Meet the standout designers from Vancouver Fashion Week.
Celebrating diversity and individualism, Vancouver Fashion Week brings together fashion designers from countries across the world, including Canada, Australia, South Korea, France, Sweden, Japan, India and the UK.
Founded by Jamal Abdourahman, VFW held its 34th season last week, spotlighting some of the most exciting emerging designers this year and connecting cultures through fashion. Kicking off with an opening gala recognising acclaimed industry leaders, brands presented their SS20 collections over seven days, showcasing everything from tailoring and evening dresses to streetwear, athleisure, swimwear and even kid’s clothes.
We spoke with a selection of our favourites from throughout the week about their collections, key designs and why they came to Vancouver to present them.
Maximalism might still be in, but we’ve yet to see a brand embrace a ‘more is more’ approach better than Tokyo based Dr Maaya Labo (sorry, Gucci). Made with a glue gun, Dy Maaya creates her multi-coloured garments alongside her full-time job as a neurosurgeon. No. Big. Deal! Preaching pure fun, creativity and inclusivity, Dr Maaya kickstarted the week embodying the values that VFW represents at its opening gala on Monday.
Hey Dr. Maaya! Why did you decide to go into fashion?
From when I was young I wanted to be a fashion designer, but I went to a small university so I became a doctor. I want to create something from nothing.
This is such a unique collection. What do you want people to feel watching the show?
That whatever shape they are, whatever their race, whatever their background, they can enjoy the fashion in the same way.
How do you create the garments?
I made all the clothes with glue! It takes like one month, but I didn’t have any time so I didn’t sleep at all, so it only took two weeks… I do my artwork at the hospital.
Portsmouth-based designer Denzil Mapfumo’s casting an original eye on fashion that sometimes only taking a step outside of London can provide. Drawing inspiration from his childhood travelling and living in Zimbabwe, Mapfumo’s clothes are packed with bold patterns, colours and character, and each collection is underpinned by his penchant for storytelling. His SS20 offering Brothels & Bottle Stores focused on gender-fluid fits, with a heavy dose of animal prints and a bridal look with a twist at the end…
Hey Denzil! So you’re currently based in Portsmouth and you’re from Zimbabwe – do both of these places influence this collection?
The story was kind of set in Africa, but I wanted it to be about travelling. It’s about my childhood travelling as well as growing up in Zimbabwe and then moving to Portsmouth. So I was like ok, let me take this story of a sailor – Portsmouth is a seaside town as well – this boy comes from the seaside, but he goes back to the desert. He goes back home to find love, to find this girl in Africa back home.
There’s such a melting pot of different cultures at Vancouver Fashion Week – is that partly why you wanted to show here?
Yeah. The diversity, the creativity, the designers. Everyone is different and everyone has something different to offer. I wanted to just be a part of that.
What else have you got planned for this year?
I’m working on more collections, trying to get the brand out there and trying to tell more stories. It’s really about storytelling. I feel like every collection is a different chapter, a different feel. This one was more personal than anything I’ve ever done. Like the bride at the end with the flowers – the idea was that this boy leaves to go and find love, but this girl is kind of not interested, he can’t win her over, so in the end he’s walking down the aisle but he’s by himself. I wanted all the boys to be in more feminine stuff and all the girls to be in more masculine stuff, because they had all the power in this world. The boys are trying to win their love and they call all the shots!
French-Lebanese designer Céline Haddad, based between Paris and Beirut, is breaking boundaries with her innovative, eponymous brand. For her SS20 collection, Haddad sought to disrupt traditional ways of dressing as well as feminine ideals. With a palette of sheer lilacs and silky neutrals, soft silhouettes were contrasted with harsh utility holsters and belts, and all of the garments were worn inside out with visible seams and linings.
Hey Celine! What were the inspirations behind your collection?
The collection’s name is Rebellion – it’s about breaking norms and traditions, for both women and garments. The garments are inside out and the seams are exposed. It’s a way to show that there’s no typical way of wearing something and beauty can be achieved in stuff that’s not perfected.
