Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Uganda Here I Come -Well Almost!!!!

Sometimes fate steps in, and you just have to throw caution to the wind and say yes.  This was one of those wonderful occurrences.  A chance Facebook meeting with Sarah Nyamwenge led to an unexpected invitation to come to Kampala, Uganda, to cover the Lady Crane International Fashion Show. Although the 2 week time frame proved too short to get everything in place -  I can only offer my deepest thanks to Sarah Nyamwenge who shouldered the biggest burden for trying to make this happen while still dealing with all the myriad of responsibilities for her upcoming event. You can learn more about the amazing Lady Crane event and its equally amazing founder in my interview with Sarah - Shining an International Light on Talented Artists!

Although I will not be in the audience this year, all the things that needed to come together on my side were an unexpected journey full of twists and turns. ENJOY!

The Challenge!!!!

This invitation came on April 11th and I would be leaving Vancouver no later than May 4th. I really had no experience with international travel that required visas, immunizations and more, so had no idea what I needed to accomplish on my end to make it happen.  To be totally honest, I was actually clueless, which is a good thing as I might have said no if I knew what I was facing. In the end dumb luck and intuition helped me to accomplish my part. I leave in a few days. So here it is - a breakdown for others facing the same situation. And it all begins with WHY as that is what I am constantly asked.


I've had several people ask why, especially given all the bad press Uganda has received in the news lately. The answer is real people. Behind all the headlines are artists and businesses trying to work together to build a community and show the world what they have to offer. I love interviewing, I love hearing unique journeys, I love mentoring, I love giving a voice to those who the media is not listening to - and the list goes on. This trip embraces all I love to do. The fact that Sarah in particular has worked so hard despite all the other things on her plate also touched me deeply. I honestly don't know if I will have any free time while there to explore Kampala, but I embrace this opportunity as it truly feels just right to be going.  On return to Vancouver, I will need a few days to recover from the long hours spent traveling both directions before answering questions or attending other events.

Aren't You Afraid???

NO!  Traveling smart is true for wherever you travel.  And don't let sensational media define where that travel takes you. There are tons of advisories for tourists looking to be informed that you SHOULD access and you have to travel smart. If you don't do that, it doesn't matter where you go, you can have problems.

The Visa!!! 

The first thing I did was check the website of the Ugandan Consulate in Vancouver. It said a visa would only take 2-3 days. No worries - lots of time. Well, there was that little inside voice that said I needed to confirm it and that voice was right.  Visas actually have to come from the Ugandan High Commission in Ottawa and there is mailing time both ways. You need to provide 2 identical visa applications, get passport photos taken, purchase a money order from the Canada Post in USD and provide a self-addressed return envelope. As time was short - I purchased an Expresspost envelopes for both ways. With USD visa fee and extra postage both directions, this ran me about $100. 

I thought I did it all right, but my efforts failed.  While they stated I must have a valid passport, I input all the data on the application and included a photocopy of it - what they required was for me to send my actual passport as the visa is put inside it. OOPS - my mistake!  However, even with the Expresspost envelopes they have not returned my original documents and money order, so perhaps it's all for the best. I couldn't leave the country without my passport.  Option B is to purchase the Visa on arrival in Entebbe which I am assured will not be a problem. Much more stressful, but the only option when your trip is planned on the fly. I'll let you know how that goes in a another post.

The Immunizations and Drugs!!!

While attending a last minute invitation to a function put on by the Ugandan Consulate in Vancouver, I had someone mention off-hand I could get a speeded up Yellow Fever Immunization. Excuse me? I had no idea what they were talking about. I had originally intended not to start shots until it was all a done deal - but now questioned that decision. First thing the very next morning I called my doctor to book an appointment. I was told she would give me a prescription to pick the needed vaccinations at the pharmacy and then could bring them right back so she could administer them. GREAT!

Intuition is a wonderful thing. There was a niggling doubt rolling around in my head so I called the London Drugs Pharmacy right next to the clinic and found out Yellow Fever - the most important shot - could only be given in Canada at an official Travel Clinic. It also had to be given a minimum of 10 days before departure or I wouldn't be allowed into the country. WOW!  They connected me with the travel clinic nurse who happened to be in that day who - after me literally breaking down into tears on the phone - agreed to stay late.  For anyone who feels there isn't great customer service anymore, you are wrong. This lovely woman put in an extra 1-1/2 hours to help me out.

In the end this was pricey.  I had to have the yellow fever shot (very expensive) and purchase malaria prevention pills to take that cost roughly $5.50 each (best choice is Maloran for those who want to know). They are taken from 2 days before you leave until 7 days after you return, so I had to purchase 16.  In addition I had the Hep A and Hep B shots, Typhoid and Tetanus (been over 10 years).  On the list also were Ducoral, which helps prevent traveler's diarrhea about 50% of the time and an antibiotic highly recommended to carry with you in case the Ducoral failed. Add in some great bug repellent for those pesky mosquitos and the total cost with taxes came to just over $500.  I still need sunscreen! Note - I know others who have paid over $900 for travel immunizations, so be sure and book your appointment early and budget for this cost. Fortunately, many of these are good for a long time, so this becomes easier and cheaper each time.

