Halifax: Student talent tops Atlantic Fashion Week

CHLOÉ COMME PARRIS Fall 2010 Atlantic Fashion Week. Photography by Brent McCombs

By the time hosts Lisa Drader-Murphy and Joanne Lawen slipped behind the mic last Thursday night, the packed O’Regan’s Mercedes-Benz showroom had filled to standing room only—and rightfully so. The Emerging Designer Showcase, the first of Atlantic Fashion Week’s main events, has developed quite the reputation over the last couple years. This season, over a dozen up-and-comers unveiled their latest, and I was pleased to welcome a few more names to my list of young talent for which to look out.

As expected, favourites Danica Olders’ Rustik (rustiklothing.com) and Chloé and Parris Gordon’s Chloé Comme Parris (chloecommeparris.ca) closed Thursday’s show, each collection proving that these ladies truly have been working hard in their NSCAD studios since we saw them last fall.

Providing the female counterpart to last season’s “Stiks” collection, Olders’ “Stones” held tight to her now signature homage to heritage, dressing her tribal-painted models in hints of aboriginal prints and iconic accessories (think forehead-kissing headbands, subtle plumage and drapey necklaces). Olders offset airy off-white shift dresses with soft, circular hems with tailored, military-like jackets, sailor-front shorts, splashes of lace, and clean, white knee-highs that alluded to a very different aspect of our history.

The Chloé Comme Parris aesthetic this season left me overcome with pangs of jealousy: the Gordon sisters have successfully bottled up the coveted effortless cool. You know that friend who can slip into wrinkled trousers, awkward boots, a worn-in tee, and—why not—a droopy vest, an easy blazer, some random necklace and a few rings, then run a hand through her bed-head and wipe the mascara from her eyes and look absolutely, nearly painfully stunning? Welcome to the Chloé Comme Parris Fall 2010 collection. Clothing the chic tomboy in a rich palette of warm browns, dark blues, dusty charcoals and clean neutrals, this collection continues to juxtapose tailoring with more organic, draping silhouettes, as the line has done in the past. This time, however, the Gordons’ designs have explored the possibilities of those tailored pieces and how they can fold, gather, hang and move with as much character and interest as more fluid fabrics.

NSCAD textiles and fashion student Kathy Marsh presented a modest but beautiful collection on Thursday. With the idea of nudity a prevalent element of her work, the designer cut flesh-hued, often sheer fabrics into delicate, yet structured forms. Though quite simple in its construction, it was the very clean, stripped-down aesthetic—a welcome escape amongst handfuls of overly stylized collections—that caused Marsh’s work to stick in my memory.

Working in a tonal range not far from Marsh’s neturals, Haligonian Lena Kroeker showcased a series of unexpected happenings, pieces that thoroughly explored textures from breezy sheer to knobbly wool. Though I wasn’t unanimously taken by Kroeker’s complete collection, several of her designs, namely a long, stunning  wool men’s coat, a gorgeous sheath dripping with stripes of emerald silk, and a patchworked olive and stone knitted menswear sweater, were among my favourites from the night.

Taking home the whimsy prize (I imagine, if there was such a thing, it would come with a floral headpiece and wand made of hearts), was Kataryna Rose of Eco-Social Clothing Design, a line that does as its name implies: creates new pieces from gently used and second-hand materials. Though many of her pieces were more costumey (giant striped and patched overalls, for instance) than wearable, I couldn’t help but giggle with glee when a little green bubble skirt with a stuffed hem graced the runway, or lean forward with want when a stone and robin’s egg shift dress turned around to bare a cute cutaway back.

Click the images below to see looks from the Emerging Designers Showcase.

See reviews and images from day two of Atlantic Fashion Week.

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