Sunday, September 28, 2014

Prague - Vienna - Budapest: Day 1, Planning and Getting There!

Our traditional leaving on a jet plane
airport drink and snack.
 I don't think Glen and I have ever looked forward to a trip more. Our lives the last few months have been so busy and stressful, we had no time to think or unwind.  A manuscript to finish, our home of 26 years to pack and sort, a move to a new house and Vancouver Fashion Week all hit at the same time. We both lost weight and honestly, the day we were to leave, we worried we wouldn't be able to relax and enjoy our time away. Even our son who was supposed to drive us to the airport ended up with a dental appointment. Fortunately our daughter's boyfriend happened to be in town working and offered to fill in.

It's important to take your time planning any international trip. I started in January to travel late September. That means you don't rush a decision. Look at several different travel options if you like doing a self-directed tour. They vary widely. If you prefer a more structured holiday, talk with a travel agent you know and trust. Someone who is an experienced traveler that can give you sound recommendations. Make sure whoever you book with knows the area intimately - when are attractions opened and closed is particularly important.

Stock image

When Glen and I travel to new places, we aren't very good at following the crowd, being up by a certain time to get on a bus or waiting for others. We love walking all day at random, exploring off the beaten path and setting our own pace. The solution for us has always been to find a self-directed tour that suited our needs. Most are really flexible and you have the power and knowledge of an agency behind you to answer questions or deal with problems. Yet you still have the freedom to pick and choose what you do each day. The package of information provided usually has tickets or travel vouchers to get your tickets for travel within the country - boat ferry or train usually - which they will have prebooked as well as intricate instructions on how to get around. There is always the option to have a few activities pre-booked. 3 years ago when we went to Norway we used Authentic Scandinavia and it was excellent.

Image from Go Real Europe website
Our original plan for this holiday was Florence, but our youngest son loved Prague and we discovered that Prague-Vienna-Budapest was a common tour that gave us a chance to visit 3 countries without spending a ton of time travelling.  It was only by accident I lucked into the perfect tour company for this trip - Go Real Europe.

In surfing around the internet I saw many self-directed and semi-directed options for this tour, but nothing quite popped. Then I found Go Real Europe and was instantly impressed. Owner David Manley specializes in this part of the world and has an excellent knowledge of what is available. You could get a sample itinerary right away that gave you an idea of what there was to see and do. You put in the length of time, where you want to go and an idea of the focus - history, active, arts, etc. Bang - there was a suggested way to spend your time in each city.

When we decided to move forward, David sent us a few questions.  What do you want in a hotel - bathroom in room, elevator, wi-fi? Do you like old historic hotels? What kinds of activities do you like - museums and art galleries, active pursuits, history? Do you want to stay the same number of days in each city? From these answers, a custom suggested itinerary is created which can be fine-tuned.

Our Prague hotel - U Suteru
Lobby door on right, Green door
on left for access after 8 p.m.
I love the architecture and history of a place, so decided to ask for a guided tour on the first day in each city to orient us - he set up with a one on one guide so we didn't have to follow a crowd or have trouble hearing. Perfect.  Glen loves biking, so we had 2 wonderful bike rides set up - one in the Prague countryside and one in Vienna.  The rest of the itinerary offered us suggestions of where we could go each day and what there was to see.

A driver was scheduled to pick us up at the airport on arrival - a true gift when arriving in a new country - and if something arose that the driver didn't make it, exact instructions on how to get money and what a cab should cost. WOW! Fortunately our driver did show up. He was a ex-pat American living in Prague and was full of suggestions for what to do and see. I asked his favourite Prague meals and he offered a few suggestions.

When you use self-directed tours, you book your own air travel separately - so that was next on the list. The flight I found was purchased through Air Canada, but was actually run by Lufthansa.  It left late afternoon from Vancouver for a 10 hour leg, made a short stop and quick change of planes in Munich and then a 40 minute hop to Prague where we arrived at our hotel by 4 p.m. The beauty of this schedule was that we didn't have to rush to the airport in Vancouver and had time once we arrived in Prague to have a walk, a chance to unwind, to settle into the hotel and a bite to eat before we headed to bed.

Stock image of what our airline meals were like
I can't say enough about how great it was flying on Lufthansa.10 hours to Munich is a long time. However, the seats we had in economy had the most leg room I had even seen (Note - the return flight did not have this same leg room). Even in economy, our seat had a blanket, a pillow and a set of headphones waiting. They had a large staff taking care of us.

We were offered a pre-dinner drink with 4 attendants and 2 carts working each aisle (Note - coming back, the perks were the same but less attendants working the cabin). Dinner was served quickly in the same fashion with additional wine offered to those who wanted it.  After dinner we were offered cognac,  Baileys or coffee. The movie selection on the individual back of seat televisions was large and we were given breakfast and coffee the next morning right before landing. All this was included in the ticket price. When booking my next international flight, I'm checking what this airlines has to offer first. A good travel agent should also be able to help you select an airlines that offers great service.

Loved this big old hotel room in the Hotel U Šuterů. The building itself dates back to the
1400's the reason for the arched ceiling. It was a construction technique to support the roof. We saw this
detail in many older buildings in Prague. The bathroom, however, was very modern.

