Five things you might not know about Western Canada Fashion Week

Western Canada Fashion Week begins this week in Edmonton. You may already know it is the longest-running event of its kind in Alberta and the second-largest in Canada. You may also know it’s one of the nation’s longest-standing fashion weeks, having outlived its counterparts in Toronto and Montreal.

Going into its 25th season, WCFW showcases the creative talents of over 40 designers per season, with entries from across the country, as well as international designers from as far away as the Philippines and Vietnam. You may have thought that WCFW was just for serious fashionistas, but the style, excitement and entertainment value are geared to delight a much wider audience.

It challenges norms for models: “Style is ageless,” says Sandra Sing Fernandes, the creative force behind WCFW. That is why this year there will be an evening dedicated to diversity of age, with stylish models who challenge the fashion industry’s norms for age and body types. “Our philosophy has always been self-expression, creativity and style for all,” says Fernandes. “Some designers are realizing that women are changing. They want more fashion options, and we feel now is the time to push fashion boundaries.” Fashions for men and women by local designer Stanley Carroll and Le Chateau Canada will be featured in this show that opens the festival Mar.23. “Nothing before has created as much excitement as Ageless Style,” adds Fernandes.

  1. Rolling out style: This year, for the first time, on April 1, WCFW will feature models with disabilities, including models in wheelchairs and models with prosthetics. On the runway will be members of Canada’s Paralympic Volley Ball Team. Made possible by a partnership with Alberta Medical Supplies, the evening will include demonstrations of pain-free compression wear as well as a fashion show. The models and fashions are organized by Benveet (Bean) Gill, whose history with WCFW goes back five years, before she became paralyzed due to a viral infection. Back then, she was a talented makeup artist lending her skills to WCFW. Today, Gill, is co-founder of ReYu, a local non-profit activity-based paralysis-recovery centre. Gill herself will take part as a model in the fashion show. Fashions to be modelled are from Van Mil- Amsterdam, LUXX Ready Wear, Nu2 You and The Running Room.
    Lynn Mandel (left) with Western Canada Fashion Week founder Sandra Sing Fernandes after a show at Bavaria BMW. VICKIE LALIOTIS / FILE PHOTO

  1. A local event with global vision: WCFW is a real boost to the city’s local fashion and beauty scene, says Lynn Mandel, wife of former mayor Stephen Mandel and a longtime supporter of WCFW. “I’m thrilled that WCFW takes place in Edmonton. I’m honoured to be a part of this important event that celebrates and unites the enterprising, innovative and change-making talent of our city,” she says. Mandel points to the links between fashion, culture and the arts. “Edmonton has always prided itself on our cultural diversity and how those differences have influenced our arts scene. Fashion design in Edmonton, which reflects our culture, is both an art form and an industry and is supported in many ways, solely by WCFW.”
    Fashion designer Derek Jagodzinsky (right) with model Grace. LARRY WONG / POSTMEDIA/FILE

  1. A showcase for emerging talent: With its competitions for emerging designers, costume design and fantasy hair and makeup design, WCFW serves as an incubator for new talent, providing opportunities for novices to break into the world of retail fashion. It has been instrumental in launching the careers of designers such as Sid Neigum, Caitlin Power, Derek Jagodzinsky, Malorie Urbanovitch and Jessica Halabi, as well as models such as Linsay Willier. Past first-place winners of the competition have used the free showcase to help launch their clothing lines or open their own boutiques. The nine-day event is also a platform for hair academies to showcase new graduates. In addition, there are opportunities for more than 30 hair salons to work with models to build portfolios and their client base.
    Flowbot, real name Michael Ortiz, shows off his contact juggling skills. CODIE MCLACHLAN /POSTMEDIA/FILE

  1. It celebrates arts and culture: “Each season, we work with young dancers and singers to help build their confidence by performing on our stage,” says Fernandes. “As well, we support the artistic talents of inner-city kids by showing their work in our foyer.” There will be a different lineup of performing artists each night, with the greatest variety on Fantasy Night, March 27, says Fernandes. Among the host of performers will be pop singer, songwriter and dancer Mackenzie Dayle, who performs March 23, 27 and 28; and Michael Ortiz on March 27, as well as Viva Dance troupe on March 31. Also look for Peter Raiwe, a singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, and poetry from Lady Vanessa Cardona.

At a glance:

Western Canada Fashion Week takes place at the ATB Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave., with shows nightly from March 23 to April 1, excluding Sunday, March 26. For more information on the schedule of events, go to westerncanadafashionweek.com. WCFW also supports local charitable organizations such as YESS and TERRA, by accepting donations of gently used clothing, personal essentials and monetary gifts.

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Five things you might not know about Western Canada Fashion Week

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