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 Couturier's personal college shows the actual artwork associated with higher style

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PostSubject: Couturier's personal college shows the actual artwork associated with higher style   Couturier's personal college shows the actual artwork associated with higher style EmptyThu Nov 17, 2011 10:46 am

FOCUS: Ecole Holt Couture will host the Elegant Fashion Show at the Calgary Winter Club, Nov. 20, at 1 and 4 p. michael., to increase funds for the Making Changes Association’s Walk-in Closet Program. For more information on Ecole Holt Couture, the fashion show and tickets ($40), visit or phone Ecole Holt Couture at 403-244-5460.
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CALGARY — At first, the building appears to be yet another house among the single family houses that line the twentieth Road S. W. Yet, while small in comparison to the majority of Calgary’s post-secondary institutions, Ecole Holt Couture’s (EHC) founders have big dreams about where their private school of curtains and design could end up.

Founded by Elfriede Holtkamp in 08, EHC’s aim is to recreate the art of haute couture, a process founded in Paris, france during the mid 19th century and immortalized by names such as Christian Dior and Coco Chanel in the early and mid 1900s.

“These skills haven’t been taught technically anywhere since the 1950s. The apprenticeships decided the window. There simply aren’t some people that have the information and skills to create custom haute couture anymore, ” says Elfriede, 90, who runs the school with the help of her sibling, Hannelore Ponto, and daughter Jutta Holtkamp.

Elfriede says her hope is to bring Calgary a university of couture, that will eventually provide a degree program. The Holtkamps are currently in speaks with the Alberta government about becoming a fully accredited post-secondary institution.

EHC takes at most six new students per class; the first group will graduate in 2013 with a four-year diploma or degree in couture studies.

“They learn everything from how to sew, to the history of fashion, to dealing with clients when they begin in the employees, ” says Elfriede.

Students graduate with lessons in the fields of couture, tailoring, fashion design, dress making, pattern making and alterations.

Elfriede, born in Romania, did her training with a master couturier in Germany during the Second World War. In 1954 she immigrated to Calgary with her husband and set up a home-couture business. It’s her goal to help her students establish similar small-business models.

A number of EHC’s students are already getting work done in the field.

Third-year student Chelsea Evans recently founded Chelsea Evans Couture. She makes custom clothing for personal clients, and does alterations to existing clothing.

“I enjoy being able to work for myself and work from home, ” she says.

However, Evans says convincing her parents to back her post-secondary dream of becoming a couturier was, at first, a difficult sell. Each three-month term of the diploma or degree program costs well over $4000, and there are three terms a year for four years.

“It did take a while to encourage (my parents) that this was a legitimate school, because it’s so new. I don’t think they really came around until they started seeing the projects I was creating and how much passion I have for the industry, ” she says.

“Now, they’re completely supportive. ”

Third-year student Laura-Beth Chisholm in addition has started her own couture and alterations business, while first-year classmate Kelsey White says she’s still deciding which part of the field she wants to go into.

There’s one thing all three students agree upon; they have no interest in becoming world-famous fashion designers.

“I just want to sew, ” Chisholm says with a laugh.

“When you involve yourself in a big label you lose so much of your creative freedom and quality of work. I just want to create good clothing, ” adds White.

For the second year in a line, students are hosting a fashion show at the Calgary Winter Club to help raise funds for Calgary’s Making Changes Association’s Walk-in Closet Program, a group that helps women with financial barriers by providing work attire for their changeover into new jobs.

It’s a partnership that Lili Bunce, executive director of making Changes, says successful because both Making Changes and EHC believe in mentoring and helping women succeed at work.

“Elfriede has created this school around an old-style apprenticeship model. They’re mentoring men and women into their careers, and that’s much like what we want to accomplish with the Walk-In Closet programing, ” she says.

Students will showcase a variety of work, including dresses, suits, hats and purses.

Elfriede says she's sewn and created one-of-a-kind clothing for many high-profile clients, including Lady Patricia Brabourne (Master Mountbatten’s daughter); the Duchess of Kent; former governor general Daniel Roland Michener’s wife, Norah Willis; and many private clients in the Calgary area.

Despite her rich history as a couturier, Elfriede says she's never frustrated to label her clothing with her name until recently.

“I just never thought of it. I never elevated myself to thinking I’m a clothier. I was just doing what I really do and what I loved, ” she says.
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