Halifax: Off the Cuff Week 3–The designers tackle avant-garde outerwear

Akshay Tyagi's winning design from week three of Off The Cuff
Akshay Tyagi's winning design from week three of Off the Cuff. Photography by Shaun Simpson

Last Sunday’s challenge in Halifax’s Off the Cuff, a fashion competition and runway show presented by Argyle Fine Art gallery, couldn’t have been any more inappropriate. The designers were assigned the task of making a garment that was inspired by Halifax’s tempestuous weather and that could be transformed in some way. And so, on one of the scarce sunrise-to-set sunny days in the ‘fax, five designers wrapped their already-sweltering models in practical, toasty outwear.
First to the hit the runway was Heather Rappard’s slim red dress and shrug–a geisha-meets-ninja number made of waterproof fabric that unfastened to a sleeveless sheath. Though beautiful in concept, the piece was weak in its technical merit, a point brought up by Anne Pickard of NSCAD’s fashion department, filling in for judge Wendy Friedman. Bree Mackin was up next with a little-blue-riding-hood cape and fitted bodice constructed of tiny panels of cut-up rain gear and tracksuits. A sash at the neck was swiftly undone and retied at the waist to turn the sensible garment into a mermaid’s frock.

When asked what inspired her to create the piece by one of the judges, Mackin responded that on a typical (read: rainy) day, she slips into a dress, heads to work, “And by the time I get there, I look like a golden retriever has made out with my entire body.” The only solution: head-to-knee raingear. Why not make it whimsically bold?

Akshay Tyagi’s model started her first circle of the gallery in an top that billowed from rib to neck in a poof of gauzy chartreuse–a piece that untied to a rainproof black paneled dress for the second go around. Finally, with the help of a couple dozen snaps, the garment turned into an easy scarf skirt that put that punchy lime hue back on display. Guest judge Cheryl Hann of sketch comedy group Picnicface couldn’t get enough of the piece: “This blows my mind. It’s like tear-away pants and fashion.” The other judges, who congratulated Tyagi for his unexpected and innovative design and awarded him the number one spot, shared her sentiment.

Louanna Murphy, who has won each challenge so far, gave Tyagi some stiff competition with a stunning reversible and detachable trench that had me mentally buttoning myself into it. The cotton twill bodice flipped to a vintage-y floral in the warm-yellow hues of fall. The piece also transformed into a cropped jacket with a roomy hood. With our capricious weather, the garment is pure brilliance.

Heading home from the competition was Alison Seary, who presented a three-part cape that kept the wearer warm and dry under tied, tucked and buttoned layers of deconstructed outerwear.

READ MORE: Off the Cuff Weeks One and Two and Week Four