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.