After graduating in 2005, up and coming Toronto designer Frieda Cordoba looks back fondly on her time at GBC and how it helped prepare her for a fashion filled future
As I sat down with Freida Cordoba in her small basement studio, she seemed shy and a bit nervous about being interviewed. After graduating in 2005 from GBC’s Fashion Techniques and Design Program, Freida never imagine that a few years later she would be interviewed by the school that has taught her so much of what she knows today. After some hot tea and small talk, I get to understand how she chose her path of fashion design, how she wound up at GBC, and what is in store for her in the future:
Q: At what age did fashion first start to interest you?
A: At the age 14 when I first saw Vera Wang on Fashion Television being interviewed by Jeanie Becker. She became one of my favourite designers. I am especially a fan of her ball gown dresses, so puffy and whimsical.
Q: Who inspired you to go into fashion in the first place?
A: My grandma. She was a seamstress in the Philippines. What inspired me the most was that she was never formally trained. She taught herself visually how to sew. She could spread out a piece of textile and draft the pattern just from looking at it. She used to baby sit me a lot when I was young, we were living in the same building. I would watch her all the time. The first thing she ever had me make was a pink [hair] scrunchie. She made me Barbie doll dresses, all my Halloween costumes, she is a very talented woman.
Q: Why did you choose GBC?
A: Well, it was between GBC and Ryerson. I felt that was much more hands on in terms of learning, which is exactly what I was looking for at the time. I also went to an orientation session for GBC which really finalized my decision. There were current students there who had set up displays of their designs and that was really inspiring. Also, I felt that GBC, with its shorter program, did not limit me or force me to make fashion design my sole career path. It was only 2 years, so if I wanted to do something afterwards, I still could without being 4 years in debt.
Q: What is your fondest memory at GBC?
A: Probably the GBC fashion show in my second year. I was tricked into going into the fashion show, I didn’t want to be in it because I’m a pretty shy person, but all of my friends were going into it. There was music, lights, make-up, it was something I had never experienced. It was my two minutes of fame and it was enough to get me hooked.
Q: Was there a particular class or teacher you felt taught you the most?
A: Yes, my teacher’s name was Julie, I don’t remember her last name, and she taught pattern drafting. I learned a lot from her, basically how to make skirts, pants, dresses, all the basics. She was very patient with her students and always optimistic.
Q: What was your absolute favourite class at GBC?
A: History of Costume – my favourite subject is history, so fashion and history combined together was perfect. And we had a project where we got to make a costume out of anything; pasta, pipe-cleaners, duct tape, you name it, we could use it. I made an Egyptian costume, a headdress made out of popsicle sticks and pasta and I painted it in gold. They put it on display in the fashion wing and come to think of it, I never got it back. I need to go pick it up! I loved that project!
Q: What advice would you have for potential GBC students who are deciding which college to choose?
A: GBC is a really good program. It’s really hands on and is a great starting point, or stepping stone, into fashion design. And since its only 2 years, if you still want to further your knowledge in fashion, you can. It gave me the basic, hands on knowledge that I needed to start designing. And it’s great because it’s a smaller school, so you get to know your teachers individually, and get a more personal experience.
Q: How have you been using your skills from GBC since your time there?
A: As you can see, I use a lot of my knowledge everyday from GBC. Even in my career, I currently work for H&M and I found it has helped a lot there, knowing all the textiles, and their designs also inspire me. I still sketch all the time, and in my time off, I still design and sew my own garments. I just wish I had more time.
Q: What would your dream career be?
A: To be a fashion designer, and have my own fashion house in Italy or New York. Or even maybe work for a fashion magazine, as stylist. I’m also interested in fashion PR too.
Q: Do you think that with the economic slump, that it will be difficult for GBC grads to find a job? A: I wouldn’t think so. I think there’s an opportunity here for students to announce Toronto as the centre of fashion in Canada. I know a lot of students in my class were very ambitious, and I’m still very ambitious. And GBC gives you the mentality that you will do well, which is great. There’s always going to be a place for fashion, and it’s always a stimulus for the economy. I don’t think people are going to stop shopping anytime soon.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration for your clothing designs?
A: Personally I want to have my designs reflect a particular Canadian viewpoint. I want my designs to be distinct so that Canadian fashion designers become recognizable in the world. I personally like Pink Tartan and Dagg & Stacey. But I also look to Stella McCartney, Versace, Moschino, Chloé, they are some of my personal favourites.
Q: What type of clothing line would you like to design in the future?
A: Something fashionable, sophisticated, yet accessible to Torontonians. I would probably start with a women’s line, eveningwear and sportswear would be my main focuses. But I also love designing cocktail dresses, things that are fun and flirty.
Q: Who is your favourite designer? Who inspires you the most?
A: Vera Wang was my first love. Ellie Saab is probably my favourite right now – mainly because the collections are all haute couture dresses that are absolutely inspirational. They are Oscar worthy, and it’s always fun to dream about one day dressing a celebrity. I love their fabrics, intricate cuts and styles, and all the details to their dresses.
Q: Why did you decide to get a university degree after completing GBC?
A: Because I didn’t want to start working! [laughter]. Mainly because at the time, I felt a college degree just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to expand my knowledge in design. I’m also very passionate about history and wanted to gain more knowledge on a more academic level, to combine it with my hands on skills. I decided to take art history to broaden my view of art throughout the world and throughout history, and I also major in Italian. So who knows, this could be my start to my fashion house in Italy. Furthering my knowledge of art history also inspired me to make more designs and to be more aware of where fashion has come from. I like to base my designs on paintings, sculptures, any work of art that inspires me.
Q: So after university, where will you go from there?
A: I want to possibly start my own business, using the knowledge that I have gained from all of my education, network myself, and hopefully one day I can show at LG Fashion Week.
Q: So, would you ever go on Project Runway Canada?
A: I don’t think so. I couldn’t handle that sort of pressure. And I’m too shy to go on TV! I prefer to be in the background, backstage, working on my designs. It seems like too much drama!
Although we may not see Freida on TV anytime soon, we will surely be seeing her designs in the near future!