Monday, October 24, 2011

Five New Designers to Watch Part Three - Eason Wang of UNLOKK

Photo by Jay Lee
What is really interesting about Eason Wang of UNLOKK is how much attention he garners on the runway compared to the amount of press he receives.  I'm not sure, but I think Fame'd Magazine might be the only one who gave him a mention after the recent Eco Fashion Week and I find that amazing.

Wang came to my attention at the Tass Fashion Show in August.  Conceptual, avant garde and out-of-the-box, he stood out from the crowd.  While his line includes garments for both men and women, the menswear was definitely the strong point in this collection.  After the show I found out he was only a first year student at Blanche Mcdonald.  Impressive!  There was a lot of growth needed, but his talent and vision were undeniable.

Next was the chance to see him at Eco Fashion Week in October.  He had definitely progressed from the show in August.  Still not 100% there, but the potential was shining through.  Edgy, conceptual and again, out-of-the-box. He was a welcome respite from the more marketable collections shown.  Menswear still took centre stage for me, but the womenswear had evolved and grown much stronger. 

Photography courtesy of Peter Jensen
A lot of work was yet to be done on finishing and other small details, but the foundation had been laid for someone who could potentially have a strong influence on the fashion world.  Given the comments around me about how many people really enjoyed this show, I am surprised there was not more print recognition. but the Vancouver media does seem to focus more on what is wearable.  For those of us who love to see boundaries pushed, this was a delight.

Eason Wang, Centre Right at EFW - photo by Shaifi and Alfonso Arnold
I have yet to interview this talented design student, but hope the  opportunity will present itself in the near future. Although we only say hi at all events and are Facebook friends, it's obvious he is also very approachable and I can't wait to widen my knowledge of him. This is definitely someone who is a budding fashion artist as opposed to a fashion designer.  The difference is subtle but important. Not sure when he graduates from Blanche Macdonald, but that is one grad show I would make a point of seeing.

Keep and eye out for Eason Wang and Unlokk.  It's definitely a name you will be hearing more of in the future.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Road Construction Blues

Time for a lighter piece.  I just spent 2 days on the road, one driving all over the crazy downtown area and one driving up the valley on the freeway for an hour and a half dropping off magazines as I went.  There was a time that driving was a stress reducer for me.  When it all got to be too much, I just jumped in my dad's car and drove!  Of course, I lived in Los Angeles at that time and there were miles of roadway to choose from.

The lifestyle of living on the freeway (non-rush hour times of course) no longer appeals to me and I love how close everything is here in Vancouver. BUT, for the last couple years it seems that road construction and repair has become an ever expanding virus.  We all want great roads to drive on, but it's crucial to avoid those areas like the plague and you just never know where the little devils are going to pop up next.  I was talking with one delivery person who said it changed daily.  He never could plan a route that would work 2 days in a row.

Yesterday I loaded my little blue Yaris hatchback with 12 boxes of magazines and worked my way out to Abbottsford, half by street roads as I had a few stops and half by the freeway.  Where I jumped on the freeway in the morning it looked like there might be a small amount of road work being done in the other direction, but it honestly didn't look too bad.  On my way back, I decided it was probably okay - HAHAHAHA! The area in question did indeed look like a minor section of repair, but as I passed the off ramp and looked ahead I realized it was a much larger stretch than I thought.  While traffic was actually moving okay, it the the off ramps that were crazy.  The construction was on the right side as well and all the off ramps were plugged with large trucks almost at a standstill.  The signage had been revamped to help you understand the complicated way to exit through the construction zone and not all of it was thought out.
FINALLY, I decided - as did the miniature car behind me - that I had to brave the next off ramp.  The signs appeared and the two of us peeled off the freeway along with a myriad of enormous semi-trucks.  We looked like ants between giants.  Slowly we inched forward along what we thought was an exit - the crucial word here is thought - trying to not be crushed.  Lo and behold we were on one of those short pull offs where they weigh the trucks.  We easily passed the scale test to say the least, but I think both the driver behind me and I never took our eyes off the road in embarrassment.  All those truck drivers must have been shaking their heads and laughing.  Back we went onto the freeway and then 20 feet later ANOTHER sign appeared for the same off ramp and we slunk off, grateful to finally out of the mayhem.
When stuck in road construction, the one thing all drivers want is knowledge.  I think there should be a city construction alert map you could access on the web before you leave home.  For those who forget to check, we need an overhead projection in the sky like the Batman signal telling us how far ahead the work continues and how long we can expect to inch along in minutes, hours or days.  That way we can decide whether to turn at the next corner - if we can ever reach it.  Maybe with all the advances in car technology they could put a road work avoidance system in cars you could activate at will.  Your car would then refuse to turn onto a road with significant delays ahead.  Can you imagine!

