He spent his childhood doodling mutant superheroes while living on a Leslieville acreage: “All of my early fashion influence came from the X-Men,” admitted Nolan Bellavance, with a laugh.
Now the 26-year-old designer is residing in New York City and being touted as “the next big thing” on some fashion websites, which refer glowingly to his first women’s wear show last month.
“Bellavance (showcased) some incredibly modern, super-chic pieces that bring a fresh touch to New York Fashion Week,” stated a writer for AstonishWorld.
Style.com called his debut presentation at Milk Studios polished and inspired, adding, “the (designer) may be green, but we have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of Bellavance in seasons to come.”
The Central Alberta native and graduate of the renowned Parsons School of Fashion has been on to big things since being unanimously chosen by five judges as winner of the MADE for Peroni Young Designer Award last August.
The prize included $25,000 to finance his debut clothing collection and $20,000 to showcase the garments during fashion week.
One of the judges, designer Antonio Berardi, stated that he particularly liked Bellavance’s print dresses, calling them “unlike anything that anyone else is doing . . . I think he could be a very big star.”
Bellavance, who has sales meetings set up with fashion buyers from Barneys and other U.S. retailers, as well as The Bay in Canada, had no idea he would be bitten by the fashion bug while growing up in Leslieville — a hamlet known more for farming than haute couture.
He doesn’t recall having any such aspirations while playing baseball, drawing and doing gymnastics as a youngster. Bellavance remembers being an artistic kid who got support from teachers as well as his family, including his father, who worked in the oilfield service industry and his mom, who’s in real estate. “They were both creative in non-traditional ways.”
After first trying out journalism in Calgary, Bellavance was introduced to the fashion world by friends, and decided to pursue design at Montreal’s College LaSalle and then Parsons in New York City.
He admits his current status as a young designer-to-watch is a little surreal. “Everyday I am still pinching myself . . .”
The flashing cameras, fashion critics and retail buyers at his fall/winter 2013 fashion show on Feb. 9 were “really cool, but a little nerve-wracking,” said Bellavance, who co-created the debut collection with fellow Parsons grad and his best friend Ava Hama.
While he gets a lot of press about his youth, Bellavance feels it’s actually taken him a long time to get to where he is. And the trouble with achieving a lot at a young age, “is you feel you have to keep up.”
But wherever Bellavance goes, he believes a little bit of Central Alberta goes too. “Definitely I think there’s a small influence from where I come from. I was surrounded by Western wear while I was growing up, and I’m still interested in construction . . . I always try to think back to a bunch of things from my past that I can use for my collection.”
While there are no strident plaids or cowboy shirt yokes, Bellavance said there is leather, fur and denim. “I always use some denim in every collection . . .
“As much as my life has changed, where I came from is always going to be a part of me.”