Otiena Ellwand is a second-year journalism student at Ryerson University and an intern at CHEEK Magazine. She loves all kinds of design – from fashion to architecture – and she thirsts for adventure and seeks it not only in her own home of Toronto, but around the world. She has a unique, colourful, and inspiring sense of style. Otiena certainly doesn’t blend in, but that’s okay – she doesn’t want to.
How did you dress in elementary school? How about in high school?
In grade 4, I had an awesome pair of lime green platform shoes that I wore everyday… The Spice Girls influenced that decision! In high school my best friend and I paired odd combinations of things together. We tried to be creative with our clothes because it was fun and we wanted to stand out. A lot of the girls we went to high school with wore Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister so we sort of did it as a rebellion.
I have this bright yellow dress with little blue owls on it that I bought in Kensington Market. I wore it a lot in my teenage years; on dates, to school, to Greece, and I was made fun of mercilessly, but I didn’t care because it so perfectly represented my personality. I still wear it today and I still get made fun of although now it’s a little bit “cooler” to be seen sporting a vintage dress like that one.
You do a lot of traveling. Has this affected the way you see fashion?
I love traveling and every time I do, I try to pick up a few pieces that I feel either really represent the place, will remind me of it, or are just unique pieces that I won’t be able to find back home.
Last year I lived in Indonesia and dressing was tricky. It was extremely hot and I needed clothes that were comfortable, durable, that I was willing to get dirty, and most importantly, that covered me up because the majority of Indonesians are Muslim. I didn’t really care how I looked so I opted for baggy shirts and capris. I did get some beautifully patterned cloths, one of which I got made into a mermaid-shaped skirt. It isn’t really something I would wear in Canada, but in Indonesia I got a lot of compliments on it. It’s funny how the clothes that were fashionable there would never be fashionable here. They really like patterns and baubles. They have this traditional dyeing technique that makes a pattern called Batik and that’s what they wear for formal occasions. It is really something to see all of the men in these intricately patterned shirts instead of black dress suits.
Sometimes I have a lot of difficulty with having a fashionable image. I want to dress nicely, look and feel good, and indulge in fashion, but I also feel like I only feel those ways when I am ‘dressed up’ in makeup and nice clothes. Shouldn’t we feel all of those things even when we’re just looking exactly like ourselves without any of that stuff? As I adapt to where I am, so does my sense of fashion. Each scene differs from the next; I guess that’s the fun of fashion, after all.