Today is pretty much a work from home day.  I do have one event late tonight, but that will be long after the road crews have gone home.  So for now, I get to write away my frustrations.  Tomorrow is another day!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Five New Designers to Watch Part Two - London Alexander of LRMA

London Alexander (in plaid shirt) with Models at EFW
Photo by Shrif Sharifi/Alfonso Arnold
When I first ran across London Alexander's name last spring, he was only in his first year of the fashion program at Vancouver Community College.  So often I run into artists with amazing talent, but no business acumen. He was the exception.  Despite being a student, he had already established a brand name - LRMA Clothing, created a sharp website with proper photography and his first mini-collection of menswear was market-ready.

Photography by Peter Jensen
In April 2011, Fame'd Magazine (formerly Vancouver Fashion eZine) was wrapping up the student incentive sales at five local fashion programs.  Those who sold at least ten copies to benefit their school were in the process of sending in their 150 word bio that would be published in our May online.  Alexander was one.  I always read every bio and happened to note he listed a website at the end of his.  A quick click took me there and what I saw was impressive.  The website was professional looking and though that initial collection was fairly small, it was solid. He had caught my attention, but I carefully tucked this information into my watch folder without another thought as he was only a student.

Photo by Julia Kozlov
Shortly after this, Brandon Hamilton and I decided to run a charity event in May to help more local athletes participate in the Vancouver Out Games.  We were struggling to come up with a menswear designer to show a few fashions when I remembered Alexander.  Would he be interested?  The answer was yes and he rose to the occasion, providing his own models, hair and make-up and even donating a few t-shirts from his collection to the charity raffle.  As far as I was concerned that was game, set and match.  I put his name forward to the Creative Director and approval was quickly given.  The article on LRMA Clothing appeared in our July 2011 edition - in fact he was our lead article.  An amazing photo shoot by photographer Mike Chatwin with styling by Paulo Vallejo and Hair/Make-up by Maryann Richardson propelled this story into a six page spread in our September 2011 print edition.  My only regret?  I didn't get to do the interview personally.

The next time I saw Alexander, it was six months later at Eco Fashion Week. I was delighted to see a larger selection of menswear all beautifully detailed.  Offered up to the well-heeled audience was a wide variety of very wearable separates - some definitely day time, some with the potential to move into a summer evening.  Every garment was immaculate in construction.  Seams laid flat, welt pockets were flawless and the proportions bang on.  I was again impressed and I was not alone.  Comments in support could be heard all around me - "I/my husband/my boyfriend would wear that!"  As someone who sees a lot of fashion shows, I often prefer to see unusual garments that push the envelope, but a line like LRMA's is the exception.  When a collection of classic, wearable pieces is done right, they truly stand out from the crowd. To appreciate these garments fully,  you need to get up close and personal as there is a lot of fine detailing that gives a uniqueness to each.  The enthusiasm of those around me was palpable. I can only assume his booth at the show saw a lot of action.

I am often asked how to catch media attention and here is just one small example.  London Alexander took what was a chance to get 150 word bio in our magazine by selling 10 magazines, put up a first rate web site, stepped up to the plate when asked to participate in a fashion show and ended up being the lead article in our July issue - all while still continuing his studies at VCC.  What I hope others get from this is that you never know where or when that door of opportunity will open, but you have to be ready to run through it prepared to knock everyone's socks off.  Kudos to Alexander for all he has accomplished in a short time and I know I'll be seeing a lot more of him.  Next time I get to the do interview!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Price of Being Known - Never Say Never

Growing up I was the daughter of a minister who just didn't fit the role.  Here was that beautiful cherubic blonde girl my parents wanted, but she just didn't seem to be able to be the sweet young thing they expected.  I also absolutely did not fit into the strict religious environment. I spent much of my time peeking out from behind my mother to avoid the attention, sometimes even hiding inside her coat.  The guilt experienced when my inability to conform affected my father was tremendous, but I never was any good at pretending.  It was with great thought  I promised myself I would NEVER in any way be a public figure.  I have heard the saying many times - "Never say never" - and realized a couple of years ago that I had failed utterly in keeping myself an unknown.

