Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Michelangelo's Ghost: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery by Gigi Pandian

Filled with the unexpected twists, vivid historical details, and cross-cultural connections Pandian is known for, Michelangelo’s Ghost is the most fast-paced and spellbinding Jaya Jones novel to date.

Synopsis -

A lost work of art linking India to the Italian Renaissance. A killer hiding behind a centuries-old ghost story. And a hidden treasure in Italy’s macabre sculpture garden known as the Park of Monsters… Can treasure-hunting historian Jaya Jones unmask a killer ghost?

Filled with the unexpected twists, vivid historical details, and cross-cultural connections Pandian is known for, Michelangelo’s Ghost is the most fast-paced and spellbinding Jaya Jones novel to date.

When Jaya’s old professor dies under eerie circumstances shortly after discovering manuscripts that point to a treasure in Italy’s Park of Monsters, Jaya and her brother pick up the trail. From San Francisco to the heart of Italy, Jaya is haunted by a ghost story inexorably linked to the masterpieces of a long-dead artist and the deeds of a modern-day murderer. Untrustworthy colleagues, disappearing boyfriends, and old enemies—who can Jaya trust when the ghost wails?

Review -

I like to call this an intelligent mystery.  Why?  The main character is a history professor who actively involved in research, trying to fill the voids in history and make connections to tie the past into a seamless story.  She is also multicultural - of East Indian decent but living in San Francisco.  As the plot unfolds we are given glimpses into the world of academic research as well as the food and music of India.

These side notes add that extra touch, a spicy flavour to the story (just like the food Jaya consumes). I was intrigued. Growing up, the author traveled extensively with her parents soaking up the culture, scenery and food as she went. After high school, she first pursued a life as an academic. She was in a PhD program when she decided it wasn't the life for her and walked away to attend art school and begin writing her first novel. All these experiences comes together in the Jaya Jones series.

In this third book, a disgraced former professor reaches out to Jaya for her help.  She has found the sketchbooks of an undiscovered artist who supposedly trained under Michelangelo and then moved to India where he created a fusion of styles. On returning home, his unique art work was considered an embarrassment to his family and hidden away.  The artist was relegated to a simple line in the history books. This discovery, if true, could be ground breaking.

Jaya is intrigued, but unsure. Then the professor dies in questionable circumstances. That is the spark that sends Jaya off to Italy - along with her brother and his girlfriend - to search for a hidden studio that is hinted at.  Will they find it and after all these years will there be any artwork that survived?

The plot offers murder, intrigue, suspense and questions galore. Add in romance, characters that come alive, great food and wonderful settings and you have a book sure to keep you reading until the wee hours. I am going back and reading the series from book one, something I suggest other readers consider doing. It is a stand alone book, but I love following the development of the main character from the start and there is the occasional reference to previous experiences.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

Meet the Author -

USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi’s debut novel, Artifact, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” debut by Suspense Magazine. Her fiction has been awarded the Lefty Award and short-listed for Macavity and Agatha Awards. Sign up for her email newsletter at www.gigipandian.com/newsletter.

Interviews were not a part of this tour, but I found this great one from Hook of a Book from 2015. Intrigued to know more about the author?  Click HERE!

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

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Friday, October 14, 2016

The Murders At Astaire Castle (A Mac Faraday Mystery Book 5) by Lauren Carr

Never tell Mac Faraday not to do something.

Synopsis - 

Spencer's police chief, David O'Callaghan, learns this lesson the hard way when he orders Mac Faraday to stay away from the south end of Spencer's mountaintop - even though he owns the property. It doesn't take long for Mac to find out what lies on the other side of the stone wall and locked gate, on which hangs a sign warning visitors to Keep Out!

Topping the list of the 10 top haunted places in America, Astaire Castle is associated with two suicides, three mysterious disappearances, and four murders since it was built almost a century ago - and Mac Faraday owns it!

​In spite of David's warning, Mac can't resist unlocking the gate to see the castle that supposedly hasn't seen a living soul since his late mother had ordered it closed up after the double homicide and disappearance of Damian Wagner, a world-famous master of horror novels.

​What starts out as a quick tour of a dusty old castle turns into another Mac Faraday adventure when Astaire Castle becomes the scene of even more murders. Mac is going to need to put all of his investigative talents to work to sort out this case that involves the strangest characters he has run into yet - including a wolf man. No, we're not talking about Gnarly.

Review - 

I've been a big fan of Lauren Carr's mystery books right from the first book I had the privilege to review. Of her many offerings, the Mac Faraday series is probably my favourite. Each book has just the right mix of humour (often courtesy of a large, intelligent dog named Gnarly) , mystery, romance and murder that keeps me turning the pages into the wee hours.  The downside of this is I usually consume them in a only a day or two and then have to wait patiently for the next to be released.

The Murders At Astaire Castle offers a new element - a haunted castle.  While out looking for an older woman who became lost when she walked away from Spencer Inn, he discovers no one wants him to explore a wild part of his estate. It's only after asking several people that he finds out there is an abandoned, haunted castle hidden there that was the site of several murders, suicides and a strange disappearance by a teenage boy.

Not to be scared away, Mac schedules a visit and ends up locked in a tower with two others. A secret passage offers a way of escape, but also the beginning of the plot for this new story created in honour of Halloween. In the passage they discover a skeleton with an axe embedded in its head. It is Damian Wagner, a world-famous master of horror novels, who had lived there for a time and been blamed for several of the murders. So who HAD committed those grisly murders?

What follows is a wild ride that involves a wolf man, a billionaire driven to purchase the castle, a missing former maid and of course - MURDER!

Buy the book: Amazon  ~  Audible

Meet the Author - 

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries. The twelfth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series, Candidate for Murder will be released June 2016.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV. 

Connect with LaurenWebsite  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Italian Street Food: Recipes From Italy's Bars and Hidden Laneways by Paola Bacchia

Synopsis - 

Italy’s classic recipes are well known the world over, but few are aware of the dishes that reign on the flourishing Italian street-food scene. Hidden behind the town squares, away from the touristy restaurants, and down back streets are little-known gems offering up some of Italy’s tastiest and best-kept secret dishes that the locals prize.