The Travel!!!

If you book in advance, you can usually find a flight from Vancouver, B.C., to the Entebbe airport just outside of Kampala that takes approximately 24 hours and costs around $2,000. You have to be seriously attentive when choosing a flight as some airlines will want to put you on puddle jumpers that take well over 36 hours in travel with lots of stops and layovers.  I do prefer a flight with slightly longer breaks at stops if I have to change planes.  It's just so much kinder to one's stress level to know you'll make your connecting flight. So book early, look for a flight you can book all the way through and carefully check layovers to make sure they are not excessively long. A travel specialist can really help in this area.  

Where to stay!!!

My number one first choice would have been the Speke Resort Munyonyo where the Lady Crane event is being held. It's a beautiful resort and being right at the venue would have made everything simpler and more restful. I think the best choice all around when travelling to areas you are not familiar with - especially if they are off the beaten path - is either get the advice of someone who knows the area, a travel specialist who can check it out for you, or chose higher end accommodations located near where you want to tour. My husband and I usually look for a self-guided tour booker specializing in the part of the world we are visiting who can advise us on the best places to stay depending on services available, what we might want to see and days local attractions are open.

Another Glitch!!!

Oh my little reliable instamatic camera. You've carried me through so many trips and events with pride. Now on its last legs - the replacement camera I want is on sale in the US, but won't be available in Canada for 4 weeks. SIGH!  Time to dust off the old, bulky SLR, put it in Auto mode and make the best of it. Not as easy to travel with, but do-able and great in terms of the actual pics. My other piece of technology will be an old 10 inch laptop. As much as I prefer to write on my 17", it's just too heavy to travel with. So if you see funny misspelling on FB or twitter, just remember I'm typing on a mini keyboard.

Don't Forget your power adapter!!

Whatever electronics you take with you, you'll most likely need a power adapter. One site told me Uganda was 220 volts, another 240 volts, although they both agreed on 50 MHz.  According to The Electrical Outlet which offers an extensive list for most countries, you should bring a Type G Electrical Plug.

What a joy to go where you're not one of hundreds in line writing on an event. The rush of bringing attention to rising talent is like none other. While this trip fell through at the last minute due to circumstance beyond the organizer and my control, look for my article on Sarah Nyamwenge in the September issue of Raine Magazine

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Eco Fashion Week 8th Edition - Thrift Chic Challenge and 68 Lb Challenge

All images courtesy of Peter Jensen Photography

For four years - 8 seasons - founder Myriam Laroche has been offering her message of environmentally responsible fashion to the Vancouver audience through her brainchild - Eco Fashion Week. The event has grown each season - maturing, honing and fine-tuning it's message. Venues embraced have included The Salt Building in the Olympic Village, Storyeum in Gastown, Robson Square and Holt Renfrew Vancouver's Project H shop. International designers such as Jeff Garner of Prophetik and Jánosi Matild of Tildart have graced the runway. Want to know more about Laroche and her vision? Check out Creating a Movement.

A few front of house shots!

Value Village night - now in its 5th edition - is my hands down favourite each season. I was thrilled as always to see what edition 8's new talent had to offer. When I first talked with Laroche in the spring of 2010, one focus that came through strongly was the need to reduce waste by embracing used and vintage clothing as well as the upcycling of used garments. This night showcases both. Each stylist brings their own personal aesthetic to the experience and no 2 collections are ever the same. The location this year was the beautiful Fairmont Waterfront.

Marc & Anna Riese - The talented duo behind the hair and make-up looks.
Special thanks to the Marc & Anna Riese of La Biosthétique who, along with their very talented team of artists, created the amazing hair and makeup looks we saw this evening. You can read more about them in my previous article - Backstage at Eco Fashion Week with Marc & Anna Riese - La Biosthetique.

Great dance performance between the Thrift Chic Challenge and the 68 LB Challenge

The Thrift Chic Challenge

Hey Jude (Lauren Clark and Lyndsey Chow), stylist Jerome Insorio (student at the John Casablancas) and editor/stylist Ghazal Elhaei (One1One Magazine) took on the Thrift Chic Challenge.  Each is given $500. Then by shopping only in Value Village, they must create a cohesive collection from the gently-used garments available - complete head-to-toe looks that are runway ready. EVERYTHING has to be purchased from Value Village including shoes and accessories, and shown as is. Judges who helped select the 3 participants this year include a team from Value Village and West Coast Editor of Fashion Magazine, Joy Pecknold.

