Vancouver Fashion Week looks to the future

By , on September 19, 2016

Photo: Vancouver Fashion Week
Photo: Vancouver Fashion Week/Facebook

TORONTO—Vancouver Fashion Week is generally regarded as a showcase for emerging talent to show their wares.

And that’s what makes it a prime place for rookie artists to push the boundaries of how clothes are made, sold, and — most importantly — tailored to today’s discerning public, says festival founder and producer Jamal Abdourahman.

He and other fashion folks mused on the various ways this digital era, increasing competition, and broader debates about cultural diversity are spurring industry experiments to suss out what, exactly, the discerning shopper wants.

The weeklong Vancouver bash kicks off Monday. Here’s a look at some notable ways the rarefied fashion industry seems to be reaching out to the average woman:

See now, buy now.

Perhaps the buzziest of the buzzy trends, expect to see some young Canuck designers at Vancouver Fashion Week experiment with this budding movement, says Abdourahman.

Essentially the premise is exactly as it sounds — designs will be available for sale the moment the models step off the runway, not some five or six months down the line, as is traditional.

Style icon Tom Ford emerged as a see-now-buy-now poster boy last week when he revealed his fall/winter collection.

“Our sales have jumped tremendously at all of our stores and online,” Ford said as proof the concept works, while attending the recent Toronto International Film Festival with his sophomore directorial effort “Nocturnal Animals.”

Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger have flirted with the concept, and a handful of designers bound for Vancouver are expected to drive the trend home even further, says Abdourahman.

“We’re pushing for that,” says Abdourahman. “It works for young designers, it’s great news for young designers.”

And great for consumers, adds Ford.

“Why would you want to see something and wait five months? It’s an antiquated idea,” says Ford, noting social media and e-commerce have changed the rules.

“You can go online and design your own Nike shoes and have them tomorrow. You can go on (the online luxury retailer) Net-A-Porter and buy something and if you live in New York or L.A., it’ll be delivered that afternoon. So long lead, what is that? It doesn’t make sense.”

A diverse runway

Toronto-based designer Lesley Hampton heads to Vancouver intent on staging a combined men’s/women’s and plus-size show. She’s also looking into getting an amputee model.

The idea of dividing lines by gender and body shape is another outdated notion to the 22-year-old, largely self-taught Toronto designer.

“I really enjoy having a diverse runway, just showing, I guess a good representation of society,” says Hampton, currently in the final year of George Brown College’s fashion program, who is one of several designers with combined or unisex lines at the show.

“Anything beyond the industry standard size makes me really excited.”

Why show at all?

The hole left by Toronto Fashion Week would seem to open up an opportunity for Vancouver’s version to fill the gap.

But given its tilt towards more independent, smaller designers, it was not a good fit for the 40-year-old Picadilly brand, which says it turned down an invitation in favour of holding a runway show at a buyers’ market in Dallas.

The family-run company is betting that a smaller show in a more targeted venue will yield bigger sales than a big fashion week.

“All the other labels that we know that were part of Toronto Fashion Week are doing their own (shows) offsite, you know — little runways or (events) in private estates,” says president Neil Dombrovsky.

“And they’re just doing video and getting some Instagram PR stuff out of that and trying to promote their line through their own avenues.”

Why rely on bloggers when the designers can reach out directly to the consumer, he says.

“These days you’re looking to get immediate results, you’re looking to get immediate sales and with social media the way it is, you don’t need all these bloggers to be part of it,” he says.

“And you don’t need to be part of these fashion weeks.”