ITALIAN STREET FOOD is not just another Italian cookbook; it delves into truly authentic Italian fare—the kind of secret recipes that are passed down through generations. Learn how to make authentic polpettine, arancini, stuffed cuttlefish, cannolis, and fritters, and perfect your gelato-making skills with original flavors such as lemon and basil or affogato and aperol. With beautiful stories and stunning photography throughout, ITALIAN STREET FOOD delivers an authentic, lesser known take on a much loved cuisine.

Buy the Book: Rizzoli ~ Amazon

Meet the Author - 

Paola Bacchia is one of Australia’s most popular Italian food bloggers. On her blog, Italy on My Mind, she shares family memories and their connections to food. It won awards for best food blog in 2013 and 2015 from ITALY Magazine. Paola returns to Italy every year to expand her knowledge of Italian food, its traditions, and innovations.

Connect to the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

NO I Don't Have Pets - A Mum's Journey to Independence!

Everyone I know has pets. The highest number right now in terms of my personal friends are dog owners. Second comes cat owners. That is followed by those who love reptiles, birds and more.  Yes, there is an "AND MORE".

My journey with pets has been long. Often times  it was filled with those that needed a home whether it was a good idea or not - a cat from a monastery in Big Sur that was abandoned and would be eaten by local predators, a bird molting in a cage in a local store that I added to a happy pair. It proceeded to torture the other two. You get the idea. I have a hard time saying no to any suffering animal.

I've always had a soft spot for pets of every type, including reptiles. Before marriage I had a dogs, cats, rats, hamsters, birds and more.  Bugs are a different story. Although there are a few such as all varieties of stick bugs and amazing giant centipedes, the list is short here. However, at this point in my life I try to avoid pets of any kind. What led me to this? There are just a few simple reasons.

When I married and moved to Canada I ended up becoming a stay-at-home mum. As someone who started babysitting at an early age and always worked, that was a big change. It took all my focus for over 15 years of my life. That said, I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

We were told our chances of conceiving were only 15% and needed to go for it without interference to give ourselves the best chance. Fortunately, we defied the huge odds. We welcomed three kids in 3-1/2 years.  I breast fed, changed diapers and did the school thing non-stop for a very long time. There was very little me time. My job didn't earn me a lot of support. Every time I was asked what I did and responded being a stay-at-home mum, I got THAT LOOK!

Honestly, my kids were bullied and finances were tight. This was the hardest job I have EVER worked. It was fabulous, challenging, amazing and depressing.  Through it all I had to find a way to keep my mind challenged and myself intact. I needed to find me in the chaos.

Every stay at home mum has moments that are off the chart amazing and others where we sit and cry, but for me it was all worth it. My husband and I have three amazing, independent and totally unique kids. Hold on to your hats world - they are out there making their mark!

As my kids grew, they all acquired smaller pets. I didn't want to have to walk anything - I was busy enough - so that limited our choices. We had garter snakes, a Bearded Dragon, mice, hamsters and a guinea pig.  All my kids had the best intentions, but as I was the one at home while they were at school and participating in after school activities, I was the one most of the daily care fell to. And I loved each and every one of those crazy pets.

What was hard for me was the parting. At one point I discovered you weren't allowed to domesticate Garter snakes. You could kill them, torture them or dispose of them, but they couldn't be pets.  When I turned our pet Garter snake over to the Richmond Nature Park I cried for three days - the only family member to do so. Another time a guinea pig had a tumor and we were leaving on vacation. No one wanted to care for a sick pet. I was the one who had to take him to the vet to be put down. The tears wouldn't stop.

Then there was my oldest son's Bearded Dragon. We discovered Bearded Dragons at a Boy Scout event. They were billed as very calm and easy to keep take care of. Max, as he came to be known, was amazing. However, I remember when my son was out of town and Max seemed to be dying, I was the one who sat late into the night with him snuggled on my chest. holding him to let him know he was loved. He ended up recovering. I would like to think it was my personal touch. When he finally did pass, it was a particularly hard time for me. I was invested.

So for this moment, I chose to take a break. For this moment I chose to focus on my needs and wants - my goals. I'm ready for a break. No pets to feed, no dinners I have to cook as all of my brood is very capable. If I want to fly the coop for 2 weeks, it doesn't require any organizing. And  I do it without apology. I know eventually in my future I will again welcome new pets to my home, but for now it's about me.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 17 Sunday Shows - Johanna DiNardo, Zeyi Studio and Song Ryoo

Loved this beautiful dance number that opened the
Sally Omeme show! Image by Peter Jensen Photography
The final day of Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) has come and gone and I find myself with very mixed feelings this morning. Obviously after sitting through such a huge number of shows over seven days, I'm ready for a break. On the other hand, I will miss seeing everyone each day as well as the excitement of seeing so many new collections

I love variety and S/S 17 offered me just that. From high end gowns to casual wear, from deconstructed to conceptual - there was a bit of everything. High on my list were the number of young designers. Some were showing their very first collections. Others have a few years of industry experience, but are still fairly new to the industry. They all bring fresh ideas to the table that I don't always understand, but love to be challenged by.

It was also great to see so many local designers on the runway. Our city is filled with strong talent and I am the proud owner of many Vancouver designed garments. Lastly, there is the wonderful international element, giving us all a glimpse of what the world has to offer. Some like Iarocheski and Gatsbylady London have showcased here before and developed a local fan base. Others were brand new to the event.

Thanks Ed Ng for snapping these
images on my little point and shoot.
My outfit today was a nod to the more casual side of things. The great knit vest is from Kersh, the taupe knit & woven top is by JAC and the capris were purchased at Aritizia. The wonderful eye wear I've been sporting all week is from The Optical Boutique. I am so grateful to owner Sue Randhawa for her guidance in selecting just the right frames. 

My great hair cut is by my wonderful stylist Myles Laphen. The first time I sat down in his chair, he challenged me to try something new. Fortunately, after a deep breath to release the fear, I said I would give it a try and left it in his capable hands. I always receive compliments.