Hey Jude - 

Lauren Clark and Lyndsey Chow are the talented styling duo responsible for the unique vintage collection - Hey Jude.. After bonding over their shared passion for vintage - as well a love of live music, New York and wearing wild ensembles - they joined forces in 2010 to launch Hey Jude.  "We love all the creativity that goes into imagining how a piece someone else has given up can be reinvented into a outfit that is on the cusp of what's happening in fashion that season. It exercises our imagination and creative energies and has found itself to be our personal art...There is something so personal about vintage and really lends itself to an individual creating their own unique style."

For the EFW challenge, the first thing they did was decide to take a different approach than what they normally would when shopping for their business. Instead of selecting unique, sell-able pieces that stand out on their own, they had to visualize what they wanted the entire show to look like stylistically and then select pieces that could be used to create looks that fit in with this aesthetic. The designers shared, "We wanted to play around with edgier pieces of pastels, pattern mixing and some men's looks too since we've never had men on the runway for our brand."

Backstage notes from Marc and Anna Riese - 
Key Words - Grunge, Last Nights Make-up, Edgy meets delicate, Dark, Nude Lip, Wet looking Hair
Products Used - Heat protector -combination to make look wet. High gloss finish. Shine on crazy - paste. Style warp smooth and piece and hold
Make-up - Grunge. Smokey. Went out all night slept in makeup, pale skin, matte nude lip

Ghazal Elhaei -

Ghazal Elhaei is a stylist, brand consultant and Editor-in-Chief of ONE1ONE Magazine who will be expanding her personal branding in 2014 through the launch of Style Chord.  Always a performer, her first love was music with an album released in 2011. Then fashion called and it was back to school.  When One1One launched, those 2 interests were united. The door also opened on styling for magazine editorials and individuals. She shared, "Styling comes from my love of expression, for me I just want to leave an impression on our generation. I want to make a difference and get a message out there. I don't know what role I'll end up being in with years to come but I will always express myself in various forms and in turn aim to inspire others."

For EFW, Elhaei created a collection titled, "MAN UP" - a reference to style deriving from self expression, a man becoming vulnerable by saying exactly what is on his mind. Inspired by movie personae such as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Cary Grant and Gregory Peck, the looks channelled the male ideals of classic charm, sex appeal and power. The stylist wanted the audience, "To take a moment to value tradition and modern aesthetic through an attainable medium: thrifting." Most looks were worn by male models, but a few sleekly styled women offered male inspired outfits as well.

Backstage notes from Marc and Anna Riese - 
Key Words - Menswear inspired, Bold Brow Focus, Neutral, "Don Draper Look" Matte skin, Powerful, Sharp, "a Guy who likes to smoke and drink whiskey", Low pony-tails, very shiny hair
Hair Products Used - Matt clay and Formule Laque - helps smooth and set hair. Also finishes the hair and helps hold.
Make-up - Eyebrow focus. Strong Brow. Matte finish

Jerome Insorio -

While Jerome Insorio may still be a student at John Casablancas, he has already made a name for himself through his blog site - “LabelDeficiency.” His styling formula? Finding that perfect balance between casual and formal - not always easy. While labels have become de rigueur in today's fashion world, he feels truly great style comes from unique, quality pieces that feature excellent construction.

Insorio's Thrift Chic collection was titled “Journey." The concept wove around a person who doesn't really have time to "fix" herself, but still pulled together a great style.  They were the relaxed looks of someone who travelled - easy going and comfortable.  Accessories were inspired by the craftsmanship and colour of Tibet. The title also held a second meaning for this designer, "The term “Journey” is also a reflection of myself as I am still a student who is just starting out in the industry. With the collection, I hope for it to reflect my personality."

Backstage notes from Marc and Anna Riese - 
Key Words - Loose un-classic up do's. Texture, In Motion, Movement, Strong yet delicate, Healthy and Pretty
Hair Products used - Fine volume powder - adds texture and volume; Volume mousse - adds hold and texture; and Formule Laque - helps smooth and set hair. Also finishes the hair and helps hold
Make-up - Main focus – Ombré lip. Healthy, dewy and glowing skin.

68 Lb. Challenge by Young Oak

Just in case you don't know, I would like to share a little about the concept for this challenge.  68 pounds is the amount of clothing and textiles thrown away by the average North American each year. For this challenge, the designer must select the same amount of of textiles from unsaleable goods to rework into a brand new fashion-forward collection.

Young Oak designer Tammy Joe picked up the gauntlet this year.  The designer grew up the youngest of 3 and quickly became weary of wearing the endless stream of hand-me-downs. From her teen years on she loved shopping secondhand shops, bazaars and garage sales for unique finds. Inspired by the textiles and vintage garments, she began making small alterations. Eventually these became full deconstructions and Young Oak was born. 

Every previous designer I have talked to has talked about how overwhelming this challenge was. They find themselves at 4 a.m. digging through piles and piles of discarded garments trying to select just the right 68 pounds of materials to work with.  But Joe was excited by the prospects, “It’s all about encouraging people to do something with their waste,” she says. “Something as simple as changing its neckline or hem can really update and bring life to your garment. At the same time I really wanted to show what can be done with recycled and less conventional materials and some of my favourite looks came from the bed and bath textiles section. The collection was inspired by transformation and from moments or phases from my adolescents until now. One of the most challenging things about this project is to stick with a set plan because from the moment you start picking your pieces from Value Village the collection keeps transforming."

