TORONTO - After earning a lucrative emerging designer prize at World MasterCard Fashion Week, Sid Neigum returned to the Toronto runway on Monday with a fully produced show and a $30,000 bursary, giving his brand a welcome cash boost.
"It was a huge opportunity, obviously," Neigum said of the Mercedes-Benz Start Up victory at Fashion Week last fall.
"I got very lucky and there was a lot of hard work involved as well, but it's allowed for some pretty huge changes.
"A lot of financial freedom has come from that, and freedom to make the next collection and to do production for the spring collection."
The Alberta-born, Toronto-based designer has made significant strides within a seemingly short span of time, earning acclaim and financial support for his budding label, described by Neigum as "minimal and unconventional."
In 2012, he won the Toronto Fashion Incubator's New Labels contest and $25,000 cash.
Neigum earned an additional $2,500 last October for another victory tied to the Start Up contest by designing a winning outfit inspired by Minnie Mouse.
In January, the Drayton Valley, Alta., native was bestowed with yet another emerging talent prize at the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards, which included $10,000 and production of a professional lookbook.
"I think like any emerging designer experiences the same problems, and it's usually coming down to cash flow," Neigum said.
"To raise that awareness is definitely a good thing, and I think that more and more of these competitions are catching on and realizing that, and allowing that to be part of the prize."
With his Start Up win and his line now being carried by Hudson's Bay Co.'s luxury department The Room and Toronto boutique Jonathan+Olivia, Neigum said he feels slightly more pressure to show a successful collection.
"I always want to improve season after season, but there are also people watching that haven't before, so I want to please everybody — including myself."
Neigum had no need to fear the crowd's reaction as he was warmly greeted with applause and a roar as he saluted the audience at the end of his runway presentation.
He continued to explore the modular origami theme from his spring line in his latest collection, which involves laser-cutting shapes out of fabric and hand-weaving them together to create a geometric 3-D pattern.
"It's getting easier," he said of the complex technique.
"I'm starting to develop new ways to do it, so I'm kind of excited to show it off."
The strains of a live string quartet reverberated throughout the runway room as models stepped out in Neigum's sleek designs steeped in a palette of black, white and grey.
The designer played with volume and texture in his sculptural creations, which included dramatic gowns flaunting cowl necks and asymmetrical hemlines and lush draping on vests and jackets.
It proved to be a decided contrast from the more form-fitting garments in the line, including a slick, high-waisted pencil skirt paired with a sleeveless blouse.
Despite his recent run of success, Neigum said he's become more realistic and "a bit less naive" about the nature of his notoriously tough industry.
"There's a lot of things that are not the way they seem from the outside. It's a lot more difficult than it seems to start a fashion business and it takes a lot of time just to get to a breaking-even point.
"It's kind of unexpected how difficult it would be. I knew it would be difficult, but I didn't know how difficult, so that was kind of an eye-opening experience."
Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.