04/14/2012 03:07 EDT | Updated 06/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Eco Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2012: The Many Faces of Conscious Fashion

Vancouver is not a city known for its sartorial sense, unless you're counting us taking the cake as the world's third worst dressed city. But a different fashion story emerged in this city, and that story took centre stage at Eco Fashion Week.


Vancouver is not a city known for its sartorial sense, unless you're counting us taking the cake as the world's third worst dressed city (thank you, Ms. Song.) A look around and it seems that our big claim to fashion fame can be found in yoga wear, which as comfortable as that may be, pretty much puts us in the "hot mess" category in the fashion world. But a different fashion story is emerging in this city nestled in mountains, water and fresh air, and that story took centre stage this week at Eco Fashion Week.

I trekked down to Robson Square to check out the work of fellow eco and conscious fashion designers this season (the show's fourth). And lest you think eco fashion is just about using sustainable fabrics, here were some of the highlights:

Day one kicked off with a runway show featuring vintage clothes sponsored by Value Village and styled by Sarah La Greca, Deanna Palkowski and Eco Fashion Week founder Myriam Laroche -- because frankly, recycling is one of the best ways to do fashion good. And as for creating conscious fashion itself, designers ranged from Indigenous, a cozy and stylish fair trade knitwear brand using organic materials and employing artisans from Peru, to Kreati-ka, a Seattle-based and Paris-bred high-end label of cocktail dresses and luxe evening wear, with a focus on minimizing fabric waste. Fellow Vancouverite Standing Armed showed a luxurious silk and wool collection, made fresh for fall with colours, textures and patterns. With all pieces made to order from Vancouver, the designer prides herself on designing pieces with longevity and quality in mind, moving away from a throwaway fashion mindset. Recycling showed up again in a very different way with Arm Candy's collection of handbags made from yup, you guessed it -- candy wrappers. And crowd favorite Prophetik was the last designer to take the stage with its dramatic gowns made of organic and naturally dyed fabrics. With a design ethos that focuses 100 per cent on conscious design, Prophetik made a fine closing statement to prove the point that sustainable fashion ranges the entire spectrum, a far cry from the beige potato sack dresses many of us still associate with eco fashion (unless you're counting the ones worn by models showing off some serious Arm Candy -- see above).

As with any event, there is room for improvement. For example, I would've loved to hear, before each designer took the stage, what went behind the design process and philosophy. (And from what I could tell, those around me who were audibly wondering what made each collection "eco" would've appreciated the same.) Because eco fashion is about so much more than just the clothes. And there are amazing stories behind the clothes as well.

But a statement was made: it's about time we as creators and consumers make more responsible choices with what we wear. I like how Myriam Laroche put it: "Instead of 'eco' I want to bring in the words 'conscious' and 'responsible.'" Because isn't that how we all aspire to live our lives? With awareness, we would see that the choice is ours whether to support or hinder the well-being of the environment, people, and economy. (And sure, a great runway show helps get the message out there in a more fashion crowd-friendly way.) With the many faces of conscious fashion available to suit all tastes, budgets and values, our values can co-exist with our style habits. But it's our values that move us forward together to create a more conscious and responsible world, wearing whatever floats our sartorial boats.

And though Vancouver certainly can't take the credit for conscious fashion, we were definitely there to witness it. It's a fashion story I'm proud to be a part of (sorry, yoga pants).

Congratulations to the Eco Fashion Week team -- can't wait for next season.

To view images from Eco Fashion Week F/W 2012, check out the Facebook page.