Alanah Jones has found her niche in the fashion world and as she settles into the excitement of the industry, the Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) at Selkirk College alumna can trace her success to the educational foundation provided in the heart of Nelson.
A product developer and designer for Vancouver-based Noble Motives Collective, Jones is part of a core team that tailors their efforts around fashion, fit and function. Noble Motives Collective features original and familiar brands for their retail stores Caposhie and Peau De Loup.
Alanah Jones has carved out a successful career in the fashion industry, pointing to Kootenay Studio Arts at Selkirk College as a key element of her foundation.
“I came out of KSA with an innate understanding of fabric and textiles which has really given me an edge in the industry,” says Jones, who graduated from KSA in 2011 with a Textiles Studio Diploma.
Inspired by Nelson's Creative Culture
Jones grew up in Timmins, Ontario with parents who encouraged creativity. Though she was admittedly not a fashion maven in high school, Jones says she felt a spark for the future when her family spent a summer living in Nelson when she was 17. With a summer job in the bustling downtown, she discovered a community that was supportive of her creativity.
“I quickly realized that this is a place I wanted to be and KSA branched out of the environment I wanted to live in,” she says.
Nervous about her lack of formal experience and background in fashion, the passion for a future in textiles gave Jones the push she needed to apply. After submitting Beatles-themed sketches as part of her portfolio and getting past the formal interview process, she was accepted and packed her bags for the West Kootenay after high school graduation.
It didn’t take long for Jones to realize she made the right post-secondary choice.
“Some of my friends that went to university would do the typical thing, go through three years and then by the fourth find something that they are really into,” says the 28-year-old. “We’re really lucky here because day-one you are immersed in making projects and you just keep on improving. If you love a particular aspect, then you get to keep pushing harder in that direction.”
Mentored by veteran industry-proven instructors, the two-year Textiles Studio Diploma puts an emphasis on developing skills and a high level of proficiency within a diverse range of techniques. Students have the opportunity to engage in many areas of study, including weaving, felting, dying, screen printing and pattern drafting. As part of the two-year program, students also have the opportunity to delve into other KSA studios that include Blacksmithing, Ceramics, Jewelry, Sculptural Metal or Bronze Casting.
Jones chose the Ceramics Studio as a minor and jumped into her studies with vigour. She complimented her formal education with part-time work at Nelson’s Craft Connection, an artist co-op retailer that first opened in 1983.
“It furthered my education because I really learned how studio practitioners work and how artists actually make a living,” says Jones. “I had the opportunity to talk with the artists, getting to understand doing market research, the cost for shipping, what trade shows to attend. I’m sure there are a hundred books on that, but there is nothing like working right in it.”
Building Off the Proper Foundation
After graduating from KSA, Jones decided to spend a couple more years in post-secondary to deepen her background. With a wealth of transfer options available to KSA alumni, she chose the University of the Fraser Valley where she spent two years in Abbotsford where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts.
While in university, Jones built on the hands-on skills developed at KSA to get a solid jump on her career. Together with her classmate, Jones started Eightyninety Apparel which was a global online fashion brand dedicated to independent women born in the 1980s and 1990s.
In total the partnership produced three collections of original clothing with 15 pieces each that were featured online and in pop-up shops around Vancouver. The process taught Jones plenty about developing a brand, sales and overseas mass production.
With several balls in the air, Jones also started an internship and eventual employment with Naked underwear, at the time a Vancouver-based company that specialized in fashion essentials for men. Working for the start-up—which was eventually purchased by a New York company—again furthered her industry education.
“I have always brought it back to my education at KSA,” says Jones. “The reason Naked hired me is that I could identify fibres from a touch, I understood the difference between a knit and a woven. There are thousands of fashion designers because you can pick up the skills, but if you don’t have the foundation of fabric and everything I learned at KSA… I would be hooped.”
As the latest class gets set to graduate from KSA, former instructors brought Jones back to Nelson to speak with current students about her career path. Her message was simple.
“KSA is my foundation,” says Jones. “You can throw anything in realm of this industry at me, if I don’t understand it at first I can get quickly get it because of my educational background. It’s more than just the skillset, it gave me the confidence.”
Jones just returned from Guangzhou, China where she attended the annual Canton Fair which the largest trade fair in world. With six retail outlets across British Columbia, Jones was scouting out the ingredients needed to continue to make Caposhie a start-up success.
Though Jones’ career has pulled her away from the West Kootenay, her appreciation for the foundation she received at KSA and the Nelson community continues to burn strong.
“You can start with nothing and graduate with everything,” she says. “It’s the only schooling I have experienced where you make the outcomes fit your goals. If you show up every day, you can’t graduate without being passionate about the future. The instructors lay it all out for you, they become your mentors and your friends.”