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Richmond fashion designers

20 Apr

There are a multitude of reasons to support local designers — whether it’s to build stronger communities, reduce environmental impact or just to avoid wearing the same mass-marketed outfit as someone else. But the most important reason to shop locally should be to bolster the creativity of talented artists. Some of these skilled fashion designers can be found as close as Richmond, at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Fashion Show taking place Thursday, April 24 at the River Rock Show Theatre. Featuring collections from the graduating class of Design, Fashion and Technology, this city is home to a variety of inventive designers.

Cindy Luo

Local lingerie line ANASTASIA specializes in undergarments for petite women. Designed by Cindy Luo, the spring collection is inspired by nostalgia and takes its aesthetic cues from diamonds with the cuts and translucency of each piece. Sensual yet sophisticated, ANASTASIA’s versatility allows its garments to be worn on any occasion — underneath everyday apparel, for special events, or even lounging around at home.

A look from Cindy Luo’s lingerie line ANASTASIA. (Photo by Desmond Mok)

A look from Cindy Luo’s lingerie line ANASTASIA. (Photo by Desmond Mok)

“Each piece is designed with petite women in mind, making sure exact measurements are made to meet their needs,” says Luo.

“Most of the products in the market don’t fit a petite woman where it is supposed to be because of long straps, flimsy bands or big cups that don’t give them any form of support,” she says. “Due to these issues, many women resort to purchasing undergarments that are unflattering for their body shapes. A well-fitting undergarment is key in any woman’s quest to feel sexy and confident. I want to create a product where they can celebrate and embrace what they have underneath.”

Jan Bautista

For another local designer Jan Bautista, the focus is on giving clothes a story and sparking the imagination. Bautista’s move from the Philippines to Canada only strengthened his love for fashion. Exposure to different lifestyles made him realize the importance of craftsmanship and the meaning of true beauty. His menswear line, Maison Beautista, strives to redefine the post-modern dandy gentleman, combining fit and comfort with bold colours and eccentric designs. This season the collection is inspired by art from the Post-Impressionist movement, especially Vincent van Gogh’s Irises painting.

“This particular masterpiece represents the celebration and adoration life deserves despite the congested, materialistic society,” says Bautista. “The designs are influenced by the expressive and vibrant hues of the masterpiece.”

A dapper ensemble from Jan Bautista’s Maison Beautista. (Photo by Gene Figueroa)

A dapper ensemble from Jan Bautista’s Maison Beautista. (Photo by Gene Figueroa)

With his enthusiasm and love for bringing stories to life, Bautista hopes to one day design for the theatre and film industry, where clothes provide a crucial part in entertaining and narrating.

Venus Lai

For those looking for office outfit ideas from a local designer, there’s the HaNa line created by Venus Lai. Inspired by history and different cultures, HaNa differs from the usual business attire with its fashion-forward details. This season the designer was influenced by her cultural roots, updating the traditional Chinese cheongsam dress with a modern silhouette and chic, office-appropriate style.

A dress from Venus Lai’s businesswear line HaNa. (Photo by Matthew Chen)

A dress from Venus Lai’s businesswear line HaNa. (Photo by Matthew Chen)

“My ideal customers are women who work in a professional field and require clothing with an identity,” says Lai. “To showcase themselves in a fashionable sense, but also to wear clothing with a meaning and a story.”

“What I love most about designing is to create aesthetically beautiful clothes, but also showcase the skill and the thought put behind it. Having to produce something from a visual in your head into a 2-D fashion drawing, and then thinking about it technically to draft and design the pattern and make it into a 3-D garment is process I enjoy the most. The whole design process is not easy and can be strenuous and difficult, but the outcome and the accomplishment you feel at the end is all worth it.”

For more on the designers and the KPU Fashion Show, visit

[Article first appeared in the April 16 issue of Richmond Review.]

A review of Bill Cunningham New York

8 Sep

I never thought I’d say this but I was holding back tears during a fashion movie. And it wasn’t because the clothes were so horrid it made my eyes burn, or unbelievably exquisite that I was weeping tears of joy. It was because the film, Bill Cunningham New York, is about style photographer Bill Cunningham, an endearingly sweet man whose love of capturing fashion has debilitated his familial relationships and, consequently, prevented him from having any romantic connections of his own.