Now for a story. Myles often checks my event images and noticed I always pose the same way. What can I say - I pretty much have one angle.  At a recent appointment, he suggested a different pose I might try. So on Sunday, in honour of all his hard work, I gave it my best effort - once smiling and once trying to have a fierce look. The fierce look was the biggest challenge. The camera would come up and I would start to smile and crack up. I never managed to pull it off, but who knows - maybe next time.  But there you go Myles - a new pose just for you. 

On to today's coverage. There were a large number of local designers today - Je Vis Bridal, Sally Omeme, Sam Stringer, Atelier Grandi and Invido Jeans - so be sure to check out my BUY LOCAL column where they will all be featured.  

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Johanna DiNardo

Runway Images by Ed Ng Photography

If you saw this show, you'll understand how surprised I was to know this was designer Johanna DiNardo's grad collection - expanded by several looks to create a full show.  To say she is talented is in understatement. The show offered drama. From the first model coming out with just her eyes and hair peeking above the collar of her all black ensemble to the final show-stopping gown, the audience was entranced. Her love of couture construction, flattering silhouettes, strong fabric choices and obvious eye for luxury were evident throughout.

DiNardo earned her BA in Fashion Design at Drexel University as well as studied at the London College of Fashion under Marios Schwab.  This collection received the highly coveted Nicole Miller Award for Best Dresses.  From her bio,  "Johanna’s design strengths stem from being a visual, hands-on designer. Her insatiable affinity toward luxury, and unique approach to design, integrating rich texture whilst creating shapes of a draped yet tailored quality, define her aesthetic. Exuding a powerful femininity and timeless modernity, Johanna specializes in luxury womenswear, eveningwear, and embellishment design."

Zeyi Studio

Runway Images by Ed Ng Photography

Born in Calgary, New York based designer Jacqueline Zeyi Chen is a graduate of the prestigious Parsons Fashion Design program. This wonderful collection was a great counterpoint to all the luxury gowns seen before. Flowing silhouettes, a soft palette of white, light grey and soft pink and a mix of textures created a beautiful ambiance.  The shapes were unexpected, each offering a different way of looking at classic shapes. I would sit back for a moment to take each garment in and then lean forward to search out the small details.

From her bio, "Jacqueline gets inspiration from issues in the society or within herself. She uses fashion as a medium to express her point of view, bring awareness, and explore problems in life. For this past year, her focus has been on ‘body violence’ where she explored the physical violence and mental violence associated with cosmetic surgery, over-prescription, and rare allergy she herself experienced in her capsule collection." I found this inspiration interesting because her collection did not disturb me, it put a smile on my face.

Song Ryoo

Runway Images by Ed Ng Photography

Designer Song Ryoo was raised in Scandinavia in a small geometric, minimal living space filled with the minimal decor typical here.  Her mother was an interior decorator and introduced her daughter to the elements of shape, line and form. After high school, Ryoo chose to study Fashion Design at highly regarded Parsons. Both of these elements - the artist and the designer - were showcased in her collection this evening.  I was drawn to the way she played with structure and line in each beautifully tailored garment. Watching I was reminded of the words of Tim Gunn who is always reminding young designers that less is more. That was certainly true here. Clean lines and geometric shapes paired with an uncluttered palette created a stunning, strong design statement.

From her bio, "Song Ryoo views herself as an artist first and foremost, who demonstrates a cutting edge talent of generating a new life-style concept for her clients. Drawing inspirations from everyday elements surrounding the designer...Ryoo was selected as Designer of the year Womenswear Finalist and Kering X Parsons + Vogue.com 2016_ Empowering Imagination Finalist this year. Also, Ryoo was selected from among her peers to receive sponsorship by Luxottica, Lineapelle, and Cobbler Concierge."

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 17 Saturday Shows Shows - Lesley Hampton, Gatsbylady London and Moon Choi

Runway Images by Ed Ng Photography
Selfie of Angela Krewenchuk, myself &
Randi Winter, snapped by Randi!
Day 6. Yes I'm fading big time. Yes the brain is fuzzy. Yes it's getting harder and harder to keep the smile fresh when getting my photo taken. BUT - being inspired by the unexpected surprises I see on the runway every day makes it all worth it.

There were several high moments yesterday including this great selfie snapped by my dear friend and doppelganger Randi Winter. No we are not the same person. No we are not biological sisters. Yes we are mistaken for each other all the time. Too funny.

Yesterday began for me with Volunteer Appreciation Day - something I started a few years ago. One day each season at Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW), I come in early laden with a big container of treats - this time cookies from Costco. I hand them out to all the people we don't see on the runway, but who make the week special - hair, make-up, sound techs, backstage staff, front of house staff, bar and more. This small gesture doesn't take much effort - but has a big impact. If you're attending today, find one person working the event to say thank-you to. You'll make their day.

Symone Says again stepped in as emcee - always a big plus for me. She brings great energy to the event and the audience responds. I loved her long dress this evening by Tetyana Golota. Really stunning. For my outfit, I chose a B/W short kimono inspired jacket along with skull print blouse and circular scarf by Kjaer Neletia Pedersen of K-O.ME Clothing. Added to this were a pair of pleather/knit leggings by JAC, some really cool edgy black earrings I picked up in a board shop in Maui and a pair of black heels decorated with tiny metals shiny dots.

In addition to a whopping 13 runway shows, we were treated mid-evening to a solid musical performance by 11 year old vocalist Jeffrey Li. He had a big voice and a maturity in his performance well above his age. It was also unbelievable to hear he had only been singing for two years.

On to my coverage. Today I chose Lesley Hampton, Gatsbylady London and Moon Choi to cover in this article. Models Own, 44511234 and Shelley Klassen for Blushing Boutique are featured in my Vancouver focused BUY LOCAL column. Last but not least, I will be doing an interview and separate article next week on Australian designer Lara Ireland.

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Lesley Hampton

This is the second season Lesley Hampton has shown on the runway at VFW. You can see the previous show HERE.

