Vancouver may not be known for its trendsetting fashions (at least athleisure wear had its time in the spotlight last year), but a set of high-profile openings, environmentally friendly launches, impressive retail renovations, and socially minded style events in the past year is helping to propel the typically laid-back city onto—and beyond—the global runway.
From locally produced swimwear that puts Mother Earth first to an outerwear pop-up that benefits Holocaust education, here’s a roundup of the biggest, most forward-thinking, and wackiest style-related unveilings, moments, and debuts spotted in Vancouver in the last 12 months or so.
Best incentive to brave an afternoon at B.C.’s largest mall
Metropolis at Metrotown is no place for the faint of heart. (Navigating the 350-plus stores and throngs of stroller-ridden families, screeching children, and generally slow walkers on a Saturday afternoon is a task for the seasoned.)
But the arrival of Muji, a cult Japanese retailer offering pared-down home, fashion, and stationery products, is making a visit to Burnaby all the more attractive. Expect even bigger crowds once Uniqlo, another Japanese name known for its versatile men’s and women’s apparel, launches at the mall in October.
Best showcase of traditional First Nations regalia
Although it technically took place over four days, this year’s inaugural Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week was a shining example of how fashion weeks should be done: with a balanced mix of local and international designers; an emphasis on sustainable, handcrafted apparel; and, most importantly, a strong sense of thought, meaning, and intention woven throughout.
Nearly 40 First Nations designers and models took to the runway to share works inspired by their heritage, traditions, and homelands during the multi-day fete, and it was the third evening’s Red Dress show, which honoured and brought attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, that perhaps proved the most personal.
Best use of plastic in a body of water
We know what you’re thinking: plastic? In our beautiful and already endangered oceans, lakes, and rivers? What in the climate-change hell could be so great about that?
But it’s not disposable bottles, takeaway utensils, and six-pack rings we’re talking. Rather, the recently launched Londrë Bodywear’s recycled-plastic-fabric one-pieces are making a splash in the world of eco-swimwear.
Designed and made ethically in Vancouver, they look just as good layered underneath blazers and wool cardigans in the winter as they do in the water.
Best way to outsmart Vancouver’s commercial-real-estate market
It’s no secret that much of the city’s housing remains out of reach for residents, and the same can be said of its escalating retail market. Yes, opening your own storefront does not come cheap, but a few savvy entrepreneurs are making the most of what’s affordable by setting up business in coffee shops.
Case in point: faulknerandco, a men’s vintage boutique that launched within the Downtown Eastside’s Push Pull Cafe in May. Perhaps owner James Faulkner got a li’l inspo from Far Out Vintage, which operates a location in a caffeine stop of the same name in the Hastings-Sunrise ’hood.
Best excuse to green up your beauty regimen
Interested in changing your beauty routine to one that’s vegan and cruelty-free, and forgoes the use of potentially harmful toxins?
Look no further than the Green Beauty Collective, a local duo of environmentally minded makeup artists who offer one-on-one makeup consultations, workshops, and an impressive selection of predominantly local skincare, cosmetic, and haircare brands that will make cleaning up your vanity a cinch.
Check out the collective’s pop-up at Silk Road Tea (2066 West 4th Avenue) this Saturday (September 23).
Best place to re-create Pretty Woman’s iconic shopping scene
Don your chicest overcoat-and-oversize-hat combo and press Play on Roy Orbison’s classic “Oh, Pretty Woman”: if you’ve ever dreamed of re-creating Julia Roberts’s shopping spree in Pretty Woman, Vancouver’s Holt Renfrew is the place to do it.
The luxury retailer has been steadily unveiling parts of its multiphase renovation and, since last fall, has debuted a brand-spanking-new men’s department, in-house restaurant, glitzy shoe hall, and expanded personal shopping area, among other additions.
If you ask nicely, you may even be able to run through some of Roberts’s most memorable lines with a Holt associate: “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”
Best styling of a preloved wardrobe
Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week had a big year, expanding its wings to Seattle and conducting part of its 12th edition in Toronto. In addition to the environmentally minded garb and sustainability-oriented panel discussions, 2017’s event also presented a rock ’n’ roll–inspired collection crafted from 37 kilograms of secondhand threads.
Designed by Project Runway Canada winner Evan Biddell and exhibited at the Museum of Vancouver in April, the collection—a luxe mix of upcycled leather, fur, denim, and suede—represented the estimated amount of textiles that the average North American discards annually.
Best Main Street invasion
Vancouver’s eclectic Main Street has long been known as one of the city’s top shopping destinations, but the recent addition of three shops is making the area all the livelier.
Woo to See You’s first East Side location (3671 Main Street) offers an assortment of easy, breezy everyday womenswear; Natale (4522 Main Street) stocks artisanal goods from around the globe, including an in-house Peruvian-cotton apparel line; and the gallerylike Lion & Sun (4219 Main Street) carries a curated selection of hard-to-find and handcrafted home, fashion, and lifestyle objects.
Best way to stick it to Holocaust deniers
When Vancouver-born comedian Nathan Fielder discovered that his favourite outerwear brand, Taiga, had previously published a tribute to Holocaust-downplaying former B.C. journalist Doug Collins in one of its winter catalogues, he did what any rational being of modest means would do: launch a competing outdoor-clothing company with a mandate of promoting the true story of the Holocaust.
Dubbed Summit Ice, the line of soft-shell, water-resistant coats has since been spotted on the likes of Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellie Kemper. Fielder even returned home to host the label’s first-ever pop-up shop this summer, offering free Summit Ice apparel to those who traded in old Taiga wear and presenting a cheque for US$150,000 to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre in the process.
Best nostalgia-inducing collaboration between two local labels
What do you get when you combine two of Vancouver’s most beloved brands, an empty retail space in Deep Cove, a boatload of lemons, and a ton of imagination? Why, the Lemonade Stand, of course.
Dreamed up by local accessories line Herschel Supply Co., the pop-up shop offered a selection of summery, lemon-themed backpacks and matching cold-pressed lemon juices produced by the Juice Truck.
The temporary store was made all the sweeter with confirmation that Herschel will soon be opening its first stand-alone store in Gastown. We’ll drink to that!More