3 Local Designers to Watch at Vancouver Fashion Week

A behind-the-seams scoop from the B.C. fashionistas who will be walking the runway at VFW.

March 13, 2018

By Alyssa Hirose / Photo: Tricia Thomas, Salish Eye Productions

Vancouver Fashion Week‘s Fall/Winter 2018 show is less than a week away, and more than 75 designers are coming from near and far to show off their latest creations. Starting on March 16, trendsetters from as far as Europe and Asia will gather to strut their stuff—but many of the show’s most unique designers come right from our own backyard. We chatted with three locals about their inspirations, designs, and what to expect at their shows (spoiler: serpents, rhinestones and kimonos—oh my!). From brand new artists to a dozen-season vet, here are three B.C. designers you won’t want to miss.

Sandra Moorhouse-Good in one of Ay Lelum’s blankets. (Photo: Tricia Thomas, Salish Eye Productions.)

1. Ay Lelum

Sisters Aunalee Boyd-Good and Sophia Seward-Good are no strangers to design. The pair were raised in a Nanaimo art studio by master Coast Salish carver William Good and potter/painter Sandra Moorhouse-Good. Now, guided by their mother, they work together to bring their father and brother’s traditional Coast Salish art to life.

Their inspiration: Boyd-Good and Seward-Good’s parents had a clothing line of their own, called Ay Ay Mut, in the nineties. The duo grew up surrounded by art, attending fashion shows in the lower mainland, the states, and the North American Indigenous games in Victoria, where their parents were featured designers. In 2015, after helping to design an exhibit celebrating their parents’ 35 years of artistic collaboration, the sisters caught the fashion bug. “We’ve grown up in the arts and clothing was the one thing that we really enjoyed because we worked so closely with [our parents] when we were younger,” says Boyd-Good.

Their designs: Called Thul Tel Lada, Ay Lelum’s F/W 2018 collection features a variety of garments made with eco-friendly material, all showcasing artwork by William and Joel Good. The serpent is a featured motif in the line, an animal that Boyd-Good says symbolizes the pair’s transformative journey. The show’s name is significant, too: “It means ‘maker of beautiful things,’ and it was the name gifted to our mother by our grandmother,” says Boyd-Good.

Their “wow” factor: These designs are a celebration of Coast Salish culture. Besides documenting First Nations language and art, the pair have a few other surprises up their poncho sleeves. “We created our own music,” Seward-Good shares. The pair were joined by their brother and father in the recording studio, where they recorded traditional songs; the songs were then remixed by Rob the Viking. “We sang, drummed, rattled, and even had the sounds of our brother Joel carving incorporated into the beats,” says Boyd-Good. 

(Photo: Evan Clayton.)

2. Evan Clayton

Evan Clayton is what you might call a VFW veteran. This show will be Clayton’s twelfth in Vancouver Fashion week, and he’s embracing a #throwback season with designs inspired by one of his favourite childhood movies. Born and raised in Fruitvale, B.C. (“along with the 800 other people that live there,” he jokes), Clayton moved to Vancouver in 2011 to attend Blanche MacDonald.

His inspiration: Clayton has had many different inspirations throughout his design career, but lately his artistry has been trending toward the past. “The longer I do this, the more consistently I reach back to my childhood,” he says. Clayton’s collections are often inspired by pop culture (his A/W 2017 collection was inspired by the work of sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini), and this season is no exception. This March, his inspiration comes from the 1984 Studio Ghibli Film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which follows a young girl, Nausicaä, on an epic adventure to save her dying planet from war and destruction—Clayton’s collection mimics the intensity and drama of the film.

His designs: Clayton’s love of natural fibres will come through in this show, as well as a subdued colour palette. Echoing his cinematic muse, the show starts with dark, intense colours, then transforms into lighter, more hopeful tones. “I wanted the progression of the pieces to look like the colour is being bleached out,” says the designer. Audiences can expect some of Clayton’s classic outré style, including a moulded leather dress he describes as “peppered” with hand-sewn rhinestones, but also a variety of more functional ready-to-wear pieces. “I focused really hard on jackets this season,” says Clayton, “so there’s a lot of really good semi-casual/semi-formal jackets and suiting options.”

His “wow” factor: “I can’t help it, I have a flare for the dramatic,” admits Clayton. His show is sure to be spectacular visually, and the designer hints that the story and themes will show through in more than just the clothing. “Without giving it away too much, I’m focusing more on scenery and trying to evoke an overall mood—not just with the clothes, but with the overall presentation,” he shares.

A model wears Kristina Benson’s Secret Sky yoga leggings. (Photo: Kristina Benson.)

3. Kristina Benson

Kamloops native Kristina Benson never thought her art would be literally strutting down the runway. But less than two years after first printing her art on yoga leggings, this Emily Carr graduate is about to make her VFW debut. With inspiring words printed into her work, Benson’s art is mindfulness to the max.

Her inspiration: After graduating from art school and working in graphic design for over a decade, Benson decided to go back to her painting roots. “I started to create these pieces that were more intention-based,” she recalls. Benson often used words of affirmation to guide her through the more difficult chapters in her life, and found that those words were coming through in her painting. Words like “light” and “serendipity,” as well as supportive phrases like “you are loved” made their way into her work. Wanting to bring those words into her yoga practise, she printed her art onto leggings for personal use. Her pants were a hit—and compliments from fellow yogis inspired her to start her own business.

Her designs: Each step in Benson’s design process is done with intention, and each piece is focused on a different affirmative thought or goal. Take the Surrender yoga leggings, for example. “Oftentimes, for those of us who are controlling, surrender is the hardest thing to grasp,” says Benson. Relinquishing control was something the artist wanted reflected in every aspect of the piece. Benson set out to find the perfect tools for her creation—and settled on india ink and a feather. “You can’t dictate where the feather paints that ink onto the paper,” she explains. The resulting design is meant to inspire the wearer to do exactly what the artist had to: surrender control and accept what is to come. Benson scans her drawings, paintings and photography, and digitally layers them to create a multidimensional, textured look. Her Montreal manufacturer then uses dye-sublimation for the most vibrant colours, making her pieces 100-percent Canadian-made.

Her “wow” factor: Benson’s VFW showcase will display more than leggings—she has a variety of tops, scarves and kimonos that will also be making their runway debut. Her work will be paired with custom mala bead necklaces designed by Alpengems‘s Layla Rocher, which also help to set intentions (the Jasper bead, for example, is grounding). Benson’s goal for this show is to elevate her products beyond the world of yoga. Her lineup will display several ways that yoga gear can be dressed up, from mat-sweaty to mall-ready. “I’m actually going to have all the gals wearing high heels with the yoga leggings,” shares Benson. With a good shoe and a smart jacket, wearers can have Benson’s words of affirmation everywhere they go.


Vancouver Fashion Week

Monday, March 19 to Sunday, March 25
Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver
50 E Pender Street

Ay Lelum and Kristina Benson’s shows are on Wednesday, March 21 at 5:00pm. Evan Clayton’s show is on Saturday, March 24 at 5:00 p.m. Find tickets here.

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