When I chose in 2008 to step into the role of editor for Fame'd Magazine (formerly Vancouver Fashion eZine), I honestly never thought our humble little online magazine would garner that much attention. I was able to enjoy media seats and the chance to write on the many local talents I am so proud of, but it never dawned on me it would grow to a point that I am occasionally recognized.  While that recognition is only really within the circle of fashion the magazine is involved in, it is at times disturbing.  In my heart I know I need to increase that influence for the good of the magazine, but with it comes the burden of always watching what you say and do and taking hits for decisions that others don't agree with. Many times I find myself still wanting to hide behind someone's skirts.  Social media has altered how information spreads and when something inaccurate gets out there - it's very hard to fight.

Let's start with some of the positives.  I do get into events without charge.  That is a sacred trust for me and I try very hard make sure I appreciate it and do not abuse it.  For fashion events that means making sure an event write-up is posted.  This takes a lot of time, especially during local fashion weeks, but it's what is due for the privilege of gaining VIP entrance and the chance to sit in the front row.  It also allows me the opportunity to see who is new on the scene or if a designer I have been watching has now grown to the point they would be a good fit for the magazine.  When out I love to hear positive comments from those who support what I have been trying to do.  It's easy to get overwhelmed by the weight all that needs to be accomplished and those who take the time to say it make a difference, often give me the much needed boost to get moving again.

Negatives abound as well.  First and foremost for me is the knowledge that others comment on what I am trying to do without getting it right.  One example I can share from last year was in the Student Incentive Sales.  After I went into launch at a school and made a serious faux pas in the way I handled something, the student involved let me know that they ALL knew I promised the same thing last year and had been clearly told by another student that the bios to be published online were never put up.  Totally untrue and I sent this student the links to prove it - but the damage had been done and sales at that school were abysmal.  I have also recently had my reasons for a stance I have long taken attributed to reasons completely outside of the truth.  Several times in the last month I have offered to sit with those of opposing views to explain myself and to share ideas, but have yet to have one person take me up on it.  So being public means being in the middle of a great divide.  You have your supporters who love you and put you up on a pedestal and those who do not like what you are about and knock you off.  Unfortunately the truth never seems to be much of an issue.
Most intriguing in all this to me personally is that there are those who LOVE the spotlight and wouldn't have it any other way - think Sarah Palin, Jersey Shores, any of the Housewives series, politicians and media personalities.  They take the mud-slinging and turn it into books and TV spots.  They love to be seen photographed with anyone of upper social or media status and attend as many high-profile events as possible. It looks like hell to me to be peered at through a microscope, many times at their worst moments, but they seem to thrive in it.  Even more interesting are those I call the TEFLON people.  No matter what they say or do, it just doesn't stick.  Coming from the U.S., the Republicans are the Teflon people and the Democrats are not.  After surviving George Bush for so many years, a political pundit did a whole article on Barack Obama commenting no one was in charge!  HELLO - did you just get off the boat?  There are so many examples but I am sure you all know at least one figure that gets away with it all.

I love what I do and have accepted the fact I cannot stay in the shadows. If Fame'd Magazine is going to have the kind of influence needed to promote the local fashion scene, I have to learn to pretend to enjoy the spotlight a lot more than I do and look for new opportunities to be out there.  While I do get frustrated at times, I have finally started to develop a thicker skin and just get really annoyed instead of staying up at nights crying.  To quote one of the Housewives (an abomination I know, but I saw it in an ad and it stuck) - "Time to put on your big girl panties.  It's your job."  And to all those who handle this with the needed grace, I applaud you.  It's not an easy job.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Five New Designers To Watch Part One - Mita Naidu of Lotus Eye

This last six month I have been excited to stumble upon several new fashion designers in Vancouver. Having the chance to turn a spot light on these talented artists is a pleasure like no other. I have interviewed several famous individuals inside and outside the fashion community and loved every minute, but I am often just one of many writing on them. When I find someone at the beginning of their career that shows incredible talent, it's like opening a Christmas present. Here is part one of five blogs on these talented artists presented in the order in which I met them.