Why did you want to show at Vancouver Fashion Week?
Vancouver encourages a lot of emerging designers. Backstage there are designers from all over the world, which is amazing.
It must be exciting to be starting with this!
I’m really grateful for the opportunity.
Shin Aeyeon debuted her first fashion week collection on the opening night of VFW with her label Andar, a high-tech activewear brand based in Korea. Blending minimalist athleisure with streetwear and a high fashion outlook, Andar prioritises comfort with clothes that can be worn by anyone, anywhere. Highlights included mesh bomber jackets and skirts, paired with everything from yoga leggings and trenchcoats, to glossy visors and reflective bum bags.
It’s so nice to see athleisure on the runway – do you see it becoming more of a fixture in high fashion?
Who do you envision wearing the brand?
I want it to be everyone wearing our clothes – they’re for everyone who wants a healthy life.
How do you want people to feel when they wear the pieces?
Comfortable! When they wear our clothes, they can feel easygoing and do whatever they want to do.
What’s next for the brand?
Vancouver is already on the athleisure trend, but not in Korea yet. We want to be the first.
For SS20, Italian womenswear brand Feelomena presented a collection of dark, romantic silhouettes. Inspired by the sharp lines of Japanese martial arts garments, designer Filomena Saltarelli played with a contrast between soft, billowing fabrics and a harsh aesthetic, creating a unique and unconventional collection that provokes exactly what her brand’s name seeks to give us: the freedom to “feel” feminine, whatever that might mean for each of her audience.
Where does the name Feelomena stem from?
It’s a game with my personal name, which is Filomena, with the verb ‘to feel’.
How long have you been designing and where are you based?
I started in 2015, so almost five years. I’m based in Italy, all the production is in Italy and I try to make everything with high quality manufacturing and tailoring.
What inspired this collection?
Japanese martial arts – the strictness, straight lines and severe collars. They’re actually the main feature in the collection.
Why did you want to come here to present it?
First of all, because I’ve never been to Vancouver or Canada! Second of all, it’s a young city with a lot of things happening. For fashion, I think it’s a good starting point abroad.
For three years now, Sydney-based brand Mónica The Label has been striving to make clothes for all women, clothing that founder Monica Sotomayor felt was missing from the stores she shopped in growing up. And we couldn’t agree more. Specialising in strong silhouettes, bold prints and bright colours, her collections are crafted to make us feel our best, most confident selves. Preaching inclusivity and experimental design, Sotomayor’s show felt celebratory, unapologetic and is exactly what fashion needs right now.
When did you start the brand and how’s the journey been so far?
It’s been going for roughly three years. I started designing for plus size, just because I found that a lot of women couldn’t find something in their size or to suit their personality. That’s why I have a lot of print, a lot of colour. After designing for a little while I had the smaller sizes approach me because they were disappointed they couldn’t fit into my clothes, and I don’t want to not include people. So I started making from an Australian six.
What’s your design process?
When I design, I want to make a woman feel worthy and included and respected and beautiful.
It really came across, the models all looked so strong and comfortable in the show.
I’m so glad. I did tell them I want them to have fun as well on the catwalk, to smile and show how good they feel. We tried different outfits on and I needed them to wear something that they felt good in.
Premium swimwear label PLAGE, based in Seoul, makes the kind of light, wearable clothes that make it feel like summer all year round. With a minimalist aesthetic, PLAGE draws its beauty from simple, elegant design rather than fussy decoration or bare skin. Their debut show at Vancouver Fashion Week played with a neutral palette and delicate fabrics, focusing on quality and care in production – an ethos they’re looking to expand on with their future womenswear collections.
Where do you imagine people wearing the collection?
The swimwear can be wearable in any outfit. That’s what we’re aiming for. We want to go for everyday outfits with the leggings and the jumpers. Everywhere, every day. In the office!
What were your inspirations for the season?
We wanted to go with warm tones, the beach vibe.
Why did you want to come to Vancouver Fashion Week?
It’s a harbour city and we’re known for leisurewear. And we wanted to explore!