“I” was there…by Irena DeMarco

Vancouver Fashion Week is a seven-day event held twice a year in Vancouver. Fall/Winter 2019 season came to end March 25th. Over 60 designers showed their collection at the David Lam Hall, Chinese Cultural Centre. The event features both national and international designers and brands.
Fashionistas from all over Canada have been attracted to this event since 2001. Vancouver Fashion Week has discovered many big names in the fashion industry and has become a highlight in the careers of many designers. No need to jet off to New York, Milan, London or Paris in order to catch a runway fashion show. Jamal Abdourahman, the founder of Vancouver Fashion Week has done his best to make sure of that. For the past 32 seasons, Abdourahman and his team have worked to put together a seasonal showcase of local and international designers that has noticeable grown over the years. Wrapping up Fall/Winter 2019 season, Abdourahman talked to IL Marco Polo about the origins of Vancouver Fashion Week and what the future holds.
Q. Why did you start Vancouver Fashion Week?
A. I was a nightclub promoter. It was just an accident at that time. I never really liked the club scene, but I love dancing and music. That’s why I threw parties. That’s what got me involved. It started out with one friend of mine who I knew that was a promoter. He had a fashion show in his club. And I thought, I should do this to promote, and it grew from there. Since I love dancing, I did the choreographing of the fashion shows to begin with. These days we leave it to the professionals. It is my love for dance, and the creativity behind it that piqued my interest.
Q. How has it changed and grown since then?
A. There definitely has been a big change in the market. The current market has more access to fashion, which means it is easier to contribute and distribute. Another more obvious change over the last 32 seasons would be the visual aspect; many fashions have come and gone in the last 19 years. Fashion consumers nowadays have more access to local designer items. They also buy more goods from local designers because they want exclusivity, and uniqueness in their purchase.
Q. What does the Vancouver Fashion Week represent to the local fashion industry?
A. VFW is one of the biggest established platform on an international level, where local designers can have easier access in showcasing and networking with other people in the industry.
Q. What was new for F/W19 season?
A. The team we have now is going to make this season’s show different; each season we have our core team plus a huge team backing them up. It’s these fresh eyes and minds that make each season different. Kids Fashion Week is growing. Our season show is growing. Plus, those young designers that started out at VFW seven years ago, are growing as well and they are becoming mentors to other designers. On top of that, more local designers are showing this season. We have 39 designers from Canada this year and that is exciting.
Q. What is one thing people may be surprised to find out about Vancouver Fashion week?
A. VFW has a huge global media coverage, the number of shows in week that we present, and the increase of numbers in local designers with so much potential.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in building VFW?
A. Managing myself is the main struggle. But if I am able to do this, everything else is a walk in the park. Some days you are full of inspiration and there are also days when it’s lacking. When you feel stuck or lost, the pressure can creep up. Though it’s not as intense nowadays compared to 12 years ago. Now I have a great team of support every season. I believe that for us to stay on top, I really have to push myself and them. It’s a big team. It’s a big show and a big responsibility we have for one another.
Q. Any runway shows you’re most excited about this season?
A. The designers for this season are great and very creative. Each season I try not to see their new collections, I like to be as surprised as our guests! I talk to them regularly however and by conversing with them, I am able to see where their heads are at and share in their excitement.
Q. What’s next for Vancouver Fashion Week?
A. GLOBAL FASHION COLLECTIVE (GFC), an expansion of Vancouver Fashion Week, is a platform specialising in supporting creative designers by establishing their presence around the world. Launched in October 2017, the collective is dynamic and liberating in that it produces exclusive runway showcases in diverse fashion capitals across the globe, with the aim to accelerate the designer’s global development, increasing their international media visibility and opening up new markets.
Fashion capitals around the world- London, Paris, New York, and Tokyo have been targeted to create a clear expansive network.
Global Fashion Collective runway shows at New York Fashion Week every September & February.
Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo every October for Spring and Summer Season.
Paris Fashion Week! Our very first Paris runway will take place in September. Our line-up of handpicked fashion talent from across Canada and the world present their designs to the “Grand Dame” of the fashion world.

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