Sometimes dreams have students, and students go forward confidently in the direction of those dreams.
Devon Opp didn’t know how it could happen but as she looks back, she can see that her life was preparing her for where she is now, a student at the prestigious Central St. Martin’s College at the University of the Arts in London, England.
“When I was 16, I had this crazy plan. I would be the next big fashion student to come out of Central Saint Martin’s College,” said Opp, a 2011 W.L. Seaton Secondary grad.
That year, the college was holding interviews for prospective students in Canada and one interview was in Vancouver.
“My Mum and I packed up the car with every piece of clothing and art I’d done in high school. I felt everything was an unprepared mess when I went into the interview. I was at a point where I was so scared of my dreams being shattered. They told me I was accepted then and there, but I was so nervous I wasn’t really sure.”
She had to go back and make sure she had been accepted.
“I realized I wanted to do something arts-related when I was really young. My Mum was my biggest cheerleader. She was just cautious. Before I even set out to go to university, I had to prove to her that the debt I would accumulate would be paid off, which I think is one of the best lessons I have ever learned,” said Opp.
She had other people on her team.
“Mrs. Vance, my sewing teacher for five years at Seaton, encouraged and pushed me to excel. So many people helped me, I thank them all. Vernon gave me a solid work ethic, a good sense of community, and an education that allowed me to get to London, England.”
She had her place in the London College of Fashion foundation program but still had to think about finances. She took a year off to work and save before moving to London in September 2012.
Opp’s visa allowed her to work for 20 hours a week, which she has been doing, in addition to 30-40 hours a week of university work. She has completed her foundation diploma and has a final year to do for her bachelor of arts in costume design at the Wimbledon College of Art, also a part of the London University of the Arts. With the final year’s tuition at $27,600 and student loans covering only half that amount, she is going to take another year off to work and will graduate in 2017.
“Living in London is the single greatest experience of my life. I have learned so much about the world — I’ve become so cultured. London is one of the best multicultural cities to live in, I have friends from every continent, except Antarctica, in the world,” said Opp.
“Going to the London College of Fashion and now Wimbledon College of Art (in England, a university is made up of many colleges) is really surreal sometimes. I am a student enrolled in a program that is one of the best in the world and that reminds me of all I’ve accomplished. It’s crazy to think I’m actually this good at what I do. I don’t believe it yet. I don’t know when I will, probably in seven years time when I look back at all I’ve done.”
Opp says her foundation year was a lot of fun.
“I met so many cool, incredible people and I’m still friends with some of the people I went to foundation with. The first year of entering my BA, I had to spend working a lot to make ends meet. But I wanted to get as much as possible out of it and spent the summer doing as many work placements as possible.”
She worked at a milliners (hat making), a wig makers, and on a mini-TV series and in a theatre.
“My second year in my BA has been the best year yet. I have learned so much. My design skills could use some work but we are taught how to draft patterns, dissect a script or brief and pull a character out of the words to create a 3D costume for a character to inhabit. We are taught some leather-working skills, casting and moulding/sculpting. We’re taught how to make traditional costume pieces: corsets, petticoats, period shirts, hat and wig making, cutting in the stand/draping and many specialized techniques. The technicians in the college are still working in the industry, as are our tutors, so the experience they are passing on is the absolute best.
Living in London is another education.
“I love how busy London is, there is always something to do. I love going to museums. My favourite is the Victoria and Albert Museum, where I have a membership. I went to the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition three times.”
Opp wants to work as a costume designer for film when she graduates and is now doing a work placement on a film set with Academy Award winning costumer designer Sandy Powell, who has worked on Cinderella, The Young Victoria, The Aviator, and Shakespeare in Love.
Opp and a fellow student had the opportunity to interview Powell for an assignment and got the job from that.
“We’ve been working for her for two months, researching costumes and going into the pre-production phase of the film. This is what I want to do. I want to be around creative people, being collaborative, creating really cool things.
“That’s the dream, just dreaming bigger and better things to achieve and setting goals that are extreme and seeing where I can go. I’m excited to think about looking back at my life when I am 80 and remembering all the things I have done… I think that would be the coolest, just doing what I love doing, so that it doesn’t feel like a job.”
Opp has these thoughts for students going back to school and considering career dreams.
“Go after it! Be so excited about it that you have to do it! Don’t ever think that you can’t, because that is the worst attitude. Either have a job that makes you happy or have a job that enables you to find happiness and joy, be that travel, or playing golf, or eating really amazing food. Have a job that will allow you to do that, or have a job that does that.”