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Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute marks 5-year milestone with $1m gift

With a recommitment from the Edward and Suzanne Rogers Foundation, SRFI will continue its prestigious fellowship program for five more years
November 17, 2020

After five successful years of supporting the career advancement of emerging designers and hosting ten exceptional fashion creatives and entrepreneurs in its signature fellowship program, The Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute at FCAD announces a five-year program renewal. Through a significant contribution--the largest made by a single donor in support of emerging fashion designers in the country--The SRFI will continue to foster Canada’s exceptional fashion design talent.

The cumulative contribution of $2 million--the first of which was gifted to launch the Institute--by The Edward and Suzanne Rogers Foundation enables design students and recent alumni from the School of Fashion at FCAD to nurture their talent and build on their academic achievements, while providing the scaffolding for success in the global fashion industry.

SRFI Runway Photos

Suzanne Rogers and Lynne Hey at Fashion awards night

Photo Credit: Jenna Marie Wakani

Designed to bridge the transition between fashion education and practice, the SRFI provides valuable learning opportunities and networking possibilities for young professionals entering a competitive fashion landscape. Recognizing the importance of comprehensive support early in academic and creative careers, SRFI provides its Fellows with bespoke mentorship, industry guidance, insights on entrepreneurial resilience, and substantial financial benefits. 

Honorary patron, Suzanne Rogers is a champion of rising creative talent and commits to enhancing their global competitiveness by supporting the fellowship program, “It is so important to recognize and continue to support and mentor the promising talent we have so they can advance their education and career as they navigate through this time. My hope is to assist these brilliant designers and alleviate some of the obstacles designers face within the industry.”

Educate, Support, Promote, Advocate

SRFI provides a launchpad for creatives to define their path and transition confidently into the competitive world of fashion design. The flagship program at SRFI is the fellowship. Unique to the Canadian fashion industry, this program attracts and supports emerging designers at the genesis of their career evolution. Undergraduate students in the second, third or fourth year; along with alumni of the School of Fashion at FCAD are eligible for selection. Throughout the program, fellows receive support through a variety of opportunities, locally and internationally, to realize their full potential.  

A one-of-a-kind program, like the SRFI, also benefits from a community that is symbiotic and responsive. 

SRFI Runway Photos

Lynne Hey (Fashion ‘20), 2019 SRFI fellow

Photo credit: Ted Belton

SRFI Runway Photos

Lynne Hey's graduate collection. The pieces include a Cap-Scarf hybrid with synthetic hair and a laser cut Comb Brooch

2019 fellow, Lynne Hey (Fashion ‘20), was drawn to the fellowship as it promised opportunities to broaden her network within the Canadian apparel industry, grant her access to mentorship as well as financial support for fashion-related projects and academic advancement. “Since becoming a fellow, I’ve found encouragement to pursue my creative and professional aspiration through exposure to industry professionals and opportunities, even within FCAD. The SRFI connected me with Jonathon Anderson, director at the Creative Technology Lab. Through that connection, I learned about a grant through which I was able to finance the prototyping of jewelry for my graduate collection,” shared Lynne. By attending networking events hosted and coordinated by The SRFI, Lynne met with industry professionals in New York and the United Kingdom. Currently, Lynne is working on a capsule collection through which she is developing her skills working in CLO3D – a fashion software program that allows 3D visualization of garments from 2D patterns.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for the fashion industry and like everyone else SRFI Fellows are certainly feeling the effects of this global crisis. Undeterred, the SRFI continues to respond in the same supportive manner and help uncover new opportunities that arise. “Designers are gifted with the ability to uplift the human spirit through their creativity, and we urge them to adapt and remain vigilant through these trying times,” said SRFI director, Robert Ott.

“The SRFI has a prestigious reputation at the School of Fashion. The Fellows produce incredible work that I look up to,” said Sara He, a third-year Fashion Design student who is only a few months in her fellowship. “This was the first year I was eligible to apply so I wanted to give it a try, and I’m really grateful for what has come of it.”

SRFI Runway Photos

Sara He, third-year Fashion Design student and current SRFI fellow

Photo credit: Ted Belton

Sara He's studio

Photo credit: Sara He

Due to travel restrictions and physical distancing protocols, she hasn’t yet engaged in international experiences or non-virtual networking events. Nevertheless, she’s found amazing perks through the program so far. Thanks to financial support from the SRFI, Sara has set up an in-home design studio and purchased equipment -- a cutting table and an industrial sewing machine --- to work on her collection remotely. “The SRFI has been a huge help in supporting me through studying fashion design remotely,” shared Sara. “With their assistance, I have set up a home studio with equipment that I would normally only have access to at school. Their support has been invaluable to young fashion designers like me.

International runways

SRFI fellows shine on the global stage. The access to a national and international platform and transformative resources provided by the Institute have proven central to graduates’ success. Nationally, the SRFI empowers emerging Canadian designers by recognizing outstanding potential not only as artists but as entrepreneurs and future leaders. Internationally, Fellows can experience global markets through internships, competitions, networking, career opportunities, and receive world-class post-graduate opportunities and master’s educations with other leading institutions.

“When Suzanne Rogers and I began building the SRFI, we considered ways in which we would determine success,” said Robert. “One of our first measures of success was to receive international recognition at a major global fashion week. Four years later, I am thrilled to say we exceeded our expectations. Not only did we have one Fellow show at London Fashion Week, we had three! Watching the MA collections of Alexandra Armata, Stephanie Moscall-Varey, and Olivia Rubens on the runway amongst fashion leaders was gratifying.”

Olivia Rubens

Olivia Rubens (Fashion ‘15), 2017 SRFI fellow

Photo credit: Brian Rankin

SRFI Runway Photos

Olivia Rubens' Autumn/Winter 2020 collection titled Duplicitous Lives

Photo credit: Brian Rankin

Olivia, a formidable creative who specializes in sustainable fashion and luxury knitwear, continues to capture the attention of the industry, in North America and internationally. The emerging designer was one of 11 finalists from six countries, external link to be recognized by International Talent Support (ITS) this year. The 2017 SRFI fellow brought home, external link the ITS Responsible Fashion Award and Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (The National Chamber for Italian Fashion) Award. Complementing these prestigious awards was a cash prize of €15,000 and a creative mentorship with Fashion Revolution.

“The fellowship has paved the way for me to focus on innovation and creativity, allowing me to explore new ways to create fashion ethically and sustainably,” says Olivia. “As the winner of two major awards at the International Talent Support Competition 2020, I am proud to have global recognition from my work which has been enthusiastically supported by the SRFI since day one.”

With the continued support of the Rogers family and the Ryerson community, the SRFI at FCAD will continue to launch young designers professionally. Applications for the next cohort will open in the spring, with announcements in summer 2021.

FCAD at Ryerson University

Entering its eighth decade, FCAD is a global centre of media and creative invention. As a disrupter in innovative education, FCAD is dedicated to developing creators with authentic voices who engage directly with creative industries around the world.

With 23 undergraduate and graduate programs that are shaping the future of their fields and tight-knit partnerships around the world, FCAD offers more opportunities to educate the next generation of creative leaders than anywhere else.