Unique local fashion school is a cut above (14 photos) – BradfordToday
‘There is no place I would rather be,’ says Maria Calautti who offers students a chance to earn an international diploma at Oro-Medonte school
A second career for Maria Calautti has given five local women the chance to earn a prestigious international diploma — and it proves dreams can come true at any age.
Calautti spent the first 28 years of her working life raising children and working in the restaurant business with her husband, Rocco. She had always enjoyed sewing, having learned the craft from her mother and aunt as well as some home economics classes in high school.
When Rocco had to have quadruple bypass surgery in 2002, Calautti took her pastime of sewing to another level and started doing alterations for various stores in Barrie.
On the internet, she discovered the Italian school that teaches the pattern drafting method, and began working on upgrading her skills. Then, upon the suggestion of the owner of the school, she started teaching the technique, in yet another career turn.
Calautti has been teaching ever since, first in evening classes at Georgian College, and then privately, in a space on Highway 11, and now in her home in Oro-Medonte and online. Le Grand Chic Italia School of Fashion was founded in 1948 in Italy, and Calautti opened her Oro-Medonte branch in 2011.
“The school is unique because, in addition to receiving the recognition of successful completion from Italy, students have the opportunity to earn their Italian diploma in fashion design and construction without ever leaving the country,” said Calautti. “I also have the exclusive North American rights to distribute the kits necessary for the drafting method.”
Beginning student Elizabeth Wardrop says she is excited to have Calautti as a teacher. She had taken a tailoring course in North Bay and made a bespoke jacket there, but it never fit right, and never made her feel good, she said. One of the students in the course had mentioned Calautti, and Wardrop decided to contact her.
“I reached out to Maria on Instagram and asked her if she would help me fix my jacket and, of course, she did,” Wardrop said.
“We needed three sessions where we worked on this jacket. We had to take in seams. We had to do numerous things. She would tell me what to do, and I would go home and do it. She helped me to learn how to fix my own jacket.”
At the end of the jacket project, Wardrop decided she needed to learn and do more.
“I had always made clothes from patterns, but they never fit well. So, I thought, ‘I need to do this,’ and now I am coming up every two weeks from Lefroy and I can do the homework in between,” she said.
Calautti’s five recent graduates spent four years honing their skills and have earned the bespoke tailor diploma and recognition of being a master tailor through Le Grand Chic Italia.
There are only 13 people in North America with this diploma. Calautti has earned the tailor and teaching diploma, as well as, in 2015, the modellista (pattern maker) diploma, in Italy.
One of the five grads did the entire course virtually and is now creating patterns for designers in downtown Toronto.
The students started with three-hour classes every two weeks, with lots of homework in between, until the pandemic, according to graduate Elizabeth Tan.
“Then we attempted Zoom classes, but they didn’t really work,” she said. “It was too hard for Maria to see the pencil marks on the patterns, and all those rustling noises with the tissue paper were a problem, too.”
Calautti found a large space that was pandemic-friendly, and the in-person students carried on with their classes there.
“We ended up doing six-hour classes after the first two years. With the intensity and complexity of the work, it just made more sense,” said Tan.
In between in-person classes, said fellow grad Anneke te Bokkel, “we did class every day. Between reviewing notes, making patterns, watching videos, and calling Maria, we needed this time out of class to do all the work.”
“That’s why it’s so cemented in our brain,” she continued. “If we had gone to class two times a week, we wouldn’t have known as much as we do, because we wouldn’t have had time to learn.”
Students start off learning a basic block — how to take measurements and use them to create a custom pattern. From there, they build on and learn additional aspects, like different sleeves, pleats and so on, according to Tan and te Bokkel.
Everyone agreed knowing how to make clothing that fits perfectly is a big plus.
“The fit is paramount,” said Calautti. “Everything else is second to that.”
Creativity and custom design play a big part in the course, although copying designer looks is also fair game. Tan liked a coat Camilla, Queen Consort, wore, so she copied it for herself.
For the final exams, students must design one-of-a-kind patterns and then use those to create the clothing, employing all the knowledge they have gained.
Both students agreed Calautti is an excellent teacher.
“She is so positive, and uses mistakes as opportunities, not as problems,” said te Bokkel.
Calautti chimed in: “I thoroughly enjoy teaching and this group. There is no place I would rather be than with like-minded individuals, imparting knowledge. The approach that I take as a teacher is to accentuate the positive.”
“If there’s a mistake,” she continued, “let’s see how well you can fix that, let’s see if you can make that a design feature. And half the time, they like the design feature better than the original.”
More information about Le Grand Chic Italia School of Fashion in Oro-Medonte can be found here.
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