Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver

A review of Vancouver’s first-ever foray into a green fashion week 

by
Lav & Kush; Photo by Kris Krug
Emesha; Photo by Kris Krug
Kdon; Photo by Kris Krug
Lara Miller; Photo by Kris Krug

The time has come to strike all hippie stigmas from sartorial sustainability, because the socially conscious, aesthetically pleasing collections at Vancouver’s first-ever Eco Fashion Week proved green fashion is anything but granola and patchouli.

With the city backing its cause, supermodel Gisele Bundchen designing an exclusive Sigg water bottle (proceeds benefit WaterCan), an impressive roster of environmental and fashion heavyweights flying in as keynote speakers (think Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Andrew Weaver and model-activist Summer Rayne Oakes) and runways shows taking place in Vancouver’s greenest building, the LEED-certified Creekside Community Recreation Centre, this event not only showed the goodness in being mindfully green, but showed one can look (really) good doing it, too.

DAY 1

Eco Fashion Week opened with two very distinct collections, one from Emesha and one from Chicago-based Lara Miller.

Emesha Nagy, who worked with Vivienne Westwood and Jasper Conran before branching out on her own, cleverly married the masculine and feminine, sending out structured, sharp-shouldered blazers (echoing Balenciaga Fall ’09) and dresses in layered, geometric color blocks or stiff, exaggerated pleats.

The casual knits from Lara Miller were a visual departure from the latter, a comfy collection full of roomy mesh-like harem pants, buttonless cardigans, cozy wraparound scarves and soft t-shirts for layering.

It was all about simple silhouettes made from 100% organic cotton and surprising hues made from natural dyes at Eden Organic Menswear. Male models strutted out bare-chested in mint denim, khaki-colored short sleeve button ups, royal blue polos and sleeveless woven shirts.  

Rounding out day one was the trifecta of Nixxi, Lav & Kush and Kdon by Kim Cathers. Models in Nixxi slinked out onto the catwalk, playing hangers to a basic line-up of easily wearable shapes and colors. Things picked up pace with Lav & Kush’s Lykke Li and Two Door Cinema soundtrack, pretty printed dresses, summery one-pieces and reworked vintage statement necklaces from Dotted Loop. Dare I even quote Rachel Zoe? Yes, I will, because these baubles were b-a-n-a-n-a-s.  

A very tribal Kdon by Kim Cather collection – constructed out of material from Our Social Fabric — got the audience’s hearts pumping, thanks to its seemingly haphazard draping and ruching (though each fold was deliberate and beautiful) and a gauzy, light-as-air black dress fit for a human-sized sprite as the finale.

DAY 2

Elena Garcia Eco Couture and By Stamo kicked off the second day of shows, on a somewhat flat note. Garcia’s mix of chartreuse and mustard yellows was hardly easy on the eyes, and neither was the By Stamo neon yellow jacket with oddly tacked on fringe and frocks with gigantic flower appliqués.

By 7pm, however, things looked up again as Calgary-based designer Lara Presber presented her architectural Spring 2011 collection, based on the new Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton (she is, after all, a female Howard Roark by day). The rounded edges, greys and creams of the gallery found their way into her linen cotton blend dresses, fusing the concepts of organic and structure. Also of note from Presber’s showing: the water resistant, recyclable jacket made of Tyvek.

Margarita Angelatos trotted out her two sustainable collections: Red Jade (made of a myriad of materials, from merino wool to silk to linen to organic cotton) and Peridot Kiss (made of hemp) — the Peridot Kiss color block maxi and mini dresses were standouts in an otherwise simple offering.

Just before 8:30pm, the room rapidly filled for Vancouver’s own Nicole Bridger, a sustainable fashion darling whose collections are borne from personal, and sometimes painful, life lessons. Crafting the Spring 2011 ‘Reconnect’ line around emotions tied to her recent divorce, the designer emerged with a light, happy cachet of clothing in corals, pastel pinks, blue, tawny browns and nudes. Stylist Deanna Palkowski threw button-free jackets and cardigans over tops and dresses, too, sending all ladies in the audience a-quiver with desire.

From season to season, Bridger continues to forge the path toward mainstream eco fashion through creating sustainable ready-to-wear, and it’s fantastic to see how many people in the industry and in the public continually support her mission.

The last act of Eco Fashion Week was Prophetik, a lifestyle brand from Tennessee-born and based designer Jeff Garner, who returned just a short time ago from showing his ‘Midnight Garden’ collection at London Fashion Week. After a short video introducing the designer, his processes and his philosophy, the lights flicked back on to reveal an Astroturf runway, as a three-piece bluegrass band waltzed out, starting the show with an energetic fiddle session.

What followed was a Civil War parade of gorgeous (if somewhat unpractical for day-to-day) womenswear and menswear: waistcoats with lace cuffs, hooded tunics (a mini, sleeveless turquoise number with brown trim was a winner by far), ballgowns dyed in all-natural indigos, silk ombré dresses, flat knee-high leather boots and braided t-strap backs. It was a collection boldly stating that, indeed, the parallel lines of sustainability and sartorial artistry are slowly but surely converging.

After the models’ final procession, Garner appeared from backstage with his bluegrass band, breaking out in a solo jig before a raucous crowd, who were enthusiastically clapping in time to the fiddlers.

And if that happy energy was any indication of how the industry is beginning to see sustainable fashion, then we best be getting our dancing shoes ready for the next Eco Fashion Week this coming February. 

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