Backstage notes from Marc and Anna Riese - 
Key Words - Sleek, Pony-tails, Hair is an accessory, Young, Healthy, Fresh, Spring, Fun, Pop of colour, Girly.
Hair products used - Spa luxury oil - sleep and shiny - not oily. Volume mousse - add hold and texture. Formule Laque - helps smooth and set hair. Also finishes the hair and helps hold
Make-up - Focus on the eye. Eye Shadow- gold undertone and mixed with colour. Spring inspired colour. Fresh. Baby blues. Orange pink

Some candids at the mayhem backstage!

Special thanks to Dona Sheer, Manager of Front of House Registration this evening, for all her amazing efforts towards making this evening such a great success. Her personal touch made everyone feel welcome.  And thanks as well to EFW sponsors Value VillageLa Biosthétique, Tickets Tonight, The Fairmont Waterfront and SIGG.

Connally McDougall - Remote Places

" I do this also because I love the poetry and geometry of turning two dimensional fabric into three dimensional garments. I love finding the balance of the innovation and art with the physics of making clothes. Clothing is a way of communicating with all cultures--a universal language that every human speaks. That's why I find much of my inspiration exploring varied indigenous groups. We are all connected, each of us an important cog in the human machine. It's only when we respectfully coexist with one another that the world can function." - Connally McDougall, 2014

I am so excited to post this Q and A with the one and only uber-talented Connally McDougall. This Canadian-born, England-based young designer caught the eye of Niche Magazine editor Tracey Drake from a group of 11 applicants vying for the magazine's sponsorship at Vancouver Fashion Week F/W 14. After rocking the runway, she went on to capture the hearts of several us attending. As we sat and chatted with her between shows for the next few days, it quickly became apparent that - in addition to her appealing design work - she had a generous spirit led by ethical intentions. Fashion and Eco are united in her collection.

The day after McDougall's collection rocked the runway she entered the venue with a huge smile on her face and couldn't wait to share the good news with all of us. An email had just arrived with an invitation to show at the first ever Plitzs Fashion Week China in Beijing being held in June. She was the only Eco designer to be invited. What a coup! But there was a down side. She had only just started this journey as a designer. Anyone familiar with the industry knows those first few years are tough financially. Then there were the expenses she had just shouldered to come back to Canada to promote her line.  The answer, an Indiegogo campaign!

A few of the great perks offered on her new Indiegogo campaign

As of today - her new campaign to help make Beijing a reality has just gone one line with a great set of perks to reward those who chose to be a part of her journey.  I have already put my name on one of the beautiful scarves she created just for this fundraiser. And remember - the whole point of these campaigns is coming together as a community so that every $1 offered can have a huge impact as it joins with other contributions. You can be a part of this journey by clicking on this link to her Ethical Fashion Fund page.

Want to know more? Read on!

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Image by Ed Ng Photography
Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Vancouver, but raised as a missionary kid, so quite the nomad: Tokyo, Galiano, Toronto, Austria, Hungary, Victoria and now London (all in that order)

What were you like as a kid? As a teen?

I've always made good friends with my imagination and others that could play make-believe as well. My little sister was and is my best friend, though as we moved to countries where there was a language barrier, I spent most of my time on my own.

Can you remember something from when you were younger that hinted fashion design might be in your future?

I loved changing outfits five, six, twelve times a day. Even though we didn't have that many clothes, I made some interesting ensembles using household items.

Where did you choose to study fashion design and why?

Early on, I decided that Central Saint Martins was the right choice for me, based on its reputation in the industry, its alumni and the myriad of doors that an education from CSM opens. That, and the fact that it was in London, which immediately felt like home from day one.

In school, what was hard? What was easy? Is there a fond memory from your time in school?

It was hard to be up against seventeen year old kids who had already gotten some training or came from a family with the means to provide them with the best equipment and budget for projects. I was self-taught and worked full time every day since I was sixteen on top of going to school, and it was frustrating to struggle to achieve less recognition than the students who had mommy and daddy banking their education and funding their project budgets. I'm not saying that grades can be bought, but when you have access to superior materials, it's much easier to woo the instructors.

However, my age and life experience gave me a huge leg up in terms of the written, group and cultural studies elements. When I started at CSM, I already had launched my own creative label, sold my work in shops to individuals and had a solid vision for my brand. Many of the other students lacked that tenacity and assertive quality and simply needed time and maturity to grow into their capabilities. I made friends more easily with the tutors and instructors and found myself relating better to their life experiences than those of my younger peers.

One tutor, Chandrakala Doshi told me, after a particularly frustrating day "Connally, you see these people around you? They may have more money or resources, but anybody can buy a sweatshop factory. You, on the other hand, have the ideas, and nobody can take or buy those from you. One day you WILL be a great fashion designer."

