Jennifer Shea works on her designs in her Calgary apartment in preparation for the Make Fashion show on April, 1 2017. Art and fashion have allowed Shea to channel her rebellious nature and express herself. Produced by Katherine Holford

Jennifer Shea’s teenage years were difficult and as a result, rebellious. Now Shea’s rebellious attitude sparks her passion for fashion — which she displayed at the recent Make Fashion show with two creations.

But the defining moment in Shea’s life, was when she was only 15 years old. She became estranged from her biological mother and moved in with her father and stepmom. 

After that day, Shea knew she needed to stand up for herself.

She moved to Alberta when she was 16 from Sudbury, Ont. and admits during these years she had become a bit of a rebel. “I had a lot of issues … so art was my own way of dealing with everything. What I wanted to talk about, how I was feeling and how I needed to relate to things.”

Shea attended Alberta College of Art and Design after finding out one of her high school teachers attended the same institution and inspired her to do the same.

After four years at ACAD, where she earned a bachelor of fine art and a major in sculpting, Shea sharpened her skills.

“My world changed and my art changed and I started looking into textiles and working with fabrics and stiffening agents. I started doing these sculptures with string that were chaotic yet beautiful, that’s how I felt, and to enhance my skills and my finishing techniques I wanted to go to fashion school.”

Jennifer Shea works in Downtown Calgary to help finish the intricate designs on the gown that fuses fashion and technology for the Make Fashion show on April 1. Photo by Katherine Holford

As a result, Shea decided to attend Old’s College Fashion Institute for its Apparel Technology two-year program, where she says she met some of the people who she works with today. Shea’s work companion and a colleague from school, Samantha Gardiner, describes how fashion has influenced both of their lives. “Fashion is everywhere, it’s more than just what you wear. It gives people a way to express themselves without boundaries or restrictions.”

Recently, Shea volunteered with Make Fashion — a festival celebrating the “fusion of fashion and technology” — for their fifth show in Calgary. She worked in a big team with lead designers for projects on two gowns that were featured in the show called Human Nature and Vintage Volume. The gowns needed large teams because of their unique designs and the spectacular technology sewn into the gowns.

Shea describes how one of the gowns, Mother Nature, changes like a stormy sky with the use of technology:

Jennifer Shea works on the details of the dress named Mother Nature paying attention to details to make sure everything looks perfect. The gown fuses fashion and technology, making its debut on April 1 at the Make Fashion festival. Photo by Katherine Holford

“Mother Nature will have a stormy past that’s in front and as she’s walking down the runway it’ll clear into a blue sky, and then on the backside it’s like a winter storm blown around and that’s all from the tech that will be sewn in. So it’s challenging to sew something and then to evolve the technology that’s either light based or movement or reacts to sound.”

Earlier this month, the Make Fashion show brought big attention to the fashion industry in Calgary.

“It’s amazing how they are able to take a concept and bring them to life by fusing two of the most complex things, fashion and technology. Also, it’s pretty awesome that they partner with China and do shows not just here but also overseas,” Gardiner said before the gowns hit the runway

But as awesome as it is for Shea and Gardiner to have the chance to show off some of their work, Shea says the best feeling comes when all the work is finished.

“When it’s go-time and you watch them go down [the runway], you see the crowd’s reaction, and then you mingle after and everybody’s just like ‘oh my gosh that was so great’. Yeah, it’s like the best feeling ever.”

kholford@mtroyal.ca

The editor responsible for this story is Nora Cruickshank, ncruickshank@mtroyal.ca