Sunday, September 30, 2012

VFW, Sept. 2012 - Maanaki, Fung, Greer, Coetzee and Sanchez

All runway photos unless otherwise noted are courtesy of Peter Jensen Photography.

The first day of runway shows at any fashion week is full of anticipation - the pressure is on to come out of the starting blocks with a strong line-up.  The audience was not disappointed with Vancouver Fashion Weeks's opening offerings.  I have selected a few personal highlights to share, but there were many other designers showing that day that deserve kudos.

Gianni Maanaki -

Love the neck detail on
this gown.
Gianni Maanaki was born in Lebanon and began studying fashion design at the age of 18.  By 24 he was creating Haute Couture fashions that caught the attention of the Lebanese fashion world. His prominent clientele grew to include members of the royal families of Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Qatar and his collection became a regular on the runway.  Relocated to China in 2006, the line is now sold mostly to buyers from the Middle East and Asia. The collection shown at Vancouver Fashion Week was an Italian-inspired selection of very feminine high end garments with a focus on soft fabrics that floated down the runway.  Colours were vibrant and fabrics included lustrous satins, sheer chiffons and black lace.  One of the higher end gowns that encompassed all this designer is about was the green one on the left above.  It showcased a jeweled bodice, flowing satin skirt and an attached scarf the could be draped across the arm.  Luxury, resort, red carpet and more - this designer creates looks that are ready for the glitterati of the world.

Frederick Fung -

Frederick Fung is well known in Vancouver as both a fashion design teacher as well as founder of the Tass Fashion Show (October 13th this year). I have had the privilege of viewing his collections over the last several seasons and am amazed at his growth.  A month ago his menswear hit the runway at Men's Fashion Week.  Afterwards I remember thinking he had set the bar high and looked forward to seeing how he tied it all together for this whole new show a month later.  Fung not only added a few mens looks but created a whole new womenswear line to pair with it. There were so many strong offerings, it was hard to pick a favourite, but I think I am drawn to the top left combination in pale blue, pink and white.  The finish work and detailing on the garments was some of the best work I have seen from this designer.  Kudo's for such a strong showing and I look forward to seeing his work on the runway again at the Tass event.

TrunkShow by Misty Greer -

Ah Misty Greer.  I had the privilege several years ago of interviewing this talented designer when she was just a graduating student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and have been a fan ever since.  Her unique line of sexy garments with a hint of pin-up to them are designed with the Burlesque world in mind, but there is something to bring out the sexy in every woman. The world is our stage and TrunkShow is ready to show us off. This collection inspires women to step out of their comfort zone, to be comfortable in their own skin, to celebrate their sexuality and more than anything to just have fun!!!  Every time Greer's garments hit the runway there is an energy that's hard to miss. Model representing a variety of female silhouettes dance and strut to music sure to get your feet tapping. You can just see the audience sitting up and smiling.  I had to include a separate picture of one of my favourite models in this segment.  The striking opening model with blonde and fuschia hair had us all in the palm of her hand.  She embodied everything this collection is about to me and I hope to see her on the runway more in the future.

Gert-Johan Coetzee -
Runway Photos courtesy of Peter Jensen

This strip of close-up images showing is courtesy of Patrick Parenteau.

It was EXTREMELY hard to pick just a few photos as I recently interviewed this designer for Raine Magazine in NYC, so have a personal attachment.  Gert-Johan Coetzee is the designer to the stars in South Africa and is known for his over the top garments.  Media there expects him to bring drama to the runway and this collection certainly fit the bill.  From the opening piece adorned with neon lights, to the boa style shrug, to the neon plastic accessories, to the lazer cut detailing - nothing was held back.  The most wearable pieces were the 2 one-shoulder dresses - a shorter one in lime green (above centre) and a longer one in black with stenciling around the bottom.  Most fun? They fuzzy boa style shrug in lime green (top left).  Every slight breeze created movement.  Most garments are fashioned out of stretch fabric making them not only a dramatic statement, but oh so comfortable to wear. Most of this is ready-to-wear with several silhouettes being offered in a variety of colors - but a few looks will see slight modifications to make them market-friendly.

