Erie Otters defenseman Cameron Lizotte always has possessed an eye for fashion. Now, he has an eye toward a future in the fashion industry, and his love for hockey could help him realize his dream.


Cameron Lizotte was cut from a different cloth before turning fabric into trendy clothing evolved into a burgeoning career.

Being unique, and standing out from the crowd, is more than a fashion statement. It’s a way of life, developed at a time when most teenagers conform to fit in with their peers.

“I craved individuality,” he said. “I always wanted to have my own thing.”

Lizotte searched for a new path to pursue two years ago while playing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes, a Plan B to be passionate about if a career in hockey didn’t pan out, because players focused solely on chasing a childhood dream of playing professionally feel lost when it slips away.

“What are you interested in?” his mother, Lise Lizotte, asked him one day while chatting at home in Sudbury, Ontario. After seeing her son serve as personal fashion stylist and shopper for teammates, she already knew the answer.

That path became clear in World of Fashion class at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School in Peterborough, where Lizotte expressed himself artistically while discovering that his sense of style and contacts in hockey could open doors to an industry where he can shine.

“Next thing you know, I’m buying a sewing machine for him,” Lise Lizotte said.

Creations he initially designed for friends and teammates have grown popular in the hockey world, even among National Hockey League players. Lizotte sold his line of hoodies and other apparel at Barrie Molson Centre in Barrie, Ontario, while playing for the OHL’s Colts, and now is selling them in a Barrie store. He hopes to take a big step toward making Cameron Lizotte a household name this summer through mass production.

“From a young age, I always believed that I did think differently. I always felt I saw things differently,” said Lizotte, now 19 and a defenseman and resident fashion designer for the OHL’s Erie Otters. “A lot of people are scared and don’t have the confidence to try something new. I have a fear of waiting too long. I want to be a fashion designer, and I want to start now.”

 

Strong sense of self

Lizotte wondered if his love of fashion would lead to success beyond the classroom. Still, he faced his new venture with confidence.

“He was so sincere about his serious intentions of a career in fashion,” said Jessica Sisson, who taught Lizotte’s high school fashion class in Peterborough. “He mastered skills quickly, and the intricacy and maturity of his designs naturally evolved. I could easily envision him making a career in fashion. It was already such a fundamental part of who he was.”

Lizotte joked about not getting a perfect grade for his first major assignment, a hoodie made from a recycled crew neck sweatshirt and pair of bluejeans. Then he beamed while recalling the rave reviews from classmates, who thought the piece was store quality.

“It was really motivating because what I thought in my head was really making sense to other people,” Lizotte said. “The way I see art isn’t how others will. So it was cool that a majority of people liked what I was making.”

Orders for Cameron Lizotte originals soon rolled in, even from OHL players who once heckled the aspiring fashion designer on the ice, and from NHL players like Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner. Coin Supply, named in honor of Sudbury’s title as “Nickel Capital of the World,” remains a one-man business catering primarily to people close to him. Every piece is handmade, and takes as little as 1½ hours for a T-shirt or up to 12 hours for a more detailed design like a black-and-yellow plaid peacoat he made earlier this winter.

The attention Lizotte receives for his work, because of people like Otters teammates Alex DeBrincat, Kyle Maksimovich and Dylan Strome wearing his designs and touting them on social media, makes the late nights spent at his sewing machine worthwhile.

Shoppers in 4Hundred Source for Sports in Barrie “can’t believe he’s making all this stuff himself and coming up with designs,” said co-owner Shawn Stevens, who began carrying Lizotte’s line a few weeks ago. “It’s going to be a growing (business) for him.”

That makes the thought of mass producing his line exciting and unnerving, Lise Lizotte said, because “he’s always been in control. To give it away for somebody to make many, it will be interesting and fun.”

Fashion design is personal to Lizotte because it provides an opportunity to showcase a unique dynamic between his life on and off the ice.

“I play hockey. I love the game. I breathe it,” he said. “But who I am as a person, that’s where my fashion comes in.”

 

Lasting impression

Lizotte already has brought a growing sense of style to the Otters’ dressing room at Erie Insurance Arena.

Most teammates still live in sweatpants and track suits, he said, but they are more aware about the way they look. DeBrincat, who admits to being among that fashion-challenged group, has spent time online in search of more stylish outfits since donning a hoodie Lizotte recently created for him.

“When you look like a bum,” DeBrincat said, “you don’t feel good compared to that guy.”

“People tend to gravitate to him,” Lise Lizotte said, because of his fresh outlook on life and approach to living it.

He walked into Vanidee Designs, a custom sewing bridal alteration shop in Barrie, last summer to ask owner Danielle Talaska about working with him. She quickly sensed his style, Talaska said, because of his “funky pair of Nikes, cool shirt, and he’s all tattooed.”

Then his personality and charisma convinced Talaska to spend a few days helping Lizotte design his peacoat. She said his ability to connect with people will serve him well as Lizotte moves forward in fashion.

“He’s got an eye for design, and he’s got a skill and a talent,” she said. “As long as he can get his product out there, there’s no reason that people wouldn’t want to buy his cool stuff.”

Hockey remains a priority — with the Otters as they pursue the franchise’s second OHL championship and Memorial Cup berth, and as he pursues his childhood dream of playing professionally. Perhaps he will play in Europe because, Lizotte said, “they’re very fashion forward over there. I feel like I’ll grow as a person, and it would inspire me. Wherever I play, my fashion will come with me.”

Until then, Lizotte can be found at his sewing machine creating one-of-a-kind designs when he’s not on the ice.

“I want to play as long as I can,” he said. “Once hockey dies down, and my Plan B comes to life, I’m going to be ready.”

Victor Fernandes can be reached at 870-1716 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/GoErieHockey.