VFW F/W 2015 BUZZ! Fabulous with Fashion Consciousness

VFW  S/S 2015, September 2014 – Recap by Helen Siwak

Year after year fashion weeks from around the globe provide exceptional eye-candy for devoted followers of the newest style and a keen eye for the next big name. Whether you are watching via live-streaming or from the front row there is always a special excitement when the fashion conscious designers bring their designs out.

Vancouver Fashion Week is a twice a year event that showcases around 70 international designers. The west coast of North America is re-owned for being eco-friendly and Vancouver especially has the image of one of the greenest cities in the world. Not only for having Stanley Park, the largest urban park in NA, but for the prevalence of yoga studios, vegan restaurants and for being home to pro-environment activists such as Dr. David Suzuki and Whale Wars star Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd Int’l.

Of the showing designers the following have been chosen to be spotlighted because they prove passion to be eco-friendly and waste conscious, they recycle and reduce fabrics usage and/or create all their pieces by hand thus reducing factory produced waste. Watching their fashion careers progress will be exciting!

Thabo Makhetha Image 1

When Thabo Makhetha was sketching dresses as a little girl, she probably never dreamt that one day her designs would attract attention from all over the world. This 26 year old designer is a long way from hometown of Lesotho, South Africa and showing for the first time in Canada at VFW S/S 2015. That is some very heady stuff!

Thabo first received international recognition when the South African Elle Magazine Editor wore a black and white cape to the Louis Vuitton Fashion Show outside the Cour Car duree Louvre in Paris – a cape that Thabo had personally designed.

Thabo is known for her lush colour, patterns and sculptural shapes that are true to their blanket origins. This designer is showing internationally, receiving acclaim and accolades for her talent and skills, and showing at Vancouver Fashion Week is just another step for her.

Being in the front row, fellow media and I are often privy to close-up views of the garments that traverse the runway. We see evidence of the last minute alterations to fit models, the jagged scissor cuts on the hem to adjust for heel heights and more…but we also see perfection. When Thabo’s line came by the quality of the construction, sewing and pattern matching was apparent. Gorgeous. No flaws. Beautifully designed and crafted pieces. Amazing!

Thabo Makhetha Collage 1 Thabo Makhetha Collage 2 I spoke with her in the VFW exhibition area about her line of blanket jackets and she said was very pleased with the response to her collection and the amount of people visiting the exhibition talking with her about her journey.

When asked how she felt the collection was received by west coast attendees, Thabo says “I believe it was received quite well. I received complements regarding the colour use as well as overall presentation on the runway.”

Thabo is hoping to showcase this particular collection back home in South Africa to which she will be adding a more full length pieces. She is also looking forward to the outcome from having showcased in Vancouver and looks forward to seeing how the collection will do internationally.

The Thabo Makhetha ready-to-wear label consisting of ethnically inspired bridal wear, cocktail and evening dresses are sold in her boutique in Port Elizabeth and her signature blanket coats are available through boutiques in Cape Town,

Johannesburg as well as an online shopping platform. The company has already begun with plans to roll out an online store targeting the international market.

Wendy Ohlendorf Image 1

Details, craftsmanship, experimentation and history: these values are the driving force behind Wendy’s multimedia approach to apparel design. Her experience as artist, interior designer, business owner and (somewhat) reformed punk-rocker combine to influence the point-of-view behind the clothing and accessories that are Magenta by Wendy Ohlendorf.

A collector at heart, Wendy’s love of fashion history and vintage clothing instilled in her the importance of detail and craftsmanship. While attending the Art Institute of Tampa she focused on architecture, earning a degree in Interior Design, which illustrated the importance of quality workmanship in order to create the finest works possible. Continually striving to top her best has carried over into all methods of expression including apparel design.

In the mid-90s, Wendy opened a shop in Portland featuring over 20 local designers. It was there, in the back workroom, that her love for apparel design grew and became the art form she now focuses on.