Toronto based designer Lesley Hampton is a First Nation wearable artist with degrees from both the University of Toronto and Sheridan College. She is currently adding to that by studying Fashion and design at George Brown College. She opened her show with a news style video covering the many, many first nation's women whose lives have been taken with very little government response. It was a reminder their names should not be forgotten and a call to action. The collection that followed led the audience on a journey of native mermaid folklore. Her designs were inspired by the connection between land and sea, hard and soft, human and earth. The mix of gowns and separates featured intricate appliqués, geometric sequins, pleathers and floral designs.

This is the second season Gatsbylady London has shown on the runway at VFW. You can see the previous show HERE.

The Gatsbylady London show rocked the runway yesterday. The combination of Gatsby inspired garments encrusted with sparkle and many with beaded fringe that swung freely on the runway was eye catching. What also made everyone sit up is that models came in all sizes and shapes from thin to curvy. Many looks were sent down the runway with models of two different body shapes wearing the same dress so everyone could clearly see how fabulous they looked on both. Great news! Designer Rojda Hoda told me after the show she would be returning next season. This time I'm going to find time to sit with her one on one and get an interview.

From her bio, "What sets Gatsbylady apart is the quality of fabrics, unique hand embellished designs and the flexibility of their fits. Their designs are individual, effortless, comfortable and stretches by a size for an easy fit. They cover from a UK size 0 to UK size 30 and also do the Petite range and Tall Range , so there is no matter of size and shape with Gatsbylady."

From her bio, "Moon Choi is a New York-based designer who admires androgynous fashion.,,Choi believes that clothing is not defined by gender. [She uses] her craft to break down the barriers between male and female, representing how individual can adopt any identity they choose, giving them power over their own lifestyle."

Choi was born in South Korea where she studied graphic and product design before moving to the U.S. in 2013 to study fashion design at Parsons. I loved what she brought to the runway.  Traditional garments were deconstructed, then revisited in new ways.  This can be tricky if not done right, but the designer's strong tailoring skills and eye for silhouettes was bang on.  I was intrigued. I found this collection both intelligent and thought provoking.  Fashion isn't just about ready to wear, it's about pushing boundaries and evolving. At it's most basic - it's art.  Well done. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 17 Friday Shows - Seafolly Australia, Lee Atelier, Salomé Barragán and IAROCHESKI

Runway images by Ed Ng Photography

Love this image courtesy of Rosanne Braniski.
Not only does it include some of my great friends,
it offers a look at how diverse style truly is.
Day five of Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) found many of us slowing down and getting a little fuzz-brained.

I am not sure those attend just a few shows, watch for pleasure only, read daily media reviews or enjoy the thousands of images - runway and candid - really understand the sheer hard work and long days that go into this week.

For the event itself, hundreds of volunteers are involved.  They arrive early in the day and stay far enough past the last show to get everything ready for the next day. Then some of the staff and volunteers also support the after parties for another few hours.

Many media and photographers, including myself, sit through all shows. That can be up to 15 shows in one day. I just counted and I been in my seat to watch 55 runway shows (students shows featured multiple designers) and there are still two days to go. The photographers have to stay up into the wee hours trying to get at least 5-7 images in the media bucket for each show. Without their hard work, I couldn't do what I do.

As media, I am up between 6 and 7 a.m. to write my article, add in the images/photog credits, make it live by noon and share links across all SEO platforms. Then I have just a short time to clear my head, have a bite to eat, figure out what to wear, put on my make-up and head out the door to do it all again. The difficult rush hour traffic this week has meant I have to leave home 1-1/2 hours before the first show to be in my seat on time. A very day.

Why do we all do it?  The inspiring fashion designers - local, national and international - who come to share their vision on the runway. Each and every season, I meet at least one new designer with a great story that inspires me and see a other collections that challenge my views on fashion. Then there are hints offered of what may emerge as new trends. I am honoured to give press to these talented artists and go on to follow the careers of many. And I love the increasing number of student shows featured. These new designers are the future of fashion.

I have said it many times. Fashion is art for me. It's not about what the media says I should be wearing, it's about connecting with designers from around the world to see what I am drawn to - what makes me feel special when I wear it. Katherine Soucie of Sans Soucie once asked me what relationship I wanted with my clothes. It took me six months to figure out, but my most cherished pieces have a history to them.

Occasionally I have the honour of purchasing a unique piece for my wardrobe from one of the artists I admire. The designer's story is usually a part of the reason I am drawn to the garment and it's their story that surrounds me when I wear it proudly.  Love a show you've seen this season? Try to support that designer by putting one of their garments in your closet.

Now on to today's coverage. And my look today featured a long top with a criss cross neck and black/grey colour blocked skinny pants by JAC. These were paired with a pull tab and crochet handbag from Escama Studio (you really need to check out the amazing variety of designs and colours they have) and a pair of cool shoes with spinal heels by Hades Footwear.

As always, this is only a very small representation of the shows featured on Friday. Please take a moment and check out all the collections shown on the runway.

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Seafolly Australia

I almost never feature swimwear in my column.  It's very hard to create an interesting show and have enough diversity to keep it interesting. Well, Seafolly Australia is obviously an exception as here we are.  This Australian swimwear/coverup label has grown to be not only the centre of beachwear in Australia, but has a huge presence in international swimwear boutique and major fashion department store. I love this excerpt from their bio, "Seafolly’s fashion designers, staff members, friends and family spend countless hours enjoying life in our own products. We are our own best customers and our toughest critics. Innovative, fashionable, high quality swimwear, lifestyle apparel products and accessories are as important to us as they are to our customers."

What we saw on the runway was a great mix of fabrics, colours and swimsuit styles intermixed with a variety of beach wear and coverups.  Props included great bags and blow up pool toys.  Make-up was fresh and kudos on the hair team for catching the feel of "beach hair." Models were encourage to have fun - interacting with each other and the audience and playing it up for the photographers. A note of thanks to the organizers - loved the fabulous cookie you handed out.  Well done all around.

