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Dressing the petite with panache at KPU

Lorraine Graves   Apr-11-2018

Modelling their own student designs, Hannah Pascual, right, and Chelsea Manansala work at the cutting table at the Wilson School of Design at KPU.

Photo by Chung Chow

Hannah Pascual has a big problem; she’s small.

“When I go in to try on clothes, nothing fits perfectly. The sleeves are too long. Nothing hits right at the waste. The pants are too long.”



Standing 145 centimetres (four-feet-nine) tall, Pascual set about solving that problem through designing her own clothing line.

Her interest in clothes started early.

“I was always passionate about fashion when I was younger. I took textiles all through my five years at Richmond High. When I told my teacher there, Miss Waterman, she guided me to the right direction.”

From there, Pascual entered the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Fashion Design and Technology four-year program in the Wilson School of Design.

Now, in her final semester at KPU’s Richmond campus, Pascual and her graduating classmates will feature their designs at the graduation fashion show, sponsored by Tamoda Apparel, over two days, with five fashion shows on April 19 and two more complete shows on April 20 at the Wilson School of Design, 5600 Kwantlen St.

“The students were expected to thoroughly research a market with a specific need and to design a collection that caters to that need,” said Kwantlen spokesperson Tatiana Tomljanovic.

Pascual found the assignment perfect and found the unfilled market niche ideal.

“I wanted to create something that would be perfect for women who are under five-feet (152 centrimetres) tall. With most companies, their petite sizes cater to women who are 5’ 4” or under. In Canada, that’s a normal height. Current fashion doesn’t cater to women who are shorter than that.”

Pascual named her line Altura, which “means height in Spanish. I have Spanish blood so wanted to name it after that.

“I wanted to make my collection cater to a larger market, and get the proper petite size whether they are small or larger around, so I’m catering to petite women of all sizes. Especially with me, I’m a little bit curvy. Short women who are a little bit curvy—they can’t fit into the (commonly available) petite sizes.”

Pascual said there are challenges in creating highly fashionable clothes for shorter women.

“Getting the proper design lines to be sure. Making sure that someone five feet or shorter looks right, looks like a normal person, like a normal size but with fashion that makes them stand out. Making sure that a woman doesn’t look too small in the garment she is wearing and accentuating her figure a little more to make her stand out in a room.”

And Pascual purposely changed things up.

“Usually there are rules like short women can’t wear horizontal stripes or anything that would make them look wider. I wanted to play with that bit, break those barriers so they’re not limited to the design. I played with bigger sleeves and ruffles and darts,” she says.

But Pascual’s good ideas weren’t the end to the obstacles.

“The challenges I ran into was trying to get the design lines fitting properly on a smaller model. Five-feet-nine are the standard (dressmaker’s) models and runway models are usually a little bit taller than that.”

The teachers and classmates at the Wilson School of Design bonded and banded together to solve problems.

“Going into the course I didn’t know how to pattern draft, and I was really very intimidated by everybody, even the teachers, and didn’t want to ask because I thought I was behind. But as soon as I got some confidence, I was surprised how much support everybody has for each other and the love that has grown through us in the last four years. We are all a family, even the staff. And I’m very thankful for that,” she says.

Just as KPU’s industrial design course must address function and is more than just dreaming up ideas that look great, so too is the fashion design program.

“The course at KPU is amazing. It’s basically four years of how to detect a design problem, to work with sewing design and production. We learn a lot about the industry, how everything works. We learn about the business as a whole. It’s not just about designing to make sure it looks good on a runway. We learn a little bit of every thing. We cater more to the business end of it,” says Pascual.

With graduation on the calendar, what’s next?

“I have thoughts of commercializing my line and have an Instagram account, alturacollective, right now. I want to start off slowly with my collection and see where it will go.”

For information and tickets to the fashion show:

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