Two of the co-founders of Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week[end], Kat Ferneyhough and Kat Kozak, look effortlessly chic as they talk to the guests at the launch party for VALT. The event took place at the Lamplighter in Gastown, a fitting venue to start this four day event.
VALT takes the art of Fashion to another level. In its third year, this event is making its mark more than ever. Following the themes of reVolution, eVolution and reVelation, this year leaves lots of room for artistic creativity.
Standing outside the venue, undercover from the typical Vancouver rain, 604 Now was lucky enough to have a quick chat with the two women who brought this event to our city.
Are you originally from Vancouver?
Kat Ferneyhough: No actually. I was born in Calgary and my family then moved to Ontario, which is where I spent most of my life. I spent the last ten years in the Toronto area. I was in Toronto Alternative Fashion Week during that time; I was a designer there. I always knew that I wanted to move here. I first came here when I was 15. The west coast always called to me. And same with Kat who has been my best friend for decades.
Kat Kozak: I am originally from Caledon, Ontario.
What is your background when it comes to education?
KK: We first met in high school.
KF: We went in different directions for university. Mine being art and design. I went for Fashion design.
KK: Mine being photography and media.
You went your separate ways for university, how did you stay in touch?
KF: Every time I would have a fashion design show, I would have lots of different runway exhibitions, at least once a year. It turns out Kat was always the photographer we had there. She was always so amazing at capturing everything I did. We had this really great relationship.
When did you first come to Vancouver?
KK: 2004 was our first trip here together.
KF: We started visiting BC together as friends for a really long time and decided we were going to move here.
What about Vancouver drew you both to the city?
KF: This is a city, and I’ve said this many times before, but this is a city where people seem so comfortable in being themselves, than anywhere else I’ve seen in Canada. In most other places, you find that there is a certain degree of uniform to what on the day to day streets, and for the most part, it’s an all black outfit. Which, I am very comfortable in, black is fabulous, but, it’s so bland when everyone is wearing the same thing and their eyes are downcast, they don’t smile, they don’t look at you. No one is interested in each other and no one is interested in themselves. Vancouver is different. Vancouver is a place where you can walk around with rainbow mohawk and short shorts and no one cares. I think that’s fabulous. It’s amazing how Vancouver people don’t seem to feel like they have to fit into a certain niche. People wear what they want without necessarily defining themselves. That’s just a very small aspect of a greater concept of individuality. While we focus on fashion, really, it’s about the great concept of life. We are living in an alternative fashion.
How did you start VALT?
KF: Upon deciding to move here, we started looking up Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week because she had always attended and photographed and I had always participated in Toronto Alternative Fashion week, now known as Toronto Arts and Fashion week. When we discovered that there wasn’t an existing event like that here in Vancouver, we decided that it had to happen. We were the people to make it happen.
Do you plan on making VALT a week long event?
KF: We do hope to expand in the future but at this point we are trying to take it slow and make sure that we are capable to go the distance. Go long term and be able and be able to support the artists of this city for a long time to come. It is very easy to just throw all your eggs in one basket and go full tilt and you lose your steam. We on the other hand, are trying to think very, very long term about this. We hope to be here ten years down the line.
Can you tell us about some of your designers?
KK: Now that we’ve been going for our third year, we have this sort of VALT alumni that is happening and we encourage them to work together and come up with collaborations and really kind of push the envelope as to what they can do and reach outside of themselves. Even tonight, I am wearing Caroline Bruce who is one of our Saturday designers. I was inspired by the dress I am wearing, which is a dress by Trish P of Tastemakers, who isn’t one of our designers year, but I am working on her. Caroline Bruces is also a designer from last year, and shes coming back. She has a huge collection which we are very excited about. When I had this dress I approached Caroline, and was like ‘hey can we work on this”. She said she’d never worked on a choker before but there is a first time for everything. I think this piece speaks for itself.
What would you tell someone who has never been to VALT before, about why they should be coming?
KF: I think that VALT, unlike just about any fashion event, has something for absolutely everyone. We are not just fashion, which is huge and obviously a main element, but we has have short films, we have visual arts, we have live bands, we have wicked djs, we have performance artists, we have great drinks, we have beautiful people dressed up in crazy costumes – it is just an amazing time.
KK: We encourage everybody to get into the themes of the evening. So guests are encouraged to dress to theme. All our staff, all the participants, we want everyone to be apart of the immersive art experience.
KF: That is what we always try to peg this as, because it is an immersive art experience. It is a lot more than just sitting watching a runway. It is more than people watching and clothing judging. This a lot more about creativity and how far we can stretch it.
How did you chose the themes for this year?
KF: To be honest, when it comes to themes, it is an ongoing battle. It takes us months to really figure out something that is both defined enough to be inspirational and yet open enough to really allow movement and creativity. So, really, it is just a brainstorm between the six co-founders really trying to figure out exactly what we want to say this year, last year and the year before. It’s just always been about making a statement and trying to really push designers to do something outside of their norm, which is already outside of “the norm”.
This year’s event was a success. If you missed it this year and want to see what you missed, or are interested in attending next year, go to VALT’s web page to keep up to date.
Interview byy Megan Renaud