Kelsey McIntyre is a fashion designer based in Edmonton, Canada. Writer Manda-Lee Brownrigg caught up with her
Pursuing your passion is terrifying. It is a freedom that comes with many obstacles, and not everyone can face those head on and leap over them. You have to decide that what you are passionate about means enough to you to pursue and enough to the world to be shared. In order to do this, you must truly love what you do. Kelsey McIntyre, the 28-year-old designer of the clothing line Serendipity and the new partner in the Kelly Madden and Serendipity Flagship store, is in love with her career. “It’s all about doing what you love,” she says. “But don’t settle. Whatever you decide to do, do your best at it.”
Getting to Serendipity
McIntyre started homeschooling in seventh grade and she loved it. “I’m a fast learner,” she says. “It was great to not have to wait for classmates to be finished. I could just move at my own pace, which was pretty fast.”
It was around that time, at the age of 13, that McIntyre decided she would be a fashion designer. “It was then that it wasn’t just I can sew, it became this is a career I can choose: sewing and designing fashion,” McIntyre says. And that was it. “I flirted with other ideas, but it always came back to this.”
When it came time to start looking at training, McIntyre’s parents were her number one supporters. “I remember my mom looking up colleges. I just have the most fantastic parents. I never remember my parents saying you should think of an alternative. It was always this is what you want; now, let’s figure out how to make it work,” McIntyre says.
She chose to pursue the yearlong Fashion Design program at MC College in Canada. Homeschooling had prepared McIntyre for the self-motivation she would need, and though it was challenging, she felt like it handed her a key. It was not long after she had an opportunity that pushed her in the direction that would lead to the creation of Serendipity. “People say it’s who you know, and it is. But that has always been my challenge, self-promoting. Lucky for me I have some great friends and an aunt who are crazy-good at it!” It was this aunt who connected McIntyre to Western Canada Fashion Week. She entered the Emerging Designer competition with her bridal designs. She won.
It was after this a decision had to be made. “I always had it in my head that I was going to do bridal,” McIntyre says, but bridal wasn’t going to cut it at the time. While everyone at her show oohed and awed over the beautiful dresses, no one bought them. She was offered another showcase in WCFW, and she took the summer to consider her path. What should she pursue? Her friends helped her see the “obvious,” that she should make a ready-to-wear line. She was already making them clothes, and, she says, “I thought what can it hurt?” It was that decision that led to 5 years of her vintage chic clothing line, Serendipity.
Opening a Store
Kelsey Madden, whose name graces the company McIntyre is a partner in, and McIntyre graduated the top two in their year at MC College. “We’ve always been really close and stayed in touch. And a couple years ago we started playing with the idea of a store,” McIntyre explains. Their designs were similar, but with enough contrast to appeal to a broader audience. Only the timing wasn’t right, so the idea was put aside until McIntyre received an email from Kathleen Toduruk, the woman she had done her practicum with. Head Case Hats was looking for someone to fill space. “Kelly actually texted me the day before I checked out the space saying what about that idea of us opening a store?” McIntyre remembers. Finally, the timing was right. Within three weeks the Kelly Madden and Serendipity Flagship store was happening.
The Love that Surrounds
Even though McIntyre’s mother now lives south of Calgary, she drove up for her daughter’s store opening. “I don’t think my mom has ever missed a show! I don’t think I could still be doing this if I didn’t have the support I do,” McIntyre says. And that support has come in many forms: friends who bring breakfast after an all-nighter, sisters who try on skirts for the ten billionth time at 10 p.m., and family members who build her up when she has her doubts.
And doubts do come. “In slower times, when there isn’t much sewing and there aren’t orders every week, you kind of wonder if you are doing the right thing,” McIntyre says. “Then there are the times where you are really, really busy and you think I hate sewing! But then you take a break for a few days and miss it.”
Loving What You Do
McIntyre doesn’t believe in trying to be the next international super-star. One of her role models is Jane Austen. “I gravitate towards women who are strong women but aren’t in your face,” McIntyre says. “The thing about Jane Austen was she was never about writing to change the idea of female novelists. She just loved writing so much she wrote. That’s how I feel. I love this. If other people love what I do, great, but I do it because I love it and I think that’s huge.”
Sharing the Love
McIntyre’s line, Serendipity, has graced the Edmonton runways for five years, and has made it into the Ottawa Fashion Week for two seasons. She has been invited back for the fall season at the end of October, and is working to arrange funds to make it happen. Her clothes are even sold at a store in Ottawa called Victoire. With all this and the recent store opening, McIntyre’s passion is becoming a reality, but not everyone thought it could happen.
As a local designer, she is often faced with the expectation that she must leave to succeed, but she doesn’t agree. “If this is what your passion is, you can do it anywhere. You may have to be a little more resourceful, which is a good thing! It gives you resiliency because you have to fight a little harder and be a little more creative. In Edmonton you have the bonus of not getting lost in the shuffle. Edmonton has its blessings and its curses in the fashion industry,” McIntyre says.
But it isn’t just on the runway or in stores you can see McIntyre’s designs. Her work has also graced the stage of school and community theatre in her home town Fort Saskatchewan. She and two friends, Anne Colenbrander and Tara Corneau, came together to create Alice in Wonderland and Tom Sawyer at the Fort Christian School. When the drama program got cut at the school, the three even went so far as to create Lost Boys Productions to put on a community theatre production of Peter Pan. “That was great because it wasn’t just the grades eight and nine from Fort Christian: we could have any kid from 12-16,” McIntyre says. “And we even had two homeschooled kids, which made me really happy!”
Advice for the Brave
“My advice to young girls coming into their 20’s and really starting to pursue their professional lives and asking what an adult looks like is this,” she says, “Find out what you love. I encourage every woman to find what you love and then find out how to take what you love and use it to be a better person and better people’s lives.”
If you want to check out Kelsey’s clothes, please visit http://www.kelseymcintyre.com or say hi to Kelsey at the Kelly Madden and Serendipity Flagship Store at 10125 124 street, Edmonton.