Sunday, November 16, 2014

VALT - Q and A with Co-Founders Aaron Morris and Kat Morris

Kat and Aaron Morris at Valt 2013 -
Photo by Ed Ng Photography
With Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week 2014 (VALT 2014) ready to hit the runway on November 21-23, it's be perfect time to offer this behind the scenes Q and A with 2 of the event's 4 co-founders - Aaron and Kat Morris.  If you missed my Q and A's from last year the links are here -  Kat Ferneyhough and Kat Kozak. Still need to get your tix - click HERE.

Where were did your grow up and what were you like as kids/teenagers? Feel free to share a memory of you back then that hints at the future career you would take.

Aaron - I grew up in New Zealand and from an early age have always been in entertainment. I started a school band in High School, the first in 10 years and we competed in our local “Battle of the Bands”, winning the competition our second year and solidifying my desire to be on stage performing. As the front man/singer of the band and many bands since, it prepared me for the welcome challenge of MCing for VALT as well as various other events around Vancouver.

Kat - As one of the only members of VALT who is truly Vancouver born and bred, I find myself in a bit of a minority as everyone I know is from somewhere else… My teenage years were all over the place, I was a very nerdy isolated kid and I spent my lunch hours in the school library reading instead of being outside. As I got older, I found a niche in sports and became a bit of a jock, but my pursuits outside of that were always artistically related. I was active in Drama Clubs and spent most of my free time in the Art Room painting and drawing or developing film in the school darkroom. I was also involved in event committees and yearbook organization, so I suppose I've always had a leaning towards a creative career. 

Aaron and Kat Morris backstage at VALT 2013. Photo by Tammy Maltese Photography
Aaron - talk about your journey to launching Morrismore Production House? GrindDown Magazine?

The concept of Morrismore literally came to me in the middle of the night. I had a dream about producing shows, bringing together various local musicians in all different genres and helping them to connect and work together making music with mixed genres. This expanded into fashion shows with live music accompaniment (as the models walked) and developed into live performance and a full night of entertainment. With everything from fire dancers to poets to comedians to break dancers.

We were doing so many shows and constantly having to find models for the designers that my wife Kat and I felt that the next logical step was to start our own Alternative modeling agency, so Morrismore Models was born! Western Canada’s first Alt Model agency, we brought Vancouver the beautiful faces and talent of the alt scene in a Tattooed, petite, plus size package, signing 45 girls within 3 weeks and dominating the local Alternative scene. We ran MM Models for 3 years closing it in early 2013 and have the honor of our ladies winning and placing in several Alt model competitions, commercials, music videos, fashion shows and a multitude of other awesome opportunities. 

Photo on left by Tammy Maltese - Photo on right by Ed Ng Photography
GrindDown Vancouver Magazine came to life as an answer to Vancouver’s need for non-mainstream news, writers from all over the Lower Mainland have added their voice to articles about their favorite city, casting a wide net on exposing awesome events, shows, music, fashion, food and fun from many different perspectives in an edgy and engaging fashion. GD was in print for the first year handing out thousands of free magazines, after that first year it was decided that because of financial constraints and the growing costs of printing that GD would become an online only magazine. was re launched with an amazing new look designed by our good friend and local web designer Guru Eric Breuers. GrindDown continues to serve Vancouver and is constantly looking for new talented writers and photographers to promote through our site.

Photoss by Kat Eye Imaging

Kat - Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a make-up artist? What about this career draws you as an artist? Also share about your businesses - Nightshade Beauty and The Horror Honeys.

Prior to beginning my makeup career, I had spent years as a painter and artist in other mediums, and then another 10 years trying desperately to work up the courage, the emotional support (and the money) to get myself to school. I've always been fascinated with fashion and makeup and when I was younger I was obsessed with Fashion Television, and all I wanted to do was to go to Toronto and go to fashion week and meet Tim Blanks. While I know what drew me to makeup artistry when I started, I can’t say that I have the same view of it now. As a creative outlet, I’m blessed that makeup artistry has enabled me to be able to work with like-minded artists and creatives who inspire me to work harder and stretch my abilities. Since I tend to shy away from mainstream work, it’s more about finding the next phase of expression now more than anything. 

