A Decade of Designers

Vancouver Fashion Week has been a staple on the local scene for over a decade now.  It was the first runway my daughter walked in back when she was trying a bit of modeling.  Then when I became involved in Fame'd Magazine, it was a place I was sure to be to check out designers.  Every season I found someone new to write on.

In recent years there has been an increasing focus on bringing in international designers, a real boon for me as I now write for Raine Magazine in the U.S. With very limited travel funds, this fashion week has proved a wonderful resource - connecting me with artists from around the world.  Several favourite interviews include Pauline Van Dongen (Netherlands), Laura Siegel (NYC), Autobiographe (Paris) and Michael Gkinis/Aptform (Japan). There were many, many more!

In honour of the upcoming Fall/Winter 2013 season that begins March 19th, here is the Behind the Scenes article published in Fame'd Magazine in November 2011. For tickets to this season go to Event Zone.


Sitting with Jamal one season watching a runway
show in progress - Image by Sandra Nieuwenhuijsen
Jamal Abdourahman may not sketch designs or cut fabric, but the founder and producer of Vancouver Fashion Week weaves designers, the media and this great city into a tapestry of fashion frenzy season after season. Since its debut in 2001, VFW has earned the reputation of being the West Coast's longest running industry event. Fashion-savvy consumers and industry professionals are among the attendees. It is recognized as a global platform for fostering the growth of designers and celebrating the local and international fashion community

Born and raised in a French and Italian colony in East Africa, Abdourahman was influenced by friends and people close to him. Although he was drawn to the beauty and excitement of the fashion world, it was never an option for him to consider as career. There was pressure growing up to follow his family's educational and career footsteps - education being of the utmost importance He was brought up with the notion that you must have a piece of paper to show you are qualified to be able to do something. He had family members that were in the political arena so chose to study political science and bilateral relationships. 

Image by Garry K Photography
While attending school in Toronto he was drawn to the West Coast beauty and relocated to finish his studies here in Vancouver. In 1993, a strange turn of events found Abdourahman throwing a party that became hugely popular and led to running a promotional club night in Gastown. In order to promote the club, he organized a fashion show. No one had done anything quite like it up until then and he met with a lot of naysayers. He was told that it was not going to work nor would the event attract anyone. Within in a year he was organizing simultaneous shows in separate venues with huge success. In 1999 he attended Paris Fashion Week. It planted a seed. Abdourahman shares, "...I really fell in love with everything about it.the tents, the energy, the people from all over the world attending these world class shows..." Up until then he had only done single shows for one night, but had never attempted a multitude of shows over several days like what was being done in Paris with their local boutiques.

Image by Garry K Photography
In August 2000 he began planning to execute his version of the Paris Fashion week along with original business partner and friend, Yanan Yu. The first Vancouver Fashion Week was slated for April 2001. He spent sixteen hours a day, seven days a week for a full nine months to prepare for the event. Within a few years Abdourahman started to see big leaps in what he could do with the right promotional team behind him. Over the last five seasons there have been improvements, bigger challenges and bigger successes. In the beginning he ran into what he called, "the small town mentality". His event was making big noise but met with naysayers and those who felt he was not qualified to pull something like this off. Abdourahman admits that ".in the beginning we had fantastic shows on stage, but the backstage was a mess, how to go out was a mess..." All of these elements fueled him to keep pushing and working toward perfecting his vision. His persistence and focus has paid off. 

Image by Garry K Photography
This kind of success season after season calls for an incredible team. Close to 200 people work to pull everything together, including models, hair & make-up teams, marketing and street teams, party organizers and event staff. With two major show productions each year covering the spring and fall seasons, it leaves little time in between for preparations. Abdourahman does more work in less time now. He says they have it down but ".the beauty is every season we like to take bigger challenges. so the work is always cut out for us. we will take risks but not chances"". He feels that taking bigger risks, creating and meeting new and bigger challenges each season, makes VFW better and more appealing each time. 

Image by Garry K Photography

The goal is to increase accessibility by targeting the international media to cover VFW which allows for a world wide promotional partnership. Abdourahman focuses on the theme of International Vancouver Fashion Week because he says that ". Vancouver itself is international... this will be the biggest show in Canada, not because we are the fashion mecca, but because we are centrally located between Asia and Europe.we are a new and fresh city.because of what VFW can do people internationally will know local Canadian designers". The criteria for being featured in Vancouver Fashion Week is not limited to being local. This is an open opportunity extended to anyone creating garments that are of brand quality, are professionally constructed and runway ready to promote to the market. He attempts to bring in designers who are possibly the next Galliano. 

The past decade has been exactly the right time for Vancouver Fashion Week to be doing what its doing. The city needed to develop itself, it's interests, it's population and diverse culture in order sustain the continuous success of such an event. VFW's goal is not to change Vancouver fashion. Their goal is to promote Vancouver multicultural fashion designers while exposing Vancouver globally.

To find out the latest and most current information on the upcoming VFW events please check out www.vanfashionweek.com and www.fashionweek.blogspot.com.