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Going to grad in a 'sack'

A burlap sack was the inspiration for Courtney Barich’s graduation dress (right), which was hand-crafted by fashion design graduate Suman Falkner. - Darian Wong photo
A burlap sack was the inspiration for Courtney Barich’s graduation dress (right), which was hand-crafted by fashion design graduate Suman Falkner.
— image credit: Darian Wong photo

In March of this year, Surrey high school student Courtney Barich decided to break from tradition and raise money for others rather than spend money on herself.

Graduation is a time of celebration for most, with expensive dresses, tuxedos and limousines often the norm. But after picking out a $700 dress of her dreams, Barich couldn’t  help but think about a small orphanage in the Philippines and how it needed help far more than she needed a dress.

“That’s just crazy money to spend on a dress for one night,” Barich said.

She talked about it with her mother, who quipped, “you could wear a potato sack and you would still look good.”

So Barich decided to wear burlap to her grad dance at Holy Cross High School and raise as much money as she could for the Saint Martin De PoSuman Faulknerrres orphanage, home to more than 170 children.

During spring break, Barich and 40 of her classmates and teachers from Holy Cross travelled to the Philippines to help build houses. Barich plans to return in September.

She contacted the Art Institute of Vancouver to see if any of the students would be interested in helping her turn a burlap sack into a dress.

That’s when fashion design graduate Suman Faulkner (left, with Courtney) stepped up.

“I saw the Facebook post,” said Faulkner, “and thought, ‘what a great idea for a grad to do this, raise money for others’. ”

Faulkner has seen madress, backny young girls spend huge amounts of money on grad outfits, hair and make-up.

“For her to decide to do this was so thoughtful.”

With ideas from Barich, Faulkner came up with a unique design using burlap material.

“I wanted her to feel comfortable,” Faulkner said. “The concept and the garment are still the same, it’s still burlap.”

Although she was allergic to burlap, Faulkner was able to finish the dress in two weeks, complete with extensive lining and hand-embroidered flowers.

Barich had an initial fundraising goal of $10,000, and so far she has reached $7,500.

“Even though I haven’t raised what I wanted yet, I’m still in shock I was able to raise as much as I did,” she said. “I just hope this money can help the children.”

The dress is now on display at the Art Institute of Vancouver at 2665 Renfrew St.

You can still donate to the cause by visiting Barich’s Facebook page at Courtney’s Burlap Grad or her website at www.Courtney’sburlapgrad.ca

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