Eco Fashion Week returns to Vancouver with all-star speakers, upcycled gowns inspired by Canada 150, and more

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      Coming off a year of growth that saw the event spreading its wings to Seattle, Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week is returning to B.C. for its 12th season from March 31 to April 2.

      Although the eco-conscious fete will once again feature the Chic Sheets Challenge and a jam-packed schedule of panel discussions—with big-name moderators such as local TV personality Fiona Forbes and ET Canada’s Erin Cebula—there are a few key changes to note at this spring’s edition.

      For starters, the event spans three, rather than six or seven, days. During a press preview yesterday (March 7) at Eco Fashion Week’s host venue, the Fairmont Waterfront, show founder Myriam Laroche shared that the eco-conscious function, which aims to forward the slow-fashion movement among both consumers and industry stakeholders, will also forgo formal fashion shows in favour of showcases or presentations.

      These adjustments are largely due to Eco Fashion Week’s participation in Toronto Women’s Fashion Week on March 11, a move that, according to Laroche, will allow the Vancouver-founded event to more effectively share its vision of a more sustainable textile industry with the world.

      “Vancouver is the birthplace of Eco Fashion Week and we are not going anywhere,” said Laroche. “But we need to be extremely loud right now for the cause for it to be heard and to make change.”

      Eco Fashion Week will take its signature 81-Pound Challenge to Toronto, where Project Runway Canada winner Evan Biddell will craft a fully realized fashion collection using gently worn fabrics, apparel, and accessories from Value Village that will weigh 81 pounds in total. (The number reflects the estimated amount of clothing and textiles that the average North American tosses every year.)

      That collection will then be transported to B.C. and showcased at the Museum of Vancouver for Eco Fashion Week’s finale night on April 2. Biddell will also be on hand to answer questions from the public at the event. His upcycled creations will be displayed for two weeks at the gallery thereafter.

      On March 31 and April 1, fashion showcases will be presented at the Fairmont Waterfront by environmentally conscious labels such as India’s Sanskar, the New York City–based Kromagnon, and Vancouver’s cruelty-free Bianca Bellantoni. A showroom will also be open throughout the event, where attendees may discover and browse sustainable fabric, clothing, and accessory options from local businesses.

      Students from LaSalle College Vancouver’s Yaletown and Renfrew campuses present their fashion sketches for Eco Fashion Week's Chic Sheets Challenge alongside the bed sheets they will be upcycling to craft the garments.
      Michael Song

      “The difference is the models—we don’t just see them just for 45 seconds, we see them for 10 minutes,” Laroche said of the showcase-and-showroom structure. “You can interact and you can get closer to the clothes and see it for real. Because that’s what it’s about: it’s about knowing where clothes are made and what they are made of.”

      Eco Fashion Week kicks off on March 31 with Collective Conversation, a series of panel discussions that will engage both the public and industry insiders with issues related to the textile-and-supply chain and how we can better support the sustainable production, reuse, and disposal of clothing.

      Esther Speck, vice president of global sustainability at Lululemon; Karen Storry, senior project engineer with the City of Vancouver; and Tony Shumpert, vice president of reuse and recycling at Value Village, are all expected to speak.

      On March 31 at 7 p.m.—following the Collective Conversation—student designers from LaSalle College will debut their upcycled garments for the Chic Sheets Challenge. Each student has been tasked with transforming a set of used flat sheets and pillow cases from the Fairmont Waterfront into a garment that celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday.

      Guests can expect smocked gowns that nod to the indigenous people’s reverence for salmon, for example, and dramatic blue-green dresses that pay homage to Canada’s mountainous landscape.

      “To me, Canada is all about nature,” said student designer Ana Lisboa, who plans to draw inspiration from an untitled panting by Canadian artist Lawren Harris for her piece. Speaking to the Straight at Eco Fashion Week’s press preview, she adds that the use of bed sheets to craft the garments will test the emerging designers' creativity.

      “It’s pretty interesting because we’ve never done this before,” she said. “We have a whole bunch of options but at the same time, it’s a little overwhelming, like, ‘What can we do?’ ”

      The results of the Chic Sheets Challenge will be showcased at the Fairmont Waterfront following the event.

      Vancouver's Eco Fashion Week takes place from March 31 to April 2 at the Fairmont Waterfront (900 Canada Place). For more information about the event, or to purchase tickets or view the full schedule, visit Eco Fashion Week's website.

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.

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