by Maja Staka
This season’s Western Canada Fashion Week (WCFW) sailed by in a frenzy of colors and shapes that rivaled any major runway in North America, an observance only amplified by WCFW’s new status as Canada’s largest fashion week after Toronto Fashion Week’s untimely cancellation. The theme for 2017 was Strength in Diversity. While the trends we saw were not earth shattering, this year saw countless changes to the way designers approached their collections and chose their models, as well as how the public interacted with the show. Highlights included Japanese style street wear, Game of Thrones inspired fashions and unisex suits. It was lovely to watch and so incredibly telling of WCFW’s evolution over the past 24 seasons.
Day one of WCFW set the dice rolling with Ageless Beauty, a show featuring models aged 40-80 who quite frankly, rocked the runway harder than any Kendall Jenner wannabe could dream of doing. These women are expert models, and it shows. The fact of the matter is, modeling is a job just like any other, and can we really expect seasoned professionals to quit their careers at the mere sight of a forehead wrinkle? Not to mention, now that ready-to-wear collections are the norm at WCFW, older patrons should be able to see their future garments on more relatable – if still typically Amazonian – bodies.
For many designers, this season’s WCFW was also an opportunity to express their artistic and personal identities, whether that meant stitching Cree words into white pants as with LUXX Ready To Wear or dressing models in embellished cowboy boots to match their rodeo-inspired jumpsuits. Tishynah Buffalo Designs, another crowd favorite, featured Native American models showcasing tribal fabrics to the beats of A Tribe Called Red. A very powerful image indeed. That same night, a dedication to missing and murdered indigenous women was aired to show-goers, who, while silent, couldn’t keep their eyes off the screen.
While nothing like the Anti-Trump politics seen in New York, this type of imagery only confirms the start of a new era in Alberta, one which strives to be inclusive of all ethnic groups and sexual orientations, and which keeps our environment in the corner of its eye. One ad that really stuck with me was Davines’ sustainable beauty montage, which urged viewers to take care of themselves and the environment in which they live and work, a message aimed at both show-goers and makeup and hair artists. Simply put, we can’t keep pretending that it is acceptable to use products that pollute the earth – even if those products look really good under runway lights or satisfy the beauty budget.
Other highlights included Posta’s yeezy inspired collection, complete with shiny beige sock booties, Cashew’s 60’s and 50’s inspired play-sets, Gillian Zubko’s Veba Print Collection starring bright pink makeup, headscarves and African patterns, and Sneha Parvez’s beachwear collection – a glittering ode to breezy fabrics and corset belts.
Loud colors were particularly popular this year (think neon green and Barbie doll pink), as were animal prints, lace, sequins and Geisha-inspired outfits.
Another favorite was Nazila Couture’s extraordinary collection of Indian inspired wedding dresses, salwar kameez and lehengas, all featuring beautiful silks, cottons, linens and silver necklaces heavy with coins and gemstones.
WCFW | Maja Staka
Fantasy night is always memorable, and this year was no exception, with Liliana Designs pairing younger and older models in a fantasy themed show that evoked, well, our wildest dreams. The matching outfits were endearing, and the entire effect was very reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland when she falls the rabbit hole, only to meet a legion of strange but wonderful creatures.
WCFW | Maja Staka
The dance performance by Queen of the Orient which followed called for a standing ovation. How the dancers manage to balance on six inch heels (and remain smiling!!) is beyond me, and honestly, it was beautiful to see a drag performance in such an atypical setting.
While fashion weeks are often performative, as with this year’s pussy hat extravaganza in Milan and the Avant Garde art that populates NY Fashion Week, it’s interesting to note how theatrical WCFW has become over the years, with everything from traditional Filipino dance to spoken word poetry becoming integral parts of the show. It’s now more obvious than ever that fashion weeks are ideal stages for social change and that new boundaries will have to be pushed if the fashion world is to continue evolving.
Will we even have models in ten years, or will clothing be presented on holograms? Will runways remain rectangular or will they be modified to accommodate futuristic fashions? Will Canadian viewers be able to watch WCFW and order their clothing through virtual reality consoles? These are the types of questions fashion designers will likely be asking themselves in the years to come.
The last night, titled “Models of Diversity,” was certainly the most diverse in terms of models used, but also made me wonder about what it really meant to have a “diverse” fashion show. Although the theme for this season’s fashion week is certainly admirable and yes, historically significant for Alberta, it was still disappointing to see models with disabilities wearing the exact same collections that were presented on thinner, taller and able-bodied peoples during previous nights. I would have also liked to see more models of color, a hijabi or two and some transgender models, My point is, instead of segregating models that don’t fit the norm, we should be allowing them to walk the very same runway shows as everyone else. Models are models, are they not?
Though this season’s WCFW definitely entertained show-goers and inspired everyone with its theme of diversity and inclusivity, there is still a world of work to do. Obviously, this all takes time, but the day shorter, older and less able-bodied models become so normalized that nobody has to comment on their presence on a runway is the day we can all put our “pitchforks” down. That said, with Alberta’s rapidly changing social climate and the Canadian fashion world’s indisputable entrance into a new era of performative and politically charged imagery, the only direction WCFW can go from here is up.
Photography courtesy of Lindsey Catherine Photo + Media.