You can see the original article at

Why did you choose to embrace Eco Fashions and how is it expressed in your brand?

As a designer, I believe in excellence on all levels. Innovative design, impeccable craftsmanship and responsible, sustainable production. You cannot call something truly excellent if the environment or workers suffer at the hand of success. I use all natural materials sourced from small mills in the UK. I personally go to the farms, the mills, and the production houses to see how the cloth is made and meet the individuals helping my collections come to life. When I do use leather, it is all vegetable tanned, farm hides. This means that the entire animal is being used to feed the community and rather than discarding the leather, it is processed in a combination of vitamin and plant oils to achieve its finished, tanned state, rather than soaked in chemicals and animal byproducts to hasten the process.

Describe your brand. Who is your customer?

I design for international, confident women between the ages of 25-125. I believe that maturity and experience are incredibly sensual and should be just as celebrated as youth and naïveté. For me, a woman is far more attractive when her intellect shows more than her skin. For the pieces I design for more intimate settings, it is about making the woman feel amazing in her own flesh, not just about seduction.

More great perks available from her Indiegogo campaign
Talk about your current collection - inspiration, palette, fabrics.

My current FW2014 collection - titled "Remote Places" - was inspired by a trip to Mongolia and the indigenous women. It is a culture where the women dress for both utility and ceremony, and the fabrics I chose to work with mirror the varied scope of terrain in the sparsely populated nation. Rugged knits, heavy wool and alpaca cocoon shapes paired with sleek, soft silks, and bobbled harness the spirit and vitality of the majestic country. The colour palette of cream, charcoal, black and a bold poppy red represent the connection between the landscapes and tribal structures which appear on the Mongolian horizons.

What it was like coming to Vancouver Fashion Week?

It was an utter whirlwind. I had just under five weeks to make the entire collection and didn't have the first fitting until the morning of the show. NICHE magazine generously sponsored my registration fees and were immensely helpful in the preparation and backstage elements of producing the show. As I am preparing to show my collection in Beijing this June at PLITZS New York Fashion Week CHINA and then Spring-Summer 2015 collection at Vancouver Fashion Week this upcoming October, I know I will greatly miss their support and hands-on help.

While you were in Vancouver you received the invitation to show at the very first ever ”PLITZS New York Fashion Week CHINA.” What was your reaction to receiving that email?

I was stunned. My initial reaction was to think, "This can't be real. It's so soon, how will I possibly afford this?" - which was quickly overrun with feelings of excitement, eager anticipation and gratitude to be chosen for this unique and amazing opportunity.

What unique can you bring to the runway in China? What are the challenges?

My collection is the only sustainable, ethically produced collection chosen to show during this fashion week. It is creating a lot of buzz as the new Chinese Fashion Industry is looking to improve its reputation on the global fashion scene and presents a perspective that has long been forgotten in Asia in favour of cheap, disposable clothing. The Asian market is growing more and more responsible and savvy and the younger generation's voice is being heard, and that is that they demand quality, and they deserve quality.

The challenges are obviously the language barrier (although I am learning some basic Mandarin!), navigation and most pressingly, the funding, the registration fee for the show is $4600+5%tax plus airfare. The fee does cover my accommodation, but in all, it will cost me approximately $6000 to be able to take this incredible opportunity.

As you look ahead, what are the goals for your brand.

My immediate goals are to continue to produce collections to show at Vancouver, London and other global fashion weeks and events. I also am looking for retailers to carry my line and investors to come on board to bring my brand to a wider audience. Right now I am a one-woman show, and I am looking for the investment and sponsorship funding to hire interns and employees on both the business and technical sides of the brand.

Anything I didn't ask that you wanted to talk about?

It's not always easy to do things with integrity. You have to love fashion with all of your heart, because it doesn't pay you first. But I'm a hard worker, a driven innovator and I truly believe in my vision. The world is ready and we deserve ethical fashion to be at the forefront of the global fashion stage.

Furthermore, Canadian retailers need to step alongside emerging designers both from an economical and creative point of view. As I read in an article you shared with me, Canadian radio stations are required to play a minimum of 20% Canadian content. If our retailers did the same with designers, not only would national revenues increase, but our reputation on the global fashion scene would make a huge impact.

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For more information or to contact Connally McDougall, please visit her website at You can also follow her on Twitter at @connallymcd and on
Facebook at And don't forget to take a moment to pop by her Ethical Fashion Fund and make a quick donation.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Elevate and Celebrate at Hycroft Manor!

Images by Norm Lee

Image by Norm Lee
To be honest, I had not originally intended to do a review of this event as I had already featured a pre-interview with organizer Kerry Gibson.  BUT...........the event really did have that hedonistic party feel that everyone in attendance embraced to the fullest.  It proved impossible to not share at least a few notes and some photos. We all know the early bird gets the worm - so as Norm Lee was the first to throw some pics up, currently those are showing.  But I will hopefully be adding more as other photographers post, so be sure and check back. Keeping the writing to a minimum this time.