RG Sanchez -

I remember loving RG Sanchez last season, but this collection in particular caught my eye.  The garments shown in the first half were my favourites.  Here he melded bright colours and prints along with a nod to traditional Mexican aesthetics/arts and produced contemporary pieces with a flavour all their own. The 2 on the top right are great examples.  You have a textured turquoise top paired with a yellow skirt adorned by applique work that is ethnic inspired.  Then next to it is my personal favourite - a long yellow lacy top with peek-a-boo cutaways paired with a blue print skirt.  I could feel warm, tropical breezes blowing through the venue.  Add in the unique purse line accompanying these looks and you have a real winner.  The second half of this segment showcased the designer's evening wear. There were many great pieces here that were a great addition to the collection overall, but it was the day wear looks and unique purses in the first half that caught my eye this season.

Friday, September 28, 2012

In Honour of Morri-Lynn

This article has very special meaning for me and it's hard to know even where to begin.  Hoping to get more pictures, so be sure and check back.

I have a lovely daughter with a HUGE heart that from a very young age just wanted to dance.  It began simply with a class in someone's home studio and went through a few community centre classes.  But when she started kindergarten and still loved it, I stupidly did what everyone did and looked for the BEST school.  Best in today's society means lofty things - students that have gone on to professional work, lots of wins at competitions and more.  I have since learned BEST can mean what truly nourishes the child.  Sounds simple, but it's more complex than you think.

Morri-Lynn always does a production number every year - this year it was
ballet.  EVERY ballet student who committed to the number was included. This
photo is extra special to me as I created all the costumes except hers (top right)
In their defense, dance schools requiring large enrollments to run do have pressures on them and they come from parents.  Parents today can be very competitive and want their child in the BEST class. Everyone wants their child to dance up (be in a class a bit too hard for them) and absolutely not down. I don't know how many times I heard someone gripe if a child they felt unworthy was in with their child.  Dance schools, like many sports teams, are there to make sure everyone is competent in the same way and choreography reflects that.  If you child is not as flexible as others, growing too fast so struggling with coordination, or heaven forbid doesn't have great turnout, they most likely will be shunted to what is called "recreational classes."  What this mean is they will not get special attention, they will not be allowed to compete or do solos, and most likely their class's role in the year end show will be insignificant.

Morri-Lynn with her 2 daughters.  From article
in the Richmond News.  Click HERE to read.
Receiving Richmond Arts Award
in 2010 for Artistic Innovation.

I dealt with all of this despite my worries as my daughter seemed happy.  The year she came out of class sobbing because they made her feel bad about herself was the year we walked away.  We tried a new studio with a teacher she had worked with well before and had the same experience.  They sent her into ballet exams with one of the strongest kids to boost that child's score. The result? My daughter failed her exams. I was beside myself.  But then a glimmer of what could be appeared on the horizon.

Another great studio number that included from young to seniors.
There were adult classes being offered with dance teacher Morri-Lynn Buchanan so I decided it would be great exercise.  While we were stretching and visiting, I shared Danielle's story and how much she would love to do a solo.  The answer - we could do it here. Without telling the other school, I brought her for private lessons and watched her blossom under the attention.  Her first solo was kept simple to give her confidence.  She performed it beautifully and one moment I will never forget is when she turned and took 3 steps towards the audience, arms outstretched with a look of pure joy on her face.  It was priceless.  At the end of the year we switched schools.

Studio performance at a community event.
Over the 5-6 years she danced with this teacher, she was offered the opportunity to grow and try many things such as pointe, but always with her limitations in mind so that she could try them safely.  She expanded to do a wide range of dance and excelled in tap where the turnout and flexibility were not as important. Competition was there for her if she wanted it whether she placed first or not.  More than anything, she was respected. With great fear I allowed this teacher to put her back into the exam that was such a nightmare, but she passed easily.  The same was true for all students that came.  Group choreography was designed to have moments that highlighted each dancer's strengths and they all danced together no matter what their ability.  The satisfaction when they won awards or qualified numbers for nationals ran high.

Photo on left shows a small group where all heights were successfully
integrated into one exceptional number.
About 10 years ago Morri-Lynn began to feel drawn to a marginalized group of individuals - developmentally disabled adults.  She opened a class for them and instead of hiding them, took them to community performances and had them perform in the year end show just like all other students.  Then the studio expanded to welcome those with learning challenges such as Autism and physical challenges such as Cerebral Palsy.  One piece of choreography her dancers took to competition dealt with the stigma of Autism.  Called Missing Pieces, it was so well received, it earned an invitation to the World Dance Cup where it was awarded a Silver Medial. Outside the studio she has taken this even a step further, running fund raisers to purchase equipment special needs kids to improve their daily life.