Nightshade Beauty is the glamour/fantasy side of my makeup business. My work has been called “dark avant garde” in the past, and I’m totally fine with that. I love big hair, and bold colours and creating makeup that tells a story or evokes an emotion. The Horror Honeys is a completely different side project that is reserved for my writing work. I manage 8 women who write about horror…everyday is Halloween for us and we cover lifestyle, comics, movies, gaming, books and more. 

Co-Directors Aaron Morris, Kat Morris, Drew Ferneyhough, Kat Ferneyhough, Kat Kozak and Victor Kozak
Photo by Ed Ng Photography
How did you  meet the other founders - Kat Kozak and Kat Ferneyhough - and become involved creating VALT ?

Aaron - My wife Kat and I approached the VALT founders after stumbling upon their newly created group on Facebook. Kat and I sent them a personal message and introduced ourselves. After we contacted the VALT founders Kat Kozak and Kat Ferneyhough we set a meeting to meet Kat and Victor Kozak on Mayne Island where they were temporarily staying after their big move from Toronto to start VALT. We had an inspiring lunch and spent the day talking about the vision of VALT. As an interesting note, my wife Kat and I had discussed doing an Alt fashion week on Dec the year before meeting the VALT crew, and as a coincidence we had called it VALT as well…. It was a sign that meeting them all was meant to be. :)

Talk about the journey to conceive and launch VALT 2 years ago? What have been the biggest challenges from your viewpoint?

Aaron - As Morrismore, Kat and I already had a large amount of contacts at our disposal from events we had created ourselves. The “process” was the biggest part to share with the new VALT group. The Processes for the model castings, finding bands, the different designers in the Lower mainland, sound and lighting techs, locations and of course Hair and Makeup etc. The biggest hurdle each year is coming up with an original and innovative theme for the different nights. Something that helps those involved in the show to feel personally inspired to do something original and exciting as their individual part.

For those who have not attended, can you share your vision of what this alternative celebration of art, music and fashion offers the Vancouver scene?

Aaron - Personally I feel that the vision should be: “You won’t see this anywhere else! The excitement for something different that Vancouver has never seen before rules all that we do. Saying that, I do realize that you must also not alienate your audience but if you call yourself an Alternative Fashion week then you should do everything you can to be Alternative and inspire those around you to reach higher. VALT has always worked hard to inspire others.

VALT Fashion Police during the Vancouver 2013 Pride -
in photo are co-founders  
Kat Kozak,Kat Morris Aaron Morris and Kat Ferneyhough
How hard is it to balance your day to day business commitments with the demands of producing VALT each fall?

Aaron - Balance may not be the correct description when it comes to Kat and my life, more like expertly timed juggling. Not only do Kat and I work full time day jobs outside of all of our business commitments including, Morrismore Productions, GrindDown Magazine, Nightshade beauty Makeup and The Horror Honeys, but I myself am also working on my Graphic Design Cert at BCIT as well as multiple MC performances around the city on top of being the MC, and model Director for VALT each year. Because Kat and I work together on all these projects we also count this as quality time as husband and wife, building your dreams together as a couple is essential when you live in the eye of a hurricane. Having a solid life plan is crucial, keeping accurate records, notes and a reverse timeline helps us to stay focused on our goals while keeping our minds free from the confusion of juggling so many pursuits. If you just keep everything in your head you are bound to be unfocused and confused, whereas writing things down and constant goal setting keeps your mind clear for innovation and new ideas. 

Aaron Morris with artist Shay Lhea of Occulto Masks - Image by TravisWPhotography
Please share your favorite memory from last season.

Aaron - Actually I would prefer to share my favorite memory from the first season. When I inhaled the helium from a balloon and had a conversation with my young friend Eden from stage on the Sunday night “Delight”

Kat - Backstage is such a whirlwind for me that it’s actually very difficult to choose a moment. My favorite moments will always be with the MC’s, helping them to get into character with makeup is definitely a highlight, and I’m always amazing to see them flourish and take on a new personality.

 What are you most excited about in this upcoming season?

Aaron - Getting on that stage as MC and having the time of my life.. in only the way I can do it!

KatI may try to watch the show this year, I’m usually so wrapped up backstage that I have to wait for the photos to come out to see what I missed!  I’m never sure what to expect from VALT, and I know that this season will be full of wonderful surprises and incredible moments. 

