Highlights of Vancouver's Eco Fashion Week
- Myriam Laroche once owned 100 pairs of shoes, but now she's leading designers, buyers and fashionistas along the eco fashion path with the launch of Vancouver's Eco Fashion Week.
- Eco fashion is about standards and good production practices, but it's also about taking small steps towards a more holistic and caring lifestyle.
- Jeff Garner is a Southern gentleman and a designer, who would be working on a horse farm if he wasn't conquering Eco Fashion week in Vancouver or opening London Fashion week.
- Being stylish and caring about the planet isn't just for hippies anymore. (I was a hippie, so I should know).
- Kim Cathers is a really nice person, contrary to the hatemail she recieves everytime there's a rerun of her season on Project Runway.
- Vancouver may be becoming a green city, but this is only the first Eco Fashion week event. New York, Paris, and London are already putting on large scale Fashion weeks focussed on sustainable clothing design and eco fashion.
- Nicole Bridger's clothing labels say "I AM LOVE", which isn't the reason why she recently won the FTA's Design Forward award.
These are just a few of the many reasons that Eco Fashion Week was a success. The fashion was both stylish and wearable. The designers, promoters, producers and sponsors all showed that it's possible to combine sustainable solutions while also running a successful business. The rest of the fashion industry will start to take notice because this is a lifestyle now and not just a passing trend.
Readers may not know this, but I was in fashion design 25 years ago. I had an interest in sustainable development; I was one of those people always making my own clothes, and people kept suggesting that I go into fashion design. So I went to VCC to study fashion design, then moved to Montreal and worked in the fashion industry for 5 years. I decided to get out of the business because the industry was very wasteful and there was no vision of eco fashion in 1985. I always had ideas about recycling clothing and reusing fabrics and so forth, but back then people were just not interested in those ideas. So here I am, 25 years later at Eco Fashion Week to figure out what people are up to now, how things have developed and what young designers are creating for 2010 and beyond.
I attended the opening night and met with organizer Myriam Laroche about the event. She was very excited about creating an annual industry event that would grow into something similar to the Fashion Week events in New York, Paris, and London. Myriam told me that while she wasn't neccessarily an eco-friendly girl, she was passionate about fashion and at one point owned 100 pairs of shoes. After being involved in the fashion industry for 15 years in Montreal, she moved to Vancouver and has been here for three years. While she loved the fashion world, she started getting overwhelmed by the industry's tendency for over-consumption. After attending EPIC!, she became inspired by city councillor Andrea Reimer to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world. Thus Eco Fashion week was born with the dream of Vancouver becoming the international capital for eco fashion.
Myriam told me the objective of the event was to provide tools for both designer and buyer to take the green route. As an industry event, EFW offered seminars such as: Eco as a Movement not a Trend, led by Carly Stojsic from Worth Global Style Network; and Paul Raybin from AirDye talked with Mark Trotzuk in a presentation about the life-cycle of fashion. Note: AirDye offers an alternative and sustainable method that provides a sustainable alternative to traditional cationic or vat dyeing processes.
Myriam Laroche wants EFW to be about helping people making small changes in their life rather than expecting people to be 100% eco. By showcasing eco fashion designers and companies, it will help both industry and the general public learn more about becoming more conscious in their design and lives.
With the creation of EFW, Vancouver joins the list of forward thinking fashion cities such as New York, London and Paris who all hold similar, albeit larger scale, eco fashion events. In New York, as part of the their fashion week, there's an eco fashion event called the Green Shows. Paris has the Ethical Fashion Week. London has Estethica, which was started four years ago by the British Fashion Council. As BFC states: "All Estethica designers adhere to at least one of the three Estethica principles of fair-trade and ethical practices, organic and recycled materials and are selected for both their ethical credentials and design excellence." The Esthetica collective currently consists of 37 members. One of their members this year was Jeff Garner. He opened London Fashion Week, and he was one of the fashion designers at Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver as well.
I interviewed Eco Fashion Designers Jeff Garner ( Prophetik ), Lara Presber, Nicole Bridger, Kim Cathers ( Kdon ), and Regina Noppè, Owner of Green Sapphire, who brought EDEN Mens wear and the Green Sapphire by Patricia Moura Biojoias collection to Vancouver.
