Imagine going back to school at 59 years old. That's what Kathryn Grant did, and three years later she was sponsored to present a collection at Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW).
When the social enterprise Common Thread lost its funding in 2019, Grant was left without a job. That December, Grant made the life-changing decision to enroll in a fashion design program at Vancouver Community College (VCC).
"I just said to myself, well, there's no point in crying anymore, just because you lost your job doesn't mean you can't pick yourself up and dust yourself off," she tells V.I.A.
Kathryn Grant's collection at VFW SS24
After working for Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) for the past few years, the founder surprised Grant with sponsorship for the Spring Summer 2024 season which took place in October 2023.
A total of seven looks danced down the runway for Grant's collection "Performing Arts, Center Stage." For her show, Grant encouraged her models to perform rather than present the designs.
Grant's collection encompassed her love for dance, musical theatre, and figure skating through elegant hand-dyed silks, layers of pleated tulle, delicate rhinestones, and crystal-encrusted lycra, and elaborate headpieces and feathers.
The collection is comprised of designs fit for a dancer -- a midi-length white mesh dress with a wrap-around detail, an embellished black leotard and tutu shimmering with rhinestones, feathers, and sequins that is a nod to Swan Lake, a black full-body dress bearing a single sleeve and daring side slit with eye-catching rhinestone details, and a blue velvet jumpsuit adorned with peacock feathers and a long train of ruffled sheer blue fabric.
Other looks highlight Grant's extensive skill set, like a beautiful silk skirt hand-dyed in a marble-like pattern of sunny yellow, green, and blue hues, and a long white tulle skirt consisting of a multitude of hand-pleated layers paired with a simple, loose button-down shirt and black heels inspired by chic Parisian style.
Grant's favourite design is a black and white ensemble with a tilted top hat headpiece and decorative umbrella that she describes as "a toast to My Fair Lady." The strapless gown hugs at the body and widens out past the knees, with two black lines running parallel to each other down the front of the dress.
'This terrible competitive figure skater came alive when there was a show and costumes and spotlights'
While Grant didn't pursue fashion design until she was 59 years old, she had been sewing since her late teens.
Her mother was a figure skating coach and, naturally, Grant grew up on the ice. Despite years of skating and off-ice dance classes, the designer says she was a terrible figure skating competitor. "I was really nervous," she explains.
Yet, something magical happened every time she would compete. "For some reason, this terrible competitive figure skater came alive when there was a show and costumes and spotlights. I was a different person. I was no longer nervous. I wanted to be out there on the ice in a costume and I just loved every bit of that, and I still do to this day," says Grant.
When Grant wasn't performing, she would take apart all of her costumes and make them into something else, and when she started working her first job, she spent her first paycheque on a sewing machine.
In the late 80s, Grant began experimenting with pattern-making. She started a small business called Shirtworks in 1989 and would create unique patterns on regular white shirts with fabric paint bought on Granville Island. The business lasted four years, but Grant's passion for clothing and design endured.
As a result, Grant's VFW collection is inspired by her love and involvement with figure skating, ballet, contemporary dance, and performing arts. Just as at the end of an on-stage performance, after her runway show, each of Grant's models was presented with a bouquet of flowers.
While Grant won't be working on another collection, she tells V.I.A. that she would like to continue making costumes for a theatre company. Follow along Grant's journey on Instagram.