KPU design student wins national competition for transforming bathroom tissue into couture

Tue, Oct 3, 2017

Transforming bathroom tissue into high-end fashion takes vision.

And the coat designed by Chelsea Cox that won last week’s national student design competition was a vision.

Cox, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) design student, stole the show at the Cashmere Bathroom Tissue Collection design competition with a coat constructed from almost 10,000 hand-sewn beads inspired by the Hudson’s Bay iconic four-point blanket. The theme for this year’s competition was Canada’s 150th birthday.

It doesn’t get much more Canadian than a winter coat.

The judges agreed and awarded Cox first place. Not bad for a fashion design and technology student who decided just a couple years ago on the spur of the moment that she would apply to the Wilson School of Design at KPU.

“When I applied to KPU, I applied 10 days before our portfolio was due so I had 10 days to make everything,” reminisces Cox. My grandma and my mom sew a lot so I did a few little projects with them, but I hadn’t really made clothing before.”

Working under pressure obviously works for Cox as she only had about a month to produce a garment for the Cashmere Collection competition. She made thousands of uniform beads by hand-rolling a piece of bathroom tissue around a toothpick and then setting the bead with a piece of glossy tape to give it a bead-like sheen before removing the toothpick. She then hand-sewed the 9,689 beads onto the coat in a herringbone pattern alternating white and air-brushed pink stripes.

“I’m just exhausted,” laughs Cox. “But the hard work has paid off. “Both my mom and grandma were in the audience bawling hysterically when they announced my name. My dad was there too and really proud of me. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think I had a chance.”

While Cox may have been surprised at her win, her instructors were not.

“The level of technical detail Chelsea put into her garment speaks for itself,” said her fashion design instructor Michael Pope. “She exemplifies the creative and technical skills needed to work in the global apparel economy and that’s what our students learn here in fashion design.”

Cox is now in her third year of the Fashion Design and Technology program at KPU’s Wilson School of Design, and soon she’ll begin her practicum through the program.

“This competition has given me a big boost of confidence,” said Cox. “There were so many great pieces and there were so many well-established designers. It was an incredible experience and I’m grateful to have had it.”

More than 150 students from 11 schools across Canada took part in the competition. Cox beat the 15 other finalists, and was announced the winner at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on Sept. 28. She was awarded a $4,000 bursary.

“It was a really tough decision, but after long deliberations our judging panel chose Chelsea Cox of Kwantlen Polytechnic University as the winner of the White Cashmere Collection 2017: Student Design Competition, because of her impeccable craftsmanship, technical proficiency and beautiful homage to our nation’s 150th birthday,” said Susan Langdon, executive director, Toronto Fashion Incubator.

Photos of Chelsea Cox and her winning design at the event are available on Flickr.

Story by Tatiana Tomljanovic

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