Turns out David from Go Real Europe actually lives in Prague - no wonder he is so knowledgeable about the area. His detailed itinerary is literally 120 pages long because he tells you exact details for navigating the city, riding transit or dealing with anything that might arise. In addition, we had a package waiting on arrival at the hotel - the U Suteru - with tickets for the local transit as well as a lovely sweet treat to munch on and he's popping by our hotel Monday night to say hi. Service doesn't get any better than that in my opinion.

Because we were at the Hotel U Suteru by 4, there was time for a short nap.  Then we headed out for a walk. Only a few blocks away was a large thoroughfare with one entire section pedestrian only - Václavské náměst. It was bustling with people, shops, lights kiosks and live performers. All the building signs were lit up. It was a great welcome.  We bought a bag of freshly made potato chips and wandered through the festivities munching away.

Left Goulash - Right Svíčková

Then it was back to the restaurant attached to our hotel for our first Czech beer and to try the 2 specialties recommended by our driver. Glen ordered Czech-style Goulash (very different that what I had before) and I ordered Svíčková which is beef sirloin, cream and cranberries (our driver called it Thanksgiving in a blender). Both came with "dumplings" but they not the same as what we think of in North America. They were round slices of a soft doughy bread - very interesting. Both were delicious.

So ends the planning and day one of our trip to Europe.  So far it's amazing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 15 - Lubov Tumanova

All images courtesy of Peter Jensen

When I saw the collection by Lubov Tumanova on on Day 4, I knew immediately that this show would need to be in a write-up on it's own. I am not often surprised, but this collection did just that. From the palette created in hues from brown to rust, to the beautiful styling and incredible accessories, there was just a mood to this show that drew the audience in and held them from first look to final bow.

I wanted to share this opening look separately as everything about it is just right. The willowy model, the fluid flow of the skirt as she walked, the long beautiful copper dress that perfectly matched her hair colour, the softly feminine hair and make-up choices and then as a finishing touch - those amazing eye frames twisted whimsically out of copper wire - again in the same shade as the rest of the look. It was show-stopping for me and I still get goosebumps when I look at these images.

Tumanova is couture designer who is has the soul of an artist.  I love this quote from her website, “For me fashion is an art of transformation of ideas and images. I create clothes for the people, who love the attention and a state of shock. For the person, who is sure in their originality and uniqueness, I like to work with color, contrast, texture, to combine incompatible, to break stereotypes. To cut a long story short, I try to serve my fashion dishes tasty”

While the collection did showcase 3 menswear looks, it was the women's garments that stood out for me. Luxurious fabrics from shiny to matte, intricate detailing and those great styling notes created from copper wire and copper leaves all came together seamlessly on the runway. Here is an excerpt from the designer's VFW bio that gives a bit of information about this line - "The collection presented in this show is a blend of gentle evening dresses and original jewelry made ​​of copper, a unique metal that has useful and healing properties. The clothing, tiaras, necklaces and other decorations all enjoy matching detail that make the entire outfit come together with a special unique harmony."

Tumanova has shown on the runway at Belarus Fashion Week, MSK Fashion Week, PLITZS New York City Fashion Week, JM Spring Fashion Week Singapore and been invited to show in Colorado, Singapore and Dubai.  She has created garments for stage clothes for bands and dressed celebrities from many different countries.  What a pleasure that she came to Vancouver to give us a chance to experience her work.

I think the best way to close is by offering this quote from Vogue Magazine -  “This haute couture designer creates clothing for men and women who strive to look individual and unusual but stylish simultaneously. Among its peculiarities there is individual approach as they search new ideas. This unique brand sources exclusive materials such as real stones, lace, embroidery, metal, copper and textile decoration. Brand special show stopping designs are making waves with arties in the creative media industry.”

For more information on Lubov Tumanova, you can visit her website at 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 15 - Day 6 Shows: Valerio Moda, Jessie Liu, Connally McDougall and Hong Kiyoung

Image by Dale Rollings
The final day of shows for Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) S/S 15.  It's always a bitter sweet time. There were 6 days of shows this season, up from 5 days which we have had in the past. So it was a long week of sitting and absorbing all the wonderful fashions for those of us that attended all shows. At the same time, it was truly inspiring to see both Vancouver and global designers together and on the runway and the range of aesthetics was very diverse.

This is the start of the fashion season, so a chance to connect with industry friends unseen since the beginning of summer.  Many new friends and connections developed on the runway and in the lounge during the longer breaks.  And tons of pictures were taken.  One of my favourite moments that night was having my new friend Symone Says - one of Vancouver's top drag queens - come in full regalia. She outshone most of the crowd.  Then there was the meeting of the Fabulous Four - Robbin Whachell of the Bahamas Weekly, myself, Edward Quan of Styledrama and Mark Abbott from the Province. We started as fashion week friends a few seasons ago, and now add a lunch catch-up here and there. Best runway moment is when Titus' son strutted the runway for Valerio Moda. My new small camera performed so-so. The auto focus mechanism is overly sensitive and missed the mark on several great shots. Oh well, I will learn.

Left, image by Dale Rollings - Right, image Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

For my final outfit, I chose to work it around a very special necklace I own by fashion designer Laura Siegel.  I was fortunate to view her amazing grad collection she brought from New York to Vancouver several years ago and wrote her up for Raine Magazine. Since then her star has soared.  I happened to see this piece in the Holt Renfrew's in-store shop that features special items with money going to charity.  The large necklace is made up of  dark brown wooden beads with a cream fleck, so added a rust print shirt, a black textured knit skirt from JAC, black stockings, cool rust cut-out heels and a pair of porcupine quill drop earrings.  Very proud that I am learning how to put looks together. This one worked.

