Text by Sarah Dion-Marquis.
Photos courtesy of Sandra Sing Fernandes and the Western Canada Fashion Week.
Sandra Sing Fernandes, producer and creative director of the Western Canada Fashion Week, tells all about the upcoming fashion week, her life and why being a designer in Edmonton can be a real blessing.
In mid-March, Sandra Sing Fernandes, the creative mind behind Western Canada Fashion Week, will take over Edmonton’s jubilant Whyte Avenue.
For the eight-day event, she announced that the city’s district famous for its bars, clubs, cafes and boutiques will be renamed Fashion Avenue.
This spring, the street’s independent retailers, specializing in clothing, shoes and accessories, will take pride in the fashion week’s success, as they’ll be more than ever involved in the event by offering promotions, and showcasing their collections on the opening night. As usual, spectators will catch a mix of new and established designers at the TransAlta Arts Barn.
Most importantly, savvy shoppers will be able to see what they can buy now, says Fernandes. In-season shows aim to get people to come out, even those who don’t necessarily understand why they need to sit and watch a fall showcase when it’s spring.
It’s primordial for Fernandes to involve Edmontonians in the world of fashion and to give a platform to young local designers, and they credit her for the opportunities she has brought to them over the years.
This is exactly why she has returned to her hometown, which didn’t exude fashion confidence in the past. But things have somewhat changed since Fernandes came back to Edmonton. Many even say that she, herself, built a fashion scene in Alberta’s capital.
In her twenties, Fernandes said goodbye to Edmonton to pursue her passion. After she graduated from the very selective New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and School of Visual Art, she worked her way up the art and fashion industries in Manhattan.
She’s held almost every job, from model to milliner to interior designer and fashion show producer. The tenacious woman ran a gallery in SoHo – Studio Ze – and sold the clothing and jewelry she designed in 33 boutiques worldwide. Her fashion sense was in demand in many countries, such as Turkey, Italy and India.
However, all this came at a price.
“When you work all the time, you finish by losing some things,” she says she had learned.
The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, changed her perspective on life. It was about time to come back to her roots. But you can’t get New York out of someone who lived there for 15 years. For WCFW, she says she’s aspiring to a New York fashion week international level; nothing less.
Fernandes produced her very first fashion week out of her personal studio Planet Ze in 2005. As the event kept attracting designers from across the country, she renamed it from Edmonton Fashion Week to Western Canada Fashion Week in order to give it a national flavour.
It’s a surprise to many that established designers are willing to fly to a city with 700,000 residents to showcase their collections. Fernandes, who is the executive producer and creative director of WCFW, explains that when designers go to a smaller marketplace and end up finding a store to sell their clothing, they are better off than showing it in a bigger market – say Toronto or Montreal – and not having anyone buy their work. Alberta’s capital also offers a nurturing environment for emerging designers to start off in the business.
Fernandes doesn’t want WCFW to be like fashion weeks in other cities.
“We don’t see ourselves like competitors,” she says. “A young designer, that I supported and who won Edmonton’s emerging designer contest, participated in the Vancouver and Toronto Fashion Weeks, and I’m excited about that.”
Fernandes tells hard-working and aspiring designers that if they can make it in Edmonton, a much smaller market, then they can make it anywhere.
Making a name for oneself in New York is challenging, but doing it in Edmonton is even harder.
WCFW runs March 24-31 at the TransAlta Arts Barn in Edmonton.
For more information about Planet Ze, please visit http://www.planetze.com
For more information about WCFW, please visit http://www.edmontonfashionweek.com