“My woman is someone who likes to be seen from a mile away. She doesn’t apologize for anything, she takes no prisoners, she dominates,” says fashion designer Victoria Hayes, seated at a table inside a Fairmont Pacific Rim conference room. “I always say if you’re in the movie of your life or the music video of your life, when you picture that you’re the star of something, you need to be wearing an outfit—and I’m trying to design those clothes.”
Hayes is in Vancouver for A Fashion Statement: a November 2018 trunk show and runway presentation at the Pacific Rim. Presented in partnership with the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards (CAFA), the special event showcases five womenswear designers from across Canada. Hayes, a no-nonsense 30-year-old from Toronto, fell in love with clothes thanks to Jeanne Becker’s Fashion Television. Now she is based in New York City, where her namesake label is designed and made, but she is excited to be back in Canada to connect in-person with potential clients. “People think that if you’re dressing celebrities that everything is going so great. You have to be smarter than that,” Hayes admits. “It’s great to get vetted by people who will wear your clothes to high-profile events, but it’s more important for me right now to be vetted by real women who are going to come in and buy the clothes, and love them and wear them and give me feedback.”
As she speaks, CAFA president Vicky Milner pops her head into the room. “Do you mind if I look?” she asks Hayes, referring to the gorgeous bold, bright garments that don two rolling racks. Hayes welcomes her in. “I have no time to shop in my normal life,” Toronto-based Milner continues excitedly, as she looks through the enticing mix of red, orange, and yellow. “So this is a good opportunity for me to try on everyone’s clothes.”
Along with Hayes, A Fashion Statement features sultry local favourite Christine Lingerie (seen on television wrapped around the likes of Jane Fonda and Sofia Vergara); Montreal’s Di Carlo (Canadian stylist Jessica Mulroney wore a sleek blue piece to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle); Montreal’s Unttld (donned by Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and also tapped to design the Pacific Rim’s new Lobby Lounge uniforms); and Calgary-based Nonie (catapulted to fame after the Duchess of Sussex wore one of its sleeveless trenches dress to an event in July 2018). “It felt pretty amazing to get that stamp of approval,” says Nonie founder Nina Kharey, settled on a couch before the show and wearing a local Brunette the Label “Fries Before Guys” sweater. Nonie garments are made at a boutique factory in Vancouver, and they are made to order—an important aspect of the brand. “We don’t do inventory too much. I hate contributing to what’s happening globally with pollution,” Kharey says. “And our industry is horrible for it, there’s so much waste. I’ve got two little kids and I don’t want to leave them with a horrible Mother Earth.” Elegant and feminine, her pieces can be worn with pride for multiple reasons.
Helping get up-and-coming brands in front of potential buyers in a true celebration of Canadian womenswear, A Fashion Statement is slated to become a yearly event at the Pacific Rim. “We had this vision when we built the hotel that it would be like the living room for Vancouver,” says Ian Gillespie, founder of the property’s local developer Westbank, addressing the crowd of invite-only guests following the runway presentation. “We’ve done five fashion shows, but considering we have been open for seven years, I don’t think it’s enough.” A Fashion Statement, just like everything Westbank does, is largely rooted in artistry. Over at Oakridge, the company is reimagining the entire area in a multi-phase project including an outdoor pedestrian mall, residential towers, and a secondary studio for the Goh Ballet (see more at Oakridge Centre’s “Unwritten” exhibit, which includes a Lego-building section and a clothing atelier). Back at the Pacific Rim, fashion remains integral, even spotted overtop of the lobby, where a mannequin sports a vintage black Christian Dior dress—the first one that a young Yves Saint Laurent ever designed for the brand.
Those looking to spend the night for a fuller immersion into the hotel can find solace in rooms with gorgeous views of the harbour and inviting tubs with Le Labo bath amenities in Rose 31. Between lunch at RawBar and dinner at Botanist (plus breakfast at the Gold Lounge for members), it’s hard not to wish that every day could be a day spent discussing fashion and hitting the spa. All good things must come to an end, though, which is why a souvenir—maybe a purple Victoria Hayes blazer, or a black Nonie trench—becomes all the more special.
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