Mita Naidu of Lotus Eye -

I originally noticed Mita's work about a year ago when there was an article on Lotus Eye in the Vancouver Sun. Some time after that article, she and I began an email dialog about the difficulties diverse designers experienced while trying to acquire coverage in mainstream media.  I agreed, but couldn't guarantee anything.  What she didn't know was I had been looking to find a designer creating a new direction in Indian garments for several years - something contemporary and cutting edge that would fit in Fame'd Magazine.  My daughter had modeled Indian fashions for several years, so I knew what I was looking for.

Photo by Kyla Hemmelgarn
Early this year, I made the trek out to Surrey with another fashion writer to check out Lotus Eye and it took my breath away.  The saris were my first surprise.  Gone was the heavy beading and over abundance of sequins.  In it's place were unusual prints and woven patterns that she designed herself.  Many of the saris were classy, elegant and oh so subtle, something I had honestly never seen.  The show-stoppers caught your attention by having a truly striking and unusual print and/or vibrant colours. The lack of that heavy pile of shiny decorations created a sari that was much more versatile in where it could be worn and she took it one step further by tying them in completely new and original ways while adding Japanese Obi Belts and western jewellery as accents. That was it - she had to be in our magazine and I was determined to do the interview.

In April 2011 I headed back out to interview her in depth.  Naidu was actually a professional dancer, both a Bharata Ntayam soloist who performed at the Vancouver Olympics as well as modern dancer working with renown choreographers such as Judith Marcuse.  When knee injuries ended her career, she needed a creative outlet and much to her parent's dismay turned to fashion.  Ultimately she wanted to create a collection that would offer her social grouping contemporary options that would take them from an Indian event out to the nightclub - NOT fusion wear, a new and modern direction.  Ultimately, she created a collection that has appeal across a wide cultural spectrum.  The opera crowd has particularly taken notice.

Photography by Tony Mah

Naidu flew to India that first time with her family's backing and spent several months creating the inaugural Lotus Eye collection.  To get the best product, the designer had to visit several areas, each with their own specialty. Patterns, colours and weaves were designed by Naidu personally at the mills that produced the fabric. As what she does it outside the norm, she often has to sit right beside the production team, fighting to make sure the neckline was just so, the weaving done as specified, etc.  It was time consuming to push the envelope, but the end result made it all worthwhile.  Traditional elements were showcased in new ways, necklines were lower or in new shapes and unique fabrics for saris abounded.  The final collection included Lenghas, Suit, Kaftans, Kurtas and a wide variety of separates in an extensive palette.

Photography by Robert Kenney - Sachin Kala - Robert Kenney

Since that first collection, Lotus Eye has been steadily growing.  The second collection included many new elements such as a capsule collection of menswear and a new style Linga with a Gypsy influence - 24 metres of dip-dyed cotton with very little glittery embelishment.  Naidu was also featured in the May 2011 edition of Vancouver Fashion eZine - click HERE - as well as the 2011 print collectible issued under the new Fame'd Magazine label.    There is no doubt that the future looks bright for this talented artist and I am looking forward to soon including one of her amazing garments in my wardrobe.  I just haven't been able to decide which!!!

Photo by Kyla Hemmelgarn
For more information and photos please visit the Lotus Eye Facebook page at

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Look Back - Jeff Garner of Prophetik

I have had absolutely no time to update my blog because of the demands of Fame'd Magazine.  So to dip my feet in the water, I am posting a piece that was published in the United States.  In February 2011, Jeff Garner of Prophetik showed at Eco Fashion Week and I was lucky to interview him afterwards for Raine Magazine in NYC.  When I was sitting at EFW this season, I realized most of those in attendance would love to know more about this unique designer and probably had not seen the article, so here it is.  ENJOY!  This is one designer I want to follow and have already told we have a date in five years (now four) to see where we are on the Eco continuum.

Photographer  Fairlight Hubbard
My Canvas is Clothes

by Marilyn R. Wilson

Designer Jeff Garner's soft voice and easy manner speak of his Tennessee roots. These same roots ground him and influence all that he creates. When he launched Prophetik in 2002, the artist had a vision “ showcase how things could be done in a more positive way.” His goal – to influence the designers, change consumers and move the industry in a new direction. Every collection also has a message. “I think as artists we all have a a story to tell and we have a canvas. My canvas is clothes.”

