September 27, 2020

By Kristin Milani

From sewing and crocheting to tailoring and designing her own clothes, former Conestoga College student Sabrina Scalarini does it all.

Costume designing has been a part of her life for 14 years and she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. She is a junior estimator/project co-ordinator at a construction company for now but plans on pursuing costume design full-time in the future.

“I don’t see myself doing it (her construction job) in 10 years. Whereas, sewing and the costume making and making wedding dresses, I can see myself doing that until I’m old and can’t see anymore.”

When she was 10, she moved to Legnano, Italy with her family. Her dad had relatives there and he found a good-paying job.

During their six years there, Scalarini began working with clothing. Her grandma was a seamstress and tailor. Her aunts did a little bit of everything and began teaching her what they knew. Her mom also had a cleaning business and brought home clothes to iron. Scalarini began her first part-time job – ironing.

While in Italy, she also developed a passion for Manga, the Japanese version of a comic book. She would spend money she earned at her part-time job on them. She loved the costumes that the characters wore.

“They would defy logic and the law of physics but they still looked really cool.”

Around this time, she also developed a love for drawing.

“It was my starting point and gave me the basis I needed to get where I am now.”

The school system in Italy required the students to decide on a career by eighth grade. There was no high school. Scalarini wanted to go to an art school but it was too far away so instead, she studied bookkeeping and economics.

Scalarini and her family moved back to Kitchener when she was 16 because her mother was diagnosed with diabetes and thought it was best to get the treatment back home to avoid the language barrier.

Scalarini went straight into Grade 12. She had already finished many required courses, so she signed up for some classes including art, piano, architectural design and fashion. In fashion 101, she earned a 99 per cent. Her teacher said she lost the 1 per cent because she was absent when she had pneumonia. After the fashion class, she read fashion books to teach herself certain techniques.

Her motivation to begin costume designing was her love for Halloween and her struggle to find affordable clothing that fit properly. Plus size clothing prices were extremely high so she decided to start making her own. She also loved getting dressed up and wanted to make the costumes.

Since she loved the costume design in The Matrix, she ordered one of the jackets online from the movie and made alterations to it. She loved the jacket so much that she wore it in the winter despite freezing temperatures.

“It was totally worth it because no one had that jacket. It was completely my jacket.”

Not only does she design and make Halloween costumes for herself and others, she also makes them for anime/comic conventions. She has attended about 20 of them.

This past August, she sold stuffed versions of the characters from the Avengers and they were a big seller.

She has been to many conventions because she loves the atmosphere of them. She said they have a different energy and vibe.

One of her most challenging tasks to date was fixing a wedding dress that required extensive repair. This was only two weeks before  the wedding. Meanwhile, she was working full-time. After finishing her shift, she would go straight to working on the dress. She eventually finished, leaving the bride extremely happy.

After fixing the dress, she realized that it was something she wanted to do for a living but felt too inexperienced to run her own costume-designing business. Instead, she played it safe and went to school for architecture and construction at Conestoga.

However, Scalarini got her business licence in 2012 and opened Ice Phoenix Art. She offers everything from illustrations and paintings, to custom clothing, alterations, beaded jewelry, polymer clay charms, personalized murals, tattoo designs and portraits.

“I want to be that person who helps you look good in your clothing. I don’t have to be some high fashion designer.”

Scalarini’s friend, Jaclyn Olano, is very fond of her work and said her

designs are extremely well thought out.

“It is wonderful that someone is able to create an amazing look from nothing other than fabric.”