By Jennifer Stahn
Asking an artist to choose a favourite piece is a little like asking a parent to pick their favourite child: Don't expect an answer.
But Quentin Collier—Quinn to his friends—has to think only for a moment before launching in to a nearly five minute description of the final piece at his last fashion show, a stunning black gown. He lovingly describes it as a mermaid-style fitted skirt with a flowing bottom and a blowsy top featuring sheer accents. Elegant enough for any formal outing, yet sexy enough to make the woman wearing it turn heads when she enters a room—and made by the hands of the 16-year-old South Kamloops Secondary School student.
The teenager strives to be on the cutting edge of design; following current trends while trying to create “something unique that no one else has done before, or at least I hope they haven't.”
Collier's fashion designs under the label QTC have turned heads in Kamloops for years already. He's been exploring and perfecting his skills at his mother's sewing machine since Grade six.
His last show—QTC Ready-to-Wear Spring/Summer 2013 Collection videoed and posted to YouTube—displayed not just the flattering designs, but revealed a standing room only event at his parents' home. His younger sister and several friends modelled his designs to men, women, young male and female students, many snapping photos as if they were at the runways of Milan.
Away from the flashing cameras, Quinn is much like most teens his age, dealing with homework, sibling rivalry and the questions of life after high school. Unlike most of his friends Quinn knows exactly what he wants to do with his life and is already working hard to make that dream a reality.
"I don't want to be a one trick pony," he quips, adding he hopes to attend the University of Toronto. "I love Toronto. U of T is a beautiful school… and it's where my parents met."
Quinn says his mother, Lesley, also has ideas about education. "Mom is a bit insane when it comes to school," he says. Her pressure to do well comes with the price of whether or not he'll be allowed to host fashion shows which he says helps him focus better at everything. The result is good grades and smart planning. Because of that, he was able to take part in a three-month school exchange program last fall in France. He's also travelled with family to other parts of Europe and North America.
When asked whether he has ever been ridiculed or bullied for his keen interest in women's fashion, Quinn was quick to put that notion to rest, “I've never been bullied a day in my life.” He attributes this to the fact he isn't afraid to put people in their place, plus he has a tight group of friends to rely on. Opinionated, honest and strong and always ready to laugh the teen admits his friends might describe him as annoying sometimes since he isn't shy about sharing his opinion on a shirt they're wearing.
Quinn's belief in himself contributes to his creative process. He says all his collections for women are all based on a feeling and his latest in January had a romantic feeling, or as he more aptly put it, it was "romanticism on acid."
Once he has an idea he roughly sketches out the design on paper. He jokes the drawings are so rough they're actually "a security measure" because nobody could possibly figure them out to steal them. And though he's not sure where the inspiration actually comes from, he says, "It's the creative process that makes you a designer. It's not just being able to work a machine."
According to his mom, the active Grade 10 student always enjoyed sewing and would often watch her as she worked on a project, touching the fabrics and asking if he could sew something too. At first she thought he was too young to use a sewing machine but eventually she relented and his interest grew. His creative passion surprised his supportive parents, but not completely.
Quinn's dad Todd is a neurologist but his stay-at-home mom is musical — though with mischief in his voice Quinn reluctantly admits his mom was in a country band. His older sister Madeline is what he proudly calls a “remodeling DJ,” taking music and spinning and mixing it until she's created a whole new sound – and “she's really good at it.” His younger sister Simone is not only one of his top models but also a painter, though Quinn's appreciation for her ability as a “great model” seems to rank a little higher in his book. He also has family actively involved in the Toronto theatre scene.
So where does a young, up-and-coming designer shop for his own shirts? He's shopped at boutiques around the world and at big B.C. fashion centres, but he also admits to loving the Joe Fresh line at Superstore. He admires designer Joseph Mimran who creates great fashion sold at cheap prices.
Though Kamloops may not be known as a big fashion centre, it hasn't stopped Quinn from finding fabrics for his collections. He loves shopping at a big sewing store in his home city to find everything required to produce the 20-35 outfits making up each of his collections.
With two fashion shows per year attracting at least a hundred attendees each and an interview with a major Canadian radio network, it appears Quinn is making his way up. He says he often sees his fashions sported in the halls of his school and mutual friends of mutual friends have started purchasing his work and one girl asked him recently to make her graduation dress.
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QTC Spring/Summer 2013 collection