Street style photographer Bill Cunningham

Cunningham may not be as widely known as The Sartorialist but he certainly paved the way for street style photography. He compared the streets of New York to a fashion show. Even Vogue’s Anna Wintour praised Cunningham’s eye for trends and proclaimed, “We all get dressed for Bill.”

New York street style as captured by Cunningham

At 82 years of age, Cunningham is still cycling the streets to photograph exciting and unusual outfits – on film nevertheless. Opposed to the “cookie cutter sameness,” he stressed the importance of dressing outside the box. With over five decades in the fashion industry, he’s worked for Details Magazine, Women’s Wear Daily and currently holds a position at New York Times.

An image from the film of one of Cunningham's favourite style subjects, Shail Upadhya

The documentary follows Cunningham and his duct-taped poncho around the city for a few days as he encapsulates the fashion trends of the moment. It also delves into the gentrification of the Carnegie Hall building, where artists and tenants such as Cunningham – who had been living there for six decades – are faced with evictions. Heartfelt but not overly sentimental, I definitely recommend Bill Cunningham New York, whether you’re into fashion or not. The DVD comes out Sept. 13.

“Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.” – Bill Cunningham

Profile: Vancouver style blogger LADYFRANSTAR

22 Feb

As the fashion blogging world continually expands to include new style sites cropping up, readers may find themselves overwhelmed. But having a variety of options translates into greater resources when searching for fashion inspiration. As a part of this site, I’ll be profiling style bloggers around the city. First up is LADYFRANSTAR.


A hip-hop dancer, former punk-rock bassist and fashion lover – Vancouver visual merchandiser and stylist Frances Ignacio is the face behind style blog LADYFRANSTAR.

Take a bow

Though her fashion site is a relatively new endeavour, Ignacio has been blogging for  years – she said her previous blogs were written mostly for fun and used as creative outlets. It wasn’t until her friend Stephen Pham, another visual merchandiser and style blogger, suggested writing about fashion that Frances decided to pursue it.

“With my previous blogs, it was hard to consistently keep up with it and keep posting, so this one’s a lot easier for me because it’s focused on fashion,” she said. Her website documents her outfits, new purchases and thoughts on current trends.

Oh na na, what’s my style?

For Ignacio, her style influences are celebrities, other fashion bloggers (Street Peeper, Face Hunter and Style Bubble are tops on her list) and individuals she meets from different countries. Her style’s constantly changing:

“Back in high school, I had a really funky look – it was a lot darker. But since then, I’ve been out in the world and seen all these people [who have influenced my style],” she said. “So it just keeps changing, the things I like keep changing or I travel and get more inspiration.”

"I put the streaks in just to liven things up and make it fun."

But Ignacio’s main fashion influence is a certain pop singer who used to share the same hairstyle as her.

“My biggest style icon is Rihanna – I love her,” she said. “I just like that she has this edgy look and it’s not boring. I love something that’s edgy, fun, colourful.” She also lists Nicole Richie, Korean girl group 2NE1, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen among her style icons.

Rockstar 101

Ignacio loves that she gets to use her creativity while working for H&M as a visual merchandiser. One of her favourite tasks is styling the mannequins.

“What I eventually want to do is do styling for music videos or celebrities.”

"Recently, I've been obsessed with harem pants - they're just so comfy and I just love them."

As for her blog goals, she just wants readers to have an appreciation for street style:

“Vancouver is very laid-back. They all like to dress very, very casual. There are certain people out there who love to go outside the box and dress extravagant but I just want people to have more awareness of street fashion and that not everyone has to dress the same. Just go for what inspires you, go for whatever you love to do. I hope people get inspired from my blog.”

Ignacio’s new project, “Be Inspired,” will be spotlighting individuals who are passionate about what they’re doing.

Run this town

Ignacio’s favourite places to shop in Vancouver:

Ignacio’s favourite online stores: