Dystopia – Sustainable Love in a Time of Destruction

by Helen Siwak, guest blogger

Dystopia Opening by Marshall Heritage
The evening was warm and breezy, the sun was setting on the spectacular Vancouver skyline and sound of playing children filled the air. What better setting for a graduation for all the hard working students of JCI (John Casablancas Institute) than a veritable utopia?

Inside Performance Works on Granville Island, the students perpetuated this lovely illusion by putting together a fantastic collection of silent auction items from their Silver and Bronze Sponsors, as well as a tasty spread including Habibi’s hummus, healthy fruits and veggies, Onnick’s blueberry iced tea, cupcakes and Petit Ami coffee, cold beer by Steamworks and Andrew Peller wines.

Soon the mingling area became crowded, stifling in fact, whether it was planned or not, this pre-show atmosphere was just a taste of what was to come! Soon the curtains parted and within seconds the folding chairs were full. Those left standing found themselves stuck in a post apocalyptic world set of chaos with nowhere to turn but to the black unlit corners of their own personal dystopia.

The runway was strewn with metal barrels, wooden crates, broken car parts, smashed lamps and bags of garbage. An atomic bomb projection looped over and over reminding us of the conditions of life in this ‘world’. A life characterized by poverty, oppression, war, violence, disease, pollution and the abridgment of human rights.
 by Marshall Heritage

MC Raymond Liens spoke to the hard work, diligence and creative talents of the graduating class and the struggles they face before handing the microphone to a representative from the Covenant House. The Covenant House was the local charity benefitting from the net proceeds of event ticket sales. We learned that on any given night there are between 500 and 1,000 homeless youth on our streets. The Covenant House provides them with counseling, job search assistance, housing, food, a safe place to sleep and so much more.

The lights dimmed and music of the disenchanted began to play. Models slunk out of a darkened doorway wearing a mix of thrifted and student designed garments, some armed with homemade spike weapons, others with gas masks. The footwear was sky high, the eyes blackened and the hair frizzed out as only post-apocalyptic acid rain could style it. Black was definitely the new black with accents of animal print, denim, faux fur, leather, and tulle. Accessories included crowns of silver, dirty looking silk flowers garlands and giant metallic skull necklaces by designer Carolyn Bruce

Whether in the context of Dystopia or covering the backs of their generations’ malcontents, the distressed and sometimes destroyed garments were ruggedly chic and very wearable. The students definitely have developed eye for thrifting and have proven that sustainable fashion can be at the heart of an eye-opening event and can further the ‘fashion with a conscience’ ethic.

Runway images by Marshall Heritage Photography

The final student to show was Jerome Insorio, familiar to everyone from his participation in the Eco Fashion Week 08’s Value Village sponsored Thrift Chic Challenge. His models were clothed in jet black burlap so new you could smell the jute as they glided in by. Skirts alternated between being long and binding to short and seductive, sheer tops and nipple daisies gave you a glimpse but never the goods, and the finally the slouchy Dystopian queen in grungy black. She wore a ragged tulle skirt, black cotton sports bra, a tarnished crown and a waist length necklace that doubled as body armour with sharp points, chains and shoulder guards. This queen may have appeared frail but had a look in her eyes that would make even the hardest post-apocalyptic punk put down her bloody baseball bat and kneel.

Left image by Marshall Heritage - Right image by Helen Siwak
Instructor and renowned LADY fashion stylist, Gian Carlo Umahon glowed as he watched the models exit said “I am very proud of the Graduating Class 144, they pulled it off! They have captured the beauty in Chaos for sure, from the set, styling, hair and make-up. They worked very hard and are very talented individuals! I am a proud mama, having the privilege to be one of their instructors. I look forward to what they get into in the future!”

Graduating Class by Marshall Heritage
The graduating class of JCI #144 followed the models and were met with great applause and swarming by friends, family and well-wishers. I had a chance to speak with Jerome (always wearing his signature jaunty neck scarf) about the event to find out more about what he and the others students were thinking when they put together their final projects for this show. To which he replied “The show Dystopia is the fruit of everything the Class #144 has learned collectively from all of the amazing instructors at John Casablancas Institute. The past eleven months of intense training at JCI has been a very liberating and humbling experience for me and I absolutely look forward to utilizing what I learned in my upcoming projects and collaborations in the industry.”

Congratulations to all the graduates of JCI #144 and to the styling and model coordinating team of Jerome, Savannah Cochrane and Douglas Alfaro-Ochoa. Douglas said that he, Jerome and Savannah “couldn't have done it with everyone from the team involved with staging, visual, music and our hair and make-up team and our well organized stage manager Heather Mathieson.” Douglas looked very rebellious in his anti-Dystopian shiny maroon suit, slick hair and retro glasses. His post-grad world includes a bright summer full of expectations, boundary pushing, developing industry relationships and building his styling to new levels. Let’s wish this for all the students as they leave tonight and venture off into a bright, non-Dystopian future!

Left and Right image by Marshall Heritage - Centre image by Helen Siwak
Hair & Make-up: Lead Artist: Katie Quinn Sullivan with JCI Class FAB 402
Photography: Marshall Heritage PhotographyHelen Siwak
Footwear: Paige-Sierra of StreetSide Fashion

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Guest blogger Helen Siwak is all about food, fashion and furry friends. She is the president and co-founder of eco-friendly local luxury fashion re-seller KitsilanoKittysCloset.com (offering shoppers classic designers like Armani, Versace, Dior to modern trendsetters such as Jeremy Scott, Kate Spade and Stella McCartney) and a plant-based healthy food advocate with VitVitVegan.com food service. She and her partner Vlassis have three rescue pets, four interns, a fridge full of veggies and a shiny motorcycle. Life is good.