Western Canada Fashion Week is hosted twice a year in Edmonton, Alta., and is currently the third largest fashion week in Canada. The format of the show provides several opportunities for emerging, local talents to display their designs and creations to an international audience. The shows creators attest that “Western Canada Fashion Week is local but with a global vision, enabling our designers to work locally but reach larger markets.”
One such opportunity is the Goodwill Stylist Competition which requires designers to work within slow fashion restrictions. Participants have a budget and are required to rework and up-cycle lightly used clothing to create a unique outfit.
Kierra McIntyre won the Spring 2013 Stylist Competition and is in the process of creating a ten-outfit line for the Fall 2013 show, following the same guidelines and working within the same restrictions: her collection is made completely of used clothing from Goodwill stores that have been pinned, cut, sewn, and altered into stunning, on-trend creations. Kierra’s collection stems from her own interest in and commitment to the slow fashion movement: “I realized Albertans throw out a lot of stuff that can still be used, and it’s hard to find textiles in Alberta that aren’t made overseas. So I started re-working clothing that was in perfectly good condition.”
I met with Kierra to talk about her collection as she was working on it; her vision is so tangible it is really what makes a project like this work. “I found this communion dress that I really wanted to use,” she says, holding up the pieces of a fluffy, gaudy white silk-and-lace dress. For those of us used to buying new, ready-to-wear clothing (myself, included) this would seem quite absurd. Any fashionista would pass over such a garment in a thrift shop — I mean, a communion dress is clearly meant to be worn on a very specific occasion, and by a child! — but Kierra has this very evident savvy and creativity that allows her to see the potential for re-working clothing. Suddenly, I see an outfit come together that looks like it could appear in a fashion editorial in Vogue — the gaudy dress has been cut so just a lace crop-top remains, paired with a black skirt (also cut and hemmed from a skirt that used to be much longer and bulkier) and a black top hat accented with black netting (giving it a true “Gatsby”-trend look). It’s stunning. It’s cool. And it was quite effortless and inexpensive to put together — Kierra’s creativity and dedication to re-working clothing is the true catalyst behind each piece in the collection.
“I just want to show people that it’s not that hard to re-purpose and up-cycle clothing,” Kierra says about her collection. “I think it’s important that people think about where their clothing is coming from.” She recommends that conscious shoppers buy from thrift or consignment shops, and strongly urges people choose Goodwill over Value Village (Goodwill is community-based, Value Village is for-profit). In Edmonton, she says Lucid Lifestyle is the best (really, the only) place to buy sustainable clothing, and recommends shopping there for new, quality, conscious clothing.
Clothing swaps are another practical and effective way to participate in the slow fashion movement. “Sometimes you just get tired of the clothes you have, but they’re in great shape. Host a clothing swap for friends or in your community… the City of Edmonton and various groups have held some before and the turnout is great.”
“The Goodwill Stylist Competition at Western Canada Fashion Week is important to me because it demonstrates that if you go shopping in a mindful way and make a conscious effort, you can put together a really impressive wardrobe without spending a lot of money, without being wasteful, and without buying clothing made overseas in questionable conditions.”
You can see Kierra’s up-cycled Goodwill collection debut at Western Canada Fashion Week Fall 2013 on Friday, September 20, 7 pm at the ATB Financial Arts Barn in Old Strathcona.
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