Western Canada Fashion Week: Final review

This is a continuation of our Western Canada Fashion Week: Week One review.


“Fantasy Night”
Monday, March 27

First on the evening’s playbill was Liliana Designs and their collection “costumes.” The dresses were certainly straight out of a fairy princess fantasy in design, but were well constructed. While I had retained something akin to a smile for most of the night before, it was after this point it faded fast.

Although I believe some of the greatest future designers will come from cosplay roots, and am impressed that cosplay was deemed worthy of a runway show, I wasn’t impressed by the next showing by Vivid Vision cosplay. The show seemed to be made up as a group of individuals rather than unified collection, but that wasn’t my main complaint. The cosplay community has so many innovative tricks to make stunning costumes and prosthetics on the cheap, and it’s a shame these cosplayers weren’t quite up to date on them. Visible, unpainted cardboard and foam made for costumes more reminiscent of a childhood Halloween than fantastic outfits fit for a runway.

Next, Gypsy Eyes Prairie Skies put forward a simple collection. But not the simple in a good way, unfortunately. They were dogged by construction and fit issues, and overall gave the impression that their collection was born from a quick search of #boho on Instagram. I appreciated their sense of humour about their own work though. Sadly, I had lost mine by now, which wasn’t to the benefit of the last collection.

From designers Lewis Mayhem and Vexy Heart came complete and utter nonsense. Roman, Druid, Japanese, Gothic, Native American, suede, lace, metal, jersey cotton, rubber, AK-47 bullets, Roman plate armour and terrible faux fur, all dipped in a heavy dose of Viking runes. To say it was a thematic mess would be an understatement and it was obvious the designers fell victim to “feature creep,” where starting new ideas took precedence over completing good ideas. Instead of producing 15 mediocre outfits, they should have focused on five amazing ones.


“Collections”
Tuesday, March 28

Salt and Tickle menswear opened with what appeared to be a basic white dress shirt, but when the model took off his blazer off, he revealed a bright, bold print. Everyone in attendance laughed or smiled at the reveal. The next model came down the runway with the same shirt, only with a slightly different print. Then the same thing happened again, and again, and again. Nine models, all wearing the same shirt. If Salt and Tickle wants to be more than a one trick curiosity, they could incorporate a little more diversity in their designs.

Kerekk…Keras……ugh. Karcsikouturak was next. I met this man behind the brand after the show, and he is as unique as his name. He makes chainmaille couture. While I appreciate the time it takes to make something out of chainmaille (because I have tried), it’s difficult to take it seriously as off-runway fashion, mostly because it is impractically heavy: a point that the models were demonstrating clearly. I’m not sure how I feel about the full garments, but the accessories are worth mentioning, and under the bright lights of the runway, they took on a delightful metallic shimmer.

Show of the night goes to Raj Gill for his denim. While Alan Moore might have a lawsuit against him for his terrible use of the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta (even going so far as to use a red “V” as a backdrop), his denim collection could not be ignored — aggressive and angled patches of black and dark grey, with some of the best construction I have seen yet. Raj, if you make a pair that fits me, I want it.

Last of the night was Mme Nadine and EME designs. EME’s eveningwear was actually quite good, and had a reasonable grasp of construction and draping. Mme. Nadine’s jewellery was disappointing however. As a jeweler myself, who has studied under some of the greatest jewellers in North America, I like to think my standards are very high — and this simply didn’t come close to meeting them. With cheap lace collars and even cheaper cameos, our only jeweller of WCFW put together an entirely underwhelming show.


“Collections”
Wednesday, March 29

Boy, did suits by Curtis Eliot show up. Their hand-tailored, locally made-to-measure suits were without parallel in the show to this point. It’s hard to critique the best collection of the night, but they have the advantage of a relatively large operating budget, and centuries of relatively unchanged men’s style to build off of. It’s all about the little changes in menswear, which is what made their cuffed jacket sleeves so exciting, particularly when they rolled out a burgundy ensemble that I would pretty much live in if I could afford it. British style jacket cuffs and surgeon’s cuffs are coming back around in fashion, and Suits by Curtis Eliot is right on trend.


“Collections”
Thursday, March 30

I want to spend some time on the made-in-Saskatchewan brand Cedar and Vine. They’re exactly what you picture when you think of an emerging, or even pre-emerging, designer; they have good construction, fit, and designs and are rocking the contemporary minimalist aesthetic, all at an unapologetic price point. I was impressed by what these ladies were accomplishing on such a limited budget, and was excited to see their runway show.

