Vancouver Fashion Week S/S16 - Lower Mainland Designers - Buy Local!

Because of the sheer number of designers showing this season at Vancouver Fashion Week, I have decided to create an article where I could feature local talent. The biggest reason for this is that it will allow those living in the Vancouver area to know who is creating fashion in the lower mainland.

I cannot encourage everyone enough, no matter where you live, to seek out local designers and buy one or two pieces EACH SEASON from a designer who catches your eye. The cost of today's fast clothing focus with mass production in poor countries is becoming clear.  It is not sustainable nor desirable. If you are unaware of the problem, there are two great movies to check out on Netflix - The True Cost (highly recommend) and Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (watching after VFW is over).

So here are some great local fashion designers offering fabulous clothing. After having a look, take it a step further. Seek out those that have a look you love and start a relationship by buying your favourite piece (or two, or three) each season. And remember - almost every one of these designers are more than happy to do custom work. Have a hard time with fit? This could be the answer.

If we want to have a thriving fashion community here in Vancouver, it's really important to SUPPORT LOCAL!

Sunday - Lots of Local This Day! - 

Alex S. Yu

Images by Ed Ng Photography

Alex S. Yu is a graduate of Blanche Macdonald Centre and has completed further studies at the London College of Fashion. He debuted his first collection at VFW in September 2014 and returned in March 2015. This is now his third collection to showcase here. The designer's garments are not for the timid. They explore the fine line between reality and fantasy, the happy emotions of childhood, nostalgia and wanderlust; and ponder the very definition of femininity in a modern, quirky way through garments. You will be noticed! Neoprene is a favourite fabric as it has the ability to hold his very structural, unique shapes. Strong colours also play an important role.

Images by Ed Ng Photography
S/S16 is titled The Expired Dream - inspired by a 1994 Cantonese film by Wong Kar Wai called Chungking Express. The colours in the movie particulary stood out, so colour became a really important element this season. When asked about the fabrics in his collection Yu shared, "This season I used a lot more people-friendly material to make my line more wearable and easier to blend into people’s everyday wardrobe while still maintaining my signature colourful and pop style. I used a lot of denim, light wool, printed cotton and polyester, mesh, heavy jersey, nettings, jacquard and neoprene." I loved the inclusion of interesting, bright purses with colourful plastic chain straps that channel 90's Cantonese street style. The chain is actually found in hardware stores in Taiwan and used as clothes drying lines. Definitely going to have to look at adding one to my collection.

Images by Ed Ng Photography

Evan Clayton is a graduate from the Blanche MacDonald Fashion Design program who strives as a designer to marry art and fashion in such a way as to create political, personal and artistic expression. With strong tailoring/draping skills and a diverse set of influences - psychology, modern pop culture, French history and a variety of performance artists including Marina Abramovic, Lady Gaga and Jonna Lee of iamamaiwhoami - he brings a truly unique touch to every garment he creates. Clayton also loves to offer the fashion audience a show that takes us out of our comfort zone - to surprise, unsettle and even shock at times. And that makes Evan Clayton a show I always look forward. Variety on the runway is what keeps me in my seat each season through all shows. It's what pushed the industry forward.

Images by Ed Ng Photography

Clayton's collection this season was called Lillith and his inspiration came from his love of the sci fi genre. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Star Wars, Gattaca, Interstellar, all served as reference points. The designer shared, "I find that I gravitate to films that explore the dark side humanity faces when confronted with environmental issues, and I really wanted to flesh that out this season. Final Fantasy 7 also was as a core aesthetique reference." Fabrics included natural fibres - wool crepe, denim and touches of silk chiffon for just a touch of softness - contrasted with leather. With black as the only colour, the focus turned to letting the silhouette and texture shine. One dramatic note was the use of green goo dripping from the models. It was made with a combination of  water and fiber suppliement. Why goo?  "The girls were all the embodiment of the Earth, and even though she may be covered in slime and oil for now, her beauty still shines through. She is defiant, the goo doesn’t define her, it is something she is prepared to evolve past. Something of a mantra that’s been said about this season by my time is that this collection is like wearing armour, so let the blood and oil fly right at you, you’ll still be on top."

