As the seventh season of Eco Fashion Week (EFW) takes a concluding bow, thoughts are now geared towards the future of Vancouver’s eco-fashion movement.
By Jenica Chuahiock
EFW’s finishing event, which consists of a trunk show with Holt Renfrew’s H-Project and a special appearance with New York eco-designer, Cornelia Guest, has gotten a lot of people eagerly anticipating big plans for the next season. Speaking of the future, of course, requires a look back at the past, and an even closer look to where we are now. EFW founder, Myriam Laroche, has already spent these last few months planning the next ten steps ahead. She holds nothing back about EFW’s current affairs and hurdles for the next year. “Eco Fashion Week has been growing. But the challenge is right now is to grow and reach the next level, and it’s still hard! The team is getting tired. I’m getting tired. As much we love it, we now need to rethink the format.”
Laroche, a bubbly and sweet French-Canadian eco-stylist (as she prefers to be called), has been leading EFW since its conception in 2009. Every year since then, EFW has made its intentions clear with eco-friendly innovations, creative yet recyclable styling and in-depth discussions on sustainability, while of course promoting the local talent Vancouver is known for. Although now EFW is one of the most anticipated fashion events of the year, the question now is where and how do we go from here?
As a dynamic stylist and entrepreneur, Laroche is no stranger to the strains and burdens that goes behind the glamour of the runway. To be consistent in that regard, has proven the extent of love and labor poured in EFW. For Laroche, however, that is not enough. “The next five years, EFW wants to push for brands to take action. So we’ll see who are the talkers and who are the walkers. My ideal goal is to establish international standard, (like Ocean Wise) and work with organizations. That will be eventually something I will do, even though now time and resources are not on my side…”
Reaching out to companies is certainly visible in this EFW season, as new partners step-in to join the vision for eco-friendly business. Companies like Ford and Heenan Blaikie have made their appearance in the lectures for sustainability, churning out discussions for companies to form their own unique “eco-recipe”. But perhaps the most anticipated partnership, at least within the fashion crowd, is that of EFW’s collaboration with the H-Project of Holt Renfrew.
The H-Project, a special category in Holt Renfrew dedicated to eco-friendly or philanthropic products, was launched earlier this year. This special project has been raised by non other than Holt Renfrew’s Director of Brand Strategy, Alexandra Weston. Like Laroche, Weston has poured love and labor in to the H-Project with the hopes of making eco-friendly products and charity. “Two years ago, we at Holt Renfrew reached out to our designers to design something exclusive for us with the proceeds going back to charity. We’ve done about 7 of those projects now. Our goal was to make $100,000 for charity, and it was a huge success. We eventually made half a million dollars! Our customers enjoyed it, and our employees loved it. So the idea of the H-Project was born.”
Love for the H-Project is definitely evident in Weston, who fondly describes the H-Project as a “baby” and “still crawling”. She is also giddily looking forward to celebrate their 6-month anniversary. “We wanted to create a space that was more permanent, and sort of a home for these special products.” Weston herself is the curator of every product and brand within the H-Project, which holds an impressive range of organic, eco-friendly and charitable gifts and fashion. “It’s all about products with an exceptional story,” says Weston. “How it’s made, where, by whom or the materials used to make them, or even the charitable motives behind them. All of these products have an amazing story to tell.”
From all-natural soy candles, to handmade jewelry and apparel made from recycled fabric, it is no surprise that H-Project and EFW have eventually come together in what Weston describes as an “obvious marriage”. The last event of EFW was specially held within Holt Renfrew, featuring a trunk show of all the H-Project brands. Additionally, the trunk show was graced with a special appearance by Cornelia Guest, a New York based designer, author, and philanthropist. Guest was invited to promote her line of cruelty-free handbags, which are physical manifestation of her animal-loving, cruelty-free philosophy. “Educate yourselves on something you love,” advises Guest during her speech. Whatever it is you are passionate about, keep learning and keep trying.
At the end of the season, everyone is all about moving forward with the next step. For the H-Project, future collaborations of EFW is very much likely. But there is also more opportunity to spread. Weston is already poised at expanding the H-Project in the next year. “I would like to see H-Project in some capacity in every Holt Renfrew in Canada. If not a whole shop, then perhaps some element that everyone can be a part of if they wanted to. After that, why not think big? Take it to our sister companies world-wide.”
As for EFW, now more than ever Laroche is determined to reach a whole new level for eco-fashion. “As a business, I want EFW to be self-sustainable. Because it’s just not eco-friendly for a business to be unsustainable. I want a bigger team. I want EFW to be strong. It has to grow grow grow!” The next year will probably be one of EFW’s most crucial events as the pressure for growth settles. But now as more and more companies are open to sustainability and eco-friendly models, perhaps it is high-time for Laroche and her team to seize the opportunity.
Photos are a courtesy of Eco Fashion Week.