A former Abbotsford football player is scoring touchdowns in the fashion world.
Tyson Gibson, 21, had seven of his designs modelled Oct. 9 during Vancouver Fashion Week, had a stylist use his clothes in a photo shoot, and has had invitations to attend fashion shows in New York and London.
The attention has affirmed for Gibson that he’s on the right career path – something that was difficult to determine when he started fashion-design school in 2018 without ever having constructed a piece of clothing.
Gibson is a 2016 graduate of Robert Bateman Secondary who spent much of his youth playing sports. He dabbled in soccer, baseball and hockey before focusing on football and golf. He played for eight years with the Abbotsford Falcons community football league as a wide receiver and later for the Langley Rams. He was also involved in the Bateman golf academy.
But a flair for fashion was always his thing.
“Honestly, it kind of started out with shoes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a shoe guy … In Grade 6, I’d have all the crazy-coloured shoes. So definitely shoes were like my gateway to clothes,” he said.
When Gibson was older and could afford his own clothes, he was drawn to bold and colourful street-wear designs from labels such as the California-based Pink+Dolphin.
Gibson’s first foray into his own designing occurred when he was in Grade 11 and was playing on the B.C. football team that faced Alberta in an event called the ABC Border Bowl. Players were invited to draw up their own designs for the jerseys, and Gibson’s versions were chosen. He enjoyed the challenge and the satisfaction of people liking what he created.
Gibson had always loved drawing, but this gave him a taste of something concrete – and rewarding – that he could do with it. He was in Grade 12 when he decided that he wanted to give a career in fashion design a shot, and he enrolled in the Blanche Macdonald Centre’s one-year fashion program.
At first, the technical aspects were difficult. Gibson had barely touched a sewing machine before, and he didn’t know anything about drafting a garment and putting it all together.
“That was definitely the biggest challenge for me because it was like learning a new language. It’s not like anything I’ve ever learned before,” he said.
The first garment assignment his class had was to remake a pair of their own pants. He chose a pair of Pink+Dolphin pants and, although they didn’t turn out the best, they were wearable. Gibson loved the feeling of putting in the time to create something from scratch.
His technical skills improved throughout the year, culminating in the program’s final assignment of designing and making three pieces for the year-end fashion show.
Gibson’s looks combined sportswear with high-fashion influences characterized by bold colours and geometric patterns.
After the fashion show, he posted the looks on his Instagram page, and was then approached by a stylist who used his designs in a photo shoot. Gibson was also invited to attend a fashion show in New York, but he would have needed to create 12 designs in a month – an impossible task, given that it took him four months to make the three pieces for his school fashion show.
But the attention motivated him to keep going, and he applied for, and was accepted into, Vancouver Fashion Week, where he and his girlfriend had volunteered in 2018.
Gibson had five months to get eight pieces ready for his five-minute slot on the catwalk.
“I wanted to do a decent amount of diversity with these looks, so, for example, I’d have a T-shirt and shorts and then pants and a jacket, a crop top and pants. … So I’ll start with a basic idea of what the garment is and then kind of play around with how I want it to look,” he said.
Gibson lined up friends of his to model the looks, including his brother Mason, a rapper who also wrote the music. He said the experience of having his looks displayed on the runway was “really exciting” and he enjoyed directing how the models’ hair and makeup should be done to complement his designs.
Not long after the event, Gibson was invited to attend a fashion show in London, but the travel and registration costs were out of his reach. However, he was told he is welcome to come to next year’s event.
For now, Gibson is focusing on creating one-of-a-kind pieces for individual customers and on getting his name known. His dream is to eventually establish his own brand.
“I love doing it. Finishing stuff is just so gratifying – looking at it, just the quality that it’s made to. It’s a creative outlet,” he said.
Gibson’s designs can be viewed online at tysongibsondesign.com or on Instagram at @tysongibsondesign.