Missing Pieces at the Wold Dance Cup.  To watch a video of this performance click HERE.
It is so rare to fine someone who dares to step outside the box, who welcomes those not normally included and proves they can can earn and deserve that attention. The fact her students have experienced success at competition validates all she stands for to me.  I have decided to launch a fund raiser for this amazing teacher to attend the World Dance Conference whose agenda this year is focused on Dance Therapy.  The potential of what she can bring back to the community is enormous and I for one feel it is important she goes.

Photo from a mother whose
daughter's were also touched
by Morri-Lynn

I hope each of you who visit my blog will consider donating at  There is no minimum asked, just whatever is in your heart and in your budget. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Couture Fashion Week 2012 - New York

My apologies - I am still waiting on runway photos for some of the designers mentioned below.  So please check back on this one.

I was privileged this year to be able to attend the shows on the first day of Couture Fashion Week 2012 in New York City.  The focus this day was on designers from USA, India, Spain and the Dominican Republic. With a few exceptions, this night saw a never ending slew of beautiful dresses with lots of sparkle and shiny fabrics - from bridal whites, to soft pastels, to deep tones.  The exceptions - a classy line menswear and a couple womens wear line with a rock and roll feel to it.

The venue was the beautiful Waldorf Astoria.   Walking into the hotel you are surrounded by a soft golden glow and wrapped in the hotel's luxurious ambiance.  The hallway leading to the event was set up as a gallery for paintings.  2 side rooms were dedicated to exhibitors showcasing a wide range of products.  Then there was a separate room set up to take photos of the collections after the 4, 6 and 8 p.m. shows.  It was always packed.

The large event room had a U shaped runway with chairs along each side as well seating in the middle between the 2 runways. There were 2 photographer pits - one at the end of each corner of the U.  I do wish the runway was a little higher.  It looked to be up about only 1 foot, so you couldn't see much below the waist if you were seated further back. The exception? Floor 2 had a balcony that circled this room with a single row of seating. The view from up there had definite possibilities. For the 8 p.m. designer's show they added a 3rd runway down the middle of the U (like a square shaped W).

With NYC Personal Stylist Liya Janash
Mum and 2 daughters I had the pleasure of
meeting during the second segment.

People were dressed for this event. Let's face it - it would be intimidating to even walk in the lobby if you didn't have something decent on.  I managed to trade off taking photos with others to get a few with me in it.  Media was handled very differently than in Vancouver.  We entered later and were seated 5 rows back - but you could move up as it became closer to show time. Not sure that was true for all media.  I suspect a few were registered differently.

Just 2 of the many amazing volunteers who made my night enjoyable!
The volunteers were amazing as always and took great care of me.  They even managed to move me in the front row for the 6 p.m. set of shows and when I lost my pen looked high and low until they found me a replacement.  For all you who volunteer at fashion events - you really do make the difference in my experience and I can't thank you enough for all your hard work.

One of the 2 photography pits
What I was trying to do was include 4 photos for each designer - a photo of the designer followed by 3 images from the runway - as well as links to their website and press releases.  Hard to believe, but some of this was VERY hard to come by or not to be found.  For performers I included personal links or a link to the Couture Fashion Week performer bio page. If I was a designer showing here, I would have made sure they had a press release, bio, website, photos and more! Kudos to the organizers for including whatever they were given access to.

The lighting was tough for my little camera so many photos didn't work out.  I did manage a few of the wonderful performers mentioned below that added depth to the night.
This was nice - the  exquisite singer performing
on the runway and her video on the screen.

This artist could both sing AND perform.
The shapes she created with her body
when she sang were all expressive Kodak
moments that added to the experience.

The ballet dancers were amazing, but unfortunately
the best view for most of us was on the big screens.

Wonderful, wonderful voice!

I think this was a carnival style parade. The tallest
one the right had a whip that when snapped made an
impressive loud firecracker sound.
5 shows were presented at 4 p.m. -

This segment opened with a performance by a wonderful opera singer - Veronica Lovan.  She was accompanied by the Monticelli Trio (cellists).

Sushma Patel (USA/India)

Robert Flores, menswear (Dominican Republic)

It was a crowd pleasing moment, when the designer came out at the end with models adorned
in Speedo-style graphic print underwear.

Diany Mota (Dominican Republic)

Lounge Couture (Dominican Republic) - 

Marisu Miranda - MM Moda (Spain)

3 shows were presented in the 6 p.m. segment

These shows were opened by singers Angeles Dominguez and Reagan Richards - stunning!

Wendy Luzon - Azukita (Dominican Republic)

Isabel Zapardiez - Bridal (Spain)
Press release here.

