Fashion designer a finalist in national competition

Sel Unson says she would put $15,000 prize money toward her own boutique

Sel Unson is one of the 5 percent.

The recently graduated Academy of Design student was named in mid-January one of 25 finalists in Télio Canada’s national design competition.

The 28-year-old, who settled in North Toronto in July 2012 via the Philippines, said she is beside herself with the honour, as she shared her experience at the Davisville school’s campus.

A total of 531 students from fashion institutes across the country had entered. It included entrants from George Brown College and Ryerson University.

“Yeah, it was shocking,” Unson said, a smile threading through her lips. “Just given how big the competition is, I’m really grateful for it.”

How she travelled the path to fashion design stems from a childhood yearning for art.

Unson stepped away from her right-brain dominant way of thinking to pursue a medical degree in psychology. She concluded medicine was not for her, so went to the business world to gain experience.

She worked for GlaxoSmithKline Philippines for a time, until the need to scratch her artistic itch arose again.

“It’s that borderline where you feel a job is a job (and) it’s not as fun anymore,” she said. “Then I re-discovered that passion for art when I took a workshop on jewellery design.

“It was a one-, two-day workshop on wiring and beading. It was more something cathartic for me.”

It was her husband, Ogge Unson, 29, who encouraged her to enrol in fashion school when they came to Canada.

“My husband actually pushed me,” she said, relating how he reasoned that, since they were coming to a new country, anyway, and were still young, it was “the perfect time to jump into a new career.”

After an 18-month program, Unson is now competing not just in Télio Canada’s competition, but taking part in the Creativ Festival in October and being one of three finalists in ReMix Canada’s fur design national competition.

This year’s theme for Télio was texture. Unson was all over that like muslin on a Judy mannequin.

“I love playing around with texture,” she said. “I like the idea of putting texture into something that’s generally solid, flat fabric, giving that dimension.

“Given the theme of texture, I was like, this is going to be fun, but then you tend to over-think it.”

The winner of the competition will be named during Montreal Fashion Week this month, and will be given a $15,000 scholarship.

Unson says she would use that money in designing her business plan for a boutique shop in the city.

“I’ve always been a fan of learning, but immediately — say for the next two or three years — I’d probably work on establishing my own brand, because I don’t aspire to be the biggest designer that everybody wants to have,” she said.

“I want to continue doing what I love, and someone, somewhere will be a part of that niche, and they’ll appreciate the clothes that I’m making.”

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Posted: Feb 8 2014 11:37 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto