Arts grad Derek Jagodzinsky may be the head of a successful ready-to-wear fashion line, but he’s not too cool to go back to school.
The Edmonton-born fashion designer, and member of the Whitefish First Nation, graduated with a bachelor of design from the University of Alberta in 2010.
Since then, he’s interned in New York with fashion designer Michael Kaye Couture, founded the popular LUXX ready-to-wear clothing company, headlined the Western Canada Fashion Week stage and produced several successful collections.
And he says he has his diverse arts education to thank for it.
“It takes a long time to build a successful fashion line, and a lot of different skills,” says Jagodzinsky. “With my bachelor’s degree in design, I learned so many things I use now to run my company.”
Along with designing his collections, Jagodzinsky has also put his BDes skills into action by producing his own logo, print and online ads, and business cards.
“I even do all my own communications, marketing and promotions,” he explains. “I hired a seamstress two days a week, but other than that it’s just me.”
Though it’s a full plate by any standard, there are still aspects of the business Jagodzinsky wants to learn.
That thirst for knowledge is what led him back to the Faculty of Arts, where he’s now taking a master’s degree in industrial design.
“I have so much more to learn. My hope is to expand LUXX to jewelry, furniture, watches, cosmetics…” he says. “Kind of like Armani has Armani Home—that would be my dream: a full-fledged brand.”
In the meantime, he’ll be forging ahead with his fashion career, and has planned an academic schedule that he hopes will allow for a balance between work and school.
“I won’t be on campus every day—I have three days of classes, so I’ll be fine,” he says. “Once my current collection is done, it’ll just be orders and stuff, so I’ll have plenty of time for studying.”
Just as Derek uses his design education to bolster his brand, his Aboriginal background also influences his popular fashion line.
“I always wanted to promote native fashion and create a new, modern Indigenous look,” he says. “Native culture is for everybody; it’s meant to be shared.”
Jagodzinsky’s representation of modern Indigenous clothing on the runway has earned him international acclaim.
Jacquelyn Francis, the director of Fashion Magazine, has purchased a native-inspired dress from LUXX, adorned with the slogan “The Best Things in Life Are Cree.” This year, one of Jagodzinsky’s pieces will be touring with Native Fashion Now, an exhibit visiting U.S. museums in Philadelphia and New York, and the Royal Alberta Museum has purchased several pieces from his spring/summer 2015 collection, Strength of Our Nation, to display in its new facility.
It’s safe to say Derek has found success in the native-inspired clothing niche, and he plans to pursue the topic further as part of his graduate studies.
“I really want to focus on modern native design for my research,” he says. “I’m a visual learner, and taking my master’s is forcing me to think differently—which is going to help me grow as a designer.”