Zoo-Islander Fashion Show 2019

Generally speaking, the Southern Gulf Islands are full of enterprising creative people, who are always keen to have an excuse to get together and stage uniquely islandish events thought up from quirky impulses that often spin into tradition. (Disclaimer for the other half of the Islanders who live here to hide away in introverted solitude and bliss!)

One such event birthed in 2017- Penders’ Zoo-Islander Fashion show. The original concept was inspired by the treasures of our small isle’s thrift store, the Nu-Tu-Yu, and the notion of abundant creative local fashion that need not come through the chains of factories and pollutant textile industry practices, but by that which exists already within reach of our rural setting. The idea was to invite members of the community to participate either by presenting a whole runway collection of outfits, volunteering to model for a designer, or merely to put together a single outfit and join in with a collective runway. Age, size, shape, material, theme, music, and application was not confined in anyway- and what we witnessed and created was a uproarous fury of chaos, surprise, and wonder, as familiar faces paraded by clothed in plastic bags, braziers, foam sculpture, space suits, leather warrior vests, garlands of salal, glow in the dark boots and gloves, wetsuits, and a wild carousel of wigged cabaret corsets.

The second year I found myself a model on 6 runways, stripping between them from steam punk to fortune teller, bio-luminescence to golden street attitude. The third year I hesitantly decided to attempt to weave a “few” outfits for a runway collection of my own. I ended up fitting 16 of my friends and family into variously constructed experiments of woven creative impulses and choreographing their display to 12 minutes of music scoured over for the perfect thematic fit.

The theme I was working with was Dusk to Dawn. The outfits followed the nightly timeline starting with the sunset, through era, style, and concept, right into the rise of the next morning.

  1. Sunset Gaze… inspired by the colours of sunset and the intention of heading out to watch the shifting play between the sky elements. Along the way this dress took on a bit of a 60’s mod feel.
  2. Boho Poetry- a vest I made a few years ago, but it didn’t fit me very well so I put it aside and didn’t know if it was wearable. I added beads to the long fringe and it turned into a bohemian outfit perfect for your Soho evening cafe poetry reading.
  3. Night Lights On Water… you can interpret that as a harbour in the city or a lake or ocean under the moon… we decided that she was on her way to a jazz club.
  4. Victorian Business- Stepping out of his carriage in his wool overcoat, he tips his hat to his driver as he heads across the cobblestone road to the dimly lit restaurant where he hopes his business partner has secured a table.
  5. Rave. I was interested in bringing in a sense of the big city and all the neon lights and reflective windows, and I ended up with this capelet and leg warmers. Worked fantastically with the black light, too!
  6. Moving from the world of human activity up into the night heavens with this Moon Goddess. Lots of raw silk and shifting hues. She also has a small satellite of her own, so it was a kind of planetary representation as well.
  7. Planetary Satellite, like if the moon had a moon, and maybe somewhere in the galaxy there is a moon with a moon, because really the possibilities are endless.
  8. Staying with the night sky, we had the Aurora Borealis float by in shimmering purples and greens. I made this last year with the aurora in mind, so it was an easy pick for the fashion show!
  9. Naturally at night we go to bed, so I made an outfit that represented a Pillow & Blanket. Often in the winter I will wrap a small wool blanket around myself in the evening, and so I made a small blanket in which to use for this outfit, and I made a little shrug with angora, linen and cotton, attempting to make it a little pillow like.
  10. Cosmic Cloak- I am always inspired by stars, galaxies, nebulas, black holes, and all that beautiful chaos that makes up our universe. Hidden by day, yet always present.
  11. Shifting into the dream realm, we have Rainbow Warrior… basically I wanted to make a kind of dress with rainbow yarn and white yarn meeting in the middle, but it reminded me of a knight’s tunic when I put it together, but it was for Geneva so I thought of Joan of Arc, and then I made rainbow gauntlets to go with it. Classic example of the weaving finding it’s own way with my ideas.
  12. Midnight Mantle- originally inspired by folklore images of a woman pulling a blanket of night across the sky, tucking us in for the night, this cloak took on a mystical and timeless realm. Made from recycled silk and cotton dresses ripped into strips.
  13. Hunter- what can I say, he wanted to wear a cloak and carry a bow. I am grateful that my 13 year old son was so keen on being in my runway. This cloak was the perfect use for a whole bunch of hand spun wool that I made and then tucked away a few years ago.
  14. Early Morning Traveller Walking Through A Misty Birch Forest. I was glad to have some more male representation. Variety is everything.
  15. Early dawn begins with the songs of all the Morning Songbirds… and so I represented chickadees, wrens, towhees, robins, and juncos in a jumble of multi-songbird colours.
  16. New Day ☀️ Because each night finally ends… and sometimes when I wake up there is a moment when the details of the day have not yet come to me, and I grasp the last threads of sleep with an awareness of the new days’ clear beginning. An uncluttered presence. This dress was woven using a white cotton fitted bedsheet torn into strips, with the elastic cut from the edge creating the wrapped belt.

Many of these pieces have been sold, deconstructed and reconstructed, or remain as strange concoctions packed down in the depths of storage. I am super grateful for the Zoo-Islander team who put all the details together so I could, along with a line-up of designers, let my imagination loose upon the residents of Pender Island.

Here is a video clip of my runway from Zoo-Islander 2019.

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