This past month I took a little trip to Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver to attend Eco Fashion Week. You probably saw my updates on Instagram, but now I’m ready to tell you the full story about my Fairmont Waterfront experience, as well as what Eco Fashion Week is all about.
There was so much awesomeness bundled into these four days. Not only was the venue amazing, but Fairmont Waterfront was crawling with cool people who were all kinds of fun. There were endless delicious meals to attend and drinks to be had, but most importantly there was a message about fashion to be heard and it is with this message in mind that Eco Fashion Week was created.
Last year I started on a journey to learn about and hopefully change some of my consumption habits when it comes to shopping. The sustainability of our clothing is something that I, along with most Gen Y babies have been brought up to think about, but even with all the knowledge that I have been given, I have still spent the majority of my life without taking much proactive action to shop sustainably.
Finally, in July of last year I teamed up with the International Organization for Migration to be a part of their IOM X campaign which you can read about here. Along with this collaboration, I launched the Fair Fashion segment of my blog where you can go to learn about sustainable brands that you can be proud to shop from. Although my participation in this campaign focused largely on human welfare in the manufacturing segment of the fashion industry, fair fashion is still directly related to sustainability in regards to the environment. With the fast fashion phenomenon basically eradicating the traditional fashion seasons, our constant consumption of low priced clothing also has an immense negative environmental impact. It is the earth’s side of the sustainability story that Eco Fashion Week was created to share with us.
Please follow along as I take you through some of the highlights of my trip to Fairmont Waterfront for Eco Fashion Week 2016.
A very special hotel stay
I knew Fairmont Waterfront was going to be wonderful because it’s the Fairmont (duh), but the hotel still managed to go above and beyond my expectations. I think this might be the first time I left a press trip hugging the PR team and feeling genuinely sad to be saying goodbye to them. Nancie & KK were kind and gracious hosts whose hearts go into their work. This incredible service and hospitality is not limited to the management. Whether it’s our new friends on the Gold floor who helped us with more than I would like to admit, or the concierge downstairs who frequently complimented my outfits (he knows the key to a fashion girl’s heart), pretty much everyone within the Fairmont Waterfront is special.
In addition to the Fairmont Waterfront team, the location is beautiful. Our room was looking out over the water right next to the convention centre (the heart of downtown). The bed was basically a cloud and I slept wonderfully. I may also have enjoyed a bit of TV from the display that is built into the bathroom mirror…
ARC restaurant on the lobby floor was the venue for several delicious meals and the ARC bar hosted our after show drinks pretty much daily. We had the opportunity to enjoy one of the coolest desserts I’ve ever had, prepared especially by Chef Karan Suri. Basically, they brought out gigantic chocolate spheres which we’re frozen in dry ice and then proceeded shatter them over the table in front of us. Inside each sphere was an endless array of truffles, cookies, macarons, brownies and more. It was an adult piñata which can be seen in the images below. There is also a picture of my champagne with an oyster in it which is pretty much the ultimate combo.
Fairmont Waterfront, thank you for such a memorable stay. Your hotel is a truly special, and I cannot wait to see the changes to the Empress in Victoria and experience some other fabulous locations as well!
Fairmont Waterfront’s Green Initiatives
Fairmont Waterfront is working towards becoming a zero waste hotel by the end of 2016. With so many things happening, staff working and guests coming and going, an accomplishment like this would be truly amazing.
Some green features which make the hotel unique are their 2,100 square foot roof garden which is also home to a honeybee apiary. Additionally, there is a vertical garden which supports 100 plants in a square metre and composts their food waste for use as fertilizer onsite. There is also a pollinator hotel which creates habitat for indigenous bees to pollinate the gardens.
The garden itself began in 1995 as one of Vancouver’s first green roofs. It is now proud to support over 20 varieties of herbs, fruits and vegetables which can be enjoyed within the food and beverage outlets of the hotel.
Although there are many more green initiatives that have been adopted by the hotel (ex. reusable glass water bottle in guest rooms), I am going to leave you to experience the rest for yourself. What I do want to say is how impressed I am with Fairmont Waterfront; as one property within a large portfolio of Fairmont hotels, it is wonderful to see how they’ve adopted the local values and made Fairmont Waterfront unique. In my personal opinion, the credit for this wonderful accomplishment lies with the passionate staff, who work so hard and are so rightfully proud of what their hotel represents.