For more information on VALT 2014 go to Limited tix are still available - so get yours today at

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Walter's Son FW 15 Launch at Litchfield

Event Images by Luis Valdizon of When They Find Us.
I've missed so many events while trying to get my book through the writing/editing/proofing phase, but absolutely could not stay away when Ashleigh Said of Heavy Metal PR let me know there was a new menswear designer here in Vancouver showing his F/W 15 collection. I love menswear and continue to hope that more talented designers will enter this market and take it to new levels.

The location on Thursday was Litchfield at 38 Water Street. I had never been  to this Gastown gem before. Despite the reconfiguration to accommodate the large crowd and amazing spread of food, I was charmed from the moment I walked in. 

Ashleigh greeted me at the door with a smile decked out in a very cool dress embellished with safety pins created for her by the uber talented Evan Biddell. Then she offered me a lovely glass of sparkling wine and took me to meet first the store owner Jonathon Litchfield, and then Walter's Son designer Kyle Parent. I also enjoyed meeting Parent's business partner - Vivian Kan - as I was leaving and look forward to connecting with her in the near future.

Left and centre - Ashleigh's fab Evan Biddell dress, 
Right - Alexandra Kramer and Ashley Saskiw or East West Beauty Collective

Litchfield was a pleasure to listen to as he enthusiastically shared his concept and showed me a few of the truly interesting items available such as a Miso soup bowl.  I love this quote from the store's website as I think it explains the intriguing and eclectic nature of the treasures you will find here:

Litchfield is more than a collection of things. The shop reflects 
founder Jonathon Litchfield’s family aesthetic for living. Life is a series
of simple moments and those moments are made beautiful by the tools 
we use to live. Litchfield’s revolving collection features pieces built 
with quality and craftsmanship. We want to share our family philosophy 
of how we live with you. Visiting our store is like stepping into our home

As with any designer launching a collection, Parent was surrounded by a large group of supporters, family and friends, all there to celebrate this moment.  Still, he found time to talk with me a bit about his line.  Having just had a glance at the collection's excellent construction, it was no surprise to later find out the designer's journey began when he apprenticed with a tailor to learn how to make clothes for himself.  It was the positive feedback and encouragement received for his understated but innovative designs that led to launching Walter's Son. The name?  A tribute to two important men in his life - his father and grandfather.

I believe this collection is the opening note to a brand that will become much larger as it establishes a solid client base. What a smart move to start with a tight, focused selection of quality dress shirts as a great shirt is the perfect building block for any menswear look. I think many designers start out trying to offer too many pieces and applaud his wise decision to build slowly. This collection offers simple elegance through clean lines, classic tailoring, subtle detailing and quality fabric - always a winning combination.

Inspiration came from the broad monochromatic gestures of woodcuts - reconciling clean, tailored lines with a straight, relaxed cut. The designer sourced high quality Japanese cottons as a foundation and about half of the shirts were wholly in this fabric. These were alternated with style featuring collars crafted from a uniquely soft Quebec leather. Both styles were classic and clean, but the leather detail really up'd the luxury feel for me. The palette that evening showcased white, navy and black. One shirt was colour blocked. In viewing the look book, I saw a wider range of colour blocking and one shirt in a subtle print as well.  

There are no words like the designer's own - so here is a quote from his press kit - 

“I love black and white, because of the strong sense of contrast and 
duality. Playing with that simple opposition allows me to create simple, 
bold, highly structured effects. The WALTER’S SON man is discerning and 
willing to be bold, but never flashy or in-your-face. He’s looking for quality 
and detailing that subtly draw you in, These are garments thatare designed 
to feel aspirational and effortless at the same time.”

Special thanks this evening go to Jonathon Litchfield for allowing all of us into his beautiful store to enjoy this launch, Scandal Brewing for providing the drinks,  La Mezcaleria for the amazing food (I especially loved the chips and guacamole), Make-up sponsors Alexandra Kramer and Ashley Saskiw of East West Beauty Collective and London Alexander for providing his fabulous The Daily Planet chino pants to pair with the designer's collection.

Intrigued?  Check out the website at www, For more information, please email business manager Vivian Kan at or phone 778.872.0448. 

Do You Love it Enough To Make It Your Work?

