Toronto Film School Student Takes Designs to Caribana

By Keith Richardson

The colourful, costumed dancers known as Mas players are a highlight of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival Parade of Bands and this year the spectacle will feature the work of Toronto Film School Fashion Design student Denise Als.



Toronto Caribbean Carnival (formerly and still commonly called Caribana) is North America’s largest street festival, attracting 1.3 million visitors to the parade along Toronto’s lakeshore.   Since the spring of this year, Denise, who is in her fourth term of the diploma program, has been very busy designing and creating many of the intricate costumes for the parade which takes place on Saturday, August 4, 2018.

The parade is divided into sections: Backline, Midline, front line, and Ultra front line, defined by their place in the parade, and the size of costume, with Ultra front being the largest showpieces. Denise excels at backline, the most popular of the sections. For her mas camp, “Epic Carnival”, Denise designed three themed backline sections “Epic Fantasy” and “Dragons Lair” for kids, and Rebel Unicorn” for the adults.



Although Denise has designed these costumes in the past, she said since enrolling in the Fashion Design Diploma at the Toronto Film School, her skills have improved immensely, she no longer uses the seamstress that in the past had sewn her creations for her and is able to execute her vision on her own.

As well as the costumes for Cariban Denise also makes costumes for carnival in the Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Guyana, Bermuda and St Vincent,  teaches pan steel drums to children at Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Center in Oakville. Denise plays and performs pan with the New Dimension Steel Orchestra, which competes against the top steel pan orchestras across North America and the Caribbean Islands.

Additionally, Denise is currently designing her thesis fashion collection, which is called “Monday Wear” named after the Monday in the Islands before carnival starts, that often consists of the more covered swimwear and low-key versions of the more elaborate carnival creations.

To see more picture of her work for Caribana as well as carnivals in the islands visit her Instagram page @ms_dee.a

Her designs are also available on Etsy as: DeeDesignsByDee

Keith Richardson is the Program Director for the Fashion Design Program at Toronto Film School. Keith spent 10 years working in Miami, for numerous sportswear companies, and after returning to Toronto, began to teach at the Academy of Design. Keith has won numerous awards for his work in fashion, he continues to design and has published a textbook “Introduction to Stretch” a patternmaking manual for knits and stretch fabrics.