The first VAWK show I ever attended was back in October 2009; I had just gotten into the fashion blogging business and remember feeling elated when my request to cover the show was granted by the powers that be at VAWK. It was the first collection review I ever wrote for The Backseat Stylers. That show was a beginning of sorts not only for me, but for VAWK’s Creative Director Sunny Fong as well. Hot off the heels of a Project Runway Canada win that breathed new life into his VAWK label, Fong showed his first post-reality TV mini collection in front of an intimate crowd at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Fast forward a few seasons and I find myself at VAWK’s Fall 2011 show, and the scene is quite different. Fong and VAWK Partner and Business Director Ben Barry have decided to show as part of the official LG Fashion Week calendar in a venue that can house 1,000+ guests. Since VAWK’s relaunch, Fong has kept his post-PRC buzz going; his Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 collections were strong and were picked up exclusively by The Room at the Bay. As a result, VAWK is one of the most anticipated shows of the week and the runway room is filled to capacity the night of the show. The usual industry faces are there, but Fong’s fans, like me, have also come out in droves to support him.
Having been granted the privilege once again this season to photo-document the pre-show preparations backstage, my first glimpse of the new collection is up close and personal, and I am utterly blown away. This season’s collection is inspired by the menswear silhouette of Savile Row and the textures of a Himalayan mountain climber, and the intricate details – what Fong is known for – come in the form of knitted collars, sleeves and embellishments. Standing amidst the racks of clothes, just before the models arrive from hair and makeup, I find myself in complete awe. My uneducated fashion mind can’t wrap my head around this special technique; I am certain the only plausible explanation is magical knitting elves. Or unicorns, maybe.
I instantly fall in love with every piece in the collection that features these knitted details, but the short, knitted collar jacket in a gorgeous shade of teal steals my heart; I audibly gasp when I lay eyes on it. The black leather button-down blouse with matching tie is right up my alley too and perfectly on trend. The burgandy outerwear pieces with fur trim, including a long trench, a cape and a hooded peacoat, are standouts among the many coats shown this Fashion Week. As I ooh and aah over everything backstage and snap photos of it all, I cannot wait for the collection to be shared with the crowd waiting ever so patiently in the runway room for the show to start. I’m fascinated to see the designs come alive as they’re taken off hangers, donned by glamazons, styled by Tricia Campbell Hall and then strutted down the runway. The crowd, as I predicted, are as wowed as I am.
Backstage after the show, Fong spills his secrets to me. There were no magical creatures involved in the making of this collection after all. In fact, the knitted details are the handiwork of a uniquely talented local artisan he discovered just two weeks prior. I’m astounded, both by the designs themselves and the serendipitous meeting that led to some of Fong’s best creations to date.
We also chat about the move to the official LG Fashion Week venue this season. Fong explains to me that with the larger space, he and Barry had hoped to reach the masses, the many VAWK fans who couldn’t fit in the AGO in past seasons. Thinking back again to the very first VAWK show I ever attended, where I sat in the back row and loved every single moment of it, I get why they’d want more fans to share in that experience; that is, after all, how I got hooked on VAWK. And with a Fall 2011 collection as fierce as this one, VAWK fans are surely multiplying. Which means more competition for that teal jacket I want so badly.
Bring it on, ladies.