One question I often get asked is - do you love to write?  I honestly never know what to answer. Love to write................HHHHHMMMMMM! The reason this is complicated to answer is what I respond can really vary from day to day.  In the end, I truly love interviewing. It has changed my life and my focus in ways I cannot even begin to explain.  To be allowed the privilege of interviewing means I have to write. Sometimes it's fabulous - sometimes it's hard work.

Occasionally - like this moment - I take time to step out of my normal writing to just share thoughts. These moments only occur when I feel like it and are always relaxing. The topic is whatever suits my whimsy. The subject matter can range from something serious I want to talk about, to a funny moment or just thoughts on life running through my mind at the time.  The bulk of my writing is focused on interviewing and telling the stories of others.  It has the potential to be enjoyable if done at my leisure with no set time due, but if commissioned last minute with deadlines looming - the pressure can definitely take away the "fun" factor.

Then there is the material you are working with. Some interviews are with people who are natural storytellers with the gift of gab. It is so much easier to channel someone's life when it's presented as a story to start with. Others are not as comfortable talking about their lives. I am one of those, so I understand. The interview takes a lot more effort to help them feel comfortable and coax out what they feel is important to share. The writing also takes a bit more effort as there are leaps of faith that happen. Fortunately I try to have the person review the article and am happy fine-tuning to get the picture right.

Regardless of the material, the time pressures and other factors - there are just moments when the mind quiets and you get in the zone. It's a feeling I am sure other artists - dancers, painters, musicians, singers - reach.  The outside world vanishes and the words just flow through as you type feverishly. This is the best it gets and I wish every time I write felt like this.  You instinctively know this article will be good.

Other times it is hard work. The flow doesn't happen and you have to reach deep to get the words on paper.  Both articles need to be just as strong to honour the person who made time for you.  What comes into play here is just practice.  Write as much as you can, as often as you can. If you don't have a commission, start a blog as a place to put your work. Even if only five people see an article, you feel gratified. You also learn through experience if you can get anything on paper - it can be molded into a great article in the end through polishing.

So the question I have for anyone wanting to turn a hobby or interest into a business, "Do you love it enough to make it your work?"  The pursuit leaves the realm of fun and enjoyable experienced when it is only a sideline behind. Pressures come to bear such a earning power. Sometimes the work of running your business takes up to 90% of your time and only 10% is left for the creative side.

You have to have something to love about choosing to turn whatever it is from hobby or idea into a business. That something has to carry you through the hard work, stress and pressure. For me that is the interview. Amen!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Project Runway Season 13, Ep. 2 - Unconventional Movie Nite

The designers wake up in their Gotham West Apartment in New York City to find a movie theatre style carton of popcorn on their kitchen counters with a note sticking out.
Good morning designers - we are sending you out for a little morning matinee. We have arranged a private screening for you at the Village East Cinema [in Manhattan]. Hugs and kisses Heidi and Tim.

Once ensconced in cinema seats, a movie trailer starts off featuring fashion clips and ends with Tim addressing the designers to give them this week's challenge. There were a few groans. It is both an unconventional challenge AND a team challenge. In the past many designers really looked forward to the unconventional challenge, but from the audience's response I don't think the group as a whole is as excited this season. On top of that, a team challenge is never a welcome event. Let's face it, a bad team pairing can send you quickly to the bottom.

The materials this week are an array of movie and movie experience items found in the theatre such as camera and lighting department materials, the art department props, costume and wardrobe department materials and even concession items. Tim loves this challenge because it's about fashion and film. Then with a smile he shares, "I have another twist. You are each sitting in groups of three, so the designers you are sitting with are your team mates."  There is a mixed reactions as many are not happy. The team with probably the least cohesive aesthetics are Hernan, Carrie and Sandya. How they will find a common ground is on everyone's mind. 

Each team has to create 3 cohesive unconventional looks. They have 15 minutes to assemble as much material as they want, but can only leave the theatre with what they can carry. It is a one day challenge. Everyone goes crazy as they wildly grab all they can.  Tim stops to ask if they're talking with their teammates. Really? When would they have time to do that and still have a chance to grab something good.  Off it they go to the workroom to begin designing. 

Tim pops into the studio to give them a little more feedback. There will be one top team with the winner being chosen from this trio - and one bottom team with the loser being chosen from this trio. There is no team leader. Each is responsible for the work of the team. However, all are told not to sit in the back seat and let the others drive. He comments that Sandhya is lucky she has immunity this challenge and that really does turn out to be prophetic. Judges this week include Heidi Klum, Zac Posen, Nina Garcia and fashion blogger Garance Doré.

