When I started writing the Ready to Wear column in 2006, many folks joked there wasn't enough fashion in Victoria to sustain it for more than a few weeks.
"Just a bunch-a-hippies and drab outfits," they said. How wrong they've turned out to be.
This city's fashion scene is booming. My first column featured Joanne Thompson's tiny boutique Flight 167 in Market Square one of the first to carry a mix of wares handmade by locals. These days, you can barely pass a boutique downtown that doesn't carry at least one local designer. By the way, Thompson's former store is now home to another locally made collective, Floating Gold Iceberg.
Back then, I described Victoria's fashion persona as ethical and edgy which has remained true. There has been a huge increase in fashion fundraisers in the city; boutiques in shopping districts such as Lower Johnson Street treat each other as community rather than competition; and West Coast style clichÃ©s Cowichan sweaters, gumboots, bicycles and yoga gear are embraced as cool. Just don't wear them all in one outfit.
Victoria's 2010 fashion scene could be defined by the abundance of new places to shop, from brand-name stores like BCBG and Aritzia at Uptown and Mayfair Shopping Centre to affordable stores such as Spank downtown (524 Yates St.) and Lark and Sparrow
(4-313 Cook St.), and edgy boutiques like Charlie & Lee (1115 Wharf St.) and LeBlanc (Market Square).
This year's retrospective of fashion winners and sinners looks back at some of the people and events I've covered, as well as some buzzworthy highlights from the community.
The Fashion Mavericks of 2010
Civil servant Missie Peters, 28, moonlights on her lunch breaks and weekends as Victoria's Twitter sartorialist. Armed with a cellphone camera and an eye for unique details, she posts pictures of fashionable people she encounters to her
@yyjfashion Twitter stream and has launched the hashtag #yyjfashion for others to follow suit.
"I was completely inspired by the Tokyo Fashion tweets, which is basically just pictures of amazing street style," Peters told me. While several Victoria street-style blogs have come and gone, Twitter is quicker and more convenient to maintain.
"I hope it catches on. It's great to see a city through its fashion."
Afro Diva Hair Salon (1820 Oak Bay Ave.)
Props to best friends Catherine Woodley and Nichola Watson for going after their dream to open a salon and spa specializing in services for black women. What's best about Afro Diva salon is the community vibe they've channelled with events for families, friends and all hair types.
QuÃ© Banh, fashion hero
QuÃ© Banh is the most-inspiring fashionista I've met this year. When she contracted polio as a child, she was told might never walk. With surgery, hard work and mobility aids, she walks, rides horses and works as a photographer. She's also an advocate for people with disabilities especially when it comes to fashion. We cruised Lower Johnson boutiques together, where she pointed out easy ways stores could be more accessible and welcoming.
C'est la Vie
In 2010, Vie Zapshala became known as the inspiration to her celebrity niece, Pamela Anderson. The 86-year-old loves to dance, wear flamboyant, sexy clothes and entertain, and will whip up a pie or batch of Saanich Fair prize-winning mustard while doing it. Zapshala has lived through humble and hard times and is a guiding light for all women who aspire to be happy, helpful and glamorous for a lifetime.
The Genius Business Idea
Nothing this year generated the buzz, perhaps frenzy, quite like Wendy Kelleher's Party Shoes Canada business. Set up like a Tupperware party minus spiel, plus booze it lets women try on a sampling of fashionable shoes and place their orders.
Best new handmade store
Milkman's Daughter is not just a bigger version of its sister store, Smoking Lily (1713 Government St.). It is an exhibit of the Canadiana folk-art talents behind it. My favourites are the antique bed and printed bedding, patched wool blankets and children's ice skates stamped with images of golden beavers and Pierre Trudeau.
Best new store in the city
It couldn't have been better timing. Sephora, the Mecca of makeup stores, opened in Mayfair Shopping Centre soon after Bliss on Johnson Street closed its doors. Dozens of premium makeup and skin care lines previously unavailable in the city (the ones always recommended in magazines) arrived, and credit cards heated up everywhere. Thank goodness for their ample samples and giveaways.
Best fashion event in the city
Pacific Design Academy's graduating show continues to be the best fashion event in the city. Around June, the fashion design program profiles its top students as they make their forays into the industry. Each designer has a collection modelled in a well-produced runway show. The best part is seeing the range of talent and diversity of style. Rumour has it this year's show will be downtown, possibly Market Square. I would not miss it.
Most unfashionable statement
NDP Leader Carole James made a major fashion faux pas when she gave out yellow scarves at a Nov. 20 party council meeting in Victoria. The scarves were part of her original campaign for leadership. Offering them again at a meeting when her leadership was up for debate might have been an innocent play for unity. But the 13 MLAs questioning James's skills were 'outed' as dissidents when their necks remained bare. A public mutiny ensued and James was forced to step down a few weeks later.
On the same day, Victoria's Mayor Dean Fortin donned the loud, lemony James scarf as he did some last-minute campaigning with voters out to decide on the Johnson Street Bridge referendum and civic byelection. Mixing political messages on voting day is never good style sense. Kinda like wearing leather pants to a PETA rally.
Guys' worst choice: Bejazzled Tees
Ed Hardy, Ultimate Fighting and Mixed Martial Arts are to blame for the recent scourge of tacky, glittery graphic T-shirts. I get that guys want to jazz up the basic T-shirt and jeans look, but they should not confuse this with dressing up or personal style. On a rare night out dancing at the Social Club recently, I was surprised to see the majority of young lads had traded in collared dress shirts for bejazzled T-shirts. The result was they all looked the same hardly an edge with the single ladies.
Ladies' worst choice: Orange Skin
Faux tans have been hot this year, among young women and politicians who want to ban them at least the tanning bed kind for teens. The Capital Regional District has decided to postpone a controversial decision to ban teens from tanning beds until the new year. Even if the ban eventually passes, it does not address unhealthy tanning choices. I've seen more orange on skin this year than on pumpkins at Halloween. Bottle tans, spray tans, fake and bake, sun worship, whatever. A healthy glow looks good. Overtanned skin looks like cancer and old age. Speaking of which, wear sunscreen with no less than SPF 30.
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