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Chelsea O'Connell

by Maureen Mugerwa


Years ago, someone told Chelsea O’Connell that fashion could not be done in Saskatchewan. Instead of giving up, she used it as motivation.


O’Connell is now co-creator and director of Saskatchewan Fashion Week & co-owner of three clothing stores in Regina: Coda Clothing and Shoes, Cade Style Lounge and  Apartment 3B, a sneaker shop.


“I went away for school and I was seeing different things happening in Alberta and I questioned why they weren’t happening in Saskatchewan,” says O’Connell, who took fashion design and marketing at Lethbridge College in Alberta.


But her heart was in Saskatchewan, so she moved back after graduation in 2009. She tried starting the Regina Fashion Collective with other Saskatchewan designers, but it was tough getting enough designers to stay committed and collaborate. However, a few of them continued on and created Saskatchewan Fashion Week.


Now in its third year, the three day event is scheduled for May 8-10 this year at a new location in Regina—the Sound Stage.


Saskatchewan Fashion Week allows designers to showcase their collections for Fall and Winter 2014. Ticket prices range from $60 for regular seating, for one night, to $85 for gold seating.


“It’s definitely growing. We’re seeing a small increase in everything from ticket purchases to designers and retailers wanting to be involved,” says O’Connell.


Zoë Pattenden, moved from Scotland to Saskatoon seven years ago. She’s been modeling for four years but never walked a runway until last year’s Saskatchewan Fashion Week.


“I went to gain experience with fashion week and that was my first time modeling,” says Pattenden. “I liked the process of it. The auditions, the hair and make-up, the actual walking was probably the best part of it.”


There are challenges to working in Saskatchewan’s fashion industry.


“Everything that’s happening nationally in Canada is always happening in Toronto or Montreal,” O’Connell says. “Being in Regina or Saskatchewan, it’s definitely a challenge because we’re very removed from what’s happening out East.”


O’Connell said because Saskatchewan’s fashion industry is new, it makes it hard for those working in the fashion industry in Toronto or Montreal to care about what is happening here.


But Saskatchewan Fashion Week has found a way to deal with those challenges by creating a platform for designers to network, collaborate and find mentors in the industry


“By extending our networks and getting designers and different industry professionals involved in fashion events throughout Canada, hopefully we start building some bridges and connecting people that are working across Canada in the different fashion related industries.”


She says in order for the Saskatchewan fashion industry go to the next level, the industry needs  more designers who not only make one-of-a-kind handmade pieces but also who manufacture their own products.


O’Connell said ideally, designers see and feel fabrics before manufacturing, but many Saskatchewan designers have to buy off the internet or travel to buy materials.


Still, O’Connell said, all that work pays off when people attend Saskatchewan Fashion Week and tell her they felt like they were in New York.


 “When you spend money on a ticket and probably an outfit and you feel like you’ve escaped the city for a bit. It’s nice to be part of something different and something our city has really never seen before, ” says O’Connell.


 The lineup for Saskatchewan Fashion Week 2014 can be found at