Valerio Moda

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

It is always such a pleasure to see a show by Ali Mokhtarian of Valerio Moda - in fact he was featured in Fame'd Magazine back in the day.  Here is an excerpt from his VFW bio - "Ali Mokhtarian’s journey began in his home country of Iran, a culture that did not exactly encourage artistic freedoms and ambitions. Ali’s passion for design, however, was strong enough to defy artistic restrictions, and a budding fashion designer quickly emerged. As a child Ali, sketched clothing designs, eventually leading to the quest to create the perfect leather jacket. He was primarily self-taught, letting his natural talent flow until he came under the tutelage of a master tailor where he further refined his skills. Ali continued to hone his craft with a leather design course at MODA PELLE in Milan as well as seminars at schools in both Milan and Paris. “My love for design eventually envolved into outerwear, initially leather only. I then began experimenting with other fabrics and incorporating them into a full apparel collection,”

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery
Ali is most know for his exquisite leather wear.  I still remember a leather bomber jacket in red he created one season that replicated the letterman sports jacket you would see on a university athlete. Each season the focus changes a bit and increasing you see the addition of complimentary shirts, pants and sometimes suit jackets that give a wider range to the collection.  This season was no exception. You can see the wide range of looks in the group photo above. I particular liked the textured leather jacket with the braided leather colour.  The pops of red scattered throughout also offered variety. A great opening show and a real treat for the audience. Check out past coverage of S/S 14.

Jessie Liu

Images by Dale Rollings

This is award winning designer Jessie Liu's first trip to VFW and she won my respect in a bit way. Here is an excerpt from her VFW bio - "Jessie Liu is currently the proprietor and Chief Designer for Simple Pair Fashion Design, Inc, based in San Francisco, California, USA. She has recently completed her degree in Master of Fine Art from the Academy of Art University (AAU), San Francisco...Jessie was originally from a small coastal town of Penglai, Shandong Province, China. In the fall of 2011, among many contending designers competing for the opportunity, Jessie’s evening gown has been jury-selected to be shown at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. Also in early 2012, her design has won the Vitamin Water Inspired Fashion Design Contest with a cash prize. Most recently, her graduation collection was once again jury-selected to be shown at the 2012 Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. She subsequently received best young designer’s award from Arts Thread/WGSN and was sponsored to present her collection in the Who’s Next show in Pairs, France.

Images by Dale Rollings

I had the great fortune of meeting Jessie back stage before her show.  The collection truly popped off the hangers at me.  Then she introduced me to her mentor, a Japanese master pattern drafter. He had come to support her show.  When this collection hit the runway, I tried to let go of the wonderful palette and beautiful prints and really see the garments on their own. It was well worth the effort. I used to sew custom costumes for 5 years and have great appreciation for couture construction. It was all here.  Extra seams on the shoulders, back darts that turned at the top to meet side seams, a horseshoe shaped insert under the arms that had to be incredible to draft and sew and raglan sleeves that turned into neck hugging collars.  Jessie Liu - I loved your collection before I noticed the details and then was floored as I realized the work put into many of the garments. Great show. I will be following your career. Keep me in the loop.

Connally McDougall

Images by Peter Jensen

If you didn't notice, Connally McDougall already has a great fan base here.  She was here last season sponsored by Niche Magazine and captured everyone's heart with her beautiful spirit and great designs. So it's no surprised that the audience loud in their applause for her new collection.  Here is an excerpt from her VFW - "Connally McDougall is a highly acclaimed Canadian fashion designer, mastering her discipline at Central Saint Martins and now living in London, England. Her work is rich in textural details, architectural silhouettes and is fundamentally designed with confident, international women in mind. Her line encompasses ready to wear and couture as well as accessories and intimate apparel. The materials used in her collections are sustainable and responsibly made in the UK and pieces are made by hand in her London studio...After honing her skills with private clients and collectors, her first collection was featured in Vancouver Fashion Week to an international audience with great success...Her work will be featured in an upcoming film by award-winning director Gulrukh Kahn and has been worn on red-carpet events across North America and Europe.

Images by Peter Jensen
I somehow missed hearing the inspiration for this season, but the picture of a desert provided the backing and the palette was full of warm colour and a vivid yellow. So it seems pretty clear. Love the mix of textures and soft to drapes to the black/white zig zag print.  Skirts were cut straight across the grain on the bottom which meant they were slightly longer at the side seams instead to follow the texture or pattern. This technique worked best on the plaid skirt. My absolute favourite look is in the centre of the top image - a loose blouse in the black/white print paired with a pair of capris and a vivid yellow handbag. I would wear this look in a minute. The other piece I really liked was a razor backed evening dress studded with bits of shine. The way the razor back was designed, it created an interesting set of pleats that ran down the back to the hem. Beautiful. Congrats on another great showing at VFW.

Hong Kiyoung

Images by Peter Jensen

This is South Korean designer Hong Kiyoung's second showing at VFW and I was as impressed this season as the last.  Want to check out his previous write-up - click HERE.  I love the fact he does both mens and womens wear and that his garments are immaculate.  Here is an excerpt from his VFW bio - " Hong Kiyoung is a young fashion designer from Seoul, South Korea. He found his principle on ‘Minimalistic Exaggeration with street’, and is trying to disseminate it to other designers. Strongly inspired by contemporary arts that portrayed by new artists who are trying to change. He presents ‘Most elegant High-Street wear with tailored suit’ with his own wit. He successfully presented his first collection of men’s wear on May 2012, and now he is preparing for the next collection, doing his best. The new definition of men’s beauty is rising up, however, many of fashion figures are settling for the present."

