This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dispatch from Vancouver BC's Eco Fashion Week

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Greetings from lovely Vancouver, British Columbia!

I'm here for the city's Eco Fashion Week, founded six seasons ago by Myriam Laroche with the goal of "informing and inspiring the fashion-conscious, and sustainable-minded, alike, in a way that harmonizes beauty and the environment. After all, innovation in fashion—the future of chic—is inextricably linked to innovation in, well, sustainability."

For as huge an industry as it is, apparel production is behind the curve in terms of having a unified blueprint for how it will evolve in response to the soundly proven evidence that its current state of consumption (mass produced fast fashion) and production (unethical labor practices, a huge carbon footprint) is on course for disaster. When the idea of "green fashion" had its big moment some years ago, it never quite beat its rap for being slightly uncool and faddish, but that's insane: An industry that bases its whole identity on being one step ahead of the game has a responsibility to innovate, and to make the way into the future attractive and desirable. It's the whole point.

Vancouver designer Nicole Bridger kicked of Eco Fashion Week with an installation fashion show.
  • Vancouver designer Nicole Bridger kicked off Eco Fashion Week with an installation fashion show.

Portland, of course, is no stranger to this issue, and while Portland Fashion Week at one point set its goal as being a global destination for designers who were introducing sustainable methods, things got sidetracked and splintered off into the technology-emphasizing FASHIONxt and a rebooted Portland Fashion Week that's declared its intention to refocus on local designers and sustainability in its production if not necessarily on the runway. The jury's still out on that one; it will make its debut on Sept 12, with no participating designers having been announced yet.

In the meantime, as respective events hype themselves and the city's most experienced designers shy away from the whole fractious confusion, it makes one wonder where the original goal of making Portland known to the world as a center of sustainable design has gone. Just about everyone can agree that national and international exposure is a goal, but it's been slow to achieve.

Pre-show ate Eco Fashion Weeks Robson Square digs.
  • Pre-show at Eco Fashion Week's Robson Square digs.

PINO designer Crispin Argento, who has recently become ubiquitous on Portland's apparel scene, a human flurry of event organizing, champion networking, and men's accessory design, had the idea of cutting to the chase. Vancouver's Eco Fashion Week—so far as I've seen—is unabashed and unswerving in its emphasis on sustainable practices. And Vancouver, although smaller than its towering buildings would have you believe, is perhaps the most international of the Cascadian cities, and has a longstanding, consistent event in place. Why not join forces, with designers from Seattle, Portland, and the rest of the Pacific Northwest pooling their resources to represent the best of the best in the entire region?

That's what I'm here to investigate.

A look from last nights Value VIllage-sponsored thrift challenge, in which Sandy Joe Karpetz reworked salvaged items.
  • A look from last night's Value VIllage-sponsored thrift challenge, in which Sandy Joe Karpetz reworked salvaged items.

Designer Kim Cathers produced a full collection using only thrifted menswear.
  • Designer Kim Cathers produced a full collection using only thrifted menswear.

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