A John Paul II Collegiate student determined early on that the fashion world is where he wants to take his career.
Jontay Kahm, his last name short for Kahmakoatayo, is already off to an early start, having recently hosted his own fashion show at the high school.
The Grade 12 student, originally from Little Pine First Nation, got interested in the field about six years ago. Initially, it was music that sparked his interest.
“When Lady Gaga was a big thing, back in 2009, that really got me thinking what could I do with this idea and make it better,” said Kahm.
“I started copying her designs and then gradually they started to become my designs.”
After a year, Kahm said, he would do illustrations, “20 illustrations a day,” of various designs.
But he soon tired of that and started wanting to actually make clothes.
“In 2012, I came to John Paul, that’s where I met a lot of wonderful people, a lot of friends.”
He noted he did some designs for Cynthia Danyluk who had been a teacher at JP II.
“She was a real inspiration. She lives in London now, and she’s on a talk show, she has her own radio show, and really everything about fashion she talks about.”
Kahm said he started making dresses in her size and started getting better at it. He started experimenting and would watch “hundreds of fashion shows” to see “what I like and what I don’t like, and what I know I can stay away from.”
He’s made about 50 garments since 2012. Many of them have ended up in London, where Cynthia is, and so “she wears them, parades them around London, people ask where she gets them, and she says it’s from me, and she said people love the dresses.”
When Kahn was just starting to get interested in fashion, he recalls watching a “lot of TV.”
“There was this show on Fashion Television, which really got me to know about designers, editors, bloggers, and what designers do every season, how it works, how the fashion system works,” said Kahn.
“After that got cancelled I had to go on my own and see what I had to find for myself,” Kahn said. He followed YouTube, downloading videos of all the fashion shows. He looked at every piece because, he said, “I’m really all about the detail in dresses, and a lot of art works. I’m all about hand craftsmanship.”
He noted many designers are focused more on the design drawings and illustrations.
“But I’m not all about that. I want to get into the art and cut the fabrics, experiment with the fabrics, see how the fabric moves on the models, and I want to know every aspect of that.”
Kahm says he was inspired by the works of designers such as Alexander McQueen, Yiqing Yin, Christopher Kane and Iris Van Herpen. As well, artists like Damien Hirst were a “big inspiration for me.”
Last Wednesday he put together a fashion show at John Paul II Coffee House, a talent show in which people could sing and dance and act. Kahm was offered the chance to put on a fashion show as part of the event’s entertainment.
He got extensive help for that effort. Friends were able to help finish some of the garments for that show and pitching in to get it organized.
About 20-25 people from JP II were involved in the fashion show, because “you can’t do this alone, it’s impossible,” Kahn said.
“I had some pieces from my last show, it was a small show but I learned a lot from that show. And I had a little bit more models, a little bit more people came. I wanted to get it all filmed properly, which I did, and getting it all out on the runway on time was a really good way to learn.”
He says he wants to have fashion shows in Paris. “That’s like my main goal, and to graduate from Central Saint Martin’s in London, because Central Saint Martin’s is where all the big fashion designers come from,” Kahm said.
That is his goal for the future. For this fall he plans to do a one-year diploma program out of Blanche Macdonald in Vancouver.
After his education is done, he hopes to one day be “dressing celebrities” and working with women on “what they want, because that’s the important thing.”
“Having an edge to these dresses of mine is my passion, because that’s all I know how to do, is fashion and art. And it really gives me butterflies seeing them.”