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Photo courtesy of City of Ottawa

City steps into fashion with new March Break camp

By Kelsey Sunstrum on March 3, 2016

I’m extremely envious of the children and youth of today. What my younger self wouldn’t do for the playful apps I now hold so dearly, the insanely cool toys available, or the beautiful children’s books that line the shelves at Chapters. (Full disclosure: I wouldn’t be too overjoyed with the new apple slices option for the Happy Meal, though.) My Costume, My Fashion, My Style (MFS), a new March Break camp offered by the City of Ottawa, is just another reason to be jealous of the adolescents of 2016.

It’s everything. To be able to have the space and support that is needed for one to believe in their own ideas is huge.

Supported by the Community Arts Program of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department of our municipality, the MFS March Break camp is not entirely new, however. It originated in 2013, as a 4-week weekly session for adolescents ages 9 – 14. Due to the excitement of the participants and the interest in the class, MFS was expanded to 6-weeks and a summer camp session was added. The March Break Camp, though, is a first for the City and a direct result of the success previous courses and the impressive development of students’ skills throughout their duration.

MFS year-round sessions and camps are quite similar. Both are focused on repurposing used materials to create hand-made, beautifully unique items. Another commonality is their aim to give participants a foundation in fashion creation through the instruction of several sewing and design techniques. The camps and sessions close with a student-run fashion show, featuring their one-of-a-kind creations.

The camp differs in that campers are allotted more time to put into the fashion show, from perfecting the invitations to experimenting with different props and set designs and buliding on the show’s theme. The participants are really encouraged to use their imaginations in ways they may not have been nurtured in school or more traditional day camps.

Photo from the KiKi Facebook page.

Photo from the KiKi Facebook page.

The Level 2, more advanced offering of the course was added after the success of the initial sessions and the skill behind the students’ designs. Participants are guided through more difficult sewing practices and complex patterns to expand their design ability and repertoire, as well as honing their style vision.

The woman behind MFS is local designer, Kristen Saar, who has taught this course since its beginning. Her own fashion brand, KiKi©, is an eclectic mix of handmade garments and accessories, composed of upcycled materials. She is also known around Ottawa for her costume and set design for local theatre groups. Combine this passion for design with over ten years of teaching experience, and you get a highly qualifed, engaging instructor, whose desire is to build the confidence of young designers through imparting basic skills and techniques.

The presence of camps and course like MFS is important to adolescents, who are traditionally not as often pushed towards the arts as they are athletics. Boys are commonly registered in a sport like soccer or hockey while girls are often placed in dance classes or gymnastics. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but emphasis should be placed equally on exercising their creativity, too. Luckily, this generation of youth have the gift of being able to choose from such a colorful array of hobbies and interests.

Another big pro that must be noted of MFS is that it also instills the practice of recycling. Students bring in used materials, either from a vintage store, their mother’s closet, or even their own collection. Recycling promotes sustainability and is more economical, reasons why this practice is so important to hardwire in coming generations.

The opportunity to embrace and explore their authentic selves is an experience that cannot be diminished for the youth demographic. Corresponding with Saar, she remarked, “It’s everything. To be able to have the space and support that is needed for one to believe in their own ideas is huge.”

My Costume, My Fashion, My Style takes place at the Nepean Creative Arts Centre. For more information on dates of upcoming sessions and to register, head over to the Recreation Guide offered by the City of Ottawa.