Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week (VALT) Day 1 - reVolution

Article by guest writer Jacqueline Ryan

Jody Beugeling wearing Samantha Stroman
- Image Patrick Parenteau
“Revolution,” was the theme for opening night, once again ushering in a captivating evening of fashionable theatrics. VALT 2014’s Friday extravaganza was pretty, playful, fierce and sexy. The Vancouver Alternative Fashion scene, continued to celebrate and embrace our city's extraordinary talent, by presenting fresh new faces, and some favourite, highly anticipated designers that we've seen in VALT’s two previous, amazing years.

Host Ava Vanderstarren charmed us as the classic vintage housewife, wearing pearls, pink pointy-toed heels, curlers in her hair, a feather duster in one hand, and a rolling pin in the other. For her second visit, the housewife ditched the duster and “Factory Girl” emerged in her fitted denim jumpsuit, bandanna... this time rocking a toolbox. A Revolution was taking place, and we liked it. But what would be next for her transformation? We’d have to wait until the end of the night for that.

Images of Ava by by Norm Lee 
Blue Dress from Scout Boutique
 Kicking things off, was a fascinating conceptual dance piece by Bizarnival. It was a major highlight of my first night, and left a lasting impression. Dancing in like a jungle cat in a sheer white lace dress, our lady's dreadlocks were tied up to individual purple balloons, which lifted up her hair into a floating bouquet. She began her slow striptease, building to a crescendo when a black-robed executioner came towards her, standing over her as she lay on the stage. She was looking up at him as he reached down with a knife, stabbing and popping each balloon! When she arose, she was not sad and frightened as I expected her to be, but rather... free! She was almost naked, gently smiling, pleased and relieved to be rid of them.

Bizarnival - 3 images starting on left by Jacqueline Ryan  - Far right image by Patrick Parenteau

Lapin Rouge took the evening's theme literally, fully embracing the opulent excess - and gore - that was The French Revolution. There were white satin coats, flouncy bows, a lace-detailed gown with pleated paniers, and poet's shirts, white wigs - all that was de rigueur of the period. Nice attention to detail, clever use of props, and touches like the ribbons which echoed the blue, red and white of the French Flag, made the collection for me. A Napoleonic hat-wearing model in a floor-length crimson skirt, pulled out a long pistol, and aimed it straight down the runway. "Josephine" came out with a sky blue taffeta gown with a generous train covered in flowers, "Napoleon" in his epaulets. I especially appreciated the (foreshadowing) red rose adorning Marie Antoinette's doomed neck... and best of all, model Nathan McLean carrying the bloodied heads of the freshly guillotined Royalty on spikes! Vive Lapin Rouge!

Images by Patrick Parenteau

KGK opened with a statuesque Roman goddess inspired white flowing dress, the bodice layered with white feathers, and sets of gold straps and buckles secured the gathers as the train billowed behind her. I enjoyed the diversity of this designer, mixing up the collection with pieces like her wearable golden leather skirt, with a capped sleeved, breast baring vest. There was piece-y, purple hooded ballgown skirt-meets-bondage ensemble, a bony skeleton bra dripping with chains, for a blacked winged Maleficent-esque horned outfit, and the piece de resistance, a silvery-blue, gravity defying couture confection that wrapped up model Holly Wu in layers of wires and whimsy.

Images by Patrick Parenteau

Immersed Unity was a beautifully shot short film - Concept by David Naman & Nat Danson, Cinematography by Mark Halliday - which shared a voyeuristic viewpoint, during the process of two models becoming living, breathing works of art for a photographic shoot. They were immersed in a milky white bath and painted with brushes in strokes... building layers of colour, as they ultimately came together and intertwined. A duality becoming one. "Immersed Unity" was a beautiful illustration of mediums marrying into a soft, femininely seductive, artistic drama piece.

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No Soda Clothing took a page out of DC comics, showing spandex tops, leggings and accoutrements fit for a villain. The details were seriously playful inlays of questions marks for "The Joker," diamonds for jester "Harley Quinn," spiders, and repeated ovals, combined with nicely applied, bold, colour blocking. Playfully bad ass, these girls brandished toys like a sledgehammer, the black cat, a riding crop, while one pulled another by a leash. They were very pleased with themselves, as any good villain should be. But the darling of the collection came in the form of a pug in a backpack, who, strapped onto the designer's body as she took her moment on the runway, utterly stole the show.

