Arts & CultureCampus & City

Western Canada Fashion Week: Week One Review

With the folding of Toronto fashion week earlier this year, Western Canada Fashion Week (WCFW) has officially become the largest fashion week in Canada. Beginning at the end of March, Edmonton hosted nine nights of runway-style events to show off what Canada is capable of in fashion and style. Let’s take a look at what the opening weekend had to offer.

“Ageless Style”
Thursday, March 23, 2017

Despite the lacklustre attendance of opening night, the WCFW staff put together an impressive set up in the ATB Arts Barn in Old Strathcona, which was completely transformed by an immaculate temporary oak and steel runway. Their opening gambit was a heart-melting display from Kids Chicc Store, featuring models that couldn’t have been much more than eight years old. An effective tactic, to be sure. Children’s clothing has certainly come a long way since the Club Kids Only days of my youth. In the best of ways.

Next on the docket was the heavy hand of Le Chateau. I’m not sure why they were at a fashion show, because Le Chateau hasn’t been fashion since the ’90s. And unfortunately, many of their garments seem to be stuck there as well. They had a brief moment of clarity in their men’s line, when they trotted out their collection of linen jackets, specifically one in bright pink. The real story though was man wearing the pink blazer. With his bald head, white rimmed glasses, and beard and pants to match, he was certainly something to see. He was the only part of Le Chateau’s showcase to meet the “ageless” theme.

The evening closed with designer Stanley Carroll presenting his spring line. With heavy influence from the ’60s and ’70s, Mr. Carroll’s line was bright and imaginative. While much of the collection was bold, vibrant colours, the argument could be made that his best work came from his most simple, asymmetrical garments in cool blues and greys. Not everything was a smash hit, but overall, Stanley Carroll put together a solid showing. And I must say, Mr. Carroll, thank you for featuring men’s’ summer scarves. Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks of them as essential, because at least half of his male models were wearing one.

“Emerging Designer Competition”
Friday, March 24, 2017

This is the one I had to see. As a designer myself, I always like to see who else is throwing their hat into the ring. With the staff generously giving me one of the precious front row seats, I got a really good look. There were eight candidates this year, and each of them put up something with unique strengths and weaknesses. While seam quality was an issue for many, imagination was in no short supply. The top spot was taken by Kevin Lemire with an excellent take on the varsity jacket, classic white and black but with large pink flowers running up the back. Raj Gill deserves an honorable mention for his immaculate black and grey denim jeans, which far surpassed his “emerging” status in both style and quality.

Regrettably, I know very little about hair and makeup, which monopolized most of the evening. From what I could see, it was well done. The hair had excellent volume, even when the Arts Barn’s sound system did not. The highlight for me was a woman in a splatter-print jumpsuit with short, neon orange hair that reminded me that the main difference between fashionable and stylish is how hard you rock it. Believe me, she was rocking it.

The designers from the rest of the night, the ones not a part of the emerging competition, had similar problems to the ones in the competition. Seam quality remains an issue, and some garments were in dire need of a good ironing. The ideas were there though, and were good. The colour palettes were well considered, particularly in the contemporary tan and blue line of last year’s emerging designer competition winner. It’s hard to critique someone who has put themselves out there at such an early stage in their career. What I most want to say, and this goes for everyone on the night, is keep pushing the limits your technical ability. I was elated to see so many designers doing exactly that, though some were more successful than others. I hope to see a full collection from all of these designers by next year.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Arguably, the main event of any week-long show is on Saturday night. This is when you have to bring your A-game, and I’m not so sure every designer did. While the collections on the night were some of the best of the first week, some of the design choices weren’t what I had expected or hoped for. I love natural fibres, and with how readily available they are in the globalized economy, I have come to expect them in most collections. So, naturally, I’m going to question why someone uses almost anything synthetic when a natural fibre would look better, move better, and not cheapen an otherwise well-made garment (all at similar cost to the synthetic alternatives if you know where to shop). Instead we saw heavy plastic dress trims that tripped the models, polyester used where silk should have been, and fleece — which should be avoided given all the recent horror stories of microplastics

Some of these synthetic woes came out in Tishynah Buffalo Designs’ showcase. I was instantly enamoured by their heavy woven and brightly coloured fabrics, especially because they were paired with black leather, but my joy was tempered somewhat when the fleece was used in a similar way. The woven fabric elevated the garments, making them comparable to any luxury boutique, but the fleece dramatically cheapened them, making them look like pyjamas. That was but a minor hiccup though in an otherwise bold and unified collection.

Cynthia Sapara, or Garnet designs, was my pick for top spot of the night. Aside from being the last act, her line of women’s evening wear showed the best understanding of fabric draping. While she fell victim to the see-through craze that is plaguing the fashion industry of late (though, perhaps I am the only one who dislikes transparent clothes), some of it was very well done. I’m specifically thinking of her laser-cut version of a short black dress, and her mesh-sided evening gown. Her best work, however, was in her various shapes and colours of jumpsuit, which convinced me in quick order that a quality, properly fitting jumpsuit belongs in any women’s-wear closet.

The second last designer, Posta, also helped me come to this conclusion. Their jumpsuits were less elegant as the ones from Cynthia, but were certainly eye catching. Their use of socks over shoes on the runway was highly distracting but it was a great, thrifty way to make shoes look like boots. Their collection also featured high-waisted and sashed garments that nestled firmly into the happy corner of my brain. Their overalls that tied at the shoulder, as opposed to buckled, should make their way into many closets in the area, providing they make them in a fabric that isn’t camouflage patterned.

Stay tuned for part two of Malcolm’s WCFW review.

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