The green team was singled out on the runway before top and bottom teams were mentioned.  The judges liked Fade and Sean's designs, but did not like Angela's. Heidi added if Angela's had been as strong the others, her team might have been the top team this challenge. Angela who is fairly timid pushed to do something a little different from her team mates. I can't decide if her speaking up was in response to Tim's advice to make your voice heard, or if it was in response to her obvious lack of confidence.  You have to have confidence in your designs to push yourself to new places. In the end - it didn't matter as the judges did not like her work and told her so.

Top -

Silver Team - Amanda (Winner), Korina, Kristine
This team decided to chose green/black as the palette and go in a Sci-Fi, futuristic direction. Sleek, structured, nothing drape-y. They are all relieved that they are feeling the same vibe. Amanda reminds them to be careful about using material that looks too close to fabric sharing, "The judges love it when you make your own fabric."
Zac - This is great. You're used text and fonts - something that immediately says movie kiosk. You've taken it to a new place. And you've used transparency in a really interesting way. You did something really cool. I'm going to expect really big things from you now. You can tell you guys vibed nicely together.
Heidi - You collection felt like the most original. It was cohesive, we have 3 completely different dresses, but they look like they belong in the same fashion show.  It's really, really special. My favourite is the middle one (note - the one on the left above), it's so unusual. But also the other two dresses are stunning too.  You did a fantastic job.
Nina - The most exciting part of this is the colour because right there you notice them. What I also appreciate is you gave me 3 different shapes. You have an A-line, you have a ?? and then there's this body con silhouette. I could see Heidi wearing that. It looked like they're together, but they're very different.
Garance - I think it was very stunning when the 2nd dress (on left above) started walking on the runway because the letters float. I thought it was very smart because you really created an effect. People would be like - Whoa, what is that? The green really takes the collection all together. I still can't believe you did all that in one day.

Bottom - 

Red Team - Carrie (sent home), Hernan, Sandhya
While Carrie and Henan try to find some common ground at the start, Sandhya suggests they just do their own thing and then find common ground to bring them together. A bad choice and unfortunately made by the one designer who is safe. After Tim's review - Hernan gets a bit too pushy, Sandhya agrees to try to make something cohesive, but they go too far and the judges feel all the looks are the same - they lack that individual touch.
Heidi - At no point did no one think they all look the same? They look like 3 identical dresses. To me they look like 3 girls out of a music video. It doesn't look like a fashion show. For us now what we have to see is what is the worst one here, taking yours out Sandya because you're not in the running anymore. I feel yours on the right Hernan, at least it's a but more fashion with the piece around the neck - the bustier top even though it doesn't fit that great. What I love about this challenge is the designers manipulate the material. You guys just put the film roll on it.
Zac - This doesn't look complex, the shapes are a mess. The pieces are rough. No more excuses. We're looking at what we have in front of us.  It looks like the editing floor.
Nina - Sandhya, you're very lucky you are immune because yours is the worst out of all 3. It's awful. It looks sloppy. It looks ugly. It just looks bad and it brings your other 2 down. I'm angry because I think we do expect a lot from you and you won the last episode.
Garance - I think it was way too literal. Why try to go glamorous with such a material that doesn't move with the body, it doesn't work together.  I think that was one of the mistakes.


Obviously there are no judges comments to add to these, so the pictures will have to speak for themselves. I have added just a small note from their time in the studio when they discussed direction.

Blue Team - Angela, Fade, Sean

This team was trying to figure it out and started with the idea of strong, dark villains of the cinema, but obviously in the final group you can see that white was a lot more prevalent. Angela did not want to do evil, so she wanted to do the fairy - the good side. Sean who wanted dark and evil did the white dress from straws.
Green Team  - Emily Samantha Alexander
The green team decided to go with high fashion, avant garde looks and even consider taking the metal film frames apart to make headpieces. They seem pretty connected and relaxed.

Purple - Char, Kini, Mitchell
The purple team chose to mesh their styles by creating a set of sexy cocktail dresses. The colour palette was to focus on blue.

To see more pics - check out RATE THE RUNWAY.