Lee Atelier

U.S. based designer Angela Lee was born and raised in Toronto, then trained in New York City. But she has always felt a strong tie to her Asian roots and travels there often. These trips are where inspiration is found for her Lee Atelier label, but there are still elements of her western upbringing evident. It is a brand that spans two continents and Lee hopes to establish a loyal client base in each.

Black and white dominated the palette, allowing our focus to be on the silhouettes and construction. This collection was interesting.  Classic looks were taken apart and revisited in ways that challenged the audience's concept of how a pant, a shirt or a blouse should look. Fabrics and construction were excellent. Looks were strong and very architectural.  An interesting, thought producing show that I truly enjoyed.

Salomé Barragán

As  the first model took to the runway, I found myself intrigued. The textured multi-hue fabric in the long, simple jacket was paired with white pants and a white blouse that had tiny coloured flecks to echo the jacket. I will try to add a picture of the tomorrow. Colombia based designer Salome Barragán shares this in her bio, "My dream is to tell colourful stories through fashion... I am inspired by the beautiful forms of nature, in the incredible beautiful objects around us, in the vibrant colors of the Colombian landscape where natural and organic patterns development. in terms of technical interests me propose a novel and disquieting draping. resulting in a playful and elegant style."

What we saw were lots of separates in mostly soft, pastel hues. Fits were loose and comfortable and there was some combinations which offered contrasting fabrics or prints.  Definitely very wearable in our West Coast summers.


This is a Brazil based menswear label founded by Lui Iarocheski which has graced the runway in Vienna, Vancouver and Sao Paulo.  The pieces are all designed in house and offered in only a limited run to maintain quality with great attention paid to fit and finish.  From their bio, " Our focus is on quality and experimental design translated into pieces that you can build your wardrobe around. We are committed to producing products that are unique, made from quality materials, designed with great care and presented in simple and inspiring ways. This is a story sewn by honest hands speaking to a better way of living."

We last saw IAROCHESKI at VFW a year ago - write-up HERE! I for one am so glad the brand has returned. I love seeing menswear on the runway, especially when it brings something new and interesting to the table. Let's face it, in North America it's pretty staid. Iarocheski brings a fresh look to menswear that walks the perfect line between wearable and pushing the fashion envelope. There was also an intriguing fabric that caught my eye in the collection this year. It was seen in two looks including the last coat down the runway. The coat in this final look was my hands down favourite. Yes, I know it was designed for men, but I would wear it myself in a minute.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 17 Thursday Shows - Casa Lefay, Clio Sage & Francesca Phipps

Runway Images by Ed Ng Photography

Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) has grown exponentially over the last decade, having to move to ever larger venues as it expanded.  Now in it's 28th consecutive season, the Vancouver audience is being treated to over 100 runway shows featuring local, national and international designers. WOW! And I've been here for 19 of those seasons.  Each time, I see new artists who take my breath away.

I was personally excited to have Vancouver's very own Symone Says step back into the roll of emcee this evening. Tuesday and Wednesday just had a back stage announcer and the audience was much more laid back. Symone brought back the sizzle. From talking with various people in the audience to arranging a men's and then a women's runway walk off, you could feel everyone coming alive and most stayed right through the last show of the evening.

My outfit today showcased four people very dear to me.  The beautiful short kimono jacket is by Patricia Fieldwalker, the reversible pink/grey handbag is by Geir Ness of Laila: The Essence of Norway. Geir created this great bag for one of his Nordstrom events and sold it filled with Laila product. The beautiful mixed metal and gemstone handcrafted earrings are by Pam Jackson of Street Cat Designs. Last but not least, my white blouse and deep Turquoise slacks are by JAC by JC.

Now onto today's shows. The ten designers came from a wide range of international destinations - Mexico, Columbia, Congo/Paris, US, UK and the Philippines - making it very hard to pick just a couple to cover. I want to repeat, there are many incredible designers each day with a wide range of aesthetics. Not a single person in the audience would agree on which should be covered, so be sure and take a moment to check out the other great collections.

Camila X Castillo
Before I begin my coverage, I want to give a shout out to designer Camila X Castillo. While she is not featured below, there was one skirt in her collection I felt compelled to acknowledge - in photos above. The craftsmanship is superb. Created from strips, the skirt moved beautifully and the pattern reminded me of Tahitian skirts used when performing with Poi Balls. There were a couple garments using this technique in her collection, but this was piece was just outstanding.

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Casa Lefay

Casa Lefay is a new label just launched in March 2016 by designer Maria Jose Marroquin. This first collection is very appropriately called Journey from the Tropics.  From her bio - "[Cafe Lefay is] a sustainable collection inspired by the Colombian Caribbean...We want to awaken the adventurous character and mystical bent that inspire the rediscovery of the world through travel and connection with nature." Looks were created in organic Pima cotton with all patterns and prints hand reproductions of watercolor artworks using water based inks. Eco fashion from start to finish.

I was a fan of this show from the opening notes.  A great tropical backdrop, fabulous ethnic music, interesting make-up and phenomenal hair were just the start.  The show was split into four sections. Each featured four unique looks created in a single print. What is difficult to see in these images is the incredible detailing used to create each look - intricate pleats, tucks and seaming were the tools to sculpt the wonderful fit of each garments.  It's only when you get up close that one can really appreciate the expert tailoring and craftsmanship.  Fabulous show from every angle. I hope to see them next season.

Clio Sage

I love being surprised and this show by Brooklyn based Clio Sage did just that. I sat up in my seat and leaned forward often to get a better look.  It was art on the runway and there were a couple pieces I would have loved to snag for myself.  Titled Tesselations, this series debuted in Spring 2016. It has since grown as she added collaborative work created with abstract expressionist painter Addis Goldman. The designer would like to continue to expand it by collaborating with other artists in both traditional arts and new digital mediums. 

It was no surprise to discover Sage's educational background is in architecture.  She has taken her love for 3D shapes and found a way to apply it to creating her apparel line.  Wood, Plexiglass, plastic and cork are laser cut into shapes and then are assembled by hand into one of a kind, unisex garments. Why do I sit through all shows at VFW? Collections like this one are one reason. It was inspiring. I can only hope Clio Sage will come return to Vancouver soon.

