Celebrating its 10th season, Eco Fashion Week is more focused than ever on informing and inspiring the fashion-conscious and sustainably-minded alike.
When founder Myriam Laroche came up with the idea of creating EFW, it came from a grave concern about the impact that the trillion-dollar fashion industry feeding into our consumer-driven society was having on the greater world and environment. She wanted to start a conversation and create a forum and movement for building a sustainable fashion industry.
This season saw how much that seed of an idea has continued to grow, as not only local but international designers and fashion insiders descend on Fairmont’s Waterfront Hotel for EFW.
The Chic Sheets Challenge is, oh so Eco!
The shows kicked off with the ultimate repurposing challenge. EFW challenged eight of Vancouver’s finest young designers to create a couture gown in the style of vintage Balmain made from discarded bedsheets from the Fairmont hotels. The designers all took incredibly different approaches and the final pieces were stunning.The collection will be on display in the CF Pacific Centre with the option to vote for your favourite design until April 30th.
As with every season, there were so many truly spectacular and impactful collections, not only due to the quality of the design, but also the stories of the people and the pieces. One collection that connected heavily with the audience was the Dahlia Drive collaboration with respected Haida artist Reg Davidson. Dahlia Drive creates clothing from discarded white curtain sheers and slips,and for this collection they printed on images created by Reg.
The designs were beautiful in themselves, but the collection being backed by First Nations singers and drums really struck an emotional cord with all in attendance.
Another great collection was Ethik from Ethik-BGC, a social business-oriented organization working to support eco and socially responsible designers as well as educating the general public. The collection that they presented was the traditional weaving of the Wayúu, who are indigenous people of north-eastern Colombia. Each piece from the collection can take approximately 20 days of weaving to finish. The collection of bright and bold accessories really stole the show. EFW rounded out the shows with a high energy toe-tapping runway show by world-renowned designer Jeff Garner whose line Prophetik has graced catwalks and red carpets around the world.His prairie girl meets ‘Game of Thrones’ designs wowed the crowd, and the impromptu dance party at the end of the show might be my highlight of the night.
EFW also puts a strong focus on reuse and recycling, and this is seen most strongly in their partnership with Value Village. Value Village sponsors two fashion shows highlighting the potential of a thrifted closet.
The first show, the Thrift Chic Challenge, challenges three stylists to create ten head-to-toe runway-worthy outfits from a budget of $500 only using Value Village stock. This season it was the turn of stylists Jason Pillay, Natalie Rees, and Nadia Albano. Natalie was first out, and her whimsical boho collection was perfectly timed for last week’s Coachella festival. Nadia went for a collection that focused on embellishments, fabrics and texture.
Jason’s collection came out with an explosion of colour and bold statement designs. His retro style really stood out, and I found myself coveting several of the pieces as they hit the runway.This challenge is always a huge hit as it completely changes the audience’s perspective of what can be created from 100% recycled wardrobe and completely dispelling the idea that thrifting means wearing your grandma’s worn-out cast offs.
The second Value Village show challenges designers to create a full collection using 81 lbs of discarded clothing from Value Village (pieces that they couldn’t sell). 81 lbs signifies the average amount that a North American throws away in textiles per year.
This year it was students from Vancouver’s Visual College of Art and Design (VCAD) who took on the challenge. Mentored by a team of veteran designers including Jason Matlo, they created a beautiful collection that payed homage to the flapper styles of the 20’s with a modern twist.
The concluding day of Eco was all about Conversations. Held at the Waterfall Building in False Creek, Erin Cebula of ET Canada moderated panels which contained guests from Canada and the US, including Tony Shumpert of Value Village, Kyle Ruzinski of Levi and Strauss Co, Vancouver designer Nicole Bridger and Glencora Twigg of VCAD.
Congratulations to Myriam and the whole team at EFW. As this Eco event grows, so does the conversation and the impact it has.