by Lisa Wong
Illustrations by Jillian Rothert
As an emerging designer and recent Blanche Macdonald graduate, Jillian Rothert approaches fashion and life with insatiable curiosity and clear-eyed enthusiasm. Born and raised in Calgary, Rothert learned how to sew from her mother, a home ec teacher, and made clothes for her Barbies. In her teens she began making her own clothes and became interested in pattern-making and construction techniques. Practical concerns prompted her to study architecture initially, but after completing an architectural technology course and working at a firm in Calgary for two years, her true passion beckoned and she moved to Vancouver for fashion school.
Her mother's teachings and Rother's own extensive sewing experience definitely gave her an advantage at Blanche. However, fashion school elevated her pattern-making skills and taught her how to incorporate trends and eclectic inspirations into her designs. Ultimately though, it's her tireless curiosity that breathes life into her designs as she meticulously researches esoteric topics. "I like to think about inspiration as something I don't know much about," says Rothert, referring to the process of stepping outside of her everyday life for fresh ideas. "It gives me a chance to learn about new things, and I want to learn a lot of things in this world."
She certainly deviated from the everyday for her graduate collection which was inspired by the early days of aviation. Rothert describes the collection as menswear and womenswear for urbanites who like to fly planes on the weekends and want stylish yet practical gear. While researching, she read books about aviators, looked at vintage photographs and even visited the Boeing Museum in Seattle where she focused on the mechanics and aesthetics of different planes. The result is a cohesive collection of sleek khaki-coloured anoraks and trenches, brightly coloured separates and tailored bottoms. Her clothes walk a fine line between sleek urban sensibilities and sporty chic. Details such as built-in tie clips on the men's dress shirt, drawstrings, elasticized cuff trims and zippers add visual interest while serving a practical purpose. (For the tie clips, Rothert envisioned a professional businessman not wanting his tie to flap in his face as he was flying.) Although she designs for men and women, it's menswear that she's particularly interested in. "I've always been told not to design for yourself"--what better way to avoid designing for yourself than by designing for the opposite sex?
Rothert's interest in stylish yet practical clothing will serve her well as an in-house designer at lululemon lab where she creates limited edition designs from athletic fabrics. "It's basically streetwear in lululemon fabrics," she explains. When asked which designers she finds inspiring, she cites Paul Hardy, because he's a fellow Calgarian who's achieved great success but still remains humble; Shipley & Halmos, because their contemporary style and draped pieces represent an innovative vision in menswear; and Alexander Wang, because of the interesting construction details and unexpected fabrications he uses. What's interesting about the designers she named is that they keep the fashion world on their toes by taking fans to unexpected places with the inspiration behind each season's collection. It's clear that Rothert aims to do the same and Vancouver's fashion community can only guess what she'll do next.
For more information about Jillian Rothert or to view her graduate collection, visit www.jillianlindsay.com.