The inspiring Myriam Laroche, Eco Fashion Week’s founder
Myriam is one of those people that you notice as soon as she walks in a room. Her presence is palpable, and her enthusiasm for life is inspiring. Her passion for the environment, sustainability, and fashion can be seen through her enormous success in Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week (this was their tenth edition!) This fiery woman from Quebec literally holds Vancouver spellbound as she gathers the social and fashionably conscious members of the community together for what is beyond question an incredible event. With years of experience as a buyer, creative director, fashion marketing consultant and journalist, Myriam is the perfect driving force to bring an eco conscious alternative to fashion in a very special city which for so long has not been able to marry its love of style with its famous environmentalism. Thank you so much Myriam for a fabulous adventure, and we will definitely be coming to visit you this summer!
Having fun with fashion
One of the many aspects of these sort of events that I love is getting to have a little fun with fashion. Aside from seeing great shows, experimenting with one’s personal style is a big part of any fashion showcase. Although I didn’t go as crazy as I might have in Bangkok, I still put together a few different outfits that were a bit out of the ordinary (case in point: the clown pants seen below from Banana Republic). Although simple and comfortable dressing is something that I’ve always taken an interest in, I am starting to miss the insanity that is Asian fashion, so bear that in mind if you notice me starting to dress like a crazy person.
Making wonderful new friends
Along with myself, there were several other members of the press from across North American who also attended Eco Fashion Week. As well as attending all the shows together, we were lucky enough to stay together on the Fairmont Gold floors, to attend shopping tours together, to enjoy unforgettable meals & cocktails and maybe a few late night parties too. All in all, we spent a lot of time together and I am happy to say that I left with a many new friends. Ian and I are coming for you in New York soon, Fiona.
Watching the shows
I love everything about fashion shows. Simply being in a room filled with people who share a love for clothing makes me smile. Here’s a little look at some of the shows we attended from sustainable designers, as well as a little peak at the excitement backstage where La Biosthetique was playing the role of official hair and makeup sponsor.
Reusing fashion to produce less waste
Eco Fashion Week partnered with Value Village to produce a series of fashion shows based upon the concept of reusing old clothing. Since creating the Fair Fashion segment on APOE, I have spent so much time thinking about where my clothes came from without ever really thinking about where they go when I’m finished with them. Although I am fortunate enough to have grown up in a surrounding that taught me to properly dispose of my unwanted clothing through donations to various organizations, I had still never really thought about the negative impacts my clothing consumption habits could still be having on the environment. It is with this notion in mind that Eco Fashion Week produced the following shows to both teach us about the effects of clothing disposal and to inspire us to reuse garments.
The shows based upon reusing garments included the 81 Pound Challenge, the Thrift Style Challenge and the Chic Sheets show. The 81 Pound Challenge is based upon the statistic that North Americans throw out an average of 81 pounds of clothing each year. For the show, fashion students were to put together a collection made from the textiles of 81 pounds of clothing from Value Village. For the Thrift Style Challenge, students were given a $500 budget to put together a show of secondhand items styled from Value Village. For the final and perhaps most incredible chapter in this part of the event, Chic Sheets, eight designers were asked to create a dress using old sheets from the Fairmont Waterfront, Eco Fashion Week’s 2015 venue host. Basically, these wonderful young designers took old clothing and textiles and turned them into epic fashion which was pretty darn cool.
Aside from being stylistically impressive, these shows were inspiring. The way in which Eco Fashion Week managed to reuse clothing in a fashionable way got me thinking that along with the growth of fast fashion comes a decline in real, raw style. Currently, we have so much cheap access to the latest trends that it’s pretty easy to look “fashionable”. All it takes is a quick trip to Zara for one to appear as if they are at the very pinnacle of fashion and I am guilty of this just as much as anyone else. Like many forms of creativity, fashion consumes energy and sometimes our stores of creativity can be depleted. During these moments in which we feel uninspired, all we have to do is turn to a series of brands or stores that stay on top of what is currently “cool” to rest assured that we will be buying something that is “fashionable”.
