Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 17 - Blanche Macdonald Alumni Fashion Show

Runway Images Courtesy of Peter Jensen Photography

This is a new show at Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) and one I was really looking forward too.  I have always admired the way Blanche Macdonald supports their fashion graduates. Articles go up on the school blog frequently that share the successes of former students and I often see a representative in the audience when one of their own is showing on the runway.

The concept for this showcase was to highlight the work of ten former students - letting them share with the audience how much they have grown as designers since heading out into the fashion world. I have been attending Blanche Macdonald grad shows since 2007, so had seen most of these designers' student grad collections. I have also followed the careers of several who have been regularly participating in runway shows. What a pleasure it was to see all of them in one place each offering just a taste of their current work.

I continue to say - if you want to see what the future of fashion will be, attend each and every fashion design grad show you can.  You'll be amazed. And you'll have the privilege to watch these same designers grow and mature over time - to see the hint of creativity blossom into strong design work.

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LI LIU  - "I made my first garment when I was 17 years old. I transformed my mother's old vest into a bra. Since that day, I decided that I wanted to be able to dress myself up however I wanted!"

Luxurious and glamourous silks combined with the most delicate of twills and crepe de chine, come together in rich bundles and bows in Li Liu's "Dream of a Geisha" collection. Inspired by the novel and film "Memoirs of a Geisha", Li takes her audience on a tour of another world set in another time. A young girl, Chiyo Sakamoto, is sold to a geisha house or an okiya and exposed to a world where beauty, talent and smarts is what it takes to be valued. Li takes her inspiration from the cultural and historical elements of Chiyo's story and the lavishness of the coveted kimonos. Finding her niche in the luxurious fabrics that geishas were known to wear, Li's designs are based on Asian antiquities, always colourful and with the independent businesswoman in mind. Li is currently completing her Master of Fashion Design at the Polimoda Institute in Florence, Italy.

GARRET ALEXANDER ELPHEE - "I don't really like talking about where my mind went to come up with what I do. That's why I like fashion, you can arrive at something and people judge it immediately at face value."

Though not his first foray into the working world, a self-proclaimed "venerator of the blue collar", Garret Alexander Elphee has nonetheless managed to stun and wow with his garments. Winner of the Fabric Innovation award in Blanche Macdonald's 2015 Fashion Design Graduate Showcase, Garret's aubergine hand-dyed wool collection featured brilliant textural explorations like felted lace and a skirt made up of enough yarn to (literally) fill a room. With his current collection he started with the concept of "sterile yet sexy" and though that was the springboard for each look, he made sure that each piece was allowed it's own natural progression. Garret's collection is less a statement, specific colourway, or compilation of elements, but rather a commentary on the experience of sharing an intimate thought that comes to fruition in a collection and is instantly evaluated by the masses.

He can be reached at: (604) 812-5629

ALEX S. YU - "This collection is deeply personal and is inspired by my status as a 1.5 generation immigrant. The clash and contrast of the two very different cultures that I've been raised with were the main theme for this collection."

Culture meets culture. Or more aptly, Canadian meets Taiwanese. Such is the story of Alex S Yu's life as a member of the "Generation 1.5 Immigrants." Exposure to an extremely North American way of living, being and speaking after immigrating from Taiwan at only 7 years old yet still being immersed in a traditional Japanese and Taiwanese-style family life is the basis for Alex's collection, THE PERCEIVED ANALOGY. Coming from a background in Computer Science to the Fashion Designer he is now, along with the two languages, two sets of cultural values, social expectations, rules, ideals, and not to mention his technology background, Alex grapples with all of the influences which have culminated and moulded him as he is today. THE PERCEIVED ANALOGY is an analogy of Alex's story, his perception of the world and the influences of mixing cultures. Stuck in constant limbo of being "too F.O.B." for his Canadian friends and "too white-washed" for his Taiwanese family, Alex aims to blend his views, his nationalities and his cultures together in his own unique way. Having shown twice previously at Vancouver Fashion Week, we are elated to have the honour of showing Alex's newest collection. A hybrid of the Canadian quintessential look of laid-back sportswear and the colourful, vivid, mix-and-match lifestyle of Taiwan, Alex will prove once and for all that he is neither, and he is both.

Find him here: @alex.s.yu //

EVAN CLAYTON - "Last season, I really started an exploration of femininity, and what femininity means to me. This collection is a continuation of that venture. People aren't confined to one way of life, why should their femininity be the same?!"

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate and BC-native Evan Clayton marries art and fashion in a way few have ever dreamt possible. Internationally appealing, Evan creates clothing that have a theatrical appeal yet remain of highest quality and by extension, creating personal and artistic expressions for the wearer. The first ever recipient of the Nancy Mak Award at Vancouver Fashion Week, Evan's collections have garnered him immense attention from multiple media outlets and landing a show in Vienna Fashion Week. Always one to amplify elements of juxtaposition, Evan's forth-coming collection MAHŌ SHŌJO Evan celebrates exaggerated felinity and continues his dialogue concerning the elements of femininity he began with his last collection. Inspiration from classic 'magical girl' tropes like Sailor Moon and Puella Magi Madoka Magica provide the template for Evan Clayton to create a saccharinely sweet aesthetic for the coming season. Clad in patent leather, silk twills and his signature sharp silhouette in jolting colours like magenta, teal, crimson and optic white, Evan's SS17 collection places the very idea of femininity under a microscope.

Find him here: @evanclayton // //

KARI APPELQUIST - “I want to bring my designs to life and make women feel amazing through the garments they wear. If I can achieve anything through my designs, it would be to create beautiful masterpieces that not only showcase how women want to feel, but still represent who I am as a designer.”