Images by Peter Jensen

It's always a pleasure to see well made garments.  Then when the styling is bang on and the designer has created shoes to compliment the collection - you have a stand-out show that's a pleasure to watch. The first section showcased garments in black.  Here you could see the great tailoring without being distracted by colours and patterns. BUT - I loved it when the vivid prints started to hit the runway.  I remember a woman behind me saying it was too young for her and my response was - not really. You just take your favourite print jacket from the collection, pair it with a cool pair of pants, a nice top, some great jewellery and a pair of killer, statement making heels. VOILA!  I have my eye on one piece as we speak.  So glad Hong Kiyoung returned this season and crossing my fingers he will be back next season.

Images by Peter Jensen

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 15 - Evan Clayton

All Images by Peter Jensen

I have been following designer Evan Clayton for a few years now and always enjoy the way he challenges my views on fashion.  A graduate of Vancouver's Blanche Macdonald, he is never afraid to push the boundaries and has been oh so patient with me when I don't understand something - such a the fine points of vinyl construction. That's a sign of true confidence in your work. If you can take someone not getting it and open their eyes - wow!  And he has found that confidence and maturity at a much younger age than most. It is no surprise that he was chosen to travel to Vienna recently, but that is another story.

Clayton may challenge mainstream ideas at times, but the foundations are strong.  Great workmanship, an excellent eye for proportions and able to walk that fine line between wearable and outrageous - sometimes choosing to come down emphatically on one side or the other.  I still remember his dresses created from straps in a previous season and still another set fashioned from clear vinyl. For fashion to continue to move forward, we need these ideas to keep the industry from becoming repetitive and stale. Sometimes only an element or two works its way into ready-to-wear, but those elements are what brings something new for us to enjoy.

As time is so limited, I decided to go with a Q and A this season. Here is your chance to learn a little more about this rising talent and his current collection.

Tell us something about the journey that led you to fashion design.

I've always loved fashion, but it wasn't until later in life that the calling came to me for design. I was very undecided in my teens and I almost didn't go to school for fashion. If I didn't get into Blanche than I would have gone for marine biology. Luckily for me, I did get accepted and I began my travels down the road of design.

I know you trained at Blanche Macdonald. Talk about the highs and lows of studying. What did you find easy? What came a bit harder for your?

I loved every moment that I got to spend at Blanche. I came to the school with a definitive art background and little to no sewing experience. I found the technical aspects really challenging at first, but one day it all clicked together and I managed to finish the program. I really thrived in Peggy Morrison's classes, things like Fashion Awareness and Fashion History really excite me.

Every collection has such a different focus. What was the concept behind this collection?

I very much feel that even 4 season's in, I'm still introducing myself to the world of fashion. I see every collection as an opportunity to explore a different facet of my aesthetic while remaining true to my brand image. I've gotten a lot of feedback wanting for more wearable pieces, and I really wanted to deliver that while still showing the theater that I guess I'm known for.

Give us a brief overview of this collection - title if any, inspiration, palette, fabrics, detail work (I think there was hand painting), etc.

This collection was called DEATHPROOF and it was inspired by the Quentin Tarantino film of the same name. Death Proof was the first movie of his that I'd every seen, and I remember after it was finished wanting to go out and get into a bar fight. I'm not too sure how well the 13 year old version of myself would have managed in a bar fight, but regardless that movie had me pumped with adrenalin. I really wanted the audience to feel the same way I did, so the clothing was fast, sleek and hard. I kept, for the most part, to natural fibers. There was a really heavy presence of cotton in collection for breathability and comfort. There were some leather accents, touches of taffeta, splashes of silk and a heavy swath of neoprene. The neoprene pieces were hand painted by Kat Thorsen, and the portraits done on them were of the three immensely talented drag queens that were in the backdrop video (Jane Smoker, Jem and Valynne Vile). As well I had chain accessories (scarves and belts) with fox tails attached at the ends. The colour palette was bright and intense, with primary colours being smeared across a canvas of black and white.

Tell us a little more about the great hand-painted looks.

The painted pieces were in collaboration with Kat Thorsen, and I got the idea from watching the scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1 titled "The Origin of O - Ren" (link to video below). I wanted the pieces to have a bit of a more rough aesthetic to go along with the scene that inspired them. One of the things I love most about Kat's work is her appreciation and devotion to the artistic process as a journey, rather than a sum of all parts. All the different layers in the paintings are available to view, from the sketch work on the actual garments to the final painted product. They are portraits of the three drag queens I worked with this season. Jem is on the dress, Jane Smoker on the bodysuit and Valynne Vile is on the two piece bikini. They create this sort of wonderful gender variance, a celebration of the feminine and masculine. How can we embody both? How does the person that wears these pieces channel all parts into one being? How is it that they are choosing to express themselves? These are all questions that I asked myself while working with Kat and creating these pieces. There's no right or wrong answer, and I fell that the pieces reflect that.

I loved the unique video that ran behind the runway show. Can you give us a bit of the concept and why you wanted it there?

