Sunday, September 29, 2013

Past Behaviour - The Art of Fashion Design Competition 2013

On Friday, September 27th, I was invited to attend the "VIP Cocktail Reception" for the 2013 Art of Fashion Design Competition.  I had attended this event, and blogged about it last year, and was quite happy to attend this year.  The design theme this year was "Past Behaviour", so the nine finalists in the competition incorporated a reference to styles from past decades.

The event was held at 99 Sudbury Street, in Toronto, so I took the afternoon off work, grabbed a Greyhound Bus and found myself on Queen Street West by 5:30 pm.  With about an hour to spare, I did a quick stop at Kind Exchange, where I picked up a pair of red butterfly earrings for $3, and at Original, a candy-coloured explosion of gorgeous shoes, cheerfully fun accessories and clothing perfect for your next fetish party/drag show/feel like dressin' up evening.   I had decided on a scarf with a bow for my hair, but after eye-balling the impressing assortment of fascinators at Original, plans changed.  With no time left for dinner, I was off to mingle with the Fashion crowd.

I think it's a good omen when the first person you meet at an event is someone you would love to hang out with.  Artist and Teacher Beckie Di Leo had her easel set up just inside the main door, and she was doing quick watercolours of some of the designer's models, and stylish attendees.  She offered to do a sketch of me later in the evening.
 
Above is one of Di Leo's sketches from earlier in the evening.  Di Leo has done her "live painting" at many fashion related events and she has perfected the art of capturing the essence of someone's style with a few strokes of her brush.  You can read more about Beckie Di Leo and her art on her website.

One of the sponsors of the evening was Minskaya Vodka, and there was a display just inside the door where you could try a shot, served by pretty girls in orange dresses.  I'm no Vodka expert, and I thought it was perfectly fine as far as Vodka goes, but I prefer mine mixed with something.

 The Designers....

Each of the nine finalists in the competition had an exhibit of their designs, with one of their designs  featured in the fashion show later in the evening. The emerging Canadian designers were competing for two awards: Most Promising Designer (decided by industry panel of judges) and Best Exhibit (voted on by the public). You can read more about this year's designers on the Art of Fashion website here.

In a collection inspired by the Arthurian Legends, designer Katelyn Bowland (right)  featured simply-cut, flowing dresses embellished with bold metal chest pieces.

I loved this metal necklace/belt that would look amazing worn over everything from an evening gown to a t-shirt.

Andrea Dineen's (right) collection was inspired by the curvy, ultra-feminine shapes of the 1950's.

Her exhibit was very elegant, and she had even created a couple of small wool felt hats that paired beautifully with the dresses.

Elena Sanjikhaeva, originally from Siberia, Russia (on the right), is inspired by the designs of Coco Chanel, and created a collection targeted at well-educated, professional women in their 30's - 50's.  Her clothing was nicely tailored, with elegant details and unusual necklines that drew the eye up to the wearer's face.

I would definitely wear this grey vest with the face-framing collar

Designer Christine Youn (left) and judge Laura-Jean Bernhardson, CEO and Founder of Fresh Collective

One of the designs from Christine Youn's collection which was titled "Soaring Skies".  Youn's collection was a nod to the the flapper silhouette of the 1920's.

Diana Li's (centre in black and white) collection, sponsored by Danier Leather, combined the textures of leather and silk.  Li hand cut the leather into intricate shapes, celebrating the arts of lacemaking and embroidery but using leather instead of a needle and thread.

The single men's collection in the competition was designed by Rani Kim.  Titled "Mon-Fri", Kim wanted to create clothing that was "fashion forward and creative, but that also incorporated the classic tailoring techniques and masculine styles of the 1950's". 

Kim, on the runway with one of her models during the fashion show

Designer Jung Min Oh's black, white and grey creations also referenced the 1950's.  Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the designer.  Her dresses and blouses had very simple, elegant fronts with deeply cut backs.

Carissa McCaig's collection was titled "Clovers and Blush", and featured pretty dresses in soft pastels. McCaig has had her own clothing line, Copious Fashions, since 2010.

