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Vancouver Fashion Week Presents Pandemic Collections in an Underwhelming Performance

Photo of a runway

“Did it start?” asks my friend who is sitting next to me, waiting with me for the show to start. “I can’t tell…” I reply, equally confused by the screen.

It is the second day of Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) and the live stream on YouTube is a few minutes behind. Over the next two hours, viewers will be presented with what should be a creatively innovative, virtual display of international designers’ collections. Finally, the show begins.

The beautiful part of isolation is the new innovative freedom that creatives are granted with. The absence of a physical runway show allowed both VFW and each showcased international designer to explore other means of presentation.

Day One

Since it has been founded, VFW has showcased designers on a long white runway with a digital backdrop, in-style with many other fashion weeks and runway shows. This season, the runway didn’t do the same justice to designers’ collections.

There was no runway. What was once a long white catwalk became a plain cement room with a moderately-sized screen (nothing grand—to go with the theme) as the runway backdrop. The echoing music blasting off of the speakers, the clunking of heels on the cement floor, and the loud snaps of cameras made the socially-distanced VFW runway feel awkward and very underwhelming.

Day Two

The second day was dedicated to international designers. Some virtual presentations were questionable, almost tasteless, while others were clever and beautiful. Only five of nine designers incorporated a runway. Others veered towards a more cinematic and even modern approach.

The day two runways brought back the fashion sparkle that VFW missed on Day 1. Several were traditional white-catwalk runways, while others ranged from a one-model show to a high-fashion runway. UK designer, Denzil Mapfumo, impressed the audience with the most creative presentation: spoken word over a cinematic presentation of his Spring/Summer collection.

Designers to Look Out For

Vancouver is home to many talented creatives and designers. Local designers Jordan Kendrick, Libere, and Faun stood out with true creative skills. Both Jordan Kendrick and Faun have a simple and elegant essence to their collections, with Faun embodying a closeness with nature, and Jordan Kendrick conveying more of an urban attitude. Libere contrasts with those, presenting a modern street-style collection that suits Vancouver.

International designers Denzil Mapfumo (UK), Diana Rikasari (Indonesia), Glaze Kohl (Japan) and Ozlana (Australia) stood out with their captivating collections and presentations.

Denzil Mapfumo’s collection was filled with neutral and earthy tones as well as charming, embroidered letters. Diana Rikasari approached the pandemic cleverly, with her one-model show she created her designs out of what she had, incorporating primary colours, colour blocks, and kids’ clothes and toys. The collection reminded me of childhood and of making use of what we have. Glaze Kohl’s collection provided contrast with 50’s inspired dresses and patterns, filled with stripes and neutral tones such as beige, black, white, grey and navy. Lastly, Ozlana, with its additional collaborations with Barbie, Pink Panther, and others, was fashion-forward in the poshest way possible. With pink, holographic text decorating the runway, models appeared in oversized sunglasses, pastel pinks and blues, fur hats and trims, and pearls for a dramatic, posh babydoll collection.

The first day was awkward, and the second had several technical difficulties, making the show less inspiring than previous years. One of the less-impressive presentations was a vertical ad-like music video that seemed more fit for an Instagram story. In another, a beautiful drone-shot film consisting of two clips showed only one barely identifiable dress, making me wonder how it fit into the fashion show. Overall, I think VFW could have adapted much better to the virtual format. Many designers brought their best work, but without any cohesive guidelines or themes tying them together the show was messy and underwhelming. I will watch again next year, but I’m hoping for many improvements.