To Canadians (and maybe the rest of the world), Western Canada is known for its big trucks, big houses, and big energy. Oil, gas, forestry, renewables…you name it, we make it. But if you were with me at Western Canada Fashion Week’s opening night last night, then you’ll know that the energy doesn’t stop at business—it leaks into our culture, our charisma, and most of all, the minds of the incredible artists calling Alberta and B.C. home.
Certainly, that was my greatest take-away from last night’s event: well-used to bland, white models adorned with clothes I could never afford, and the stark blank faces staring up at models who never look down, I didn’t expect the level of pure energy and diversity that flowed between the seats of everyone watching.
I mean, the atmosphere on and off WCFW’s runway was downright jovial. Everyone in the audience had a stake in the game, and was there supporting the incredible designers, models, and performers who made the evening possible. And as someone who has attended her fair share of community events, it was clear from the outset that WCFW wasn’t just there to tell us how to dress—they were there to offer a platform “for the people, by the people”, to lift up the voices of those in our community who are making incredible strides in their chosen profession, regardless of race, creed, or religion.
And I, for one, found that refreshing as hell.
Truly, the positive energy at last night’s show was infectious. I found myself cheering along with the rest of the room, supporting the diverse, individual statements made by each of the artists through their designs, their bodies, or their voices. From the opening dance number (put on by Drealee Dance Company), to Cabral’s goose-bump-raising performance, to Skinny Steve’s wicked thumping, none of us in the audience could sit still.
From there, the vigor had nowhere to move but up. Reborn Garments started the mood off right with street-wear designs meant to represent the settling friction of the next generation. Swallow (by Portugal) put a smooth spin on the evening with several frocks that I wanted to curl up in on a chilly spring evening.
Then (and I can barely contain my excitement), Mobilize by Dusty stole the whole damn show. Walking to R.E.D. by A Tribe Called Red (my favourite song over the last year), models smudged the runway before strutting their stuff, their fists (or feet) held high.
It would be an understatement to say that the crowd went wild; I’ve been to concerts that were tamer. And when each of Dusty’s models came out for their final walk, the cheers were deafening.
Energy, like I said.
After a short intermission, where we all had a chance to “come down” from that high, the rest of the audience and I settled down to witness the edgy, monochrome (with a punch of red) creations of emerging designer Gian Salvador. Not to be outdone, the “avante” part of the evening proved both entertaining and eye-catching, as Jonas (by Noah Milo) challenged us with softened edges you could literally rest your head on.
To close, the audience was humbled by Neil’s reminder of a war that seems so close to us these days: the Cold War. Using blended fusion with each piece, they’re line (Mad Dog) ended the show on a somber note that brought us all back to reality.
To summarize, the night was a multi-cultural mosaic of wicked fashion that had me proud to be a Western Canadian living on Treaty Six territory. And if I’m being honest, I was a little surprised at just how much impact a fashion show could have on my political and cultural sensibilities. For that reason alone I found WCFW’s first night to be a grand success–and at the end of it all, when MC Mike Chalut bid us farewell, the evening’s models, designers, and even some audience members all bound together in an energetic, authentic group hug atop the glowing runway.
If anything can stand for the good that WCFW does for Western Canada’s art scene, it’s certainly that.
Missed the first night? WCFW is in Edmonton until Sunday! Check out their full schedule here.
All Images Copyright Jessica Barratt.