Stage lights have a way of revealing even the most hidden flaws, so I was nervous for them when I saw who they were sharing the night with: Canada Clothing Co. and Cashew, heavyweights with real operating budgets. Cedar and Vine did not disappoint though, and brought the best A game anyone had managed to put together throughout WCFW. Their limited colour palette and minimalist design showed thought and consideration. Their use of simple natural fibres, like cotton and linen, elevated the look of the garments. Their collection made no brash demands for your attention, but rather asked politely. If you haven’t heard of them, consider this a needed introduction to a brand I think can show the world what “made in Canada” means.

Following Cedar and Vine would have been a tall order for any brand, but Calgary based Canada Clothing Company was more than ready to do so. They opened with a burgundy suit, as if to challenge Suits by Curtis Eliot. In the world of menswear, things are often walking the line between quirky, fun, and just plain ridiculous. CCC managed to dance on the edge of the first two, without ever falling into the trap that is the last one. They had an 8-button coat that could become a staple of every man’s wardrobe. Additionally, they had tailored women’s suits which, if you ask any woman, is no small thing for a company that makes predominately men’s clothing — I’m told a good suit is hard to find for women.


“International Collections”
Friday, March 31

Labuta shoes from Portugal kicked off with handcrafted shoes. Yes! I was too mesmerized with the bright colours to take notes, but I think they would have been positive if I had.

Nazila Couture, which claimed lineage from Edmonton, Phoenix, and India, had a collection that was vast and diverse, with many variations on Indian styles. Their show was a rollercoaster of immaculate, modest, yet alluring garments, standing in stark contrast to some huge misses (I’m looking at you, blue velvet jacket). Everything was heavily beaded and embroidered, which I am usually against, but here it wasn’t a bad thing. If you’re after a more flamboyant look, Nazila is worth a look.

The prime real estate of Friday’s finale went to Filipino designer Cherry Veric. His sequined garments were clearly made with great care and attention in order to lay all the sequins flat in intricate patterns. The models meandered down the runway, taking minutes to reach the end, and I swear the show was set to the flying monkey music from the Wizard of Oz. Many of the dresses were a horrible mess unfortunately, with models dropping sequins and beads on the runway as they moved. To me, this was a fatal flaw in otherwise well constructed and draped garments. I actually would have worn one sequined men’s jacket, with an aggressive orange/white/black of laid-flat sequins. The grand finale was as monstrous as expected, featuring a sequined morphsuit with wing-like sequined fringes on the arms. I’m not sure what I expected, but if nothing else, it seemed a spectacularly apt way to close the night.


“Models of Diversity”
Saturday, April 1

If, like me, you thought something spectacular was saved for the closing show of WCFW, sadly you’d be wrong.

“Models of diversity” was already a concept I was tentative about, but I couldn’t help but notice that the clothes were oddly medical. I was hoping there would be bold, beautiful collections of elegant fashion that were made to eliminate the subconscious lines people draw between people with and without disabilities. But I was disappointed to discover all the clothing was some form of activewear.

The Running Room had a collection. And there’s nothing I can say about that that can top that simple sentence as a critique.

The elephant in the room however was Luxx, who featured another showcase in addition to their one earlier in the week on Wednesday night. In this show, they featured the same clothes as their previous, but this time on models with physical disabilities. It’s my opinion that diversity means everyone, regardless of who they are, is given equal and fair treatment. So why did Luxx have one show with “models of diversity” and a separate show in which none of the models were “diverse”? I normally try to remove myself from issues like this, and simply judge the work, but this infuriates me. If you wish to show that you support diversity, bring all models, including those with prosthetics and wheelchairs into your first show. Luxx should have only had one show, and it should have been on Saturday night.

People rose in standing ovation for Luxx’s show, but I assure you, it wasn’t for the clothes. Nobody stood for Wednesday’s show. If the fashion industry wishes to move past the stigma of being shallow and vain, and prove that it can be a voice for positive change in the world, it needs to stop treating “diverse” models as a curiosity. Luxx perpetuated this problem on Sunday night, and with that experience as the WCFW finale, I was deeply disappointed.

That said, someone in the audience was offering free prosthetics to any model who needed one. At least the night ended such with a generous and kind offer.


Final thoughts

Western Canada Fashion Week is now the premier fashion event in Canada. As time moves on, it could become one of the most important voices in the Canadian fashion world, and even compete on an international stage. I deeply admire the organizers and volunteers who made this show possible, and had a chance to speak with the organizer, Sandra Sing Fernandes, on a couple of the nights. She told me about how she has been turning away some of the larger, more established fashion houses in favour of smaller, more local designers. This is the route that WCFW should maintain.

For many, this event will be their first taste of runway fashion. It is, could be, and hopefully will be the place where some of Canada’s greatest designers rise. It’s strange to think that potentially one of the greatest forums for innovation, critique, and fashion excellence could be right here in our backyard.  I will be at the next installment of WCFW come fall, and maybe this time I will enter my own collection. I encourage you to do the same.