'I belong here': Cinderella story for Alberta designer at New York Fashion Week

'I belong here': Cinderella story for Alberta designer at New York Fashion Week

She's a self-taught clothing designer from small town northern Alberta who, thanks to the magic of Instagram, found herself shoulder-to-shoulder in New York this week with some of the biggest names in the fashion business.

"It was kind of a whirlwind, quick thing," Cassandra Butt said earlier this week in an interview with CBC's Radio Active.

Butt, who runs a tailoring company called The Funky Butt'n in Cold Lake, Alta., was tagged in August on an Instagram post that alerted her to a vacancy for Rise NYFW, a showcase of emerging and independent designers at New York Fashion Week.

"They had a last-minute cancellation for a designer, so I applied, and the next day — less than 24 hours later — I got an acceptance email.

"I thought, 'Someone's pulling my leg.' So I did a bunch of research and found, no, this is legit," she said. "And I'm actually going to be in New York."

Her line of clothing is called Fight Like a Girl, a name symbolic of both her edgy-yet-feminine formal wear and cocktail dresses, and her belief in the resilience of women regardless of issues like depression, oppression and abuse.

"I wanted to show how strong a woman can be coming out of those situations, where it doesn't beat us down, it makes us stronger," she said.

Butt had no formal training as a designer, and describes herself as a self-taught girl from "a little town in Alberta."

Speaking to CBC on a break from touring New York's Fashion Institute of Technology museum, she said the trip is more than just a dream come true.

"To be able to come here and say I'm from a small town and I've achieved my dreams … basically, there is no excuse. If you have a dream, you just have to work a little bit harder when you're from a small town and you can get there."

The Rise showcase took place on Wednesday, the last day of fashion week, at a contemporary art gallery in the Lower East Side. Butt reused most of the collection that she'd prepared for Western Canada Fashion Week earlier in 2018, but "amped it up a bit for New York and added one new piece."

Butt and the other seven designers featured in the Rise showcase will receive career mentoring. Butt's hope was that her time in New York could lead to corporate connections and a gateway into department store ready-to-wear.

But regardless of what the future brings, Butt said the entire adventure has given her a New York state of mind.

"I belong here. I love it here."