Launching Immigrant and Indigenous Fashion Designers from the VFW Runway


Vancouver Fashion Week, returning for its Fall/Winter 2022 edition this week, has become a hotspot for many immigrant and Indigenous fashion designers.

In search of a new life and career, South African immigrant Larainne Kaplan arrived in Vancouver in 2003 with two garbage bags full of clothing samples made by a family charity program near her former home. house in Cape Town.

Fashion designer Larainne Kaplan
Fashion designer Larainne Kaplan heads Vancouver’s LK collections. (Picture provided)

“I wanted to continue to have a fashion business with a strong social responsibility component,” said Kaplan, who was making the transition after a 15-year career as a social worker in South Africa.

“And then I met him, and he helped me start my business,” Kaplan said, pointing to Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) founder Jamal Abdourahman in an interview with Canadian New Media.

Today, Kaplan runs Vancouver-based LK Collections, a dynamic multi-brand wholesale fashion agency and import company that represents international and local collections in Western Canada.

“Behind the scenes” experience

After graduating from the London College of Fashion, Taiwanese-Canadian Alex S. Yu launched his label at the September 2014 edition of Vancouver Fashion Week.

Since then and after 12 VFW shows, her collections have been featured in fashion shows around the world while her designs have dressed celebrities including Canadian-American actress Sandra Oh and Taiwanese singer Miu Zhu.

Métis Designer Jade Tétrault
Métis designer Jade Tetrault works on her ‘Arrowhead’ dress. She gets her backstage experience at this week’s Vancouver Fashion Week event. (Picture provided)

For Métis designer Jade Tetrault, this week VFW 2022 Fall and Winter Showoffers him a “behind the scenes” experience.

“It’s a great place to get some fashion design experience,” said Tetrault, who hopes her Indigenous-inspired “Arrowhead” dress will be featured at the next VFW show.

Kaplan, Yu and Tetrault are among dozens of new Canadian and Indigenous designers who, over the past two decades, have launched and initiated their careers from the VFW show, which is now the second largest fashion week in North America. North, after that of New York.

Fashion a “global phenomenon”

“At Vancouver Fashion Week, diversity is really our greatest strength,” said Abdourahman, who arrived in Toronto in 1990 as a refugee from Djibouti, a small country in the Horn of Africa.

In addition to being the longest-running show of its kind, Abdourahman and his Global Fashion Collective (GFC) team host special events that run alongside New York Fashion Week, Tokyo Fashion Week, and Fashion Week. from Paris. VFW also organizes a special Kids Fashion event.

“Over the past few years, we have received more and more requests from international fashion students, new immigrants and First Nations designers,” said Abdourahman.

“Fashion is a truly global phenomenon and it’s so inspiring to see such a mix of designers coming together under one roof here in Vancouver,” he said.

Among this year’s presenters are Inuit designer Martha Kyak and Sri Lankan-Canadian Sujitha Shivajothi, who has a gender-neutral design label.

jamal abdourahman
Jamal Abdourahman, the founder of Vancouver Fashion Week (Image provided)

Vancouver as a fashion hub

Vancouver mayoral candidate Mark Marissen, a longtime VFW fan, hopes the event will continue to grow and provide opportunities for upcoming fashion designers.

“It’s a fantastic event that has already placed our city on the fashion world and if elected I hope to make it a key event for Vancouver,” he said.

According to a market entry report prepared for the European Union fashion industryglobal apparel retail sales in Canada reached $35.27 billion in 2019.

The report named Vancouver Fashion Week as one of the city’s most popular events.

“Home to people from different walks of life, especially from East Asia, Vancouver is the hub of fashion and style,” the report said.

“VFW events feature creations from established and emerging fashion brands and provide a focal point for local fashion start-ups that have flourished over the past few years,” Alex Martyniak, Executive Director of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Western Canada, NCM said.

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