Sunday, November 4, 2018

Herstory in Focus - Fashion Fundraising For and By The Downtown Eastside Women's Centre

When Sarah Murray, Program Coordinator Fashion Arts, at VCC, sent out a call for donations for a fashion show in support of the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre (DEWC), Herstory in Focus, I and two friends, Dianna and Bobbie, also volunteers at My Sister's Closet, wanted to know more about the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre (DEWC) Another friend and jewellery designer, Carolyn Bruce, was also interested in our ongoing ideas for how to support the project and, of course, had bags to donate from her own studio.

My Sister's Closet has donated to Herstory in Focus, the fashion show, for its first two years, and so it was on our minds, throughout a very busy September and October, right up until the actual event, October 18th at the Vancouver Art Gallery. And what a night it was! Just think: $25,000, the first year, and $50,00 last year. And this year, judging from the enthusiastic bids at the live auction, that this amount would increase. Sure enough, $65,000 will go right into supporting women at DEWC. Such a whole community effort went into showcasing the creative talents, the strength, self confidence, and pride of 16 women who not only graced the runway, but also helped greatly to raise funds for the centre, a safe, nourishing, resource-filled place that serves more than 500 meals every day and gives women a platform for empowerment.

Sarah Murray, and Celine Chuang, welcomed us to visit the Centre and to sit in on a couple of fashion meetings, to give us an idea of what goes into the making of a fashion show. Bobbie and I went, in early September (but I am sure the initial steps took place long before that). The very first thing that happened, was that Mary invited us to have coffee and found us a table. Terri and others soon joined us. Such a warm welcome! We talked about our interests and why we were there and found out that Mary is a beader and Terri a weaver and thought they would have a lot to offer to the fashion world. So, we all went along to a meeting, in a small but cozy room, around a long table, with a sewing machine, behind which, sat Nico Gruzling, a recent VCC Fashion Grad, who was also volunteering. I thought Bobbie would be able to help with sewing, but many of the women already had projects in mind and were working on them. Bobbie and I listened to the women's stories as they were writing their profiles and talking about their accomplishments and inner essence, the themes of this fashion show. Sarah, wonderful organizer that she is, had clothing racks and bags of accessories ready to go and kept everyone apprised of the next steps, like photos, make-up, rehearsals and even walking practice. Dianna went with me to that session, held at VCC, Rosemary (Rosie) a professional model with MVM Agency, came to show how to command that runway. Shoes that fit, eyes to the end of the runway, head up, shoulders firm, but relaxed, back straight and purposeful mindset. We asked Pat about her outfit and she told us that the tie came from her son and the jacket from a friend's dad. Her shoes and fedora came from donations at DEWC. She owned the stage, hat down low and mic in her hand, animating her favourite singer and muse: K.D. Lang. Hallelujah was the perfect song.

Herstory is their story and in many ways, our story. There is more volunteering to do, more support needed and much more to be learned and shared. I am inviting my friends to come to the next show and, naturally, to help along the way.

Big thanks to Sarah and Celine for the opportunity to visit the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre and to watch the formation of a fabulous fashion show. Loved the Herstory in Focus Brochure, with its excellent photos and women's stories - so important! The drumming by The Wildflower Women of Turtle Island and the Territorial Welcome by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall, were so powerful. The fabulous food by Potluck Catering, a Downtown Eastside social enterprise, was delightful and delicious. Carol Martin, our Fashion Show Emcee, spoke very clearly and her friendship and admiration for the 16 designer models, shone through. And Howard Blank, multi-award winning Auctioneer, was absolutely energetic, enthusiastic and outstandingly effective in raising the bar high!

Here are photos by me and Dianna Drahanchuk. We thank BWSS_MSC for the many opportunities we get to pursue our love of fashion. There is a huge community of Businesses, Designers, and Fashion Programs who support the store. And yes, the Movie Industry donates, too. You can be part of all of this. Volunteers and Donations to DEWC are always welcome!

Melaney Gleeson-Lyall, Musqueam Nation

Auctioneer Howard Blank

Colleen, Dianna and Carolyn Bruce

Colleen and Bobbie

Donations from Carolyn Bruce Designs

Larissa, Little Dancing Bear




Stella and Kyla, Cultural Coordinator at DEWC

Tia Maria













Sarah and Colleen

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