Images by Patrick Parenteau
Avant-Afi showed a visually arresting line this year, with shorter, form fitting dresses and skirts, expertly mixing panels of sheer blacks and nudes, to bring the earthy and jewel toned sections together into sexy, wearable pieces. Jumpsuits and bodysuits were more fantasy, avant-guard modern, textured, and with details like exposed zippers, poufed leather shoulders, and a bust with sharp, silver spikes. This was a very eye-catching, and interesting collection to behold.

Images by Patrick Parenteau
Set to a sultry "Sweet Dreams are Made of These," soundtrack, AD Designs walked the walk with military inspired, structured, and flowing sleeveless vest jackets, high collars, shrugs and capes worn by beautifully bad dominatrixes in thigh high boots, and stockings. Two leather and lace lingerie clad beauties meant business, as they shoved the models mercilessly down the runway for us to consume. The looks were accentuated with rows of buttons, over sized cuffs, chain detailing, and shapes baring and daring in all the right places, in what was a seductive and powerful presentation.

Images by Patrick Parenteau

Pretty In Punk delivered on the theme with corsets, shorts and dresses, sides wide open and laced provocatively together, fiercely worn by girls and boys in sky high heels! One piece was made exclusively of strategically placed black leather straps and buckles, while another one piece jumpsuit was created entirely of a sheer black fabric and was punctuated by dark seams. Fans of fetish wear truly have a go-to collection with "Pretty In Punk." Here I am after the show with one of my favourite models, Nathan, rocking his side-laced couture dress.

Samantha Stroman pulled out all the stops with a stunning, jaw-dropping, modern collection, that had an Elizabethan feel to it. Dramatically dropped rose petals set the tone of draculean feel, with black capes with leather hems, a frothy white blouse paired with these Renaissance black and white carnivalesque shorts, hinting at a step back to the late 1600's England, and paired with an edgy corset and a ruffled collar. Every piece was a unique and special twist on a classic garment. Corseted blouses, sequined hems, and structured collars really set this collection apart. Then came the high drama pieces, including a skirt with vertical rolling ruffles that was fashioned from neoprene - as was the neoprene, full-length skirt, and a long mermaid skirt and train. They were absolutely gorgeous and delightfully surprising. She included sculptural accessories such as paniers made of cages, and a high arching silver metal collar worn with a flowing sheer white skirt. Absolutely stunning!

Images by Patrick Parenteau

Of her collection, Stroman says: "This collection is inspired by a combination of 16th Century menswear, and vintage science fiction. Monochromatic in tone, I explore texture and contrast by way of a multitude of fabrics. Wool Melton, leather, silk, pleated chiffon, neoprene, and a variety of of other technical fabrics. Predominantly black in colour, bold streaks of white and metallic silver enhance the elaborate shapes and voluminous silhouettes." The audience went absolutely wild with appreciation for the designer's dramatic and surprising collection. It was no surprise then, that Stroman was awarded the honour of "Most Promising Student Designer." Well deserved. 
Images by Patrick Parenteau - on the right, Kat Ferneyhough with designer Samantha Stroman

Valt Director Kat Ferneyhough shared, "Samantha Stroman was one of VALT'S designers in our inaugural year with her corset collection; 'Eternally Waisted." It was a stand out collection, so we certainly weren't surprised to find her 2014 application to be exceptional. Stroman has more than just talent and an eye for design, she pushes herself and her designs with spectacular vigor - she has determination and passion. You can tell from her work that each piece must have taken endless hours of testing, editing a redrafting... The patience is palpable. We had several very strong contenders for this award, but Ms. Stroman was a clear choice for the jury." 
Left image of Jacqueline and Nathan McLean by Norm Lee 
Right image Siobhan D. of Shiverz Designs and Jacqueline Ryan by Felix Tavira
The evening wrapped up with our host Ava Vanderstarren stepping on to the stage in a simple, classic black dress... a natural beauty, who kindly informed us that, "One of the most revolutionary things you can do, is to be yourself."

Indeed. A perfect message for a perfect evening.