Last Wednesday, a small group of fashion industry insiders gathered at the swish Shangri-La Hotel for the inaugural Style Salons event. Led by Alexandra Suhner Isenberg of Searching for Style, this was the first of a series of panel discussions meant to encourage intelligent conversation about fashion in Vancouver. The initial session sought to address the topic "Vancouver's fashion industry: an incubator, a growth sector or simply a place to set up shop?" Participating panelists included Antonia Iamartino, lead yoga designer at Lululemon; Dace Moore, founder of dace clothing; Ryan Wilms, founder of Inventory magazine; and Stephen Bailey, marketing and communications director at Fluevog.
Here are some of the discussion highlights...
On being in Vancouver: Bailey noted that the problem with Vancouver is that "we're at the absolute edge of the world" and our geographic position creates a certain sense of isolation. By contrast, Iamartino thought that Vancouver's unique lifestyle benefited Lululemon and inspired its west coast lifestyle branding. Wilms was a bit more ambivalent ("Being in Vancouver is just where we happen to be"), but he did point out that being removed from the major hubs like Tokyo and New York was great for providing a fresh perspective. Dace, meanwhile, cited some of the negatives and positives of starting a fashion business in Vancouver: "Some of the stores in Vancouver were the most supportive when we were starting out. [But] some of the challenges were definitely money, rent, studios." She added that when she started there was some stigma attached to being a Vancouver-based label, but now that's changed and "being made in Canada is a plus."
On the Vancouver consumer: All the panelists except for Wilms agreed that the Vancouver market has always been important to their businesses. There was a general consensus that the Vancouver consumer has more conservative tastes than consumers elsewhere.
On having a bigger organizational body that would help the industry: All the panelists agreed that Vancouver's industry needed to become more unified. Bailey pointed to the local fashion weeks (Vancouver Fashion Week, BC Fashion Week, Eco Fashion Week, etc.) as an example--why have separate events that would dilute the overall effectiveness of everyone's efforts when they can combine into one great event?
A lively Q&A session ensued, after which audience members stayed to mix and mingle. Thanks to Alexandra for the invitation to Style Salons, and here's hoping there are more in the future.