The Honey Mustard's Sarah Murray announces the winner while Sofia, Jenna, and Marla (from left to right) eagerly await the results.
It's the new designer competition that's launched the careers of luminaries such as Nicole Bridger, Lara Presber, Red Jade, and Two of Hearts, so it comes as no surprise that lovers of local fashion were looking forward to this season's Generaation Next show. As in previous years, Gen Next provides a platform for emerging designers to showcase their work in a runway show. Before the audience ever gets to see their work, contestants are vetted by a panel of fashion industry insiders who look for innovative design and a well-developed marketing and business plan. From there, three finalists are selected to stage a runway show. Typical shows require at least 30 outfits, which is nearly impossible for a new designer to achieve. But Gen Next's format lets the three finalists show 10 outfits each and can therefore give newbie designers the exposure that a runway show brings, sans the expense of staging a full show on their own.
This year's show took place at Performance Works on Granville Island and was organized by local fashion PR agency The Honey Mustard. The obsessive-compulsive side of me couldn't help but admire how well-run the event was: the assigned seating was clearly laid out, the event ran on time, the silent auction was a huge hit, and once the show began each segment flowed smoothly.
First up was Sofia Clothing from Victoria, BC. Sofia's spring/summer 2011 collection featured wearable, on-trend pieces in a neutral palette of black, white, pewter, teal, and cornflower blue. Shift dresses with different details and silhouettes--tank-style, cap sleeves, contrasting colour insets or trim, tulip skirt--were diverse in their range of looks without sacrificing the overall cohesiveness of the collection. I was definitely impressed by the construction, fit, and conceptual integrity of this collection; its polish and maturity reflected a defined vision.
Designer Marla Lede's spring/summer 2011 collection resembled two separate capsule collections and lacked the cohesiveness of Sofia Clothing, although it was still a great effort. Lede opened with a floor-length purple jersey maxi dress followed by more jersey separates, another dress, and even a romper in the same royal hue and a lighter lilac shade. Just as I thought the entire collection would be made of purple jersey and casual to the core, Lede sent some more structured dresses and denim skirts down the runway and finished the show with a floor-length floral maxi.
According to designer Jenna Etcheverry's website, "Madame Wolf is an adventurous, confident female that isn’t afraid to be on the provocative side while keeping a sexy, nonchalant attitude. With her boyish charm and love for life, she is low maintenance but high on image. She works hard and plays even harder." Although Etcheverry's vision seems clear enough, the collection lacked cohesion, with looks ranging from black sheer mesh to stripes and more girlish abstract painterly florals. It was a collection that spoke to rocker girls, sailor girls, and girly girls, and in the end its indecisiveness lost me. In spite of this, I still loved the opening look: a strapless sweetheart neckline romper with a long-sleeved sheer overlay that bloused over the bodice.
While the judges deliberated, last year's winner, Ella Peru, presented her spring/summer 2010 collection, and what a collection it was! Khaki, olive green, black, and lively floral prints with a dash of pink in the pattern all conspired to create a collection that was at once tomboyish and feminine, tough yet endearing. There was a lot to love: solid-coloured bustier tops, tailored floral shorts, and floaty tops and skirts. I was particularly intrigued by the unusual construction of the pockets on the dresses and bottoms. Instead of being a straight pocket slit or curving in a C-shape, the pocket's top line curves inward, resulting in a pocket that resembles a flower petal unfurling from the garment.
This look and the next two, Ella Peru
So, who got to take home the big prize in the end? It was Sofia Clothing. Congratulations! Lucky Sofia received a prize package full of opportunities and tools to launch her brand, including a solo fashion show at next year's Gen Next event, publicity from The Honey Mustard, a mentorship with JC Studio, a String Magazine photoshoot, and much more. She should prepare herself, because this is surely the start of something big.
Special thanks to Wayne Mah for the beautiful runway photos used in this post.