By J. Andrew Jackson
For two weeks a year, in April and October, the David Lam Chinese Cultural Centre is home to Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW).
Since its inception in 2001, VFW has been dedicated to cultivating a platform that amplifies both established and emerging designers. Excelling in its diversity, VFW highlights international, national, and local makers—on the same night, one might see the latest styles from Japan shown next to the offerings of one of Vancouver’s many fashion schools.
For this fashion lover, VFW is a welcome escape from Vancouver’s laid-back West Coast style and an opportunity to see creativity abound. And the fabulous street style of the attendees is just as eye-catching as the designs on the catwalk.
From Wednesday to Sunday, the runway was ablaze with shows from over 45 designers, some coming from as far as Ukraine and the Philippines. The crowded hall erupted in applause time after time as the audience was wowed by inspired collections, showcasing fashion that is creative, unique, and skillfully crafted.
On opening night, the highlight for creativity and the stylishly unusual went to an emerging designer from Brooklyn, New York, Hector Diaz, and his brand Kurriizmatic. Kurrizmatic is a gender-neutral brand that focuses on sustainability by creating garments from 100 per cent secondhand fabrics and recycled clothing. What hit the runway was a dynamic collection using the designer’s original textiles in a range of amorphous textured woven garments.
The second evening brought glamour and Japanese idols to the runway.
The glam came from a graduate of Blanche MacDonald School in Vancouver, Rolla Summers. Inspired by nature and female sensuality, Lebanese-born Summers presented a capsule collection of 10 evening wear looks that created a fantastic escape into a world of elegance and sophistication. Silk, taffeta, tulle, organza, and feathers combined in dresses of voluminous and daring silhouettes that were red-carpet-ready.
Designer Satomi Takakura’s line was influenced by modern Japanese culture, as well as the subculture informed by pop culture idols. Takakura’s label, Satomi El Beso, mainly produces costumes for Japanese idols, TV programs, and commercials. Combining anime prints with a palette of primarily hot pink and black, the designer has adapted her costume style to the runway. The audience was buzzing with this dynamic, fun collection. In an industry that often takes itself too seriously, a look into this amusing and entertaining fantasy underground was enjoyable.
By day three, Friday, the audience had grown to a standing-room-only capacity. People in the crowd were decked out in their most creative garb. While some flank the bleachers of the sports arena for the championship game, the fashion lovers delight in donning their sartorial splendour and strutting their stuff.
The festival-like atmosphere only added to the excitement on the catwalk.
The schedule for day three showcased mainly Canadian designers with presentations from graduates of VCC Fashion (Vancouver Community College) and La Salle College. VFW supports fashion education and offers emerging designers a platform to exhibit their talents in a professional venue. For me, the strength of the fashion industry lies in the education and support of burgeoning talent.
Highlights included the sustainable fashion offerings from the brand Terra2k, a design studio located in Vancouver. The designer incorporated tailoring with chic sportswear and ended with a series of gauzy, sheer pieces to tell the story of the metamorphosis of a butterfly. The designer used aluminum pull tabs from tins as garment details, along with secondhand and deadstock fabrics. Many of the brands that presented at VFW this season are from sustainable fashion labels.
Day four brought a wide array of styles, highlighting the variety of VFW.
Eponymous label Chyanna Mamawal, coming to VFW from the Philippines, presented a breathtaking evening wear collection that had the audience on its feet. Mamawal’s stunning creations were arguably some of the best formal looks seen at Vancouver Fashion Week.
Unserten, a menswear brand from Japan, presented its latest collection at New York Fashion Week earlier this year. Inspired by Japanese art photography, the designers work in a collective to produce work that is dark and thought-provoking. Using predominantly black fabrics, the designers showed leather pants, sheer tops with beaded details, large rivets, structured tailored jackets, and coats. But the devil was in the details: in this case, the intricate use of silver chains, suspended on garments like belts, chokers, and necklaces. The collection had a gothic edge, with one model quite literally carrying a skull.
The final night of Vancouver Fashion Week F/W 2023 was a time to celebrate, with the presentation of the Nancy Mak Award for emerging fashion talent. The recipient was Eduardo Ramos, whose latest collection is inspired by a phoenix rising from ashes. Incorporating an array of fabrics that included silk taffeta, brocades, and leather, Ramos created a womenswear collection that was polished and precise. Nothing seemed out of place: a well-fitted bustier and uniquely pleated skirt, a silvery taffeta dress with frothy ruffles across the bust and down the side. These clothes were original and daring: no wonder the award-winning collection drew thunderous applause.
As the lights dim on another season of VFW, the producers can be proud of the breadth of originality and diversity. With each passing year, VFW strengthens its place as a platform that supports and celebrates fashion and the people who create it.
It takes a small army to stage a fashion week of five nights, and Vancouver Fashion Week’s founder and CEO Jamal Abdourahman and his team get this fashionista’s accolades.
J. Andrew Jackson is a fashion blogger and freelance fashion writer. With many years of experience in the fashion industry, Andrew can be found in the front row of fashion shows around the city. Follow him on Instagram at @jandrewspeaks.