Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Mega Post: Vancouver Fashion Week S/S14 Review + Top Looks

Have you ever attended a fashion show? The reason I am asking you this is because on Saturday, I was given an opportunity to attend S/S 2014 Vancouver Fashion Week’s show on closing day.

In theory, a fashion show should be quite an experience - a visual, sensory spectacle that keeps the fashionistas of a city buzzing around the water cooler at work and sets online fashion discussions ablaze for weeks after the event.

Well at least that’s what one has come to expect, with the bar set so high by powerhouse Fashion Week events held in New York, Paris and Milan.

But alas, it seems that the event held in Vancouver’s Chinatown has fallen short in terms of substance, despite of the emergence of Vancouver as a global fashion hub. Or is that hype? Is Vancouver a mere regional fashion hub in reality, without the resources and self-awareness to truly turn itself into a top-calibre, world-class event? I have my own opinions, but I’ll leave it up to you to determine that.

What I can offer is my opinion on why a fashion show isn’t a mere display of new clothes and designs, but that it is still a show - that is, a spectacle that is meant to impress, to dazzle, to titillate, to whet the viewer’s appetite for more of the latest in style, creativity and fashion.

One of the most important components of a fashion show is the location - places with historical, artistic or architectural significance often make a magnificent backdrop to a show, lending its gravitas and history to the production. The Carrousel du Louvre in Paris comes to mind when I talk about this.

However given the lack of such unique venues it is possible to re-purpose existing spaces/structures to hold a fashion show. The compact density of Vancouver naturally makes this the logical choice - but I do question the use of a community gym as a venue. I mean, really?

Being such a religious devotee of fashion shows, I’ve come to expect the same minimalist elegance you see in shows during New York and Paris Fashion Week, with clean, monotone, minimalist lines on the stages and stage backdrop. I haven’t physically been to a show in either city, but I have seen plenty of photos and video footage of them, and I do believe that what they do there sets the tone for other fashion shows around the world.

So imagine my dismay when I see these basketball hoops looming over the strutting models’ heads! That was an unforgettable visual element of the show (and obviously not in a good way) which was most likely unintended. The models might as well have walked down the runway to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit . Nostalgia, anyone?

"Uh... what the hell are those basketball hoops over there?" 

You wouldn’t know it from the slickly edited compilation footage from VFW, but they were there the entire time. Very distracting, and it took away from the overall mood of the event. I can appreciate that logistically, it’s not easy to convert such an ill-suited space for a fashion show. It takes work and planning. But that’s precisely what event organizers are paid to do - to make small ‘miracles’ happen with their often limited resources!

But the snags don’t end there. Oh no.

The constant stream of logistical hiccups notwithstanding (like the awkward 15 minute-long lulls between each collection showcase), what was the most baffling to me was how even the most basic components of an archetypical fashion show were missing - including the stage. Yes, you’re not hallucinating when you read this - they actually placed a long white mat in lieu of a raised stage/platform. So unless you were sitting in the front row, you could expect a lot of heads and crazy-high hairdos in your way, obstructing the view of the “runway”.

Love the hair, too bad it was in the way.
For tickets ranging from $75 to $200 one might at least expect more refinement in terms of production values, but there were really few to be found. I know I’ve chosen to talk about the event’s planning and execution more than the collections, but that’s my entire point. Clothes on the backs of individuals is fashion - but clothing on the backs of models on a stage is part of a show. There’s definitely something to be said for proper ambiance - particularly at a fashion event - and I’m apparently not alone in this opinion.

A local blogger also covered the show and pointed this out:

“... the runway was simply a long white mat, and there was no decoration in the hall at all. There were plain fold out chairs to sit on and benches in the back. When one thinks of a fashion show that is supposed to represent the city’s style, they would expect more glamour than simple fold out chairs and what looked like a plastic runway."

Without proper presentation and execution, the show can reflect negatively on the clothes themselves. Call it collateral damage, but that is the unfortunate reality.

So with full praise to the many great looks and works of some promising designers at the Vancouver Fashion Week S/S ‘14, I must say that the organizers of the show, who purportedly represent the city of Vancouver in terms of fashion, need to go back to the drawing board to make sure that quality of the show actually matches the hype for the F/W ‘14 show.

 One of many great looks 

I think that the city of Vancouver possesses the raw ‘fashion DNA’ to produce style that can rival many cities in the world. But unfortunately we just don’t have the fashion infrastructure or the know-how to showcase it properly.

Here’s hoping that the event planners of VFW can pull it all together in the future!

Lastly, no fashion show is complete without the people who attend them. These folks are a spectacle unto themselves, often cut from an elegant cloth. They sparkle and dazzle with perfect hair and skin, and of course the latest fashion and accessories (quilted flap Chanel handbags included). This show’s crowd didn’t disappoint either, as all of Vancouver’s top brass of fashion and entertainment turned up in force.

The crowd

The problem, though, wasn’t with the people. The incongruence of such a picture-perfect crowd juxtaposed against a ramshackle, shabby venue was quite jarring, and the irony made one just slightly self-conscious while being present at the event.

One might be able to stomach or even revel in the air of exclusivity, luxury, and resulting pretension had the event itself matched the glamourous attendees. Hey, it’s fun to be a part of the crowd sometimes and we all like to feel beautiful.

Glamour Power
But this was no show at the Lincoln Center in New York City. The odd fact was that I found myself in the stripped-bare gym of a local community center, full of ‘glamorous’ people maintaining a haughty air of pretension.

Still, I suppose the surreal spectacle wasn’t really their fault; they turned up dressed up and ready to impress since the event was billed as a fashion extravaganza, when the event fell well-short of expectations and created that surreal disconnect between what the event and its participants aspired to be, and what it actually became.

But the Vancouver Fashion Week wasn’t all doom and gloom. Being the makeup maven that I am, made note of quite a few 2013-14 beauty and hair trends dominating the runway at this show, and among the people in attendance. Here are some of my favourite looks:

Impact Eyes - the stylish version of the ‘racoon’ eye might be coming back into style.

Pastel Bubble Gum Hair Colour - this looks perfect on short or medium-length hair.

Classic and Natural - the lighter version of scarlet lip always works.

The ‘Swoop’ Hair - inspired by Lana Del Rey’s retro glam hairstyle

Credits: Photography by Dustin H., Story by Kamilla F., Copy by Jacob Y.