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Future by design

Xander Rory is making a name for himself designing dresses

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Xander Rory opened the second show at Atlantic Fashion Week this year where he showed his fourth collection, this one of all dresses. There were cocktail dresses, day dresses and his favourite style, the little black dress.

“I love the little black dress,” he says. “One is never overdressed or undressed in a little black dress.”

That night he shared the runway with other local designers such as Veronica McIsaac who is known for collections that include tartan and Celtic symbols. He relished the time he had sharing the same runway.

“That means a lot to mean I am hitting their mark now,” he says.

For Rory, a love of fashion was years in the making. Growing up in Port Hawkesbury, as a kid he loved watching Fashion Television. The show struck an interest with him, including the way the models moved on the runway and, of course, the clothes.

Even then, Rory had a style of his own forging the sweatpants and t-shirts worn by other kids his age and donning dress pants, a dress shirt and polished patent leather shoes.

“I dressed to the nines to go to school,” he says. When he was 10 and taking sewing lessons at school, the other kids made teddy bears, Rory had his mind on fashion.

“I’d be there stitching up a bustier,” he laughs. His mother Michele wasn’t a seamstress, but knew her way around a sewing machine. She taught him the basics, but he often made clothes from eye.

But as he grew up into a young man, he pushed aside the passion for years, not believing it would be a career.

“What boy makes it in the fashion scene?” he remembers thinking.

He enrolled in human services course at the Port Hawkesbury campus of the NSCC. But he was always still sketching.

“It never really went away,” he says. “It was like a dirty secret.”

Instructors at the NSCC campus recognized his talent and asked him to submit designs into the Creative College contest. He entered two of his dresses and one sketch book. The faculty, community and students reviewed his submissions. He came in first place for the people’s choice award.

“I needed that boost,” he says.

He made a move to Truro and then St. John’s, Newfoundland where he studied at Memorial. It still wasn’t his path, but it was there that he starting sketching out a collection he showed to an audience of 300. That was in 2013. Now, he has four collections under his belt and a growing customer base.

First collection was very artistic. “It was me just releasing myself,” he says. “They weren’t very wearable.”

After a few collections, he found his niche in dresses. He designs dresses for any event, including office parties, proms, cocktail receptions and weddings.

“They are fun and flirty,” he says. “Women just look beautiful in a dress. It’s just classic.I am all about making a woman feel beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone asked me to make pants.”

He is especially inspired by the styles of the 1950s.

“If you went to my home right now, I have I Love Lucy in my DVD player. It’s so classy. That’s when fashion was at its full peak, I think.”

For his current collections, the first dress is made in a colour. The remaining dresses are done only in black, white and grey. That means the customer purchasing that one dress in the colour, owns a one-of-a-kind piece. Yet, the grey, black and white dresses remain timeless.

“No one is going to look at a black, white or grey dress and say, ‘I don’t like that colour’” he says. “Everyone can relate to it.”

That motto represents his mandate, too, as a designer that knows no race, age. His designs are timeless and don’t have boundaries.

Angela Campagnoni is the founder and director of Atlantic Fashion Week. She first saw Rory’s work at a fitness competition she was judging. They later met at a model call for Atlantic Fashion Week. She says she’s saw his work evolve over the years, and enjoys his dresses, calling them “fun pieces” with a “playful feel.”

“It has a bit of a nightlife vibe to it,” she says of the collection he showcased at the recent Atlantic Fashion Week.

Campagnoni saw Rory at work backstage, too, putting together the outfits for the show. “He’s very, very organized,” she says. “That is one thing that stood out to me. That will definitely help him move forward.”

Rory has clients in Ontario, Los Angeles but most are in Nova Scotia. He’s looking to get into a couple of local stores and has been approached by other stores, including one in Newfoundland. Many of his dresses are
available at the Bedford Bridal Boutique, which is next to Resto, the Bedford restaurant where he works part time.

But he says his mother remains his first and most important mentor. It was her who inspired him to find his niche and create clothing women can wear. After applause ended at his Atlantic Fashion Week show, Rory ran down the runway with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. He presented them to his mother, who was seeing the collection for the first time.

He says she means “everything” to his career. “I do this for her,” he says. “She has always been my number one supporter. She keeps me very realistic. I am a dreamer. She pulls me back down to earth.”

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This article was published in the January 2016 issue of Bedford Magazine. Bedford Magazine invites reader comments and encourages respectful discussion; we reserve the right to remove spam and libellous or abusive comments.

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