Giovanni LoPresti - Giofashion (Switzerland)
Press release here.

8 p.m. showcased just one designer

This was the final show of the night and the designer created a show that was truly an extravaganza.  The runway was reshaped into 3, sort of a blocky W, and all the gowns were shown to live music and dance.  Featured were singers Cristina Fontanelli, Christine Reber, Tyler Merell, Veronica Lovan, Luciano Lamonarco, Thomas Cook and Angel Rose as well as pianist Prince Igor, the Nika Ballet Company and Dancers Ting Ting Yan & Anton Tregubov.  Probably the only segment that was a struggle to view were the ballet dancers.  They performed beautifully, but a runway is difficult choreography wise to say the least and the best view was really on the 2 big video screens.  That said, it was a lovely note during the show.

Andres Aquino (USA)

My one regret is that I had to hop a plane back home to start a new fashion week and couldn't be there for the next 2 days of shows.  Congrats to the organizers on a job well done.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 8 - Grand Central Station and I finally meet the founder of Raine Magazine!

I seem to start slower each day.  As we didn't even get back to the apartment until after 1 a.m. last night, we all slept in.  It was 10:30 a.m. for me which is absolutely unheard of.  By the time I took care of business and got some writing done it was too late to do most of the things on my list, but one - my meeting with Nova Lorraine, fashion designer and the founder of Raine Magazine.

It's hard to believe we've been working together almost 5 years and have never met.  To say I was really looking forward to it is an understatement, I only wish it could have been longer.  But you take what you can get.  I was really lucky that she picked Pershing Square's Central Cafe which was not only right on one of the Metro lines from Brooklyn, but it was right across from Grand Central Station!

It was great to have a chat face to face in the limited hour she had, but as with all business women who wear many shoes, her phone demanded her attention constantly.  In NYC to take care of many things, she handled all the ado with ease and a smile on her face.  I loved her from the minute I met her - she's a hugger just like me fortunately - and I hope we get to work together a long time. My regret - I FORGOT TO PULL OUT MY CAMERA AND GET A PICTURE! Who knows when I'll get the opportunity again?

Now for Grand Central Station. If you arrive by subway, you most likely will get shot out a side exit and miss seeing the historic main area.  I made this mistake. All you need to do is go along the street until you locate a sign for a main entrance and head back in.  The side I re-entered on took me first through a long hallway full of high-end shops. Walking into the main area is impressive with a capital "I"!  It's a gold, glowing massive space filled with nostalgia and bustling with people.

Love the guy in the lower middle posing
with arms spread wide.  A photo
moment or he is utterly lost!

My little travel camera struggled with the lighting in such an enormous space, but I adjusted them as best I could and had to pull a few images off the internet as well. There was a central information kiosk and the old ticketing windows were still being used.  Then there was an upper balcony you could walk around to view it all.  A large room on the way to one of the exits sported several beautiful chandeliers like in the photo on the left below.

The only negative in the experience for me was the GIANT Apple store on the balcony level that wrapped around about about 1/3 of the space and  more disappointingly it was full of people.  They are in this amazing, beautiful, historic space and they have their eyes glued to computer screens.  I don't get it.

Obviously I get less accomplished each day as I am burning out. Crossed off the list are the following that will have to wait for my next trip -- seeing a Broadway show, walking through Greenwich Village/Soho/Italian District/China Town and a bay cruise around the Statue of Liberty.  Just too tired to get out early for one last thing and I have to be DT by 3:15 to get in line for Couture Fashion Week where I am seeing shows at 4, 6 and 8 p.m.  Then back to the apartment to change and finish packing and it's off the the airport at 2 a.m. for my trip back to Vancouver.

To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger - "I'll be back."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 7 - Coney Island and Bryant Park

Day 7 I was a bit slow to start, but decided I wanted to have a look a Coney Island. This much hyped landmark has been touted in movies and more since I was young.  Fortunately the main subway line I have been using here is Brooklyn went right to the beach, so out the door and on to my next adventure.

What I didn't realize was that it was much further than it appeared on the subway map. By the time I rode the bus to the subway and then road the over 25 stops it took to get out there, it was well over an hour of travelling. I would really like to say it was worth it, but the area was a bit depressing.  The midway portion with rides was not running, so there were only a few vendors selling those super discount items like 4 NY baseball caps for $10.  The walkway along the beach is a beautiful wooden boardwalk, but there were just a couple places to eat, have an ice cream or get a t-shirt open.  You can walk out on the wharf to hang out with those fishing and have a look back at the shoreline. The classic, old-fashion beachy welcome sign was still up was nice to see and many of the trash cans on the boardwalk sported splashes of colour.

