Vancouver Fashion Week’s 27th season kicks off tonight (March 14) at the Chinese Cultural Centre (50 East Pender Street), where more than 100 runway shows will take place within the next jam-packed week.
This year’s event features over 80 emerging and established designers that will showcase a range of fall/winter collections nightly until March 20. Among international names like Lautaro Amadeo Tambutto, Natasha Chiew, and Florencia Occhiuzzi, a handful of homegrown talents will also be making their mark in Vancouver.
Here are seven local designers—some returning, some brand new—that we’re most excited to see at this year’s shows.
A graduate of the Blanche MacDonald Centre, Alex S. Yu has become a fixture in Vancouver’s fashion scene since he debuted a collection of punchy streetwear at Vancouver Fashion Week in 2014.
The designer has crafted a slightly darker collection for fall/winter 2016, inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian 1984. Titled Artificial Promise, the line combines Yu’s signature uses of quirky patterns and loud, in-your-face hues with restrictive silhouettes that reflect the relationship between a government and its people.
“I wanted to take that feeling of freedom versus constriction and put that into clothing,” the designer tells the Straight by phone. Faux-fur, leather, mesh, and denim feature prominently in the line and each garment uses a mix of two to three different fabrics. Artificial Promise is also the first time that Yu will be presenting menswear.
Though she remains committed to creating pieces that put comfort first, Sofia Méndez Schenone’s newest line, Felen, signifies somewhat of a departure for the designer. “This is a very different collection from what I’ve done previously,” she explains. “I’m personally going through a lot of changes in my life, so it’s a reflection of what’s happening there.”
Presented under Schenone’s Sofia label, Felen—a word in the Mapudungan language that means “to be this way”—exudes a natural elegance that is punctuated with vibrant motifs from the designer’s native Chile.
Rich, chocolatey tones and sumptuous textures from materials like shearling and vegan leather toughen up the feminine feel for a look that feels far from froufrou. “It’s a little bit soft and tough at same time,” Schenone says.
A newcomer to Vancouver Fashion Week, Sagitteo is cloaked in an air of mystery. Katherina Xian represents the label while her brother serves as designer, but Xian is careful not to share too much about her sibling’s identity. “He just wants the people to know his designs,” she explains. “He doesn’t want to show as a designer; he wants other people to see that we are a group, that we’re just a brand.”
Xian does reveal that her brother is an Art Institute of Vancouver alumnus and that he values artistry over design alone. Sagitteo’s fall/winter 2016 line follows this thinking with a gender-neutral—and fully immersive—mishmash of sequins, leather, and cotton coated in the label’s distinct red and black palette.
“We don’t just want to show people that design is the main thing,” adds Xian. “We want people to feel the whole look, from the hair to shoes and even the smell.”
Considering that this is the third VFW appearance for aniimiism, it’s hard to believe that the brand is only a passion project for designer Cassie Dee. A full-time product developer at Lululemon, she began the label as a creative outlet after graduating from fashion school in Vancouver.
For fall/winter 2016, Dee will be exhibiting a wildly imaginative collection of icy chiffons, pleated pleather fabrics, and kaleidoscopic boucles from India. “I know everyone loves David Bowie,” the designer says, “but it’s kind of, like, my David Bowie-esque collection.”
Show-goers can expect garments similar to what the late rock icon would’ve sported in his prime, like printed scarves, mermaid-style flares, and classic denim jackets and bomber coats. “It’s a little bit of a punk inspiration this time,” Dee adds, “but pretty girly, too, I’d say.”
Past collections by womenswear designer Evan Clayton could easily have earned his shows a “parental guidance required” notice. His latest collection, Worship, however, seeks to highlight his demure side. “I feel like I’ve been kind of placed in a box of, like, being this aggressive and edgy designer,” he says. “That’s part of my brand, but that’s not the only part.”
For fall/winter 2016, the Blanche MacDonald grad is trading in his cut-out leathers and risqué mesh for all-natural fibres like cotton, denim, and an abundance of silk, each washed in subdued shades of rustic olive, indigo, and nude.
Throughout the dress-heavy line, Clayton maintains the impeccably tailored fits that have become almost synonymous with his name. A raw denim dress, with frayed edges and a mandarin collar, showcases his experimental style particularly well.
Local designer Allison Smith crafts not one, but two fashion labels from her Mount Pleasant ‘hood. “I like the idea of the whole ‘slow’ fashion thing and appreciating the clothing that you wear,” she says, “and really finding the beauty and enjoyment of wearing pieces every day.”
Her original Allison Wonderland line focuses on transitional garb that can move effortlessly from work to happy hour to black-tie events, while her younger Pillar label offers casual weekend wear with a recognizable West Coast vibe.
For fall/winter 2016, Smith will present a collection of relaxed looks for Allison Wonderland: think comfy drop-shoulder sleeves, drape-like pants, and polished shapes. Pillar, on the other hand, will feature easy-to-wear pieces, like luxe cardigans and wrap-pants, all covered in a muted palette of charcoal and heather greys.
This year marks a few firsts for Salvadore Chorro. The El Salvador-born designer has completed his inaugural collection and he’ll be presenting it during his Vancouver Fashion Week premiere.
Though Chorro cites his primary design influence as French couture, his fall/winter line draws largely from Japanese silks. Kimono-inspired wraps and long, flowing skirts are amped up with avant-garde touches like leather patchworks, metal details, and edgy, criss-cross lace-ups. Chorro has also handwoven intricate floral patterns into the silks, offering a modern update to the traditional wears.
His label NINKI, which translates to “popular”, is also East Asian-influenced. “My idea is if the person can read Japanese or Chinese, they'll find it humorous,” he explains, “but if they don't speak those languages, it will be just a name.”
For more information about Vancouver Fashion Week, including the full show schedule and ticket details, click here.