How This Vancouver Show Gives Canadian Fashion Its Due

Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Pacific Rim/Luis Valdazon.
Have a casual off-the-record chat with a Canadian designer about their business, and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you that Canadian shoppers don’t make up a heck of a lot of it. When it comes to supporting Canadian fashion, it turns out that we aren’t always the best at it. That might be because many of our homegrown fashion brands aren’t household names. Look closely, though, and you’ll spot our talent on some of the world’s most-discerning tastemakers. Just this week, Jameela Jamil wore Greta Constantine to the GQ Men of the Year bash in L.A. Monaco royal Camille Gottlieb wore an off-the-shoulder feathered gown from Vancouver’s Catherine Regehr to attend the summer wedding of her brother Louis Ducruet to Marie Chevallier. Closer to home, Jessie Reyez sported a strappy gown from the longstanding Toronto house Maison CARAS to this year’s Polaris Prize. And Canadian brands are always part of Meghan Markle’s wardrobe rotation.
 
Truth is we’ve got loads of labels worth celebrating. And that’s why local initiatives like the recent Art of Design, a runway presentation featuring looks from a handful of designers, at Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, are so important. The hotel’s annual sartorial soriée is now in its eighth year, but three years ago its organizers made a commitment to an all-Canadian lineup of designers by teaming up with the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA). “It allows us to showcase the boldness of Canadian fashion and build community for fashion designers across the country,” says Jens Moesker, the regional vice-president and general manager of Fairmont Pacific Rim.
 
Five Canadian labels were on the lineup this year, including Maison CARAS by Stephan Caras and Catherine Regehr (designed by mother-daughter duo Catherine and Eva Regehr). Also featured were Matlo Atelier (from Vancouver’s Jason Matlo and design assistant Wen-Chee Liu), Montreal’s MARAM (designed by Maram Aboul Enein), and Rock ’N Karma (the label from Toronto-based sisters Naomi and Devorah Shapiro). Their collections are shown in the hotel’s lobby, which is transformed fashion show venue, complete with two catwalks and rows of seating filled by glitzy Vancouverites, influencers, and media.
 
Selecting the final roster of designers is a collaboration between Fairmont and CAFA. The goal, according to CAFA president Vicky Milner, is to “represent a diverse range of creativity and design while having a very high quality of workmanship and detail.” The runway presentation is followed immediately by a trunk show, also held in the hotel. It’s a format that addresses two big challenges facing Canadian designers: lack of visibility and a lack of direct access to potential customers. “Each designer brings something new and fresh and CAFA is so thrilled to be able to create moments where we can bring Canadian designers together and spotlight what they do to new audiences, fostering new business development opportunities,” says Milner. 
 
Check out highlights from the Art of Design in the slide show.