Ryerson’s School of Fashion offers one of Canada’s top fashion programs. Pui Yee (PY) Chau is a Contract Lecturer at the university and has over twenty years of experience working in the industry. We had the pleasure of interviewing PY and learning more about her story of becoming a fashion lecturer, as well as her biggest tips and advice for students. 

When did you realize you wanted to make fashion your career or have you known from a young age?

I have known since I was 10, I’ve always enjoyed making doll clothes. My father was a tailor, so I guess I inherited a bit of the craft from him.

Can you tell us a little bit more about how you got into teaching at Ryerson’s School of Fashion?

I started as a volunteer judge in Ryerson’s fashion shows as an industry expert. My friend who was teaching at Ryerson forwarded my name when the school had an opening.

What has been the most challenging part of teaching? The most rewarding?

The most challenging is that the study body has different levels of knowledge, as well as different learning styles. The most rewarding is to see my student’s name in newspaper or tv interviews and that they are working in the industry that they love.

What do you love about the design side of fashion? Do you believe that everyone’s unique personal experiences become an integral part of their designs?

I love the unlimited possibilities of fabric, colour, and silhouettes. Sometimes. when the students bring their heritage and cultural backgrounds into the designs.

What is your favourite course to teach or project to assign?

My favourite class would be the final year collection in which the students use the knowledge that they accumulated through the first three years in the design program.

I saw that you have done design work in the health care sector for ageing and disabled people. What inspired you to get involved in this field and how did your fashion experience help with this endeavour

The design work for the health care sector was part of my master’s thesis, but I believe that aesthetics should transcend to all sectors of society. I was also involved in designing a cover for a respiratory apparatus for St. Michael’s Neonatal unit. 

How has COVID-19 impacted the delivery of your classes that are traditionally so hands-on? How have you managed to adapt to ensure students receive the same quality of instruction?  

There are pros and cons to online delivery. The pros are that I can deliver more content. The cons are that I can’t judge the tactile properties of the fabrics that the students have chosen. One-on-one critiques are very beneficial for the students and hands-on help is also very important. 

Being commerce students, it can be confusing for us to know what jobs exist in fashion. Can you highlight some key roles in the industry?

  • Creative Director
  • Designer
  • Assistant Designer
  • Technical Designer
  • Product Developer
  • Fabric Sourcing Specialist
  • Supply Chain Specialist
  • Merchandiser
  • Magazine Editor
  • Stylist
  • Photographer
  • Illustrator

What is one piece of advice you have for students interested in studying fashion or pursuing a career in the industry? 

Perseverance, patience, and continual learning.

In your opinion, what role does fashion and design play in the ability to connect individuals and inspire communities?  

Fashion is an interpreter and a communicator of who we are. What we wear shows how we feel at a particular moment or day.

PY was generous enough to share some of her former students’ work, which can help to inspire and educate Rotman students interested in this field:

RCFG is incredibly grateful to have been able to interview such an inspiring member of the Toronto fashion community who works hard to teach and empower her students, helping them to make a mark for themselves in the community. We wish PY and her students all the best in the future!  

-Katie Brasseur