Elevate and Celebrate is the first of 3 fundraisers planned to fund the renovation of Hycroft Manor so that it fully wheelchair accessible. This has been in the works for awhile, but grants are few and hard to come by, so Gibson who is in a wheelchair herself stepped in to make it happen.  You can read her personal story at Elevate and Celebrate Life. If you missed this event, you can still be a part by donating to this worthy cause and/or you can attend one of the next 2 events planned - a June 22 Imperial Indian themed gala and a September 28th Gatsby-styled afternoon dance party. Contact Gibson for information on donating or the upcoming events through her FB page HERE.

So let's explore via images what this great celebration in support of wheelchair accessibility held!

1.  Great music courtesy by The Carnival Band, opera singer extraordinaire Suzann Kingston 
 and Bad Bad Monkey (special compilation band assembled for the event, headed by Rees Haynes
Blake Havard.

Images by Norm Lee

2. Live painting demonstrations by Drew Ferneyhough of Andrew Ferneyhough - Bedowynn Designs, Hajni Yosifov, Yves Decary of Yves Rene decary painting and Natalia Krioutchkova with an auction at the end of the day.

 3. Wonderful food courtesy of Helen Siwak - Vit Vit Vegan, Cookies of CourseBalraj Sivia of Silk Dinner Lounge, Joel Ochsendorf of Oxtale and Susan Lewandoski of the Gramercy Grill. And drinks courtesy of Original 16 beer and wine served by Paul Jordan representing Rustico Winery in Oliver, BC. More images coming shortly!!!!

Left Images by Norm Lee - Centre Image by Randi Winter, Passionate Travel,
Right image by Ed Ng and 1 more to come!

4. A wonderful silent auction with so many donations, it's impossible to list them all and a shopping boutique in a side room.

Left image by Ed Ng - Right Image by Xelha Photography

5. Energetic dance performed by 2 beautiful women from Samba Fusion and a by-donation kissing booth manned by Brent Fraser and Casar Jacobson, Miss Canada 2013.

Image on left by Ed Ng, Image on right by Norm Lee

6. A wonderful fashion show featuring designers Magdalena Lima, Crow and Gate and Maryam Fashions.

                    Magdalena Lima Fashions - Images by Norm Lee

Major kudos go to Style by Dona for her incredible work both producing the show and styling the looks, and the amazing models who got into the party spirit and gave the audience a true party experience - Karen Kobel, Jihan Amer, Kristina Gorbatkova, Charlotte Doering, Chantal Benz, Brittnie Rae, Nina Tooley, Shannen Elizabeth, Carla Lagneau, Celia Saunier, Shanna Amaral, Stephanie Eely, Tereza Anne, Kelsey Vicars, Tanya LeHoux, Dr. Corina Mod, Celia Patrick and Corinne Kennedy.

        Crow and Gate Clothing by Tassie Vicars -Image by Norm Lee

Makeup and hair courtesy of Volume Studio, Shear Bliss and independents Monique Schwartz, Pearl Doyle, Rosanne Harder-Braniski, Francesca Cervellin, Nadika Nowak, Neet Aujla and Bailee King-Sakins.
Maryam Fashion by Maryam Asgari - Images by Norm Lee

Accessories seen on the runway include: unique eye frames from Sue Randhawa at The Optical Boutique; jewellery by Laurie Simpkins of Smitten Designs, Sayuri Sophie Hosoi of Sayuri Wellgroomed Designs and Luis Geraldo of Light of Luis; and vintage shoes courtesy of Kitsilano's Kitty's Closet.

The Optical Boutique Eyewear - Images by Norm Lee

Shoes from Kitsilano Kitty's Closet - Images by Ed Ng

7. And people partying!!!! Here are just a few candids. I hope to add a lot more to soon. 

Photo in this collage from Ed Ng Photography

Photos in this collage from Norm Lee.
Images by Norm Lee

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blanche Macdonald - Li Liu, Inspired by Buddhist Temples

Image by Peter Jensen
When the models wearing designer Li Liu's collection hit the runway, it was instantly obvious there was a hint of the Orient in their inspiration. But that did not define them. That inspiration was transformed into looks that were also very modern. From the choice of fabrics, to palette, to silhouettes, her creations offered a fresh, unique point of view that drew the audience in. Here and there you could see someone leaning slightly forward to check a detail out more closely or jotting a few notes. Graduation is when a new designer gets to really shine without limits and Liu did just that.

Liu was born and raised in rural China. Although money was scarce, dressing nice was still important.  "I liked to wear black and what I thought were the most fashionable sneakers I could afford."  Friends were always ready to step in and help the her shop.  Singing became another passion in high school and there were thoughts of a professional career at one time.  As performers were known for wearing the most fashionable clothes, it became another draw into the world of fashion.