Opposites attract in Kari Appelquist's debut collection for A/W 2017. Leather and lace come together to dish out an edgy, rocker girl feel with masterful handcrafted qualities. Referencing Kari's Saskatchewan roots and Industrial Engineering background, Kari employs a myriad of shapes, tones and textures to contrast the other and in turn, evoke a feeling of female empowerment. Using animalistic elements such as ostrich leather to handcrafted embellishments like chain mail, Kari's collection abolishes conventional beauty standards and replaces it with something much more complex, contradictory and cutting-edge.

DASHA VOLOKHOVA - "This collection, in my mind, is set in a quiet place, in a virgin forest with glowing waterfalls and surrounded by flowers; somewhere beautiful that places femininity at the forefront of the audience's mind."

From crafting doll clothes in Russia, to showing her newest collection in Vancouver, Dasha Volokhova (Daria Volokhova) has been following her passion for design from a young age. Gleaming inspiration from the complexity and layers of historical costumes, Dasha's designs combine old world aesthetics with new world fashion. Focusing on intricate needlework and fabric manipulations, Dasha's designs become nothing less than wearable works of art.

Find her here: @dashavolokhova

MARYAM NIYAZI - "I have always been curious about my surroundings and the shapes of the buildings I've been surrounded by. Structures, shapes, architecture, it's all so fascinating and a lot of that makes its way into my designs."

Afghanistan born designer Maryam Niyazi's S/S 2017 collection came from glancing up at the small, squared mirrors on the ceiling of Columbia Stationin New Westminster. In love with the reflection and the repeating pattern, Maryam designed a repeating print that is the focal point of her collection. Using a myriad of materials, such as safety pins, to convey an architectural feel, Maryam's resulting silhouettes are simple and clean to showcase the handmade details. The culmination of geometrics shapes, handmade details and elegant silhouettes, come together in light dusky blues, silver, light pink, yellow with hints of black to create a structure of Maryam's creation.

Find her here: @maryamniyazi1

CHLOE PRUSA - "The inspiration for this collection of evening wear was really a no-brainer. I love French architecture and have always had a fascination with lingerie and in my head the two just mesh so well together. This collection is all about embracing your classy kink. Let your kink flag fly!"

Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate Chloe Prusa takes a step into the kinkier side of things with her collection for Blanche Macdonald's collaboration show with Vancouver Fashion Week with her collection titled Unwearable. Beginning with sewing her own clothes to fit her bodacious bod ("thanks mom") and garnering attention for her designs at a young age, Chloe is now eyebrows deep in lace, leather, trims, buttons, threads and pins ("I only wish my brows actually looked good while doing it but ain't nobody got time for that!"). The Victoria, BC native received an honourable mention in Garment Construction in Blanche Macdonald's Fashion Design graduation fashion show and blew the crowd away with her impressive pieces; we are beyond thrilled to showcase her very first capsule collection!

Steeped in inspiration from architecture and history, Chloe explores the techniques and steps that goes into making a classic lingerie set, especially wanting to experiment with the body conscious fit and the confidence that garments such as these give the wearer. Despite staying true to fabrics that she's known for such as lace and leather with intricate details, Chloe promises she's used them in creative new ways to create a collection designed for a 'classic-style kink.' Designed with a curvy figure in mind, Chloe persists that "everyone's got an inner kink -embrace it!"

Find her here: @prusadesigns

MARYAM ASGARI - "In Iran, women are not allowed to wear colourful and beautiful designs in public. Once I came to Canada, I realized that I love colourful and happy designs which has become a signature in my designs. Now I can follow my passion and bring my ideas of one-of-a-kind fashion creations to life!"

Born and raised in Tehran, fashion design has been a passion of Maryam Asgari's since early childhood. Growing up with a mother and a grandmother who sewed only enhanced Maryam's love of creating and it wasn't long before she was using the sewing machine herself when left unattended. Already a graduate of ICS Montreal's Dress-Making and Fashion Design program, Maryam's desire to further her skills and craft, saw Maryam complete the Fashion Design program at Blanche Macdonald. Clad in her signature hat and despite being graduated, Maryam can often be seen in the design rooms working on her latest project, collaborating with others or simply placing the finishing touches on her collection. Her time here has seen her create pieces that are unusual, eccentric and beautiful yet still practical for her main client - the modern woman who wants a little flounce in her closet. Maryam's new collection sees body conscious silhouettes with whimsical, almost futuristic elements. In the colour ways of black and nude, Maryam explores animalistic additions to her garments with prints in leopard and materials like ostrich feathers intermingled with other signature elements such as sequins, mesh, knits and paillettes.

Find her here:

SARA ARMSTRONG - Saskatchewan-native and Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design graduate-turned-instructor SARA ARMSTRONG is an internationally acclaimed interdisciplinary artist whose practice spans both fashion and industrial design. Creating androgynous ready-to-wear pieces for men and women via the eponymous SARA ARMSTRONG label that is handmade and ethically-sourced in Vancouver, BC, Sara's new concept collection embodies a loyalty to heritage craftsmanship that she subverts with complex geometries. Exploring themes of anxiety and suffocation with the aid of a HRI (Human Robot Interaction) controlled all-surrounding swell of silks, taffeta and linen, Sara's latest installation comes to life with no time, season, wearer or size restraints - they simply just, are. The orchestrated, anatomical motion of silks and synthetic hair serves to impose a physical palpability to intimate unease, a feeling of underwater suppression. Based on her childhood nightmares of swelling hands and the sloth-like passing of time, Sara explores the spaces between success and strain – all in the colour way of 'thumb-throb red.'

Find her here: @sararmstrong // //

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For more information on the fashion design program at Blanche Macdonald, please visit their website at