The Alberta-born, Toronto-based designer kicked off spring-summer 2015 collections at David Pecaut Square with a solo presentation of his intricately crafted collection inspired by modular origami. Hours later, a selection of several of those same garments earned Neigum the top prize in the Mercedes-Benz Start Up contest which, for the first time, includes a cash award in the form of a $30,000 bursary.
Neigum said he knew nothing about modular origami before picking up books and spending months honing his skills.
"Instead of folding the shapes, I was laser-cutting the shapes out of fabric and then hand-weaving them all together," he said backstage following his solo runway show. "Some of the pieces were 600 parallelograms handsewn together to create the geometric 3-D geometry pattern. That was the starting point."
Neigum also made ample use of asymmetry in the hemlines of sleek skirts and belted dresses showcased within the line.
"I just really wanted to explore all of these shapes and put out as many shapes as possible," he said.
Neigum won the Toronto Fashion Incubator's New Labels contest in 2012. TFI executive director Susan Langdon had high praise for the designer's new line.
"He works very, very hard and he's always pushing himself to try to create new textures and shapes out of fabrics that anybody else can find," she said following his solo show. "Using bamboo jersey, just the way you layer it and cut it in asymmetric detail, layering that and making it work creates a fresh new silhouette.
"I'm always thrilled at every collection I see because you can see this evolution and growth season after season."
Neigum also won over the Start Up judging panel with his latest creations. In addition to the $30,000 bursary, Neigum will received a fully produced runway show during Fashion Week next March and an editorial spread in Fashion Magazine.
"I think to some degree it was the handwork that kind of pushed it beyond some of the other collections," said Bernadette Morra, editor-in-chief of Fashion Magazine.
"There was also a straightforwardness in his vision, a clarity of his vision. There was something very pure about the collection that I think really resonated with all of us, but there was a lot of talent there in that group."
Toronto-based womenswear labels Beaufille, BLAK.I and Laura Siegel were among the Start Up finalists, as were Vancouver Island's Eliza Faulkner and Montreal-based Valerie Tolila of the label Vaiken.
Following his win, Neigum was warmly greeted backstage by his parents, Marie and Darrell and sister Kailey who came from Drayton Valley, Alta. to see his presentations.
The designer said the bursary that accompanies the Start Up win offers a much-needed cash infusion for his label.
"It'll mean a little bit of ease going into the next collection and a lot of that will go towards making the next collection, producing this collection," he said. "Basically, it will be a huge boost for me, probably push me over that break-even point for this year which is the first time in my business' history. It's a huge moment."
Morra said fashion is a struggle for independent designers in Canada.
"It's very, very hard. They really are like starving artists, and any supports that we can give them is so crucial. But really, what we need to do as Canadians is to be looking for and buying their clothes. That's going to make the biggest difference ultimately in whether somebody can survive in this country or not."
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