Alysia Myette's collection was a riot of colour and pattern.  My favourite piece was the long pink coat with the split stand up collar.   Her collection, titled "Asian Persuasion", referenced Orientalism through the use of traditional Japanese fabrics and Asian style cut of the jackets.

One of Myette's other designs in the Fashion Show

The Crowd....

This young man, whose name is Brandon, and I caught each other's eyes and had a lovely chat, which lead to a photo.  I was impressed that he had hand sewn the satin onto the lapels of his velvet jacket himself.  I'm wearing the feather fascinator I purchased an hour before arriving at the event.  The big white rectangle hanging around my neck says "Media" on the other side.  I don't know what Brandon's badge said.
This delightful woman came up and admired my outfit, which led to a conversation.  She told me her name, and I should have written it down, because of course, I can't remember it.  I'm standing by the excuse that I was getting over a cold, and had downed two drinks on an empty stomach.

 Bart Simpson rules

There were some very interesting men in attendance, one being Grant McRuer, the man in the photo above.  Grant, a graduate of the NSCAD Jewellery Design and Metal Smithing program, creates very creepy cool jewellery which you can see here.

McRuer made the red resin baby head belt buckle (trying saying that fast three times) he was wearing, which was definitely a conversation starter.  It's very difficult to get a shot of someone's belt buckle and not look like you are photographing their crotch.  Grant was nice enough to let me try.

I also met Sean Snyder (whom I wish I would have photographed, as he was looking very dapper in a well cut suit and red tie), the founder and president of Trend Trunk, another sponsor of the evening.  Trend Trunk provides the opportunity to sell things from your closet, or shop the closets of other people.  It was easy to create an account on the site, and all you do is upload photos of the items you want to sell, along with a description.  When an item sells, Trend Trunk emails you a trackable, prepaid, printable shipping label that you attach to the package, so you don't have to worry about figuring out shipping costs.  When the item is received by the purchaser, Trend Trunk deposits 80% of the purchase price in your account.  It sounds easy enough, so I think I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes.

This young woman with the gorgeous smile and golden mane had the good fortune to be standing right under a beam of light that turned her hair into a miniature sun.  She is Aisha Chacha, owner of Chacha Cosmetics.

Although conforming to the unofficial dress code of black, black and more black that seemed to rule the evening, this stylish couple stood out because of their hair, and details like the plaid shirt, and fur embellishment on the shoulder of her leather dress.  The gentleman is with Spellbound Hair Design, a sponsor of the event.

Sharp-dressed man

Another outfit that stood out amongst the sea of suits and little black dresses

The best suit of the evening, no contest....

By the time I was getting ready to leave to catch my bus home, the runway had been taken over by pretty young things who were using it as a seating area where they could check their phones.

The previously mentioned Beckie Di Leo watercolour of yours truly - I love it!

Many thanks to the Art of Fashion and 4 1/2 Inch PR for the invitation!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Feast For the Eyes - Traditional Pow Wow and Native Harvest Festival

On September 14th and 15th, The Museum of Ontario Archeology here in London held its Annual Traditional Pow Wow and Native Harvest Festival.  Heather had heard about this from one of the Roller Derby girls and as neither of us had attended a Pow Wow before, we decided it would be an adventure.  This is probably the longest post I've ever done in terms of photos, so get yourself a cuppa and get comfortable.  It will be worth it, I promise...

According to the brochure from the Museum, "Pow Wows are celebrations where First Nations and non-First Nations people meet to dance, sing, socialize and honour First Nations culture." Pow Wows usually include a dance competition and can vary in length from one - three days, and major ones called for a special occasion can last as long as a week.  Pow Wow singers are important figures in the Native American Culture and without the songs, there would be no dances. Most dances seen at Pow Wows today are social dances that might have had different meanings in earlier days.

The first thing we saw when we entered the clearing behind the parking lot of the Museum was a longhouse, and a circle of people sitting in chairs.  There were also booths selling First Nations crafts and food.   Of course, my eye was drawn to the woman wearing orange and green.  There were several workshops, activities, and demonstrations taking place over the weekend and visitors could try their hand at beadwork, archery, lacrosse, and cooking traditional aboriginal foods.

