Doreen To didn't think a postsecondary education was in her cards. Thanks to a scholarship from Pathways Canada, and plenty of support from her professors at Seneca, she excelled beyond what she could have ever imagined.
"The faculty and staff in the Fashion Arts program were very supportive. Every time I would go into the office, they would take the time to talk to me and counsel me. I could see that they were there for me."
I grew up in a rough neighbourhood. My parents didn't have much money, and my father was on disability. When my brother was young, he had some legal troubles, which led to my family being evicted from our home. Faced with a two-month time limit to vacate the premises, my parents were forced to use the money they were saving for my postsecondary tuition to find our family a new place to live. Despite our financial pressures, I was denied OSAP and considered choosing work over going to school. Then a mentor suggested that I apply for a scholarship from Pathways Canada. Winning that scholarship was a life-changing opportunity for me.
I enrolled in the Fashion Arts program at Seneca in 2010. It wasn't always easy. In my second year I failed one of my core courses, and was very discouraged. I even considered leaving the program. But I owe a lot to the faculty at Seneca, who were very supportive and encouraged me to stay. I went on to achieve more than I ever thought I could.
While I was at Seneca I interned for various companies in marketing roles and junior designer roles. I participated in local fashion design competitions with Fashion Takes Action and CreativeFest, placing among the top three. In March 2014 I was chosen as a preliminary finalist of the Hempel Awards in Beijing, China, and had the opportunity to travel there to take part in China Fashion Week. It was in Beijing that I debuted my capsule collection, Paper Samurai. This collection is inspired by a mix of origami art and Japanese armoury, with an avant-garde street wear aesthetic. Each piece is designed with the contemporary woman in mind, empowering them to channel their inner warrior in strength and femininity.
In the future, my goal is to become a designer for a fashion house, either in Toronto or New York. And because of my experience at Seneca, I know I'm on my way there.
Doreen, along with 7 other Seneca alumni recently participated in Seneca’s RED: Emerging Designer Showcase at World MasterCard Fashion Week. The Globe & Mail named this runway presentation as one of the top 5 collections from Toronto fashion week.
"I believe all things happen for a reason. The scholarship I received, the things I learned at Seneca, the people I met – they changed my life."