Vancouver designers get mad for plaid
If there’s one thing Canadians know how to do well, it’s rock a plaid flannel like nobody’s business. And once again the Great White North’s (unofficial) national pattern is all the rage this fall. But rather than trying to milk the grunge-chic or prep-school glory of yesteryear, designers are taking a more fashion-forward approach to our country’s beloved check. Call it Canadiana couture. Just don’t call it one-dimensional.
As three local designers prove, plaids are one of the most versatile and ever-evolving prints to work with. That’s why the Twigg & Hottie (3671 Main Street) design team, which creates sustainable collections under the label We3, was so thrilled to get hold of some organic brushed-cotton plaid fabric.
“We really wanted to start working with some woollen prints,” says Glencora Twigg, the marketing manager for Twigg & Hottie. “But it’s really hard to source out sustainable, sophisticated prints. They’re usually a bit too hippie. So when we saw this, all three of us were like, ‘Yes, this will work!’ ”
They ended up with two killer plaid designs in their fall 2012 collection, the most ambitious being the Frida Kahlo Tunic ($159). This stunning black-and-red beauty comes with lots of voluminous fabric in the front as well as four strategically placed adjustable strings, so the silhouetting possibilities for this piece are virtually endless.
For an edgy look, Twigg suggests pairing it with dark-washed jeans, layers of brass chain necklaces, and chunky motorcycle boots. For a more elegant take, she likes a classic pencil skirt to streamline the bottom half of your body.
We3 also designed a skirt with that same fabric. It’s called the Joan Miró Skirt ($189), and it’s no run-of-the-mill pleated pretty. It’s a very modern, urban take on the maxi skirt. Dress it down with a white tee for day or dress it up with a black lace top for evening—can’t lose.
And if you’re looking for a fall coat that honours our buffalo-check heritage, but does so in a cosmo way, Vancouver-based designer Isabelle Dunlop has the perfect pea coat for you.
Inspired by the beautiful black-and-red vintage lumberjack wool that the owners of the Birkeland Bros. Wool store once gifted her, Dunlop has handcrafted a very warm and utilitarian yet extremely stylish jacket ($400 at One of a Few [354 Water Street]). Proudly Canadian, yes, but at the same time, this jacket can hold its own in the world’s most prominent fashion arenas.
“You can walk down the streets of London or New York in this coat and feel really fashionable, but still have the functionality and warmth you need,” says Dunlop, who, as a Scotland native, also wanted to pay homage to what she lovingly refers to as the Canadian “quirky sense of humour”. That’s why she lined the Birkeland jacket with a whimsical Hawaii print. “So you open it up and there’s this flirt-happy lining. So it’s fun yet functional….I mean if it doesn’t keep you warm, what’s the point?”
At Lifetime Collective, designer Jude Feller is dubbing this play on plaid trend “Americana”, but she’s trying to change her ways.
“Yeah, I guess, I better change my slang,” jokes Feller, whose fall collection is definitely of the here and now but also draws inspiration from past eras, which she describes as “a mix of that ’70s-logger feel and the early-’90s preppy Ralph Lauren look”.
The button-down Sammy shirt ($88 at The Boardroom [1745 West 4th Avenue] and Underworld [1043 Granville Street]), for example, has a bit of that equestrian-princess thing going on, but with Feller’s added necktie feature, the blouse takes on a sassy au courant attitude.
To give the Sammy even more of an urban edge, Feller suggests tucking it into high-waisted bell-bottom jeans and throwing a fitted blazer overtop.
And then there’s Lifetime’s Sally shirt ($88, via www.lifetimecollective.com/ ), which comes in a red or blue plaid. This three-quarter-sleeve tunic with gathered shoulder and cuff detailing is probably the most rock ’n’ roll piece in the collection. So to kick it up a notch or two for evening wear, think ankle boots, jeggings, skinny belt, and a cropped jacket. That’s right: even these hot hoser looks can go upscale.