Francesca Phipps

Only 22 years of age, UK designer Francesca Phipps has already made her mark. She has received the FDC Young Designer award and her strong design work earned her a spot on the runway at New York Fashion Week. Now working in a boutique in London selling evening gowns and couture pieces, this graduate of De Montfort University loves to push boundaries. From her bio, " I always try to find new innovative silhouettes with a mixture of tailoring and drape. Drapery is a very strong skill for me, something I am always pushing. I am also constantly exploring the experimental use of colour and alternative construction of materials and fabrications."

This show challenged me. I felt an illusive thread underneath that I couldn't quite grab onto. I love getting that feeling. For me fashion is about art and even deeper, about the artist behind the garments we see.  When I feel that pull, that's special. And it usually means I won't sort out that feeling until I sit and do a full interview with the designer. I will be keeping on eye on Phipps. 

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 17 - LaSalle College Vancouver

Runway photos by Harry Leonard Imagery

One show I look forward to every season is the LaSalle College Vancouver's (LCV) student showcase. The number of students and the focus changes each season. Usually they are Vancouver students, but one season the school even brought in collections from LC institutions around the world.

For this runway show, five of LCV's student designers hailing from Canada, Ghana and China were challenged to find inspiration from various different elements and forms in daily life such as withered flowers and architecture. Fabric choices ranged from handmade crochet and lace, chiffon, psychedelic art print on double knit, luxurious sequin, dupioni silk to metallic vinyl and no two collections were the same.

From the press release - "Acclaimed Vancouver fashion stylist Tracey Pincott is serving as Artistic Director, working closely with the student designers. Lizbell Agency models will help the students showcase their designs on the catwalk and Nimbus School of Recording Arts will produce the mixing of the music for the show with their engineering class.

Kudos to all involved on another great show this season!

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Zory Sun | China

COLLECTION INSPIRATION This collection is inspired by Psychedelic Art. This collection incorporates a lot of prints to depict the inner world of the psyche. You can also see this collection as a visual display of mind manifesting in Fashion.

SHORT BIO Zory studied visual arts and sculpture in China prior to pursuing her fashion design dream. Combining the skills and knowledge she learned from both sculpture and fashion, Zory creates garments with unique shapes and structure.

Hannah Vanderveen | Canada

COLLECTION INSPIRATION This collection is inspired by a warm summer evening at the lake; the colours of the sunset dancing over the gentle waves and ripples of the water.

SHORT BIO Hannah recently moved to Vancouver to pursue her interest in fashion design at LaSalle College. Originally from Manitoba, she has lived the past number of years in Calgary where she taught high school math and science. Her recent career change is the result of her love of adventure, her need to be challenged, and a love of learning.

Erica NanaAma Fouillard | Ghana

COLLECTION INSPIRATION “Soft Power” was inspired by sun beams creating silhouettes that combine both warm and soft elements. The fabrics mimic the strong and forceful nature of the sun.

SHORT BIO After graduating from university with a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration (Marketing), Erica worked in the fashion and hospitality industry in Ghana. She came to Vancouver in 2015 to pursue her passion in fashion design at LaSalle College Vancouver

Mona Zhao | China

COLLECTION INSPIRATION This collection is a play on two contrary inspirations; the beauty of imperfection and the idea that sometimes things are perfect the way they are. All flowers on the garments are handmade and sewn on somewhat unfinished. This creates a contrast against the elegant fabrics and fitted silhouettes.

SHORT BIO Mona studied fine arts in China before arriving at LaSalle College Vancouver to study fashion design. She would like to use her experiences in life as her muse to create garments as she enters the industry.

Zi Xia “Zee” | China

COLLECTION INSPIRATION This collection is inspired by the clean lines found in Zen architecture and the silhouettes from the Tibetan Buddhist robe “Kasaya”. The garments are designed to evoke calmness with a hint of modern class. Various materials are used to mirror Zen architecture and minimalism including cork, layers of translucent vinyl and metallic fabrics.

SHORT BIO Before beginning her journey in fashion design, she studied at UOIT in Social Policy. While in Toronto, she performed frequently as a singer in the Chinese Community, as well as taking part in a collaborative album “My Ears Only Hear Fine Sounds.” In China, Zee also runs a business selling Buddhist fine art, boutique fashion and home furnishings.

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About LaSalle College Vancouver (www.lasallecollegevancouver.com)

Established in 1998, LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) is a boutique design school accredited by BC’s Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA) and meets the provincial British Columbian Education Quality Assurance (EQA). Offering diploma programs in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, Interior Design, Jewellery Design, Graphic Design, Professional Photography and 2D/3D Animation as well as a certificate in Artistic Makeup, LCV has doubled its student population since it inaugurated its new campus in Yaletown in 2014. LCV also offers e-learning programs in Fashion Marketing, Administrative Assistant, Video Game 3D Modeling, Interior Design, Graphic Design – Branding and Event Planning and Management.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 17 Wednesday - LillzKillz, Macdie, Maya Rene, ShaniceEmily

Runway Images by Ed Ng Photography

I ended up arriving at the Chinese Cultural Centre early today. No worries, I had lots of connecting and things to do before they opened the doors for Wednesday's shows at Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW). Changing from flats to proper heels was at the top of the list.

For some reason, what to wear took more time today.  Before the season starts, I try to look at my treasured pieces by designers and select a few to wear over the seven days. Anything I haven't had a chance to wear yet or something that hasn't been worn in awhile tops my list.

I had noticed a lovely royal blue tunic that had been patiently waiting for it's moment in the sun. Unfortunately, when I went to style it, I realized I just didn't have the right pieces to show it off properly. Even my husband gave me a thumbs down. So it went back into the closet for a future event.

I decided to embrace what was to be my Thursday inspiration - a wonderful Asian themed necklace, earrings, ring and satin purse by the uber talented Carolyn Bruce.  They were stand out, statement making pieces on their own, so a simple textured sheer black top and a textured knit pencil skirt offered the perfect canvas. Last but not least, I needed a pop of balance to the look so added some bright floral heels with gold studs.

