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Vancouver Fashion Week hits the runway

Dust off your finery and start planning outfits, fashionistas.

Vancouver Fashion Week’s opening gala gets underway Monday, kicking off a week of runway shows with designers presenting their 2015 fall and winter collections.

This year, more than 50 designers are scheduled to showcase their work at the home of fashion week, Queen Elizabeth Plaza.

While some established designers are mainstays on the VFW line-up, Jamal Abdourahman, the event’s founder and producer, said this year’s theme is all about emerging talent.

“People always ask me, ‘Who’s your headliner?’ I’m not interested in a headliner,” he told Metro. “I’m interested in the next influencers, the next coolest, the cutting-edge designers.”

This year’s roster features a mix of made-in-B.C. brands, such as Allison Wonderland, Eliza Faulkner and Grandi’s Atelier, as well as fresh global talent, from South Korea’s YKS and Nasty Habit to Japan’s Atsushi Nakashima, Chile’s Sofia, and Nadia + Zehra, twins who hail from London but design their pieces in Italy.

Local designer Shelley Klassen of Blushing Designs, who has taken part in VFW since 2003 and is showcasing her collection Thursday, said the bi-annual event has helped “put Vancouver on the map for fashion.”

“It creates a buzz and it builds excitement,” she said. “It’s a great way to get excited about fashion in Vancouver. This city, it needs to be a little more savvy in that regard.”

More than 25,000 guests are expected to attend VFW, including a swarm of socialites and celebrities. Past VIP attendees have included Twilight stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, Alanis Morissette, Sam Roberts and the cast of the Real Housewives of Vancouver.

Abdourahman said VFW has become the fastest growing fashion week in the world— an impressive feat from the event’s humble beginnings in 2001.

“It evolved from small nightclub shows,” he said. “That’s what we did because we couldn’t afford a venue. Now it’s under the tent, and our tent is better looking than New York or London.”

While the event has come a long way, Abdourahman said he does face some challenges in getting Vancouver recognized on the same level as the big four: New York, London, Milan and Paris.

While he admits the city is a relatively small player in the fashion world, Abdourahman said the immense success of two B.C. brands is proof that it is possible for local designers to make it big.

“Lululemon and Aritzia have shown us that you can do it here, and they’re competing on a global scale,” he said. “Just like everything else, it takes time.”

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