Raul Rivera, a charismatic 26-year-old designer, is about to graduate from Vancouver Community College's fashion program with a collection he describes as "futuristically aristocratic." Exceptional fabrics, unique construction and labour intensive detailing set this collection apart and it's sure to take the design world by storm.
Born in Panama, but raised in Delta, BC, Rivera has always been interested in fashion, but originally pursued a different path. After graduating from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Genetics and Cell biology, he felt trapped. "To succeed you needed at least a Masters, if not a PhD. I liked studying, but you are always working for the big guy." Wanting to be in control, Rivera thought about moving into fashion. "Fashion is a creative outlet which enables me to generate interest and income. I want to create a lifestyle brand, almost a culture, and fashion gives you total control of what you do." It all began with a beginner's sewing class at VCC. After showing a few fashion sketches to his teacher, the school swiftly invited him to enter their Fashion Design program. VCC proved the perfect program based on both the price point and its great faculty who allow students creative license.
Rivera's garments stand out as being distinctive and pushing boundaries. For his grad portfolio, the aim was to work with an idea that would provide a platform for building future collections. Woven wools, cotton batiks, cotton/nylon blends and a marbleized brocade were used to create two menswear looks and three womenswear looks in a palette of gray, silvery purple, green, midnight blue and black. A simple crew neck top is detailed with darts along the shoulder; a silver dress is paired with leather straps; and men's shorts are constructed out of a rich wool to give a simple piece new dimensions and a luxurious feel. His favouite piece? The black dress that is multi-darted across the bodice because it best encompasses the theme of the collection - "futuristically aristocratic."
Looking into the future, Rivera has lofty goals. He knows what he wants to achieve and is in the process of learning how to get there. "My plan is to work and build my brand. I want to start out with a small collection and eventually build to have my own fashion house similar to Chanel and Dior - designer pricing, ready-to-wear and maybe even haute couture in the future." To achieve this goal he has worked hard to design a wearable line that is marketable, but modern and timeless. Although currently sewing the collections personally, after graduation he faces the dilemma of where to take the line to be produced. "The CEO from J. Crew said they go where the needle is best. I want to follow that mantra. People often downplay garments being manufactured overseas but for me, it is about where my garments can be constructed at the best quality."
Rivera's knowledge of the industry is impeccable and an accompanying passion for the design world has enabled him to adapt advice from successful people in the industry - learning from those who have been triumphant in a relatively risky business. He has one simple message for the fashion world, "I want people to watch out for me. Expect to be surprised."
For information on the Fashion Arts program at VCC or their Fiat Mode XXIV grad fashion show go to http://continuinged.vcc.ca/fashionArts/