Pow Wow etiquette requires that you ask permission before taking photographs of any of the dancers outside of the dance circle.  In general,  I ask permission before taking someone's photograph anyway, but I hadn't read the etiquette section of the brochure before I attempted to take a couple of photos and noticed the subjects obviously avoiding my camera.   I learned my lesson, and I asked this woman if I could take a photo of her beautiful blouse that she had decorated with silver beads and a metal disc.  

I was very interested in this man's regalia, which was very plain in contrast to some of the brightly coloured, fringed and beaded regalia worn by some of the other performers.  He said that what he was wearing was in keeping with what would have been worn in the 1800's. (photo by Heather)

 I confess to not asking permission to take this photo, although I did get photos of this dancer when she was in the Dance Circle, but I loved the contrast of her jingle dress with her purple-dyed braids - a visual feast incorporating the traditional and the modern.  I did a bit of research and learned that a Jingle dress is also called a prayer dress and according to one source, comes from the Northern Tribe Ojibewea or Chippewa.  Jingle dresses are decorated with rolled-up snuff tin lids that are hung with ribbon which is then sewn to the dress.  When the dancer moves, the jingles strike each other and make a beautiful sound.  Jingle dancers are traditionally considered healers.

The regalia worn by the youngest performers rivalled that of the adults in terms of colour and embellishment

The first dance was begun by these two young men, who were Lead dancers.   In most First Nations dances the Circle plays a major role, representing unity, and the cycle of life, and dancers often follow the clockwise pattern of the sun.

The two young men who began the dance were soon joined by other performers and members of the audience, who were invited to participate.  Just for the record, Heather and I did get up and dance.


This young man was very focussed and exuberant in his dancing, and was a delight to watch.


This dancer's regalia was absolutely stunning.  The designs and ornaments on a dancer's regalia can represent special events, religious traditions, symbols from legends, or honour a person's life.


The children's elaborate regalia was no less detailed in terms of fringe.  A dancer's regalia evolves over their lifetime to reflect changes in their lives and important events.

Some of the women performed a Smoke Dance, in which their movements imitated the twisting, graceful motions of smoke

A young smoke dancer

Many of the female dancers often have animal fur attached to their braids

This young lady had a regal bearing that was well beyond her years

This young woman carried herself proudly and had the most beautiful beaded hair adornments.  The fur attached to her braids is muskrat

The man I had posed with earlier spent some time answering questions from two brothers who were sitting around the circle.

I was entranced by the beautiful beadwork on the boot covers worn by the dancers.

 male dancers' feather bustles

I admired this young woman's sequinned and fur trimmed braids, which she had done herself.  She would later participate in the Fancy Shawl Dance.

The smallest Jingle dancer

The young girl in the previous photo dances with the woman with the purple french braids I had photographed earlier

This stunning shawl is worn by the young woman with the sequinned braids in an earlier photo
The Fancy Shawl Dance is a relatively new addition to the Pow Wow and features fancy, fast-paced footwork.  The dancers wear brightly coloured, beaded and embroidered shawls with long fringe that evoke a butterfly's wings when they are dancing. They also will wear matching leggings, moccasins, hairpieces and jewellery, and are truly glorious in their finery.

Another Fancy Shawl that glittered when it was struck by the sun

A butterfly motif shawl worn by one of the young dancers

We were about to go into the Longhouse when this young woman in her beautiful red regalia started to dance.  She demonstrated the fast footwork and intricate steps of the Fancy Shawl Dance and her frequent spins sent her fringe flying - she was riveting!

We made a trip through the birch bark longhouse, where children were playing on the log benches along the walls.  The smell of wood smoke was everywhere, and I realized that it was the same smell that would have filled the nostrils of the people who had inhabited Longhouses hundreds of years ago.
We were just about to leave when Nikki Shawana, who is also a talented hoop dancer (we missed her performance) sang a couple of her own songs.  You can find a couple of videos of her on YouTube.

A final dance photo before we left featuring two dancers I hadn't photographed before.  The man on the far right is wearing a headdress of eagle feathers.  Unfortunately, I didn't notice the bald head in the foreground until I reviewed my photos at home.  At least it was perfectly centered.

If you are interested in learning more about Native American Pow Wows, there are a number of helpful sites on the Interweb including the one I found most helpful.