Those dreams were set aside after high school.  Marriage, a very busy career investing in real estate and a growing family took centre stage.  Life was full. Then fate stepping in. "When I moved to Canada two years ago, I had the opportunity to study fashion. My husband was very supportive of
A picture of Liu from her high school years.
me, taking care of our two children - including a one year old baby - and encouraging me to study fashion." After spending a lot of time researching Vancouver area design programs, she chose to enroll in Blanche Macdonald's one-year intensive program.  "It had the strongest emphasis on fashion design and illustration and when I visiting, I felt it had the best environment and would be the greatest stage for a student to learn."

School was demanding and Liu worked hard every day, all day, while still trying to find a bit of time for her family.  There was one class in particular that challenged her to reach deep - fashion drawing.  The teacher actually noted her faces were some of the worst she had seen. It was just the motivation Liu needed. By the end of the course she had grown immensely and the instructor was pleased with her artwork. It was tough love, but she will always be grateful to that teacher for her support and for helping her become the best she could be.

Liu chose to create a grad collection for the wealthy, independent woman. They were looks that could be worn as high-end daywear and transition seamlessly into evening wear. Chinese Buddhist temples provided the inspiration. "The temples have an architectural symmetry and lots of colorful paint. Inside the temples are Buddha statues on top of lotus flower thrones, golden lanterns with jewels, flowers and fruit offerings, prayer wheels, endless knots, ceremonial drums and iron bells." The palette was a luxurious mix of yellow, gold, red, green, and black. Fabrics included silk leopard print, cashmere wool suiting, traditional Chinese embroidered brocades and paisley lace.

Image by Peter Jensen

This collection was the perfect showcase for what Liu feels she has to offer the fashion world. "I bring 5000 years of Chinese art and cultural history into my designs. I think there is a lot of historical content that can be adapted and blended into very forward-looking fashion that can attract a global clientele." While all three looks were strong, the designer did have a favourite - the asymmetrical peplum collarless fitted jacket, jeweled around the waist (image above left). Under the jacket is a lantern skirt with piping binding.

Image by Peter Jensen

Where will Liu's career take her next? One path would lead her to further education and advanced training. Another would be to open a boutique and sell her own designs. Only time will tell which road is chosen. Whatever her choice, the designer's focus on what is needed to be successful in this industry is unwaveringly clear and to the point.  "Fashion design involves creating new designs that people will want to wear. I can never forget that there has to be a market for my designs, or else they cannot be considered 'fashion.'"

To contact Li Liu email You can also follow her on Twitter at @rennaliu. For more information in the fashion design program at Blanche Macdonald go to

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sarah Nyamwenge and Lady Crane - Shining an International Light on Talented Artists!

Image by Elk Arne Clausen
My chance connection with Sarah Nyamwenge - founder of Lady CraneLady Crane International Fashion Show and Lady Crane Charity - was one of those amazing opportunities that could only happen in social media.  Not sure HOW we first got connected as friends, but I noticed she had a fashion event coming up and asked if there were media passes. Somehow the fact it was in Uganda, not Vancouver, totally escaped my radar.  It took a few emails to sort out.

In the end, this meeting was a meant-to-be.  Just a week ago she asked if I would like to come and be a part of the May 10th Lady Crane event.  If you know me, you know I love hearing people's journeys. What an amazing chance this was to meet individuals from a totally different environment - artists, models and more - who could share their unique journeys with me.  I would be there in the role of international media with the mission to shine a spotlight on the incredible talent found here.

There are glitches arising that may mean this journey might not become a reality, but things on my side are moving smoothly - a doctor visit for prescriptions, a travel clinic for shots only they could give and an emergency application for a visa - so I chose to think positively. What a better way to spend Mother's Day for me than embarking on a grand adventure?  Should things not work out I will be unbelievably sad, but regardless of the outcome it is my privilege to share a bit about the founder, Sarah Nyamwenge and her vision.

 Enjoy! Oh, and cross your fingers for me!

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Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Gulu district where my father was working as a train driver and my mother a housewife. I grew up in Kampala City with my parents, six sisters and two brothers. I am second born.

What were you like a child and as a teen? Were you always interested in Fashion?

I was a very reserved child, very shy, got bullied a lot by my little sister and classmates in school... Ha ha ha... However, I became a professional model in my early teens, so that set me apart miraculously since it gave me so many friends even though my shy aspect was not taken from me. I never thought of fashion at all. Yes I loved fashion like any other young girl growing up. But with my type of background of both religious and traditional parents, the only dream I had was to become a train driver.

Left - her first catwalk steps on the runway at the tender age of 15!
Middle - with 2 sons Nesta and Elijah and their Godmother Maria Namiiro
who was Miss Uganda/Miss Uganda UK 2009/2010 

I know you were a professional model for 15 years. How were you discovered? What was it like working all over the world.

I was discovered by East African Modelling and Talent Convention, an agency that trained, groomed me as a model and opened my life to the world's international runways. After a few years, I became the catwalk instructor of some top beauty pageants in Africa like Miss University Africa, Miss East Africa, Miss Uganda for 2 years and Miss Tourism Uganda.