This may not sounds like a bad thing, but I feel that it actually poses a bit of a dilemma. The problem with trying to fill a creative void using fast fashion is that it doesn’t actually provide the satisfaction that we’re looking for due to the lack of creative energy and processing. Instead, we feel a short lived sense of image security by purchasing an item of clothing that will last and placate our fashion needs for merely an instant. Before long, the endless stream of fast fashion items will begin to lose their lustre when we realize that there was very little emotional, physical or financial investment in acquiring them. Without any real passion or love, we may find that the creative fulfillment we are looking for in clothing is short-lived.
For me, fashion is a form of creative expression and like any form of art, the pieces that truly fulfill us require a little bit of heart and this can’t really be found in a quick trip to the mall. In my opinion, this is what the garment and textile recycling shows at Eco Fashion Week helped me to realize: that true, authentic style doesn’t come from going to high street to pick up the newest items, but by putting in the time and the heart to find articles of clothing that we have a real attachment to emotionally, financially and can feel proud to wear. In the case of Eco Fashion Week, this meant searching the thrift racks of Value Village for hours to find the perfect pieces which have both history and a story.
Gastown through the eyes of Myriam
I feel very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to go on a little walking tour of Gastown with Myriam. Not only is this part of Vancouver full of character, but there are a series of local shops that put emphasis on sustainability. Some of the places we visited included Fluevog Shoes, Dutil Denim, Nicole Bridger and Hey Jude. These local businesses opened their doors wide, often recognized Myriam immediately, and always lent a helping hand to us with a smile, proud of their roots, their city, and the sustainability of their fashion.
Thrift Shopping with Myriam at Value Village
In the past, I would have found the prospect of shopping at Value Village overwhelming. Their stores are so big and have so much stuff (the majority of it not the kind of thing to be found in my repertoire), so the thought of spending ages going through the racks to find something special would leave me feeling tired just thinking about it. Then Eco Fashion Week happened and something that used to feel unappealing suddenly became fun.
We spent a few hours inside one of Vancouver’s Value Village locations chatting with Myriam and the Value Village team about the company and what thrift shopping is all about. We learned that new items are added to the ends of the racks, so you should look there first because the middle is made up of the older, unsold items. They taught us that their pricing is based upon the quality and “newness” of an item and not by the designer which is why you can sometimes find total steals. They also emphasized the importance of looking for garments made from fine fabrics because a vintage silk top trumps polyester on any day.
Finding the dream #OOTD at Value Village
During our time at Value Village, we also had the chance to do a little shopping. With my new found knowledge for thrifting and new love for secondhand clothing, I had a great time searching the racks to put together another outfit for Eco Fashion Week. Although I left with two huge bags full of things, my two favourite pieces are the shirt and jacket seen below. The stripe shirt is 100% silk, the wool jacket is from Ireland and together they cost $30. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have been that excited about a clothing purchase. Not only are the items beautiful, but they hold the story of who wore them before and how my time at Eco Fashion Week opened my eyes to the wonders of secondhand shopping.
Eating far too much delicious food
I ate and drank so much during the trip that rolling back to Victoria was pretty much the only way to get home. Along with eating at all venues within the Fairmont Waterfront (so good!), we had the chance to try Chambar with Tourism Vancouver, as well as Timber and Forage which all boast sustainable business practices and menus. Because I have a huge weakness for sweets, the desserts from Forage will be stuck in my mind forever and the Chambar’s slogan of “civilized debauchery” is basically my goal in life.
I want to extend the most sincere thank you to the lovely Myriam, Nancie and KK at the Fairmont, and all of the teams and staff of every restaurant, shop, and event which we attended for making Eco Fashion Week one of the most inspiring and fun mid-week weekends of my entire life. In addition to really giving me a newfound love for second hand clothing and a gorgeous pair of $14 DvF pumps, I made friends to last a lifetime, and a list of shops, restaurants, and bars to visit often and recommend wholeheartedly to anyone in the Vancouver area. I am looking forward to Eco Fashion Week 2017, but hope to see all of my new friends far sooner than that.