TORONTO, Canada — Although Sid Neigum grew up watching his grandmother make outfits for his sister from scratch (his grandmother's pattern-less dressmaking methodology still informs his work today), like Giorgio Armani before him, the Canadian designer planned to become a physician before he turned his attention to fashion design. Indeed, the Alberta-born designer, and self-professed maths nerd, studied science at university for one year until, following a Eureka moment in 2009, he enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and took up a place as an intern at Yigal Azrouël. As a student, Neigum showed at various fashion weeks across Canada, but he has made Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week his home since 2011. In 2012, Neigum won the Toronto Fashion Incubator New Labels award, receiving C$25,000.
In the past 12 months, Neigum has won C$30,000 (about US $24,000) from the Mercedes-Benz StartUp competition, funding to stage his Autumn/Winter 2015 show, which took place in Toronto in March of this year, and, C$10,000 from the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards. In addition, the designer is one of ten selected to participate in the British Fashion Council’s Next in Line exhibition, part of the International Fashion Showcase. Finally, in what has been a banner year for the emerging designer, Neigum was recently invited to apply for the prestigious annual ANDAM fashion award.
“I like to fuse the high-tech with the artisanal,” says Neigum, standing in the century-old building that houses his shared studio in Toronto’s West End, where he works with his seamstress. Central to Neigum’s aesthetic is modular origami. He discovered the technique nearly two years ago on a fabric-sourcing trip to Paris. Neigum begins by folding paper into a module, and assembling modules to form a larger structure. Neigum’s favoured material for the clothes using this process is double bonded nylon with polyurethane sandwiched in between, a fabric that lends itself well to laser cutting and holding structure.
Creating a single garment takes a minimum of eight hours, and involves laser cutting the fabric before folding it into hundreds of modules, and finally sewing the modules together by hand. The resulting dimensionality brought to the garment is reminiscent of some of the work of celebrated Japanese designers such as Junya Watanabe, but the approach is his own. Neigum’s collections also include garments constructed using a single sheet of paper for a pattern. Italian designer Massimo Vignelli, who works in packaging design, was a key inspiration of Neigum's for the last two seasons. Instead of folding a single piece of cardboard to form a box, Neigum folds a single piece of fabric to create a garment.
For this month’s Spotlight, Neigum has designed a custom BoF logo that incorporates his signature modular origami. The “O” is comprised of 18 identical modules, which are woven together and hand sewn in place.
Retailers have taken notice. The line is carried by Jonathan+Olivia in Toronto, ØDD in New York, Des Kohan in Los Angeles and Eizenstien in London. Historically, Canadian department stores are slow to embrace home-grown talent. As a result, arguably, Neigum’s crowning achievement to date is securing prime floor space in The Room at Hudson’s Bay in Toronto. “Women who are buying into big European brands like Alaïa are also buying into Sid’s collection,” says Nicholas Mellamphy, buying director at The Room. “When a consumer has the ability to buy anyone but buys someone new, it shows that the designer has the ability to penetrate the market.”
Looking to the future, Neigum is focused on scaling his manufacturing and growing his retail presence. He also dreams of having a research lab to develop and test his ideas. “Myself, an engineer, an industrial designer, an architect — people that have the technical skills and know-how, and together, we’d go nuts.”