When I went back to the main street that ran along the beach, at least half of the shops were closed with those metal gates pulled down.  Very sad! I was told by someone on the bus they had raised the rents to force out all the small, quaint shops and were trying to get a casino approved and high end chain stores into the area instead.The only 2 interesting places that caught my eye were:  A fast food place called Nathan's Famous that has been around since 1916.  They still had the old neon sign up which I loved and I found a photo on their website of the old 1920's location.  Then there was the Coney Island Circus Side Show and Freakshow Hall of Fame. I did not go in, but if you're looking for some unusual entertainment, I think you'll find it here.

Love this 1920's image from their website.

There were still some great photo ops.  The Coney Island Subway Station here is above ground and the most interesting one I had been in other that the grand dame - Grand Central Station.  I loved all the lines and that flowed throughout the building.

It was intriguing to watch a few South Asian immigrants cast net fishing. They took a circular net with weights around the outside edge, folded it all up and then flung it off the dock when they saw a fish.  As they pulled it up the weights would draw the net in to enclose the fish.  I never saw them catch any, but it must work as there were at least 2 groups using this method.  I also love the the pattern of colours shooting through the closed gates towards the midway rides.

2 beach photos are included just for fun. On the left is a guy in long pants and shirt relaxing in the shade of totally fake palm tree. It was hilarious  The other photo on the right shows a very dark-skinned girl sun bathing.  She is not dark because she tans, she is naturally dark and was working on a tan any way.  How weird.

On the way back to Brooklyn I was floored to look out the train window (at this point it sill ran overhead) and see an enormous cemetery that spanned several blocks on both sides of the track.  It was the Washington Cemetery - a predominately Jewish burial site. The closeup I found below on Google Images looks like the skyline of a city of skyscrapers.  Interesting note - most of the cemeteries in Brooklyn date back to the 1850's and most have run out of space. You can read more on that HERE.

Back at the apartment it was business time as the 3 of us tried to get ready for the fashion show that night.  We made it downstairs only minutes before the car service arrived.  The Brooklyn Bridge had an accident on it, so getting to the Bryant Park Hotel downtown was a laborious journey and we were glad someone else was in charge of.  At the hotel it was non-stop as there were several models that hadn't come for fittings and several changes of models to replace a few that had dropped out.  

Like all fashion shows, there were the usual glitches, but in the end the models were amazing and so easy to work with; the garments created for this collection had come together brilliantly and I can honestly say it is some of the best work designer Katherine Soucie of Sans Soucie has done to date; and the models did their job showing off the garments both for the pre-show press and the final event.  I don't have any professional shots at this point from the show, just a few I took behind the scenes, but I love them all. 

3 models ready for pre-show press.
Dots on this photo are white dust that was
floating around from when they applied some
Zombie make-up to 2 dancers.

Katherine with the models dressed for the pre-show press viewing
While ALL the models looked great in their garments, sometimes you get an unexpected surprise.  We had one very blonde model with a lot of tats whose sleeves totally meshed with the colours and pattern of the top and skirt she was wearing.  I snapped a quick photo (on the left below) before she stepped out, but it doesn't really show how great it looked her. On the right are 2 of the wild women who were showcased in a segment by Candy Rock Couture.


I had to move quickly to catch these 3 working behind the scenes  in a temporary pause before the show began - photo on left. They are from Mad Girl Productions who organized this event. On the right below is Katherine Soucie with the 2 hair stylists/make-up artists who did double duty that night as dressers - Thomas Duffy and Samantha Ariel.  We wouldn't have made it without them.

??? - Krystle - Kellie

The last 2 photos here are a couple of great memories.  First is designer Katherine Soucie and Vancouver musician Shockk Mongoose taking a short break before the show begins. Shockk Mongoose played live while the models walked during the Sans Soucie fashion segment and he totally rocked it.  Then there is the photo that is so reflective of how truly global the world has become.  After the show I walked into the venue only to hear - HI MARILYN!  It was a friend - Frances MacDonald - from Vancouver who was in town and just happened to pop by the show.

Left - Shockk and Katherine................Right - Me, Frances and Katherine
It was 1 a.m. when we finally rolled back into our apartment in Brooklyn.  And so ended Day 7. Obviously we slept in late the next day!