From growing up on a farm near Cranbrook to the sizzling runways of global couture, Gundula Hirn has brought a vocation for sewing a long way.
The former Mount Baker student is set to exhibit her bridal collection at Vancouver Fashion Week, the second largest annual fashion event in North America, featuring top flight international designers as well as emerging designers, such as Hirn. The event runs Oct. 7-15.
Hirn, a recent graduate of the Visual College of Art and Design in Vancouver, was picked as the the alumni-sponsored student from VCAD to be sponsored for Vancouver Fashion Week this year.
“I was really honored to receive that, so I’m working really hard to get my selection together,” she said. “It’s one of those once in a lifetime opportunities, and I can’t wait to show everything that I’ve got.
“It’s such a prestigious event for Canada.”
Hirn’s collection focuses on bridal design, an area she got into towards the end of her time at VCAD.
“[Before graduation], we had to come up with a collection and a brand name for what we’d like to see ourselves in. Everyone picked something different. I’ve always been interested in lace, and couture, I thought ‘why not choose bridal.’
“As I got mentored — [Vancouver designer] Jason Matlow was one of my main mentors, and he helped me come up with a 40-piece collection where you have four different areas where you’re pulling from and 10 gowns in each area. The four areas I picked are Egyptian, 1960s, Victorian and then a futuristic spin.”
Hirn is an enthusiast for the fashions of Victorian era, and the care and attention to detail that went into that clothing. “It’s always been a beautiful era, and the work that goes into those garments is just phenomenal,” she said. “That’s one thing I’ve always wanted in my collection. At least 50 hours has gone into each piece that I have. There’s so much hand sewing and hand appliqués done to it. For me it’s more about making something beautiful than making something and selling it quick.”
As for the designs themselves, Hirn is working ahead of current trends, in terms of both the colour of wedding garments and their practicality and wearability.
“In current bridal trends, the colors are toned down — you see more whites and ivories, but I’m actually bringing more colors into the designs I’m making. Not very many people are tapping into colour. I’m coming up with a more colorful fashion line right now. Hopefully that will surprise a few people.”
But the main design feature Hirn is going with are new multi-piece garments. After all, it’s more than just a stereotype that a wedding dress is worn only once, then is in the closet for the rest of its life. “Lots of brides right now are going for the reception gown, the rehearsal outfit, and [the actual wedding dress itself] — they’re getting different gowns for that and different outfits,” she said.
Lots of them are just one piece, or one piece and a veil. “But I’ve made a collection where you’re going to have three pieces. And you’re able to remove something to expose a brand new outfit underneath it. It’s on a more sustainable track, because the brides are able to wear these outfits later on — they can wear and use the pieces again.”
The designers’ times at Vancouver Fashion Week will be short but intense.
“I’m only showing for about 15 minutes,” Hirn said. “Every designer gets about 15 minutes — it depends on how many gowns you’re showing. If someone is showing 30 gowns, they going be getting more minutes. I’m showing eight [at present plans], but I’m hoping to show 12. I’m trying to do a little surprise. But we’ll see how far I get, because even the extra ones I’m doing are going to be quite extravagant, since it’s bridal.”
As for who will be modeling the outfits, designers provides the measurements to Vancouver Fashion Week, which in turn supplies the models.
Fashion has been a true calling for Hirn. She first started sewing about 15 years ago, and even created her own prom dress the night before her prom.
“I didn’t make it from a sketch, I didn’t make it from anything, I just draped it on a mannequin, and it just turned out fabulous.
When she and her husband moved to Vancouver three years ago, she decided the time was right for her to go back to school, to turn that vocation into a career.
“At first I was a little scared, because I’m actually from the Kootenays. I grew up on a horse farm. I absolutely love that lifestyle. But I ended up moving to Vancouver and having this crazy experience.”
“They say the industry is hard, but if you want something badly enough you go and get it. That’s what I’m trying. I’m trying my absolute hardest, and I have so many people supporting me.”
For more on Gundula Hirn and her designs, check out her website gundulacouture.com.