Teniel Messado (who has done all of my backdrop videos) collaborated with me again for this one. We wanted the video to have a grindhouse cinema quality, with the girls in the video looking like the stepped out of a spaghetti western and into 70's slasher flick. I find a lot of solace and a lot of inspiration in the art of drag, and the three queens I was blessed enough to work with are some of the greatest performers I've ever seen. I wanted each to remain true to their own aesthetic, but filtered through what Teniel and I envisioned for the video. The fast cuts married with the aggressive behavior almost created a static effect, where the clothes become even more focal.

What's next? Where are you going and what are your dreams?

I already know exactly what I want to do next season! I find that inspiration comes to me very easily, so I have a sort of backlog of shows that I want to do. It always changes a bit with my current mood or where the world is, but the spirit of what I want is more important than any corporeal thing. I want to continue creating art and provoking a thought process and a social dialogue, which I think I achieved at the show last night.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 15 - Day 5 Shows: Grandi's Atelier, Aaizel, Some Product, Ocksa, Joffrey Mongin

Day 5 was a special day for me.  I was honoured and privileged to wear a beautiful olive green jacket created by Japanese designer Akira Kuwabara who showed on Tuesday.  It is unique, stunning, created with intricate draping and pleats and accented with large buttons.  I spent 36 hours after his show tracking him down. Then there was that moment of anxiety wondering if a jacket created to be worn by a model would actually fit me.  I think there was a universal sigh of AAH as I slipped it on to find a perfect fit. A meant to be.

With the move to a larger venue with more seating, there has been open spaces on previous nights, but that quickly vanished last night as the crowd expanded to a new high.  There was a palpable excitement in the air and a constant murmur from the crowd during the show. A bit distracting at first, but there for a good reason - show after show was exciting and each different from the last. Nights like these that offer a wide variety of aesthetics are when I feel truly privileged to be able to come and be a part of Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW). We saw designers both local and from around the world. Hard to believe, but we have another full night of shows scheduled this evening.

Left and Right image by Harry Leonard Imagery - centre image on my camera!

How to pick shows................this was the hardest day yet.  And then photographer Ed Ng came over and asked if I was covering a specific show.  It was up in the air at that time, but I promised no matter, I would publish the images if he sent them.  I also made the decision to write a separate article on Lubov Tumanov, so be sure and check back.  Here are write-ups on Grandi's Atelier, Aaizel, Ocksa and Joffrey Mongin - plus the extra set of images promised on Some Product.

Grandi's Atelier

Images by Ed Ng Photography

 I met designer Randy C. later in the evening and loved hearing she is a Vancouverite. I was also impressed to learn she is totally self taught, an amazing accomplishment. Here is an excerpt from her VFW bio - "A celebrated humanist once put the ratio of passion-to-reason bestowed in man at 24-to-1. After graduating from business school, Grandy found this to be approximately the ratio of time she spent designing and making dresses, versus that spent searching for what her mother referred to as gainful employment...A keen history enthusiast, she often draws design inspirations from sentiments of bygone eras.In 2013, Grandy started making one dress a week, from scratch, and blogged about it at From there, her style and philosophy as a designer emerged, with special emphasis the beauty of timeless elegance, the bespoke tradition, and quality craftsmanship. All garments are locally hand-made, and tailored to the specific measurements and body type of each client.

Images by Ed Ng Photography
 So many adjectives come to mind in describing this collection - lovely, feminine, classic.  All were dresses with a classic, 50's style. Think Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O.  There were fitted bodices with flared skirts, retro inspired suits and a few gowns. Styling (including a few pillbox hats), hair and make-up all added to the allure.  This is the second show for Grandi's Atelier at VFW and I can only hope she returns next season.


Image by Ed Ng Photography
Next on the list was this great Spanish flavoured collection by Minnie Jo of Aaizel.  There was a relaxed, luxurious feel to this show that drew me in.  From her VFW bio - "….'it begins with an existing piece and I will add a feature to it or even take it apart to create a new look or at least something different… they can turn out to be beautiful if you put enough of love and thought into it'...[The designer's] major concepts behind the label is the process of re-working the established and applying her art of juxtaposing fabrics of contrasting nature in harmony and using elements from existing pieces and making it new and desirable...Minnie has always had a love for handwork technicalities and never fails to deliver extraordinary, re-imagined concepts that bring life to a dying skill of handcraft.

Image by Ed Ng Photography
The palette here used gold and black in particular to great effect.  There was one circular shoulder wrap in particular in the colour combo that would set off any LBD to great effect.  The flat, broad brimmed hats were a great styling choice to bring out the true flavour of the looks and the music well-chosen to set the mood.  Models ambled slowly and easily down the runway.  Small bursts of white included a great lace filled out the colour scheme. There were several looks here I would love to own including one amazing pair of black/gold leggings. Kudos on a great show and again. Definitely a designer to watch.


Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

I sat up and took notice as soon as the first look hit the runway and Brazilian designers Deisi Witz and Igor Bastos as this is a big departure from the clothing they showed on the VFW website.  Lots of draping, lose knit, dark colours...interesting.  I was really intrigued but the 3D collar/shoulder sculpture used to accessorize the look on the top righ above. This is their 3rd showing at VFW - so I am definitely going to find some time to go back and check out their previous collections.

