Published on the NEAT blog Friday May 2, 2014

The Heart Truth is a volunteer based charity and a glowing attempt by the Heart and Stroke Foundation to raise awareness and increase understanding about heart disease and strokes amongst Canadian women.  The campaign aims to educate the public, decrease the number of women at risk as well as encourage women to take preventative actions.  The Heart Truth Fashion Show is a major event in select cities across Canada which fashionably raises money for the cause.  The high-end event ‘dresses’ Canadian celebrities and public figures in custom made red gowns by some of the country’s most sought-after fashion designers.  Event guests not only get to enjoy viewing the beautiful tailor made outfits and a night of fun, but also learn about the importance of heart health through educated guest speakers and honorees’ personal stories. The event is said to represent “women’s courage and passion and their power for change as they share the truth with others and raise awareness about the importance of heart health”.

Heart Truth Calgary was started in 2012 by Jacqueline Tyler and Shahr Savizi.  The event this year was held at 8th Avenue Place and was seamlessly beautiful.  The assortment of businesses and individuals who came out to support the cause and empower women was overwhelming.  The organizers, Tyler and her magnificent team, were poised, composed and truly professional as they put together, led and managed one of Calgary’s most successful, and classiest, fundraiser events.

Not only did I get to attend the gala, but I had the rare opportunity to shadow and document the making of local fashion designer Lara Presber’s gown contribution for the Fashion Show!  Disclaimer: Lara is an extremely accomplished, Italian-educated fashion designer whose understated, classic style got put on hold for the making of this dress.  I love a good story, I love a good narrative, and that’s precisely what Miss Presber (yes, she’s single – men form a line) set out to do.

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We caught up with the designer, and by caught up with I mean hovered over her desk, and asked her to describe in her own words the concept and inspiration behind the dress.

LP: My inspiration started with the black blips created on EKG paper by a healthy heartbeat. I thought it would be interesting to make the printout life-sized and turn it 90 degrees to create some interesting and abstract geometries that would be unique, but still figure flattering.

Erin Strate was Lara’s model, you probably recognize her as the go!Calgary Host on Shaw TV; Erin’s smile could light up a room and that’s exactly what she did every time she came in for her fitting.

The pattern is made from Lara’s stature, which is quite similar to Erin’s, and throughout the entire process Lara spoke about getting the right fit; seams falling at the right place and clothing tailored to actually fit your body, what a concept!  Most people either wear too large or too small of clothing for their figure and completely ignore tailoring altogether (I’m even guilty of this!).  Throughout this process you will see a sheath transform into a figure flattering dress!  It is truly is quite amazing.

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After the first fitting Lara got straight to work on cutting out the pattern, ironing the felt and piecing together of the outer shell of the dress.

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Erin is so sweet she even had a smile on her face when we told her that this see through mesh sheath you see below was going to be the dress for the fashion show . . . yikes!

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Next the lining was put together and affixed to the  outer shell of the dress.

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At this stage you can see that the dress has very little shape to it.  We are at the sheath stage, which can be a charming look, but this is neither the time or the place.  One final fitting with Erin will confirm the amount to take in at the hips and pull up at the shoulder.  But what you can see is the sideways EKG symbol finally come to life.

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Let the paper experimentation begin!! Lara and the Tallboy Studio team (army of architectural misfits aka my workmates) played with different paper folding, crinkling and layering techniques in order to uniquely incorporate the EKG design into the dress.  After a few different iterations Lara was really happy with the technique of weaving . . . Making fabric out of paper: genius.

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At her final fitting, Erin was grateful that there was lining in the dress.  Come on, who does she think we are?!

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The next step was to experiment and design the mesh outer layer of the dress.  The mesh is meant to follow the overarching EKG symbol on the top half of the dress and connect to form the right hand side  shoulder of the dress.

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Tallboy collaboration!

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Setting and affixing the EKG paper were the last, but most important, details of the dress.  In the designers words:

LP: The EKG paper became an integral part of the dress from both an inspiration standpoint as well as fabrication. The strips were woven to become almost fabric-like and then inserted between the 2 layers of the dress. I left the ends free at the top and bottom to help it to confirm to the silhouette and also add some dynamicism and movement.

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Flash forward to the Heart Truth Fashion Show.  Because I had been ‘helping’ Lara, I got to go up with her to the fitting room where all the models’ makeup and hair was being done.  It was insane.  The treats and drinks they were giving out was out of control!  But in all seriousness, there were people flying around lip sticking lips, hair spraying hair, painting nails and powdering noses, then someone yells at the top of their lungs, ‘anyone else need hair?!’ Ahem, right here, I could use a touch up.  Pffffffft!  Not a chance.

The final dressing was great, Erin was energized and the tailored outfit looked amazing.

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The dress was so whimsical, it flowed and swayed down the runway to Erin’s confident strut.  This ended up being Lara’s favorite aspect of the dress, as well as everyone else’s I’m sure.

LP: My favourite aspect of the dress was seeing it come to life on the runway with all of the paper strips swishing and fluttering with each step that my model took; it became so much more animated than I could have predicted and brought an element of fun to a very serious topic.

This dress had a story, it had a true narrative from the beginning and stayed true to Lara’s original intention.  A story just like the ladies who wore the dress, and made the dress and those who came out to see the dresses.  Nothing gathers people than the narrative that seeks to empower and save women.

Special thanks goes out to all those who made this post and night possible: Lara Presber, Erin Strate, Jacqueline Tyler, Crimson Art Photography, Owen Craig, Paul Stady and the entire Heart Truth Calgary team.

-KB