Wendy’s design philosophy, whether it be for clothing, sculpture, painting, or interior design, is ethical and historical. Her apparel showcases vintage textiles, which in addition to being gorgeous, also have narrative appeal. Fabrics carry with them old stories and experiences and are just waiting to be reinvented in ways that enchant the wearer to follow their hearts to new adventures.

A self-taught fashion designer; Wendy has utilized her love of vintage apparel, her architectural and fine art background to create a unique collection. One that expresses a combination of modern chic, vintage romanticism, and a futuristic edge into a style all her own.

Wendy Ohlendorf Collage 1 Wendy Ohlendorf Collage 2Wendy Ohlendorf Collage 3

Following up with Wendy after her effortless runway presentation I found out more about her passion for recycling and repurposing. In fact, this whole collection can be summed up by the word REPURPOSED. I get giddy thinking about someone who creates so consciously – her workspace must be a haven for every little bit and bob – creating new pieces each with the history of the last sewn into it.

This Spring/Summer Collection featured silk/hemp fabric in the finale Gigi gown and the shorts in that ensemble were repurposed from another garment. All of the leather featured in the straps, belts and bustiers of the metallic dresses was also repurposed. All of the metal featured in the headpieces was repurposed. The metal belts featured pieces from vintage chandeliers, jewelry, vintage cake plates and religious medallions. Buttons, zippers, rhinestones – you guessed it – repurposed!

Every garment in the collection was composed piece by piece and by hand by the woman whose name is on the label and not in a factory. Love this passion and by the response of the audience so did they.

“This was the first time I have seen the collection all together this season. I had a lot of positive response about my collection from the audience, show personnel, and the models. I thoroughly enjoyed the city itself and the very welcoming reception that I received on my visit.”  

Sara Armstrong Image 1

Sara Armstrong is a gal after my heart. Oversized sculptural separates in dark colours and patterns paired with flat shoes and alpacas. No matter your gender, size or build, there are so many pieces that can and should be incorporated into your wardrobe. As a result of being a long term resident of a rainy city I have learned that pieces that transition with the seasons are more likely to be appreciated as all year round wear which makes them very good value for the money.

This Blanche Macdonald Design graduate cut her teeth at Lululemon and Urban Outfitters, two of fashionista favourite lifestyle shopping destinations. Her architectural and androgynous fashion is very appealing especially in our green city where we are sometimes forced by the weather to dress a little less chic than we had planned!

With pieces that appeal to all, a designer can not only widen the market appeal of the brand and be less confined by the constraints of a specific style sector. Her camouflage vests would look great with a chunky black wool sweater dress just as much as a full on cargo pant and work boots.

Sara Armstrong Collage 1 Sara Armstrong Collage 2 Sara Armstrong Collage 3

Her VFW runway show began with a sepia toned slightly creepy video of her collection in a field of curious alpacas contentedly chewing away. The video was shot in Kensington Prairie Farms  which raises alpacas and llamas for textile production.

As the collection made its way down and around the runway, those around me whispered their pleasure at the pieces catching their eyes. Garments that were wearable and not fussy like some of the eye-candy that had been shown earlier. Pieces that had a place in our everyday wardrobes.

Marita Mamuchashviili Image 1

As the nights get chillier in Vancouver, my thoughts are turning to sweaters. I love winter for all the cliche reasons – the colours, the smells, the harvest – but mostly for being able to wear heavy bulky deliciously warm sweaters and giant jackets.

Marita Mamuchashviili‘s last collection Crypotogram put a playful twist on women’s sweaters giving them uneven volume, pointy corners and variations in colour and shade. The men’s sweaters were rife with horizontal lines and slightly reminiscent of utopian B-movie’s in their chunkiness and extra long sleeves.

The graphic prints seem like a mis-step but even if they are, they are gorgeous in their colouring and ability distort the shape of the body into appealing but slightly disturbing silhouettes.

Her collection is definitely for fashion trailblazers and I am very curious as to the next stage for this young designer.

