Golden Sewing: First Place for Latvia in International Skills Competition


The task was hardly simple. The competitors had to design and sew a cocktail dress with elements of a suit jacket, conceived of in the style of Yves Saint Laurent while using natural red silk and lace – in three days’ time. “It was so hard to concentrate on the work,” remembers Riga Style and Fashion Vocational School (RSFVS) graduate Annija Kalnbirze. “There was a lot of noise, and all of the competitors worked in the same huge hall in front of a captive audience.” Annija and Ogre State Technical School graduate Simona Zelča won the gold medal in the category of fashion technologies at the EuroSkills 2014 mastery competition for young professionals.


“The judges inspected the design of the dress, which was Simona’s responsibility,” says RSFVS instructor Irina Cakule, “as well as the precision of the sewing, which was up to Annija.” The fashion technology competition involved young people from seven countries, and each team’s work was evaluated by a panel of international experts. EuroSkills 2014 was held last October in Lille, France, when 417 competitors from 25 countries representing 42 different professions took part.


Annija says that the most complicated thing was to deal with the silk, a capricious and soft natural fabric.  She and Simona prepared for nine months for the competition, and Annija says that the sewing skills that she learned at school were decisive in helping her sew the exact dress that was required.


“This was the first time that Latvia competed in the sewing competition, and so it was a vast achievement for us,” says RSFVS programme director Valentīna Ivanova. The school has some 900 students and includes those studying to be fashion style specialists, tailors, seamstresses, hairdressers, photographers, photo design specialists, SPA specialists, cosmeticians, makeup artists and visual image stylists. Valentīna says that style specialists are in particular demand in Latvia, but salaries are not always high enough to keep young people in the profession. Still, the example set by Annija shows that a particularly responsible attitude and high level of interest in the skills and job being learned can help make a career. Annija is already working with the well-known Latvian fashion designer Natālija Jansone.