A designer from northern Alberta will soon be packing her bags to showcase her work at one of the biggest fashion events in the world – New York Fashion Week.
Cassandra Butt, 29, runs Eme Women’s Clothing in Cold Lake, Alta. She has been designing clothes since she was 16 years old and has been working in the fashion business the last four years; her work has been showcased during Western Canada Fashion Week.
Butt said that, ever since she started watching runway shows and fashion television at the age of 13, she knew she did not want to be the model on the runway but rather the creative mind behind them.
“I wanted to be the person that came out after all of them and said, ‘I made all of this. I created this piece of art,’” she said.
New York Fashion Week was always a goal but Butt did not think she would get there before she turned 30.
Then a model she works with informed her that Rise NYFW, a program for emerging designers, had a last-minute cancellation; Butt applied and found out soon afterward that she had been accepted.
The program is described as a way to give newer designers mentorship, exposure and connections within the fashion industry. It will culminate with a showcase in Manhattan’s Lower East Side on Sept. 12.
“I thought this can’t be true. This can’t be real. This has got to be a scam. But no, it’s real,” she said laughing.
“I called my mom and went, ‘Mom, I need your help. I [have got to] get to New York in September’ and it all tumbled from there.”
Butt said life has been a whirlwind since she got her acceptance into the program, where she is the only designer from outside the U.S.
“I grew up in Cold Lake. I taught myself how to design here. Being from a small town, owning a small business…I didn’t think I was going to be able to expand beyond my little shop here. Just to have this opportunity fall in my lap is insane,” she said.
“This was my ultimate goal since I was a kid – was to get to New York Fashion Week and to show my stuff at New York Fashion Week. I’ve never even been to New York before.”
Butt plans to showcase her collected called ‘Fight Like a Girl,’ which she showcased at the Western Canada Fashion Show earlier this year.
“It’s all about female empowerment: women overcoming adversity, turning around and fighting back for other women,” she said.
“The chain mail signifies the chains of oppression, women turning into armour so that we can then fight back. I’ve overcome abuse and depression myself. I put all of that in this collection so it’s a really important one for me to show to New York and show the international stage.”
Butt said the sky is the limit with this unique opportunity and she’s already figuring out the next step for her career and her business.
But she is also looking forward to what may happen when she gets to New York City.
“What designer am I going to pass by on the street? Who am I going to see there? What actresses might show up at my show?”