Marita Mamuchashviili Collage 3

Marita Mamuchashviili Collage 2

Marita Mamuchashviili Collage 1

Using embroidered ancient symbols against a palette of nature-based blues and greens offset by neutrals, the Spring/Summer collection was soft and luscious. The structured jackets appeared powerful yet comfortable and the unisex sweater compilations require no cover-ups or accessories to complete them.

Marita was pleased with the audience reaction to her collection. “I have a feeling that my collection was liked by the audience very much. Many of them described my collection as extraordinary, mystical, interesting, beautiful, high quality, comfortable and wearable.”

Many of us had thought that the desirability of graphic/geometric prints would be waning by 2015 but collections by showing designers such as Marita, and luxury designers such as Peter Pilotto and Ralph Lauren are forecasting many more years of intricate beauty.

Renata Buzzo Image 1

Part bridal, part fairy tale, the all white collection of Renata Buzzo immediately impressed.

Renata Buzzo is a vegan designer and such lives a cruelty-free lifestyle with all her fabrics and embellishments being free from animal content. No silks, wool, shells, leather or fur. Without the traditional luxury fabric crutches, she shows her talent as a designer with this line of beautiful constructed dresses. Renata’s looks incorporate ‘moulage‘ draping which means ‘draped on the form’. Haute couture houses utilize this technique extensively and to find such dedication to traditional dressmaking in a young designer is refreshing. As the models glided down the runway the audience murmured their appreciation of the subtle sophistication of the gowns, the beading, embroidery and construction.

Renata Buzzo Collage 1 Renata Buzzo Collage 2 Renata Buzzo Collage 3

Showing all white for Spring/Summer 2015 was risky given the current and future forecasts for more colour, texture and patterns. Being from Brazil, Renata is keenly aware of the different cultures and a season experienced by the persons who are to be her future clients and hopes to reflect these differences as her line gains more exposure and sales outside of her home country.

Ocksa Collage Image 1

Admittedly, Ocksa was not on my radar as a design team to watch out for. Pre-VFW I had gone through the list of confirmed designers and chose those with a balance of local and international and with some of the elements that I felt were important – be it organic, eco-friendly, recycled, upcycled, handmade, and so on. Ocksa did not have a bio ready at that time and I skipped over them. That was a mistake! When the first model hit the runway, it was obvious that this was a collection designed with care and attention to the earth.

Ocksa is former fashion school classmates, Deisi Witz and Igor Bastos. They had distinct but complementary skills and worked together so effortlessly that starting a partnership was a natural extension of their friendship. Deisi’s excellent sewing techniques and her preference for architectural draping became the ideal counterpoint to the random use of eclectic raw materials and precise pattern-making from Igor.

They derived their name from the Swedish language. Ocksa translates as ‘being driven to contribute. Leaving old customs aside to deliver smart and forward-looking garments’.

Ocksa Collage 1 Ocksa Collage 2

After the post-runway applause quietened down, I met with the team behind Ocksa in the VIP Lounge for some background about them and their line. The two of them together are warm, friendly, humorous and fascinated with Vancouver and all the natural elements that make up this beautiful city. We laughed and exchanged questions and answers about the city and the fascinating Ocksa collection.

I truly enjoyed meeting and interviewing the previous five designers and hearing of their dreams, designs and passion for fashion consciousness but…the grand dame of creating eco-friendly fashion is Zuhal Kuvan-Mills of Green Embassy Australia. Her story is so amazing that FWAC is running a separate follow-up piece on Green Embassy and Atelier Zuhal, the first GOTS certified organic couture fashion line in the world. Come back and join us soon to find out how a Turkish born Australian alpaca farmer, wife and mother, can launch an eco-friendly couture fashion line and travel to seven international fashion weeks within one year! She is making up for lost time and you will not want to miss it!

(This article by Helen Siwak was originally published at http://www.VancityBuzz.com)

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