Here is an excerpt from their VFW bio - "Deisi Witz and Igor Bastos were quick to recognize themselves as equals in terms of talent. However, with distinct complementary skills, starting from an odd complicity and an aesthetic sense in common, seeking in fashion was like a utopia to them. Originally from the Swedish language, Också translates as being driven to contribute. Leaving old customs aside to deliver smart and forward-looking garments, Också creates a parallel that separates from monotony."

Joffrey Mongin

Images by Peter Jensen
It was lovely ending the evening with a award winning designer from Paris - the uber talented Joffrey Mongin.  The exposure to such an incredible fashion capital always shows in a designer's work. They are pushed to be the very best they can be on a daily basis as they are immersed in an amazing fashion industry.  Here is an excerpt from VFW bio - "Having always been influenced by women, supermodels, pin point cutting, complexity of details and fabrics; these take pride of place in his work. His creations are a way of communicating “each fabric, each color has a way of talking,
sharing a true emotion through different senses” Fascinated by the mysterious depth of black 
and architecture, he draws a structured appearance,
 combining strictness and fluidity, shadows and light, power as well as seduction. He draws with a single pencil line a magnetic woman, showing the strength of timeless elegance...he continues to create his ready-to-wear collections illustrating more than ever the timeless elegance of the female shape as an explosion of modernity.

Images by Peter Jensen

I have to admit, I'm not a frilly girl when it comes to personal style, so this line was right up my alley. So many great things to offer.  Strong silhouettes, great fabrics, a black/white palette that had one surprising bright red moment.  However, my all time favourite was the way the designer created some of the looks by piecing a variety of different fabrics together like a quilter would. The pants and shorts in particular were to die for and I would absolutely love to own several of those I saw last night. Then there was the Black/white long coat over a classic LBD that could find a place in anyone's closet.  Great show and a perfect end to an exciting day.  Joffrey - from me to you - I hope you return next season.

Some Product

Here at photographer Ed Ng's request is the show he found inspiring on day 5. Kudos to Vancouver designers D. Briker and Catherine Hou for capturing his attention and imagination.

Images by Ed Ng Photography

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 15 - Day 4 Shows: Plus Que Ma Vie, Renata Buzzo, Clara Martin and Laura Laval

Randi Winter & I wearing our K-O.ME wear.
Designer Kjaer Neletia Pedersen is in the middle.
We are now into day 4 of shows at Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW).  For those of us trying to be in our seats for every show on every day, we're starting to wear thin. I can only assume the myriad of volunteers are feeling the same way.

So this was the day I chose to dub my seasonal "Volunteer Appreciation Day."  What that means is I show up with treats for all those wonderful people who make the event special and treat me so well, but don't get to walk the runway and be seen in the media.

This group includes the entire hair/make-up team, those working the front door, the people awaiting you on entrance at the check in tables, those seating us on the runway, dressers, a group of lovely ladies working in the media room and more. There is a whole team behind the scenes that for the most part don't get a lot of kudos. This was my day to officially thank them. As they didn't eat all the treats I brought, I shared the rest with the photographers who help me with images and others sitting through all the shows that are slowly tiring. The sugar rush gave them all a pop of energy.

Okay - not from Day 4, but too good not to share. When
a new one goes up from Day 4, I will be adding a new one
showing today's outfit.
Image by Ed Ng Photography
My outfit today in the image with Shravan includes a beautiful caftan by K-O.ME designer Kjaer Neletia Pedersen. The sheer black top is by RozeMerie Cuevas of JAC. Grey metal frames from Sue Randhawa at The Optical Boutique.  Necklace and earrings by Carolyn Bruce. The lovely bracelet I am wearing was a gift from Shravan.

Love this image by Ed Ng with designer Shravan.
It took some real time to decide today who to cover as there were quite a few really interesting shows.  Four can be a limiting number, but it's truly all I can write and get a post up by noon the next day - so enjoy and be sure and check out the other amazing shows.

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

I love seeing menswear on the runway and add in that it was made in Italy - well just a great combination and wonderful way to open the days shows. Milanese designer Andrea Lazzari has titled this collection, "Aquarium".  My excerpt here is compiled from 2 different sources - the VFW bio and an online bio at Not Just a Label - "His Idea of Fashion tries to propose a seasonal product that seeks to identify the symptom of progress and the trend of Man Co-Adviser in the future, without giving up a classical ideal. In him there is a combination of world-formal and informal, between classical and experimental...Summed up in a ' unique essence of the characters Minimalism , Concept Design and Cleaning , shaping a new stereotype of Man between formal and informal , between Experimental and Classic . 'Elegance has no limits.'"

The opening look in blue and white really caught my eye in particular and that set the tone for the whole show.  This collection showcased clean, beautifully tailored menswear with a very modern feel.  It was subtly elegant, a note not always easy to hit, but one that gives the collection a much wider range in terms of wear. I was very drawn to the beautiful blue shade used with white in the prints in particular.  Around me were others drawn to the dark jackets. A great opening show to a start of the evening and one that was a definite hit with the audience. 

Images by Peter Jensen
I love variety on the runway, especially as I up to 10 shows a day this week and vegan designer Renata Buzzo from Sao Paulo definitely made me sit up and take notice. Here is a little information from her VFW bio - "Renata Buzzo is a fashion graduate of Facultade Santa Marcelina. She is a devout vegan, passionate about animals, books and vintage film. She likes to immerse herself in the world of thrift and consignment, where she completely looses track of time. As an unconditional fan of history and the antique, she prefers custom-made as a way to produce garments; her favorite fashion technique is moulage draping. In the pursuit of her dream career, she combined all her passions together to create a unique concept for her brand. And it worked!"