Audience candids will be added as they become available.

The basic pieces I used as a foundation for this look are by Jac by JC and have been in my closet for several years. I cannot stress enough the importance of building a solid, versatile wardrobe from the ground up. First build the basics - pieces that mix and match in neutrals - then start adding those all important statement making pieces. This makes moments like yesterday come together easily and without panic.

There was a real diversity in today's shows - students, local designers and then those from out of the area. The last is covered here.  Shows by Vancouver area designers are covered in my BUY LOCAL column and Vancouver Community College's Fiat Mode XXIX grad fashion show is covered HERE! For out of the area shows I chose four designers to cover - LillzKillz, Macdie, Maya Rene and ShaniceEmily.

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After a decade covering fashion and with it -  a climb in my age and what I can wear - I have to stop every once and awhile and reconnect with the young talent coming up. The best part about fashion is the utter diversity in styles and aesthetics. It's so important to continue to support those with unique voices. LillzKillz was one of those shows for me.  While I don't see myself wearing these pieces, I want to give a nod to the designer for her unique vision and young voice.  It is also interesting to note she is an Eco designer as well.
From her bio -  Lillea Goian "...brings a new light to reworked garments, by using thrifted and vintage piece’s to create never before seen ensembles. Lillea’s passion for personal style goes beyond what you see on the exterior, it represents Lillea’s strong feelings of acceptance of all people; however they choose to dress or be...Each one of Lillea’s outfits are one of a kind, Lillea’s designs evoke the feeling of mystery, and encourage critical thinking.

Macdie Moulin-Vézina is another offering a collection aimed at the younger generation. This 27 years old fashion designer from Quebec City. Started sewing at the age of only 14. She also loved the guitar and has found a way to mix of these two passions Add in studies at theFashion Design at Campus Notre Dame de Foy as well as interest tattoo art and photography and you get an idea of all the influences in her work. The collection created in black with lots of skin and clean lines. Add in lots of skin and a mixx of sheers, solids, camo and a bit of shine and you have a collection aimed at the 25-35 year old rock crowd.

Maya Renè

From her bio, "Maya Ramirez first knew she wanted to be a fashion designer in the third grade. Now seven years later, 15 year old Maya is making her mark on the fashion world. She is most known for winning the inaugural season of the hit TV show Project Runway Jr, and since then she has revived two spreads in Seventeen Magazine, as well as a full scholarship to FIDM." If you aren't impressed you should be. I did not looker up ahead of time so watched the show assuming she was much older. She held her own.

According to her notes, Maya's collection was inspired by Greek and Roman architecture as well as the Victorian ages. But she changed it up by introducing modern silhouettes and chrome fabrics. The palette was a rage of neutrals, then the pop was added by a lovely mix of fabrics - sheers, solids, textured and mesh - as well as a mix of young silhouettes,

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The palette for the  ShaniceEmilye collection was very muted, but for good reason. Each garment on the runway had textural elements and design work that needed a simple foundation to shine. Some had what looked like braided sections or cutouts.  Others had strips of raw fabric appliqued on. Fabrics included leather, knit and sheers and woven.  This diversity in fabrics and textures were allowed to take centre stage by the designer keeping everything else, including silhouettes, simple.

From the VFW bio - "SE offers both creative bespoke garments, which are made for you, just they way you want and like, as well as offering the ‘MUST HAVES’ all garments endorse an individual creative streak but are incredibly wearable. ‘We focus on the wearer feeling confident and comfortable, whilst taking influence from nothing more than what surrounds us, our details and love for textiles are a main focus and the use of leather allows us to create visually stimulating garments.’"

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 17 - Fiat Mode XXIX by Vancouver Community College

Runway Images by Peter Jensen Photography

On Wednesday, the first show of the evening was Fiat Mode XXIX - Vancouver Community College's (VCC) annual grad fashion show.  This show holds a very special place in my heart as in 2007 when I began working with a partner on a new magazine, VCC was the first student show I attended. That was in September 2007, nine years ago.

I love student shows. They give the audience a glimpse into what the future of fashion will be. This young talent offers fresh ideas and new takes on classic.  For Fiat Mode XXIX, nine students showcased the culmination of their two years of hard work.  Each was allowed to explore the depths of their creativity one last time before heading out into the more structured fashion world and they all dug deep.

Before the shows began, announcers shared the list of student awards. Congrats to Dorcas Markwei who won the $1500 Gabriel Levy Scholarship for best overall collection and scholastic excellence as well as the inaugural Mason's Sewing and Babylock Canada aware for best sewn collection. For the second she received an industrial sewing machine. Congrats to Megan Beveridge who won the $500 Sally Hudson award for scholastic excellence and the $1000 Telio Scholarship for excellence in textile design.

Then the runway show began. It was an impressive show. Strong design work, great construction and a wide range of creative styles kept the audience on the edge of their seats.  We were treated to little of everything from casual to evening to avant-garde - a great mix.

You will find more information on the VCC fashion programs and why the school chose to showcase their students at Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) below. First, though, I want to offer the runway images from each show as well as a soundbite offered by each student on what their collection is all about.

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Polina Shatunova - Balaclava

Street Style
Hip Hop
Brain Washed Generation
Spoilt Teenagers/Rebel
Stand out/Visible/Loud
Bright/ Fall Winter
Walking Art
Pinch in the Eyes/Lost

Every designer’s collection is a part of who they really are. I feel that I am a mix of weirdness and fun. These two elements make my collection what it is. Breaking the rules, I decided to create a loud, bright coloured collection for Fall/Winter 2017. I wanted to break the norms and wanted to add some life to the season. The inspiration for this collection comes from TV, glitches, disturbance, hip hop and street style. This collection is for the young, brainwashed generation who are spoilt and rebels. They want to stand out, walk around wearing oversized pieces of art. I want when people see my collection for it to pinch their eyes.

