When Anthony El-Cid’s first collection hit the runway at NSCAD’s student fashion show in spring 2014, he was backstage in tears. He sketched designs for years, trained in fashion at the city’s art school, and spent two semesters working on this one collection. For El-Cid, this was his chance to “blow off steam.”
“I was watching those colours move through the space,” he says. “Finally, I got to see my vision out there. I’ve been waiting to do that for a long time. I finally got my moment.”
His work that night stood out. His line of haute couture pantsuits and gowns featured fabrics of brilliant red and gold. The shapes were highly architectural, yet sensual and classic. All of the designs highlighted the female form.
Now 24, El-Cid has another collection for spring and summer 2016 in his portfolio, and another in the works for fall and winter 2016/2017, which he will release at Atlantic Fashion Week in October.
While his focus is haute couture eveningwear, he says his inspiration comes from something more basic, more silent, and more emotional.
“I was more fascinated with nature,” he says. “The metamorphosis and how things change in nature. And I was really fascinated with clothing and how people transfer through clothing. I used to draw a lot of nature before I drew clothing. I always observed how things were put together. Watching how the natural world is constructed and how that would translate in the manmade world.”
He circled his path to fashion. Even though he sketched clothing for years, he focused on science in high school and planned to attend medical school. He spent a year in business studies at Dalhousie University. After a year off, he enrolled at NSCAD, where he found the tools to turn those sketches into reality.
Gary Markle, assistant professor of fashion at NSCAD, remembers El-Cid well from advanced fashion studies.
“He is definitely someone who is in the right field,” he says. “It’s clear he thought a lot about fashion and dressing the female body.”
Markle says the two didn’t always see eye to eye. “We really butted heads in some ways,” he says. “As an educator, what I am trying to do it get them to look right and left before they dash ahead. You’re not really trying to influence them unduly. With Anthony, it was very clear: he was headstrong. This is what he was going to do.”
But Markle says he wanted to make sure El-Cid had the tools but “when that happens with a student, you just get out of the way.”
He says El-Cid was always charming and had a hidden self-assurance he suspects is more out front now. “Anthony’s intelligence really comes through more in terms of what his hands do in his work,” he says. “There’s quite a bit of intelligence there.”
He remembers that first show at NSCAD’s Port campus when El-Cid’s work took the stage. “That’s where it shone for me,” Markle says. “It’s what one thinks of when they think of a runway show.”
El-Cid says he always wanted to do evening gowns and haute couture, even though he lives in a city known for its casual and laid-back style.
His designs are very structured and most cling to the figure. He laughs when the designs are called sexy, yet almost none of the designs show much skin.
“You don’t have to expose yourself more to be beautiful,” El-Cid says. “The human body is beautiful. Just dressing yourself is beautiful. You don’t have to go beyond that to think you are beautiful.”
And even though he designs high-style eveningwear, El-Cid’s personality is young and fresh. He has a quiet determination behind a lively and optimistic outlook.
Working in Nova Scotia has its challenges, he says. While he has industry supporters now, he lacked mentors in the early days. “I didn’t know how to tackle it,” he says. “I taught myself everything.”
El-Cid takes complete ownership of his styles from the beginning. He sketches the drawings, cuts the cloth, sews the pieces, and even dyes the fabrics, a skill he learned at NSCAD.
His spring/summer 2016 collection, like his previous collections is structured. But this line’s fabrics are fresh pastels and bright bronzes. One backless evening gown is in pale pink. Another pantsuit has a waistline cape and is covered in an applique of blossoms. Still another suit with skirt in a brighter pink has floral embroidery.
Beside working on his collection for Atlantic Fashion Week 2016, El-Cid is also focusing on the business side of his brand, learning more about the world of haute couture, introducing his work to Halifax, and working with clients. Officially, he’s only been in business since fall 2015 and is still learning the ropes, but he has eyes on the world.
“It’s a whole different scenario than me creating something and putting it on the runway,” he says. “I would like to have it here and I would like to have a recognizable image attached to that brand that is recognized globally.”
At Atlantic Fashion Week in November 2015, El-Cid presented his spring/summer 2016 collection. With a year and a half of experience under his belt, he felt more confident about the show. The audience gave him a standing ovation.
“That show is probably what I wanted the NSCAD show to be,” he says. “I was more confident, I was more prepared. I knew what needed to be done in the timespan. I knew things would go wrong, so I knew I needed to be prepared for that. But once you send it out there, it’s flawless.”