The collection was all white which meant the audience was given the opportunity to fully embrace the garments in a different way.  It was about experiencing the unique silhouettes, different ways of using volume and drape, textural elements created in many different ways - gathering, ruffles, shredding, applique -  and subtle sparkle added oh so discreetly. The collection over all exuded a soft, ethereal and feminine addition to the evenings show that charmed the women in particular. My favourite? The closeup above, second from the right. Love the way volume, texture and sheer played out and I think this dress was on just the right model as well. Just all came together for me.

Images by Peter Jensen

We were lucky to have 2 menswear designer this evening that each brought a different aesthetic. The second was Clara Martin from the Britain who offered us bright, fun garments that brought a smile to everyone's face. Excerpt from the designers VFW bio - "Inspired by the growing accessibility of the Internet, and the crutch that it is playing in everybody’s life, the contrast to a childhood in the 90’s was the starting point for this collection. References then turned to memories of Sesame Street and Americana freedom that shaped Clara’s own personal childhood. The “Cookie Monster” became this season’s mascot, which represents the fusion of genuine innocence meets the harmful potential of the Internet. E‐wrapping knitting techniques were used with the use of red and blue hair, to create dramatic and playful silhouettes. Asymmetric shapes were created to symbolise the fusion between the two references and to display a modern fuzzy monster...To download this press release and lookbook images:

I really embraced the sheer fun of this collection.  Some pieces were definitely more wearable than others, but the white, vivid orange and royal blue palette combined with 3D elements and surprising textural shag leg on a few of the shorts were just exuberant.  The styling, the makeup (some eyebrows were highlighted orange), the hair and the striped sandals all pulled this show together seamlessly.  Kudos to designer Clara Martin. Everyone sat up. Everyone had a smile on their face. You caught our attention and we are hoping to see you return next season!

Image by Ed Ng Photography
Ending the evening with beautiful womenswear by a designer from Paris - what would be better? Only 20 years old, designer Laura Naval is well on her way to making a name in the industry. From her VFW bio - "Born in Paris, France, Laura Laval grew up in an artistic household, and was encouraged to pursue her talent by her parents, both artists. She soon realized that she was fascinated by the process of manual work, especially work related to crafting fashion. After finishing high school, Laura attended a fashion school to become well versed in haute-couture and fashion design. Once graduated, Laura moved to Paris to start her own label and begin creating her own collections. She went on to receive the “Young Parisian Designers” award, was published in Vogue Italy and featured on Fashion TV."

Anchored by black and white, the collection offered a range of solids, lace and sheers created in a range of dresses and separates.  The 2 looks on the left above have bodices created from woven fabric.  The mix of solids with sheers and the designer's use of applique took garments from simple to striking. In the end, I think my favourite looks were the sheer tops with pants on the left above. The back with the solid pant top and sheer legs is exquisite. I could see that worn at a high end evening. The solid woven white pants with white sheer top is still elegant, but the solid pant fabric gives the overall look a little more range in terms of the events it could be worn at.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 15 - Day 3 Shows: Marita, Lozena, Shravan and Green Embassy

The fabulous 4 together again -
Mark Abbott (Province), Robbin Whachell
(The Bahamas Weekly), Edward Quan
(Styledrama) and myself.
Day 3 of Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) runway shows something magical happened for me.  The shift to the new venue after so many seasons at the Chinese Cultural Centre was a great one, but the space felt strange for the first few days.  It was like being in a new town and the dynamics of the event felt different. Then last night something shifted and the new venue suddenly felt familiar. That spirit of community and warmth settled in that VFW has become known for. There was even cheering during the last 2 shows.  The venue finally felt like home.

After a more demur day yesterday in terms of my personal dress, I was privileged today to sport a long silk and alpaca felted vest created by designer Zuhal Kuvan-Mills of Green Embassy.  The interesting surface pattern was created with eucalyptus leaves.  To add a bit of drama, I wore my new gold flecked sunglasses from Sue Randhawa at The Optical Boutique.  These are prescription and not overly dark, so I could wear them all night with ease. Can't wait to sport them in Europe at the end of the month.

I know I mentioned them yesterday, but just so getting a kick out of Miranda Sam and Aurora Chan of Style by Fire.  Last night they were wearing outfits by Alex S. Yu who showed the previous night. Both looked very out-of-the-box, but it was Aurora's blue wig that put it totally over the top.  Well done ladies. :)

Now to my choices for the day. There were an interesting array of designers covering a wide range of styles, so that always makes it hard to select - but select I did. Be sure and check out more write-ups to get a view of the other great fashions on the runway.


Images by Ed Ng Photography

Designer Marita Mamuchashvili opened the evening with a show that made us all sit up from the first look.  Comprised of knitwear and simple silhouettes that were a canvas for print - the feel was almost two shows.  Here is her bio from the VFW site - "Marita is based in Tbilisi, Georgia. She studied at Academy Of Arts and graduated in 2013...Born 1988 EDUCATION: Bachelor of Design/Tbilisi State Academy of Arts Magister of Designer/Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. her collections are prodused in Georgia. Name of the collection is “Cryptogram”.She participated in many projects, exhibitions and fashion shows with this collection."

