Dark days indeed for us fashionistas

Dark days indeed for us fashionistas

It seems like everyone’s dressing in black these days. Don’t believe me? Here’s the hard empirical evidence.

Last week I went to a show. In front of me sat a man in a lime green sweater. Beside him sat his wife, dressed in a vermilion coat.

They were instantly noticeable because the colours were bright. Then it occurred to me: The real reason they stood out is because almost everyone else was wearing black.

Black rules supreme. Look on the street. Look anywhere. It’s like we’ve become Russia in the 1950s, except without the Sputniks and with better plumbing.

Two weeks ago I decided to get rid of clothes I don’t wear anymore. The discards were brightly coloured Hawaiian shirts and garish garb originally (a) selected for humour value and/or (b) purchased after enthusiastic cocktail consumption. I put this stuff into two garbage bags and drove to Value Village.

“Here’s some free clothes,” I said to the Value Village donations guy, who had a mohawk and a pierced nose. He didn’t look too excited or anything.

“There’s some really good shirts in there,” I added. “You might even want to check it out yourself. You know, snag the good ones.”

“That’s OK,” said the mohawk guy, flinging my stuff onto heap of other garbage bags.

Back home I examined my half empty closet. Then, horror of horrors, it struck me (with the force of Shelley Duvall reading Jack Nicholson’s novel in The Shining) practically all my remaining clothes were black. Or charcoal. Or a licorice hue.

It was like I’d become a goth over the last few years without realizing it.

A fashion blogger for the Huffington Post recently wrote about how wonderful dressing in black is. “Black is elegant and chic; black is slimming; black looks good with all skin tones; black looks good with all hair colours; black looks as good on men as it does women,” she enthused.

But how terrific can black really be? If everyone is dressing in black, it can’t be that cool. It’s like when hipsters started wearing Buddy Holly glasses. Before you knew it, everyone garbagemen, church ministers, people who ask “Would you like fries with that?” was wearing them, too.

I predict in the future, people will view our time as the strange period in history when everyone wore black. It will be known as The Age of Black or, in French, “L’ge du Noir.”

Historians will wonder: “Were they excessively worried about getting stains like red wine and hot sauce on their clothing? Were they depressed due to global warming and the music of Miley Cyrus? Or did they just want to be prepared in case of surprise funerals?”

I told my wife my L’ge du Noir theory. She said nothing. But on Valentine’s Day she surprised me. Her gift: a yellow pocket square and a matching bow tie.

“These will brighten up your wardrobe,” she said. “You know, because of all that stuff you were saying about black clothes.”

My gift startled me. Don’t get me wrong, the yellow pocket square looks OK. It adds zip to my black ensembles a certain je ne sais quoi, as though I’ve just de yachted after pia coladas with Kim Kardashian.

But the bow tie is something else. It has little polka dots and is extremely tiny. It’s looks like something Pee Wee Herman or Huntz Hall of the Bowery Boys might wear.

The Many Faces of Conscious Fashion

The Many Faces of Conscious Fashion

Vancouver is not a city known for its sartorial sense, unless you’re counting us taking the cake as the world’s third worst dressed city (thank you, Ms. Song.) A look around and it seems that our big claim to fashion fame can be found in yoga wear, which as comfortable as that may be, pretty much puts us in the “hot mess” category in the fashion world. But a different fashion story is emerging in this city nestled in mountains, water and fresh air, and that story took centre stage this week at Eco Fashion Week.

I trekked down to Robson Square to check out the work of fellow eco and conscious fashion designers this season (the show’s fourth). And lest you think eco fashion is just about using sustainable fabrics, here were some of the highlights:

Day one kicked off with a runway show featuring vintage clothes sponsored by Value Village and styled by Sarah La Greca, Deanna Palkowski and Eco Fashion Week founder Myriam Laroche because frankly, recycling is one of the best ways to do fashion good. And as for creating conscious fashion itself, designers ranged from Indigenous, a cozy and stylish fair trade knitwear brand using organic materials and employing artisans from Peru, to Kreati ka, a Seattle based and Paris bred high end label of cocktail dresses and luxe evening wear, with a focus on minimizing fabric waste. Fellow Vancouverite Standing Armed showed a luxurious silk and wool collection, made fresh for fall with colours, textures and patterns. With all pieces made to order from Vancouver, the designer prides herself on designing pieces with longevity and quality in mind, moving away from a throwaway fashion mindset. Recycling showed up again in a very different way with Arm Candy’s collection of handbags made from yup, you guessed it candy wrappers. And crowd favorite Prophetik was the last designer to take the stage with its dramatic gowns made of organic and naturally dyed fabrics. With a design ethos that focuses 100 per cent on conscious design, Prophetik made a fine closing statement to prove the point that sustainable fashion ranges the entire spectrum, a far cry from the beige potato sack dresses many of us still associate with eco fashion (unless you’re counting the ones worn by models showing off some serious Arm Candy see above).

As with any event, there is room for improvement. For example, I would’ve loved to hear, before each designer took the stage, what went behind the design process and philosophy. (And from what I could tell, those around me who were audibly wondering what made each collection “eco” would’ve appreciated the same.) Because eco fashion is about so much more than just the clothes. And there are amazing stories behind the clothes as well.

But a statement was made: it’s about time we as creators and consumers make more responsible choices with what we wear. I like how Myriam Laroche put it: “Instead of ‘eco’ I want to bring in the words ‘conscious’ and ‘responsible.'” Because isn’t that how we all aspire to live our lives? With awareness, we would see that the choice is ours whether to support or hinder the well being of the environment, people, and economy. (And sure, a great runway show helps get the message out there in a more fashion crowd friendly way.) With the many faces of conscious fashion available to suit all tastes, budgets and values, our values can co exist with our style habits. But it’s our values that move us forward together to create a more conscious and responsible world, wearing whatever floats our sartorial boats.

And though Vancouver certainly can’t take the credit for conscious fashion, we were definitely there to witness it. It’s a fashion story I’m proud to be a part of (sorry, yoga pants).