Garner was raised on a horse ranch outside of Nashville. Days at home were spent doing chores, riding horses, three wheeling and getting lost in the woods. At school, he filled the expected role of athlete, participating in football, wrestling and cross country. In private, the soul of the artist was slowly growing. As a child he would sneak into the closet with his sister's Barbie Magic Slate and draw. One peel to erase and he would start all over. It wasn't about keeping the images, but creating them. In his teens, the farm's close proximity to Nashville provided friends that nourished Garner's soul – musicians. “I ended up spending a lot of time with them. I would jump on tour buses and that's how I was fed [artistically]. Otherwise I would have shrivelled up.”

After high school, Garner loaded his Jeep Wrangler and headed off to California where he enrolled at Pepperdine University. Encouragement from a friend led him to audition for advertising work. The first time out, he landed the role of Blaine, Barbie's DJ surfer friend. This became a series of Barbie commercials shown all over the world. They launched him onto the Hollywood scene and residuals provided the funds needed to finish school. When Stiletto Entertainment offered him a job, he was quick to say yes. Here Garner did creative direction and tour support for stars such as Barry Manilow, Fleetwood Mac and Donna Summer. Creating stage costumes and tour merchandise gave him that first chance to use his talent for design. After four years of travelling all over the world, Garner felt the pull of his roots. “In 2002, I swallowed my ego, returned to Tennessee and moved in with my family. Everyone thought I was crazy because they felt I was on this pathway to success. But it was the wrong ladder. So I started over. I tapped into my music connections and did tour merchandising to keep me afloat and support Prophetik. I started small because I wanted the vision to stay true. That's where it all began.”

Garner quickly became concerned about the fashion industry's unhealthy work environment. “My first sample maker got really sick from [her time] working with chemical dyes and cutting fabrics.” This was the impetus for the Prophetik label to become both Sustainable and Ethical. Dyes were the biggest challenge. “I started the process by exploring the use of tea and plants. Then I ended up finding two sisters in Nashville, Ali and Sara, who now work with us on developing new colors.” Locating the right fabrics to work with involved extensive research as well locating trustworthy fabric houses. Hemp is one of Garner's favourites. “Hemp is by far number one. It grows fast and doesn't hurt the ground it is planted in. It's the longest fiber, so the strongest. It takes dye well, it's anti-fungal and can be worn in summer or winter.” Others include flax, organic silk, cactus silk and a very small amount of organic cotton. All garments are produced from sustainable material using organic dyes created from earth and garden plants such as madder root, sorrel, indigo and gall nut – each grown in Prophetik's Nashville Community Garden. In February 2011, Garner's unique vision was recognized by London Fashion Week when he was one of only 33 designer chosen from a list of 1000 to be showcased that season.

Inspiration for Prophetik's F/W '11 collection, Artist Wonderment, came one night as Garner was sitting in front of the fire. The question suddenly hit him - when did commercialization start? Research led him to the court of Louis XV. “Everyone wanted to be like the courtesans in the court. They would make their own dresses, but as interpretations. I got influenced design-wise by that time period, but then I brought in elements from my own home, my own family, and recreated them.” Included is a wide variety mens and womens blouses, shirts, pants, vests, dresses and coats that have a historical feel, but with an updated twist. Exposed zippers fashioned from interesting recycled metals are used as design details, slits in skirts make them more wear-able and some of the structures have more modern silhouettes. One material chosen for re-invention is heirloom quilts. The designer uses them to create mens waistcoats and as small accents on gowns. All are statement making pieces.

With Garner's vision at the helm, Prophetik continues to grow. An accessory collaboration has just been launched using discarded leather from Coach to design an iPhone case for Apple. May 2011 saw the Vancouver launch of a documentary film by Brady Dahmer. A new home collection with Livia Firth is in the works and the designer is hoping to offer a line of socks and underwear in the near future. Despite the international success of Prophetik, Jeff Garner stays grounded and true to his 'campaign of passion.' “I think we shape and choose our reality. We have free will. Everyone has a choice and I choose this path.”

A video on Jeff Garner's trip to London Fashion Week can be seen at -

For more information visit his website at