Image by Ed Ng
Last night I was most intrigued and drawn to the truly unique knitwear.  It was intricate and captivating, so have chosen to showcase those silhouettes here in the runway images.  But I did pop by the designers Facebook site called Marit ART and was entranced. Her work is inspiring.  Marita produces clothing that are works of true art and I am crossing my fingers we will see her back next season. Hoping there will be a piece of her work in my closet one day.


Images by Peter Jensen

We have seen a lot of conceptual and edgy collections this season, so it was a breath of fresh air to see the collection by Viktoria Nasteva of Lozena.  Beautiful construction, great fabric choices, nice palette and definitely created with women in mind. I didn't know until I did a bit of research that she is also creating sustainable fashion. From her VFW bio - "Viktoria started Lozena with her sister and mother because they noticed a lack of responsibly made clothing in the upscale, mainstream marketplace. Her Bulgarian heritage inspired Lozena’s ethical philosophy and is reflected in her design aesthetic. Through Lozena, Viktoria is working to make sustainable fashion synonymous with high-end fashion. Preserving traditional craft, bolstering the livelihoods of artisans, and treading lightly on the earth is of utmost importance in her business. Viktoria enjoys taking risks with her style, and hopes to motivate women to be true to themselves and to live close to nature!

Images by Peter Jensen

Sustainable fashion? Beautiful. Vibrant tones, houndstooth, beautiful tailoring, sleek shapes occasional highlighted with a sweep of fabric or a wavy skirt.  I love the fact the silhouettes hinted at a stronger, confident women - feminine without being overly so.  My favourite look personally was the dress created from solid black with a houndstooth draped side skirt as an accent. Again that balance of strong with a hint of femininity.  A great show all around.


Images by Peter Jensen

Shravan Kumar Ramaswamy is one very special person. This is 2nd season at VFW and I look forward to interviewing him today. Gentle, warm, open, a talented designer, enthusiastic when talking about his work, and a kind spirit involved in charity work - what a combination.  Here is an excerpt from his VFW bio - "Shravan Kumar Ramaswamy has crafted magic with fabrics for 18 years; a coveted journey that began when he became the first and youngest fashion designer to emerge from the classical city of Hyderabad.

Images by Peter Jensen

A true-blue fashionista, Kumar is a craftsman who belongs to an emerging generation of research driven designers. Best known for the revival and reinvention of eco friendly fabrics as well as unusual creations from unconventional fabrics Shravan Kumar draws his inspiration from the sheer volume and beauty of ethnic Indian designs that reflects an amalgamation of colour and texture along with class. His mantra for himself is, “fashion is my religion,” and he feels blessed to be able to “weave magic through fabric.” There is so much more - I encourage you to check it out more. Just click HERE.

Image by Peter Jensen
This runway show was a full showcase of the designer's talents with a wide range of both mens and women's looks.  What struck me this season was how very modern some of the looks were. They still were true to their cultural roots, but presented in a fresh new light.  Many times I heard - I would wear that - circulating around me. In fact I said it myself, surprisingly to one of the mens outfits that I felt had potential to work on either.  The palette, the way colours and patterns were combined and the show's styling all came together on the runway to create a spectacular experience and the reward was clapping from the audience almost from the first look through to the end. Kudos Shravan. Hope you're back next season.

Green Embassy

Images by Ed Ng Photography

I love Green Embassy and all it stands for. Founder Zuhal Kuvan-Mills also has an amazingly soft heart and during our interview, her deep passion became oh so apparent. She comes to the fashion industry through a totally different route.  A trained vet who raises her own herd of Alpacas, she has an abiding love for all animals.  She has also been an educator and is an established artist with many installations to her name - some with strong social statements.  Her textiles led her into the fashion world when she started draping them on models and they were taken for gowns. That was a year ago and she has since shown in London, Vancouver, China, New Zealand and is shortly off to Paris. Excerpt from her VFW bio - "Zuhal Kuvan-Mills is a Turkish-born Australian Visual artist, Textile and Organic certified ( GOTS) haute-couture fashion designer The Western Australia -based creator has two unique eco-sustainability labels to her name – Atelier Zuhal, an artisan studio specialising in handmade textiles using certified organic alpaca and merino fibres, and Green Embassy, a cutting-edge ‘slow fashion’ clothing label employing earth-friendly, hand-crafted techniques...Both labels also intensely celebrate the spirit of sustainability. They fuse zero-waste production, ‘conscious ethics’ and ancient techniques with luxurious, sumptuous and alluring works designed to be passed down from generation to generation." Read the full bio HERE.
Images by Ed Ng Photography
The Green Embassy show opened with two beautiful dancers who moved fluidly down the runway. The crowd was instantly quiet. Last season we saw heavier weight wool felt pieces - beautiful, enticing and more structural. This season Zuhal has grown and explored new directions, creating a line that is much more diverse.  There were thin layers of wool felt on top of a light weight silk. I was wearing a piece created this way - light, fragile and with a great drape. The new collection also showcases other organic fabrics as well as upcycled fabrics - the reason we saw sequins. The detailing seen on the garments came from several different sources: the ball shapes wrapped with copper wire provide one way to use up scraps of fabric as the designer embraces a zero waste policy.  The interesting patterns on the cotton garments were hand-painted by a native artist. The designer also spins her own black yarn and uses it to "write" intriguing shapes.

Image by Ed Ng Photography
So glad Zuhal returned for a 2nd season. I wish her well at her next show in Paris and hope she returns to VFW next season.