My experience around the world was not a straight path at all...lots of hills and valleys that made me bow whenever I got uphill. But the beauty of the looks on my family and friends' faces plus their emotional expressions of joy, pain, surprise, excitement and so on when ever I return with brand new experiences, just make me love my progression more. If I give details of this, we would take a full day of reading.

Left and Right images by Giulio Molfese @photo4fashion, Centre Image by Elk Arne Clausen
Do you have any favourite stories from this time?

Yes, and my story is actually outside fashion. It was at 7 years old after kindergarten in the city when my parents took me to live with my grand parents as well as start my Primary School in a village in Tororo, a 6 hour drive from the city. My first day in school was a very exciting experience as I walked with my grand father to school where he left me. Switching from writing with a pencil in the book to using short sticks on the ground was totally interesting. 

At midday when the bell rang for children to go back home, I noticed the hardest part of the school uniform 'bear feet with no shoes for all pupils' as the biggest punishment. The sand on the road had been heat so hot by the sun, that I could hardly step with my little feet. Other children kept running home. But even the once green grass that had turned pale yellow on the sides of the path due too constant hot sun could not help cool my feet. A distance of 10 minutes walk, took me about 2 hours to get home. 

Images by Giulio Molfese @photo4fashion

The next day I decided to wear my shoes, though took them off again to feel comfortable with the village children whose parents could not afford shoes. After a few days, I got comfortable with the hot sand. This went on for a whole year, then I was taken back to the city for the rest of my education. Today, I use my fashion event as a charity to donate clothes, shoes and educate the children in villages.

Talk about founding the Lady Crane Fashion Collection.

I founded Lady Crane International Fashion Collection as a platform to promote talented and outstanding African designs to the world. I use some of my former beauty queens from different African countries in this cause.

Lady Crane 2014,  Left image - Sarah, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities
the Hon. Maria Mutagamba and Lady Crane stylist Edi Odette 
Right image - Miss Uganda 2012/2013 Fiona Bizu with Duke Water owner Maryam Shebe.

I am very excited to be coming to the Lady Crane Fashion Show on May 10th in Kampala and would love to hear your journey to founding this amazing international showcase of Ugandan talent. 

I noticed so many pending outstanding talents that sought international recognition in Uganda. so I decided to put all of them together with a good cause to benefit children, so that both the artists and children benefit annually. The first show was in March 2012 with three countries attending, the second show in 2013 had up to ten countries. The major challenge I face is that I am just Sarah Nyamwenge. So sponsors have been slow at responding because of that. But I love the growth rate of the event, especially by African people who are now starting to appreciate art.

Images by Giulio Molfese @photo4fashion

Can you share a favorite moment from a previous show?

My first show in 2012 had barely 100 guests, but 2013 guests more than doubled in number, a reason why the hotel manager's speech had the statement, ' Lady Crane, you made it again in a bigger and better way, we are proud of you'. That was very uplifting to me because I always focus on producing the best out of the stylists.

Who are some of the talented artists we'll see on the runway at Lady Crane 2014?

We will see Artists/designers like Stella Atal, Brenda Maraka, Martha Jabo, MIUBU, Vonda Africa, Korabhai - all from Uganda - and John Kaveke from Kenya, Ziza Creation from Gambia, Guy Maza and Krysbel from Burundi. There will also be poets like Kagimu Joshua from Uganda, and lots of traditional dance and music performances.

Images by Giulio Molfese @photo4fashion

In a nutshell - what would you like the world to know about the amazing talent in Uganda. What unique do they have to offer.

First of all, the setup of Uganda - traditionally and culturally - differs in many ways because of the regional structures (east,west,north,south and central) that are completely different in dressing, language, food and lifestyle. The Fashion designers each belong to totally different backgrounds which means they have a unique art creativity separate from one another. Some of the jointly used material in Uganda for garments, shoes, bags etc include the backcloth which is created by hitting the back of a special tree (the back cloth dress) until a big layer of material falls off. It will be showcased on the runway. After the show, the shoppers and collectors are always free to purchase whatever impressed them from the stalls.

Do you have a philosophy that guides you on this journey?

My philosophy in life is, ' Always pick an obstacle big enough that it matters when you overcome it. Nothing significant is ever accomplished by a fully realistic person, so all that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration by acting as if it were impossible to fail'.

To purchase tickets online go to - For more information, media inquiries or to make a donation to the Lady Crane Charity visit the website at

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As I have attended and run several events over the last 10 years, I know how important sponsors are. They are the lifeblood that no event could operate without.  Sponsors for the Lady Crane International Fashion Show include - Brussels Airlines, Duke WaterWBS, Speke ResortFairway Hotel and SpaDarling Uganda, D.Spot Salon, Club Rouge, In Motion Dance Studio, Target Digital Agency, and Photo 4 Fashion. Please support these great businesses!