One commonality amongst these four designers was that their fashion was not just about design, but lifestyle as well. They all consciously practiced an eco-friendly and simple lifestyle on a daily basis, so the "eco" in eco fashion was very personal to them. They always had an interest in recycling, reusing and repurposing things whether it was before fashion or after. This was a common thread for all four designers. They were also world travelers who all ended up going back home. Jeff returned to Franklin, Tennessee; Lara to Calgary, Alberta and Nicole and Kim back to Vancouver, B.C. It is very clear from talking to these rising stars of eco fashion, that home and family is very important to them as well as how they live their lives and pursue their careers.
Jeff Garner spoke with me about being a designer and showcasing his work at Eco Fashion Week. He was recently nominated for designing the most sustainable line by the Global Fashion Awards. Prophetik manufactures locally in Tennessee using sustainable fabrics like hemp, organic cotton, peat silk and linen. They spent about a year developing a way to create their own natural plant earth dyes, which they have been using to colour their fabrics for the past year. Jeff told me that it's an ongoing learning experience to balance making the dyes affordable yet sustainable. He said that Prophetik plans on sharing the knowledge and creating chemical-free dye for other companies.
Jeff Garner dresses like he's from another time, wearing clothes similar to those in his collection -- solid, earthy, romantic, masculine vests and cotton shirts. There is an earthiness to the way he speaks, he has an easy pacing to his speech that reminds me of a down home southern gentleman. Jeff says that living in Tennessee on a farm, keeps him grounded on what he is doing. He agrees that location greatly influences his collection, which draws from that old world feel and southern renaissance style of the ballroom gowns and men's vests. The style isn't based on trends as Jeff doesn't read magazines or watch TV, so he can stay true to his vision. Prophetik is selling to about 40 Boutiques in North America, Europe and Japan. The collection is a combination of something that an English rider might wear on a fox hunt, or a young woman might wear in a romance novel. There's an aspect of romanticized history of rural country with a strong attention to detail. The clothing is well-made out of rich fabric with natural, soft colours. The influence of his interest in rural life was evident in his collection. The men wore riding boots, and he himself wore riding boots. At the end of his collection there was a country Jamboree band that played. His personal presence is humble and sincere in the way that he talks about his work but his collection stands up on his own. I think he will continue to be a rising a star in the fashion community. Listen to Jeff Garner interview:
Prophetik photos Jonathan Hanley (hanleymade.com - flickr.com/pixelate)
Kim Cathers was an interesting interview, because I had arrived at the opening hoping to speak to her, but was biased having seen her on Project Runway. She was known for being a bitch on the show. However, I was pleasantly surprised because in person she was a very friendly, open and honest person. She explains that after being on Project Runway, she had to take some time off to recollect herself because it had been an overwhelming experience. To decide what she wanted to do next, she ended up going to Gabriola Island on the west coast and stayed there for nine months to reconnect with what was the point of this life. She felt that with 80 years to live her life, she wanted to take advantage of doing something she loves to do. Then she decided to come back to Vancouver to pursue fashion because she felt like this was something that kept calling her back. She had always recycled things and reworked things. Having breifly studied architecture, she quickyly learned that she preferred to work with fabric instead of wires and wood. She liked being able to drape fabric and hang it. She also liked being able to go from the 2D to 3D. That caught my attention because that was something that got my interest in fashion design. There's something very fascinating that's creative and yet somewhat mathematical about it. She also mentioned that she is now designing some dresses that are more sculptural and structural; she is using materials that are stiffer and heavier. Those are on a more limited basis. She surprised me because despite her major exposure on Project Runway, she tends to stay to herself. She lives a simple life. She walks to work, walks her dog and makes her meals at home. She said that not all of her fabric was "organic", but all of her material was reclaimed fabric -- fabric that was being thrown away, or not being used. Many times she didn't know where the material was coming from, the history behind it or even what type of material it even was.
