Interview with Maria Digaoan on Studying Fashion Design in Vancouver


Thinking about studying fashion design?

We caught up with my dear friend, Maria Digaoan who moved from Calgary to study fashion design at Blanche Macdonald in Vancouver.

Maria shares insight into studying fashion design, real-talk about moving away from home, and shares photos from her collection, Packing List with us.

Not only did we get to catch up with Maria to put this interview together for you, but Katy and I had the honour of watching her graduation fashion show— all the designs were nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Maria Digaoan - Interview

What sparked your interest in fashion?

Fashion has been always in mind ever since I was young. I love putting different outfits together and looking out for trends.

I went to university to find my career path, but I was not interested in what I was taking at all.

I had a moment when I asked, “what I am actually doing with my life?”—I need to get it together!!

What was I passionate about? What is our there for me?

I did my research and applied to Blanche Macdonald for the fashion design program. It’s a difficult industry, but I wanted a challenge! I packed my bags and moved to Vancouver.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone looking to go into studying fashion?

  • You need to stay committed and passionate.

  • Surround yourself with people who also share the same passion.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions because it will definitely get tough, and you should reach out for help when you need it.

What has been the greatest challenge you’ve overcome or are learning to overcome in your creative life?

The greatest challenge that I had to overcome was moving here by myself. I knew nothing about the city, and I didn’t know anyone.

That being said, it has helped me focus on myself. Since I’ve moved here, I feel more independent and more productive.

Who are some artists/makers you look up to and why?

Alexander McQueen & Moschino (Jeremy Scott)— Both have different approaches to design, but they’re always memorable.

They inspire me because:

1. The garment designs and the inspirations are incredible! I watch their fashion shows while I’m illustrating and it keeps me motivated.

2. It always tells a story about their personal life.

What was the inspiration behind your graduation pieces for the fashion show?

My inspiration came from hiking and camping. I thought, “why not use the materials from my favourite activities” and incorporate them into my very own design. I call this my “PACKING LIST”.

I used water resistant fabrics (nylon and polyester) and mixed them with silk organza, denim, camouflage linings & lamb leather accessories to my collection.

For my findings, I was drawn to grommets, ropes, chains (inspired by crampons), webbings (from backpacks) sleeping bag, buckles, and mesh (inspired by the mesh windows of tents).

What do you love most about what you do?

The thing that I absolutely love the most is that there are no boundaries, and it is not repetitive.

We’re taught to come up with different ideas, and I love the fact that it is always possible to make those ideas happen.

I enjoy pattern making—The process of designing on paper, transferring to fabric, and sewing amazes me. I look back on my project and tell myself, “I made that!!

What do you wish people knew more of about the fashion industry?

Fashion design is not easy! I had fun, but I also had the hardest time.

Fashion design gets very expensive. You need to be precise with measurements, colour, textiles etc—one mistake could lead to bigger ones!

Oftentimes, people confuse it with fashion marketing. Or I find people think it’s just sewing pieces fabrics together and that’s that. I wish more people observed the quality and the details that go into crafting a garment.

What is your favourite part of living in Vancouver?  

I can deal with the rain over snow, but my favourite part of Vancouver is how alive the city is! Everywhere I go, there’s always talent! People just live it up.

What are you currently working on now?

As of right now, I am planning on making a few of my other designs from my Packing List. I also want to make ready-to-wear pieces to sell!

Where can people find you and your work right now?

Follow @Riadigdesign on Instagram and email

My Favourite Takeaway…

My favourite takeaway was Maria’s advice for anyone looking to study fashion design— Stay committed and passionate, surround yourself with like-minded people, and don’t be afraid to ask for help— these are all so important to keep in the forefront of your goal setting no matter what it is you’re pursuing.

As Maria’s friend, I loved watching her journey come together online (I was living in Australia at the time). Through social media, Maria shared her design sketches, materials, and behind the scenes of pattern making—and it all looked like so much fun, but it’s gruelling work.

We’ve talked a lot about the growing pains of leaving home, the sleepless nights slaving over assignments, and how cut-throat the industry can be, but in between all of that lives the challenges that encourage growth and opportunities to meet and work with amazing minds.

If you’re thinking about studying or pursuing a career opportunity in a new city, we’re not going to say it’s easy, but it’s so worth it!

And if you’re thinking of diving into the fashion world through design, reach out to Maria on her Instagram—she’s the sweetest soul and always willing to lend thoughtful advice.

Words by:

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