Industry expert: Vesuvius designer Sam Stringer dishes on Vancouver's most stylish haunts

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      Formalwear designer Sam Stringer is out to show that Vancouver is more than just a Gore-Tex-, and yoga-wear-happy town—one gorgeous couture gown at a time.

      Through her work as a photographer shooting galas and fancy fundraisers she noticed this town is also home to a lot of upscale, knockout dress-up events.

      “I was talking to women at these events and they’d say ‘I have to buy dresses in L.A. or London,’” she tells the Straight. “And they want clothes that speak to so much more than just the fabric. They’re interested in supporting local dress designers and they want to express themselves artistically.”

      Now the Kwantlen Polytechnic University fashion-design grad is ready to debut her first full collection at Vancouver Fashion Week on Sunday (September 25). Called Vesuvius, it features dramatic flowing gowns inspired by the oil paintings of Jack Wass, rich with luxurious gold, black, and red silks. Some of his imagery even appears digitally printed on fabric.

      Along with artistic inspiration (Stringer hopes to work with a different artist each collection), look for exquisite draping and pleating, and fine details like matte sequins and baroque appliqués.

      “Art has been very important to me in my life: my mom’s a painter,” Stringer says. “Art helps inspire me with colour and prints, but also it’s being able to collaborate.”

      Immersed in art, photography, and especially fashion, she dishes on a few of Stringer’s favourite things.


      Best place to spot Vancouver's dressed to impress

      Vancouver Fashion Week
      To September 25 at the Chinese Cultural Centre

      “It’s the time of the year when Vancouver’s best-dressed get to express themselves. Watching the runway shows is an inspiration for me as a designer, but off the runway, it definitely shows what people in Vancouver are wearing.”

      Best local jewellery designer

      Carolyn Bruce Designs

      “Her designs are fantastic—they’re steampunk but they’re still very elegant. They appeal to me personally but they also work well with my collection.”

      Best vintage shopping

      House of Vintage
      1008 Robson Street

      Turnabout Luxury Resale
      Various locations

      “House of Vintage is great for singular, very strange pieces that I love that you can’t find anywhere else and you need the confidence to rock them,” Stringer says. “Turnabout has a lot of designer pieces.”

      Best place to style-watch

      “I really like West 4th around Burrard. A lot of people are headed downtown and there are a lot of very interesting coffee shops that have [people in] cool looks.”

      Best-dressed retail staff

      BCBG Max Azria
      1080 Robson Street

      “Every time I go in there it’s such a cool mix. They have to wear BCBG clothes but they manage to rock it in a very personal way.”

      Best neighbourhood for shopping

      “For me it’s probably Main Street between 8th and 15th. There’s a lot of vintage, and a lot of urban-casual stores.”

      Best cheap thrill

      Distillery Bar + Kitchen
      1132 Mainland Street

      “My fashion industry is about a lot of networking, so my go-to is the bottomless mimosas at the Distillery. That’s a good meeting place.”

      Best splurge

      “I’m from Victoria, so my best splurge is taking HeliJet!”

      Best costuming pieces

      Drafted Eminence

      “She does costume headpieces and wings and shoulder pieces, and I’ve worked with her for photo shoots. It’s just going to her studio and seeing these elaborate headpieces everywhere!”

      Best spot for killer shoes

      Turnabout Luxury Resale
      Various locations

      “I am a shoe addict. I have 100 pairs of shoes—I’m not kidding! And even if I go into Turnabout just to say hi, I walk out with a pair of shoes. My favourites are a black suede pair of booties with six-inch heels and they are covered in silver studs. They were two sizes too small, but I stretched them out!”

      Best fitting rooms

      Nordstrom Pacific Centre
      799 Robson Street

      “I have had a pretty awesome experience at Nordstrom’s designer ones. I was trying on gowns and they were like, ‘Do you want coffee?’”

      Best fashion trend to hit Vancouver

      “Definitely I’m looking forward to flared and wide-legged pants coming back—finally! I have long Twiggy chicken legs so, yeah, I’m excited about it. And I’m tired of everyone doing the Skinny Jeans Shuffle. But people are starting to wear flares here—they’re wearing a lot of off-the-shoulder tops and they look good with that.”

      Best fabric store

      Telio Showroom
      211 Columbia Street

      Rokko Sarees and Fabrics
      6201 Fraser Street

      “For wholesalers Telio is awesome; it’s a Montreal company but it has a showroom here. It’s for all my luxurious fabrics that I can’t find anywhere else. And then Rokko has the best Indian silks—I buy most of my silks or lighter fabrics there, the organzas and the chiffons. They’re very good at being very personal.”

      Best place to do a photo shoot

      “Everybody talks about Gastown but one that people don’t tend to talk about is Steveston: you get the smaller townsite but a lot of good water views as well.”

      Best Vancouver designers

      Evan Clayton is amazing; he’s a Blanche Macdonald [Centre] grad. And then there’s Connally McDougall: she does very incredible pieces and has had the luck to have a lot of her clothes worn in L.A. on the red carpet. And then there’s Noctex: it’s very edgy and grunge and I want all their pieces.”

      Best fashion blogs to follow

      Jessica Luxe

      Fashion X Passion

      “I love Jessica’s personal style and she changes her style all the time, whether it’s her hair or her colour scheme. Fashion X Passion does a lot of very interesting relatable pieces that show how Vancouver fashion can be worn with international fashion.”