Images by Ed Ng Photography

Sara Armstrong debuted her fifth collection this season. The designer is an interdisciplinary artist whose work has been featured in Vogue UK, Glamour UK, and Elle Italia, Mexico, China, and Canada. Her formal training in sculpture is immediately apparent in pieces that balance complex geometries with pared-down simplicity. Garments offer an androgynous look, a focus on architecture, excellent craftsman ship and innovative details - "defined urban luxury." A tactile, hand-worked approach to design and an uncompromising appreciation for authenticity and quality are all trademark's of Armstrong's label.

Images by Ed Ng Photography
S/S 15 was called 'Catalysis,' and it reflects on the time-guided deconstruction of life in decay, exploring the idea of organic breakdown through fabric finishes and solar print, and will be strewn throughout with customized artefacts from independent jewellery designer Anita Sikma. The show opened with a stunning video and sound collaboration with cinematographer Aaron Marshall. This season Armstrong's aesthetic was still very evident, but the collection departed from the previous in that it was much more conceptual than in the past. Amrstong shared, :The conceptual direction of the collection I think was strongly guided by my use of fabric (specifically the tyvek.. That's the industrial paper). And my hand prints - I think that was the greatest departure. I would like to be able to focus more on the performance of presentation. A different way for us to relate to fashion. But still remain ready to wear, as function is still at my core!" At the end of the evening they announced she had just received the prestigious $5,00 Nancy Mask Award and would be using it to pursue her MA.

Images by Mike Wu

Ivis González's Latin-inspired collection - IVIDO - is made in Columbia and designed to showcase what every woman’s body possesses, irrespective of their size or weight. The designer can attest to the fact that as a Latina, she comes from a culture in which woman learn to feel good about their bodies regardless their size or weight. The idea is create fashion that accents what each woman already has - there is no need to hide. AND - they are always ready to get honest feedback from their customers.

Images by Mike Wu

What they brought to the runway was a fabulous, upbeat showcase of their amazing Push-Up Jeans - designed to lift and show-off a woman's derriere beautifully. The cut is tight and skinny - the palette a wide variety of eye-catching colours. I have to admit all behinds looked fabulous. To keep the show fun, the Ivido show had great latin music, a couple that danced down the runway and a finale featuring 3 amazing salsa dancers. The final model walk wove through these Vegas show clad dancers. To try on a pair, stop by the Ivido store at 1173 Robson Street in Vancouver.

Saturday - 

Blushing Design

Images by Ed Ng Photography

I have written on Vancouver designer Shelley Klassen many, many times. She has a huge local fan base of women who adore her truly feminine aesthetic and I am honoured to own a couple Blushing Design garments. The beautiful aqua skirt I wore to Tuesday's shows is one of my favourite pieces from last season - comfortable, stylish and I just adore the colour. Klassen is a graduate of Richard Robinson Academy of Design in Ottawa and launched her first label in 1999. There's been no looking back.

Image by Mike Wu
Chic, feminine, elegant and stylish looks that are also comfortable and easy to wear define this label. Fabrics come first because their color, pattern, and texture dictate how the design will unfold. Each finished work of art is fresh, dazzling, and perfectly detailed. A new youthful note entered with the recent launch of her ‘Story of a Girl' collection, Klassen’s labels are available in select boutiques across Canada and in her flagship store ‘Blushing Boutique’ located at 579 Richards St. in downtown Vancouver.

Here are links to just a few of the articles on Blushing Design - 2014 Interview, It All Began With A Blushing Design Skirt, F/W 15,  S/S 15,  S/S 14.