Sarah Lacroix - La Croix

This Autumn/Winter 2017 collection is an analysis of the garment industry majority. Several key concepts are presented and examined here, including the nature, ethics, and utility of overseas garment manufacture and the social, environmental, and economic consequences of so-called fast fashion.

The collection itself was made at a time when I sought to learn more about the inner-workings of the garment industry. This subject is, in many ways, taken for granted by those that consume it. Nonetheless, there is a significant amount of literature on the subject—documentaries, articles, etc.—which puts at the forefront the (often gross) conditions of production in the jour modern. We trade the lives of others for convenience and monetary gain.

As an aspiring designer, I take myself to be directly affected by—and directly implicated in—this hidden world. As such, I understand it to be my moral responsibility to do what I can to use my own art and ability as a symbol to promote awareness, and thus responsibility, with respect to the practices in modern western society. However, this is not simply a personal goal or a mute statement. Rather, it is a categorical imperative: It is the responsibility of all designers to hold one another accountable for their actions.

The collection also presents examples of contemporary design in its silhouettes and textiles. Black neoprene fabric is used to construct elegant shapes and is contrasted with white quilted textiles and indigo denim. Traditional weaving techniques have been incorporated into the collection with red and black neoprene yarn. The collection also displays a heavy use of surface design—intended to imitate rug hooking—with buffalo wool, lamb’s wool, and neoprene yarn in black, red, and white. These elements contrast aspects of traditional garment design, work wear textiles, and new age clothing production, the synthesis of tech fabrics such as neoprene and stretch quilting, as well as new substances entering the market such as neoprene yarn. This serves to illustrate the contrast between elements of traditional garment design with contemporary clothing production.

Ji Ji - 

No information provided.

Cynthia Wei

My collection tells a story of different generations; the garments also transitions from a mysterious, dreamy look to more modern. The colour pallets are inspired by the foggy forest, they are creamy white, different shades of lavender; grey and black. I used velvet and organza to achieve the luxurious and feminine look. I also used wool, melton and felt to add interesting shapes and colour to the pieces. Most of my pieces are asymmetric and has a lot of curves in them. There are some forest, wolves, human face and lake motifs in my collection. These motifs are created by appliqué and cut out techniques.

Megan Beveridge

Reflect on what you have and the life that it has lived
Appreciate the flaws and what it has become
Preserve the stories it has to tell
Revitalize the old to create something new
Progress into a new stage of life

By achieving a hand done aesthetic through utilizing vintage and recycled materials in combination to hand embroidery and natural dyeing, peoples focus is brought back to the process of creating with a conscious attitude towards the final products they are consuming. By developing this personal connection and story, these are the garments that will stand the test of time in this ever changing industry.

Maria Melnikova- Masha Miller

My collection explores the relationship between a woman and her clothing; evoking feelings of sexuality and confidence in your everyday woman. Designing garments with a simple, minimalistic aesthetic and neutral color palette, gives versatility to a women’s closet. I use fine fabrics to create comfortable, affordable, luxury feeling clothing so a woman can go day to night in her favorite dress. Inspired by modern ballet dancers and the flow of their outfits I added a mix of fitted and flowing silhouettes which make every shape of woman feel confident in their daily life.

Kayla Hanvold

This collection explores perspective, focusing on an idea of bringing confidence and acceptance in ourselves by seeing parts of us that are unconventionally beautiful, as beautiful. My influences come from physical imperfections of the skin caused by skin conditions or an event that left a physical mark on the surface of the skin. Imperfections are intimate autobiographies; each spot, scar or mark has its own story, a place in time and location. They are maps of landscapes in which we have lived. They are physical memories etched into us carrying an emotional echo.

The collection combines exquisite surface design elements with ebony, pale pinks, and nude colours to give perspective to diversity in modern beauty. Comfortable fabrics and modern silhouettes give the garments a next to skin fell giving the collection complacency.

Dorcas Markwei- “Unapartheid”

The “Unapartheid” collection finds its roots in the unsettling rise in racism in America, and my desire to quell it. Taking a look into America’s past, to the times of the Civil Rights Movements in the 60’s, I focused on two of the most prominent efforts made by anti-racial activists: The ‘Freedom Riders’ and the ‘March at Selma’. Both these movements are the heart and inspiration of this collection, showing a joint effort of both blacks and whites to sand together against racism.

“Unapartheid” represents the unity between both races in its use of colour and print: the colour being similar to that of Caucasian skin tones, and the African print details representing the African-American community. The tailored silhouette of the collection has been made similar to those of prominent activists in the focused movements, as homage to their efforts. All these features embody the need for unity between both races against racism.

Ekta Sheoran- Rajputana 

Rajputana is a couture collection inspired by Rajput forts and palaces (India) and renaissance era. The embroidery and hand beading is all inspired by the artwork found in these forts and palaces. All the pieces are hand sewn, which makes them exclusive and expensive.

The embroidery for this collection is self-designed and made in India. This very unique Paper Mache embroidery is done only in the North part of India.

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For more information on the fashion programs at VCC go to www.vcc.ca/fashion/
To connect with one of these designers go to www.vcc.ca/fashionshow/

For nearly 30 years, the VCC fashion program remains one of the best in B.C. The newly launched Fashion Design & Production Diploma mimics the real-world fashion industry. Students will experience a fast paced production process while learning fundamental skills. The self-directed garment project gives the opportunity to hone in on their craft and personal sartorial interests.

The Fashion Design & Production Certificate is the only part-time fashion design program in Canada. The emphasis is on technical skills, creativity, and a fast paced production process. The Fashion Merchandising Associate Certificate is a one year program that prepares students for the business of fashion through hands-on experience and knowledge of fashion fundamentals and theory. Non-credit courses are the place to test the fashion waters, upgrade, and develop the required elements for design school portfolios.

“Our program allows graduates to pursue entrepreneurship or a career in a small or large apparel company,” says Andrea Korens, Co-Program Coordinator, Fashion. “Showcasing their collections at an event like Vancouver Fashion Week gives them the exposure they need to source potential customers and employers.”