Kdon photos by Kris Krug kk+ (Static Photography )
It's clear that in this generation of designers, eco fashion is more about taking small steps. In both your own personal lifestyle and in the choices you are making as a designer. As Myriam Laroche said, you don't have to be 100% eco fashion to do your part -- everybody is doing it in their own way by trying to live a conscious life.
Lara Presber was originally studying architecture in Boston. She decided that she wanted to get into fashion design and apprenticed in Milan. After that she decided to come back to Calgary, where she was born. She felt more comfortable being in Calgary and being around family and friends. She said that there are pros and cons to living in Calgary. It is a small fashion community, so she gets more recognization than if she were living in a bigger city. It's harder for her to get fabrics, but with shipping it's much easier than in the past. She has all of her clothing made locally and believes in supporting the local community, which was a common theme with all of the designers that I interviewed. That in itself has become another aspect of eco fashion, emphasizing that making clothing should have less environmental impact. She said that her clothing at Eco Fashion Week had references to architecture in the style and design. Lara Presber's Spring 2011 collection has an architectural theme with designs based on the new Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton.
Listen to Lara Presber interview:
Lara Presber photos by Kris Krug kk+ (Static Photography)
Nicole Bridger is based out of Vancouver. She recently won the FTA's Fashion Forward award for Best Eco Fashion Designer in Canada. She studied at Ryerson University, then apprenticed with Vivian Westwood in London. If you know Vivian Westwood you would be aware that she is someone of very strong and distinct style and personality. Nicole specifically asked to apprentice with Vivian Westwood, because she liked her style. She told me that getting the apprenticeship was very difficult and she had to basically beg and plead with Vivian to give her a chance. Nicole convinced Vivian to let her work there for a week and see how it would go. It was very important to her. She was able to successfully convince Vivian to let her apprentice and came out of the experience learning a lot. Nicole was always interested in business and the fashion side of things. Vivian went bankrupt during the time that she was working with her, and that made her very aware of the importance of being able to sustain your business. She says that her business is probably 50% business and 50% design and she likes doing both. In addition to using organic materials in her business, she also lives a sustainable lifestyle and a positive attitude. She talks about treating everyone with respect and kindness, including the people she works with and her customers. She actually puts on her label "I Am Love". It represents the idea of making her clothing with love and also making people feel wrapped in love when they wear her clothes. It's about creating a positive energy. That in turn helps how people are treating the world.
Listen to Nicole Bridger interview:
Prophetik photos by Jonathan Hanley (hanleymade.com flickr.com/pixelate)
A big thank you to Mariam Laroche and KristinAnn Janishefski from Vanguard PR who took good care of me and made my re-entry into the world of eco fashion an inspiring and positive experience. Myriam Laroche's dream to make Eco Fashion Week a destination on the global circuit of Fashion Week may come true if the people behind the creation, production, promotion and sponsorship are any indication. Most people I spoke with clearly are passionate about the planet and think Fashion can be fashionable, beautiful and sustainable. Maybe 25 years later, its time has come. Let's hope this generation keeps their green dreams alive, because in the end people will make their buying decisions based on the quality of the clothing and design. Saving the planet is just a bonus for most and if that works for now then it's a step in the right direction.
FTA Fashion Forward award: http://www.fashiontakesaction.com/content/fta-design-forward Eco Fashion Week Vancouver: http://www.ecofashion-week.com Eco Fashion PR: http://www.thevanguardpr.com/ Prophetik ( Jeff Garner ): http://www.prophetik.com Lara Presber: http://www.larapresber.com Nicole Bridger: http://www.nicolebridger.com Green Sapphire Imports ( EDEN Mens wear, Patricia Moura Biojoias collection ): http://green-sapphire-imports.com Social Alterations: http://socialalterations.com/2010/09/16/eco-fashion-week-vancouver-semin... Air Dye: http://blog.airdye.com/goodforbusiness/2010/09/27/airdye-sustainability-... Photographers: Jonathan Hanley: at Hanleymade: http://hanleymade.com or http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixelate and Kris Krug: at Static Photography: http://staticphotography.com or http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk and Alfonso: http://www.j28studios.com/gallery_eco_3.html