Thursday - 

Wanna Collection

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

I first saw the Wanna Collection at the Ladies Who Lunch Summer Patio Party 2014 held at the Arbutus Club and was impressed.  There was one large bracelet - a combination of dark leather and metal that really caught my eye in particular.  I was excited when I learned they would be showcasing at VFW this season.  But it wasn't until today, I realized there were two designers behind this great local brand - Inci and Sinem.

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

Inci began her journey in fashion in 1992. She used metal accessories and semi-precious stones in combination with leather and textile products to create exciting new pieces. In 2000, she decided to focus on jewelry, handbags and design textile products. Inci has attended various fashion shows all over Europe and had received awards for her work including The Jewelry Designer of the Year in Turkey in 2011. Inci likes working with semi-precious stones, natural stones, leather, silk and different metal products such as brass and bronze, usually plated with gold and silver.

Sinem began her journey in design in 2006 when she ran her own shop between 2006 in Turkey. The designer moved to North Vancouver in 2010 where and opened her own workshop. Turkey is a unique country blended with oriental and occidental cultures and these cultural roots are reflected in her designs. Love this quote from her profile, "..each and every piece contains an element of nature at its purest form and reflects a personal environment that puts her mind at peace. Her pieces will take you to places past and present, that reflect the stark beauty of life and its simplicity."
Wednesday -

Trash Lingerie

Images by Ed Ng Photography

Trash Lingerie creates lingerie that is not just visually pleasing and fun to wear, but comfortable and made with strong craftsmanship. Designer Rebecca Zubel believes in making quality garments that leave an impression, something unique and original for the alternative customer. I am really pleased to say I discovered Zubel at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) grad show last spring. VFW founder Jamal had ridden out with me to view the show, was taken with her collection as I was and invited her to be a part.

Video by Peter Jensen

 Not only are the designs fabulous, the palette stunning and the creativity outstanding, but her tailoring and fit is impeccable. No wonder. Zubel interned under internationally recognized corset maker - Melanie Talkington of Lace Embrace - and Talkington couldn't be more proud of her protege. In fact Talkington was at the show in support. Definitely a designer to watch.

Tuesday - 

Eliza Faulkner

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

Born and raised on Vancouver Island, this designer trained at Central St. Martin’s College of Art & Design in London where she graduated with a BA in Fashion Design and Marketing in 2008. She also gained valuable work experience in the London studios of Erdem, Zandra Rhodes, and Roland Mouret, before launching her namesake label in 2012. Faulkner's label is focused on contemporary womenswear with an emphasis on clean lines, classic silhouettes, and quality fabrics that last a lifetime. It's also made in Canada! I really enjoyed the off the shoulder pieces in particular. It's a great look on almost everyone.  She also did a great tuck center front on many looka (seen in the 2nd image on the left above) that was very flattering.

Allison Wonderland & Pillar by Allison

Allison Wonderful - Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

Allison Wonderland & Pillar by Allison (Eco line) are designed by Allison Smith. Both of these collections brought that stylish West Coast comfort element that we so enjoy here in Vancouver, but with strong design work to back it up. Casual and elegant, not easy to do. I particularly loved a dark coat dress from her Pillar brand and may have to look into adding it to my wardrobe once it becomes available. I would wear it with just the top button done and add some bright pop of colour peaking out from beneath.

Pillar - Images by Ed Ng Photography

This quote on Allison's work from her promotional material really says it all for me,  "...a woman’s life is not all about evening gowns. She designs clothes for the everyday life of working, running around town and getting things done. Designer and dreamer by day, Allison creates clothes that she and her friends would want to wear, often inspired by references from her favourite decade – the 70s! Eating and drinking is a very important part of Allison’s life. So it comes as no surprise that her designs can be summed up by how much food and drink a girl can consume while still looking great! After all, women should be able to look great while popping open a bottle of bubbles and breaking bread with family and friends."

Here is a link to a previous article - F/W 15.


Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

Aniimiism takes its etymology from the notion that the world around us carries a spirit—from the plants and animals to the mountains and natural phenomena. Confident and curious, the Aniimiism woman is both current and forward thinking, traversing boundaries in search of truth– to herself and the world around her. The brand is all about embracing change and collaboration and its mission is to create new shapes and forms in understated ways. loose and tailored, detailed and clean. inspired by inspiring things. All garments are sewn in Vancouver in local factories by technicians who have spent years perfecting their craft and emboldening many of the designs here.

The designer is back this season presenting a sun-soaked print and texture driven collection, This is another style that exudes the easy and comfortable West Coast lifestyle. I love bold so was particularly drawn to the vivid watercolour fabric she chose. My must have piece was a loose spaghetti strap top from this fabric. It would go with so many things in my wardrobe.

Here is a link to a previous article - F/W 15.

TKC Design Inc.

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

We first saw Taran Cheema showcase her Thesis collection at VFW S/S 14. It was a hands down hit using individual pieces layered on top of each other to build the look for each model. She offered her second collection, “Desh,” at VFW S/S 15. Yesterday she honoured Vancouver by debuting her new brand - TKC Design Inc. - here. What a treat.. TKC Design Inc. explores colour and vibrancy while proudly giving a voice to society.  Cheema has a strong eye for colours and graphics. She explores mix media and always strives to create unique and inspirational pieces.The brand has a socially responsible focus as well, that of creating a voice for the victims of rape crimes in India. Kudos!

Here is a link to a previous article on Taran Cheema - S/S14,

Connally McDougall

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

Connally McDougall is a now a veteran of the VFW runway with this is her fourth season. She is a highly acclaimed Canadian fashion designer, a graduate of Central Saint Martins and based out of both Vancouver and London. Her work is rich in textural details, architectural silhouettes and offers a wide range of ready to wear couture as well as accessories, active and intimate apparel. The materials used in her collections are sustainable and responsibly made in the UK and North America and garments are made by hand in her studio. OPTOBOTANICA was the theme of her SS16 collection and on the runway she brought that message home with strong styling used throughout. Floral and greenery were paired with both mens and womens looks taking the show to a new level.  Kudos!

Images by Ed Ng Photography
Here are links to previous articles - F/W 14, S/S 15F/W15, April 2014 Interview HERE

Atelier Grandi

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

Atelier Grandi has graced the runway at VFW several times now and each time she brings a lovely feminine presence. The designer's S/S 16 collection was no exception.  It was billed as SERPENTINE - a macabre waltz with the fleeting femme fatale. After 4 years working in the financial and consulting sectors, Grandy found the ratio of time she spent designing and making dresses, versus that spent on gainful employment was 24 to 1, It was time to say good-bye to the 8 hour workday and pursue her passion for dressmaking and tailoring. Atelier Grandi embraces timeless elegance, the bespoke tradition, and quality craftsmanship. All garments are locally hand-made, and tailored to the specific measurements and body type of each client.

Here is a link to a previous article - S/S 15


Images by Ed Ng Photography

"There were dresses and blouses on her floor, scarves scattered across her bed, and even her go-to jeans didn’t feel quite right. The problem was none of these clothes made her feel beautiful, and today she needed to feel beautiful. She needed that one piece of clothing that she could slip into and without another wasted thought (or hour of trying on clothes), would bring out the best in herself. SOPHIA is created with this story in mind."

Designer Sofia Mendez Schenone returns for her second season at VFW. Her S/S 16 collection is inspired by a feeling of lightness coming from what in appearance are opposite questions; How to break time?... the day/ the night? How to be natural and elegant at the same time? Each design is locally made using luxurious and natural fabrics. Special focus is directed to construction, fit and detail resulting in beautifully designed, easy-to-wear garments. The pieces are vibrant, feminine, and do not over shadow the woman wearing them. This was a very large collection, so five looks doesn't show the depth of looks available.

Here is a link to a previous article on Sofia - F/W 15.