something missing. The late nights of studying and long hours of classes were as fulfilling to her as her work at Aritzia, where she was surrounded by clothing and had the opportunity to dress people. After some doodling and teaching herself to sew, she built a portfolio that got her into Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s new Wilson School of Design. Now a senior, Te is weeks away from launching her thesis collection, To Me Collective, which has garnered attention already for the intellectual, modest designs.
We sat down with the young designer to talk about To Me, her aspirations, and how she was able to establish herself in the industry before graduation.
JB: Tell me about your thesis collection, To Me Collection. How did it come about?
PT: I found it really hard to come up with an idea, because everything is so saturated – everything has been done before. There’s just so much competition, so finding a niche was super difficult. I knew I wanted to do something for women, so I was thinking about what she felt sexy in and what does sexy mean. Sexy is so broad and means something different to so many different types of women. While I was researching femininity and how to empower women, I came across Carlota Guerrero, a spanish photographer, and she captured the female body so poetically and so romantically. That pushed me in the direction of overtly feminine fashion. At the same time, I came across modest fashion, which just came up in 2017. It’s an emerging market that has grossed over a billion dollars now. It has a been a trend that has been adopted, but not many brands are solely designing specifically for that woman. When you google this kind of fashion, it’s very plain. There are no design details, there is nothing she can express herself with, so that is what pushed me in this direction in a fun fashion way. Covering up doesn’t have to be boring.
JB: Where do you see the line going? Are you going to continue with To Me after graduation?
PT: Well I definitely want my own brand – that is my end goal. I didn’t expect the amount of attention that [To Me] was getting. I knew how relevant and how needed it was in the industry, but I didn’t expect how many people were wanting it. I’ve received so much support and feedback from doing this – it’s been really crazy and amazing. There’s so much more to go into creating a brand, like manufacturing and connecting with the right people. Right now, it’s been really fun to do my grad collection and hopefully, if it is still relevant afterwards, I can push it into something marketable. That’s the goal.
JB: Are you going to sell pieces from the collection?
PT: I have so many pieces, because I’ve been doing process work. So I might sell the final pieces that go down the runway. I’m not sure yet though, because a lot of past grads who work in the industry have suggested to keep the clothes because it is something you’ll never do again, but I think I’m going to sell them.
JB: How would you describe your own sense of style? Who are your style icons?
PT: I feel like I’m a very classic person. I really like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. I really like a good poplin t-shirt, nice pair of dress pants or trousers. I would say more traditional classic, elevated elegance type of thing. It’s hard, because everything today is super trendy and street, but I love the classic. Like in terms of Aritzia, I would say I’m more of a Babaton than a Wilfred.
JB: Do you find yourself gravitating towards creating designs that are suited to your own sense of style? Or do you try to design something totally out of the box?
PT: I think outside of the box. It’s fun to create to create. A lot of times you think of design as problem solving, but does it always have to solve a problem? There are so many questions and so many answers and forms it can take. It’s all about self-expression and having fun. Some of the designs that I would do are things that I wouldn’t wear personally, but someone might. It’s fun to push the boundaries and see what you can do.
JB: In terms of fashion today, how do you see the industry? Are topics like sustainability important to you?
PT: Sustainability is super important. Have you seen True Cost? You need to watch it. That has changed so much. Even when I am making something, the amount of waste is crazy. And you multiply that by thousands of rolls of fabric and paper. You can’t even comprehend how much waste that equates to for the entire industry. One of the classes I had to take was zero fashion. We had to make a piece – I made a zero-waste swimsuit, my friend made a zero-waste jumpsuit – and we had to use every single piece. There’s so much you can do – pockets don’t have to be a traditionally shaped pocket, there’s so many different ways to incorporate fabric and design details that you wouldn’t normally think of. It’s hard because the consumer is extremely demanding, they want a trend immediately. People want it to be in the store right away, and it does happen, especially with stores like Zara. It’s all about changing the consumer mindset. A lot of people growing up now are aware of the damage and the impact we have on the environment, and I think that is going to change the industry, especially with young designers.
JB: Besides this class, do you think your school is properly preparing you to be sustainable once you enter the industry?
PT: I think so. We’re learning to use every bit of the fabric. The computer aspects that we use, when we place down patterns, we have a marker that we use. The higher the percentage, the less waste you have, as the pattern pieces fit together closer. It’s like creating a puzzle. They are teaching us to create patterns to get the percentage in the 90s so we are creating less waste. I think it all starts there, with the pattern making.
JB: What are you hoping to do after graduation?
PT: I really want to travel. I’ve never been to anywhere in Europe, and that is such a fashion capital and a place of inspiration. There’s just so much culture. I definitely want to do Italy and Paris – the big ones. And maybe some smaller places, like Monaco. I don’t really know what else I want to do, it’s all up in the air right now. There are so many different opportunities that you don’t know about unless you say yes to everything.
JB: Where can we find you?