The Peninsula designer and entrepreneur has a true passion for fashion – Surrey Now-Leader
Where will the next new wave of fashion come from?
It might just be the Semiahmoo Peninsula, courtesy of Serena Kealy, recent Earl Marriott Secondary graduate (and best of the year).
The 18-year-old, who grew up in White Rock in South Surrey and is now a full-time student at UBC and UBC’s Sauder Business School, has just booked her first runway show as part of Vancouver Fashion Week in April.
“Fashion design is my passion and I studied everything through high school and won local competitions,” she said Peace Arch News.
“I am incredibly honored and excited to have this opportunity at such a young age,” Kealy said, noting the tireless support of her family, including younger siblings Julia and extended family, as well as the encouragement and mentorship of her textile teachers throughout her entire high school years.
“I first discovered my love of fashion when I was in seventh grade when a wonderful family friend taught me to sew and mentored me,” she said.
“I started taking textiles as a home economics elective every year. I realized I could do this for a living and create my own brand.”
That brand is “Chalanse” and it – and specifically a new collection of eight looks – will be presented at the April event, for which the specific dates are still to be determined.
Chalanse encompasses the original custom garments that it designs, sews and markets, as well as a range of accessories, manufactured graphic t-shirts and related apparel collections.
Her concept is her own highly individual take on business casual clothing, taking the classic structural elements of traditional clothing but transforming them through her love of fabrics and textiles into unexpected, luxurious choices – silk for a suit, for example or a bold pink instead of a formal black, or the combination of “strong and bold shapes with delicate and feminine styling”.
Kealy created Chalanse — the word is a pun on “nonchalance” with an “S” for her initial — about two years ago when she was at Marriott.
Her clothes aren’t meant to be casual, but to evoke a sense of “trust and commitment” in the wearer, Kealy explained.
She feels fortunate that although she started the company at the start of the pandemic, over the past two summers she has been able to connect with individual clients for whom she has hand tailored one-of-a-kind pieces, gaining valuable first-hand experience.
“How people feel in the garments and how they fit helps me refine my clothes,” she said.
It helps that she’s discovered she also has an affinity for business, she admitted.
“I like being not only a fashion designer but also an entrepreneur,” she said. “I realized that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Every day as I sew, I fall more and more in love with my craft.”
A business degree from UBC gave Kealy additional networking skills, which gave her the courage to reach out to Vancouver Fashion Week organizers and pitch her collection.
It didn’t hurt, she said, that she’s been following the event for a long time.
“I dream big,” she said. “And having my own collection at Vancouver Fashion Week has been a dream of mine for a long time.”
She admits that she gets “butterflies” thinking about her creations being presented in such a prestigious forum.
“Every once in a while I have to go somewhere and do my happy dance,” she laughed.
And the next big dream?
“I’m thinking about doing international fashion weeks, going to New York and Paris,” she said.
“It would also be great to have the opportunity to work in costume design.”
In the meantime, she said, she knows she must continue to hone her craft through “practice, practice, practice” — though her mature approach leaves little doubt that she will have the focus and discipline it takes to bridge the distance in their chosen profession.
“I’m definitely a work in progress,” she added, laughing.
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