Model Kara Dee Harrison (right) shows off a dress by local designer Ana Jost (left), who in turn models a dress by Ay Lelum-The Good House of Design. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick highlights local designers at Commercial Fashion Show

Fashion show to feature some items made from used and discarded materials

When models strut their stuff at Gallery Merrick’s Commercial Fashion Show on July 6, they’ll be giving some clothing items a second chance.

That’s because the show features the work of a pair of area designers who specialize in turning used and discarded materials into fashion.

Nanaimo’s Ana Jost likes to “up-cycle” used jeans and Indian saris and dupattas, a type of scarf, while Qualicum Beach resident Kellyanne Forster creates hats out of vinyl records and other unexpected items.

The event also showcases work by Nanaimo’s Sophia Seward-Good and Aunalee Boyd-Good of Ay Lelum-The Good House of Design, who this March displayed their wares at Vancouver Fashion Week. There will also be work by Horseshoe Bay weaver Vanessa Cunningham and Banff, Alta.-based chainmail artist Larissa Barlow. The event is a fundraiser for The Candles, an initiative of Nanaimo resident Dori Miller to support a family of 18 HIV-positive orphans in southwest Uganda.

Jost had been working in “conventional fashion” and had a line of clothing, but when she realized she could not compete with “the huge monsters of fast fashion” she knew if she wanted to stay in business she would need a new approach.

“The opportunity to work with recycled clothing came up so I started redesigning these clothes, making new clothes from clothing,” she said.

“And then I discovered the dupattas, the Indian saris, and I said, ‘Wow, these are just like fabrics,’ and these are colourful, beautiful, a lot of them breathable and so I got excited about that.”

Jost started her current collection in February. She said fashion is a wasteful industry and it’s important to find sustainable ways of doing things. She looks to thrift shops and warehouses to acquire her materials.

“The scarves are actually hand-dyed and hand-embroidered and that makes it very unique,” she said.

“I don’t have repetitions or anything and when I actually find a piece of fabric I just think about a new design every time.”

Forster wanted to move from her native Alberta to the Nanaimo area for more than 30 years. She finally made that move under unfortunate circumstances. In 2016 she was one of the nearly 90,000 people forced from their homes by the Fort McMurray wildfire. She still has difficulty talking about it.

“I lost a lot, so this is like rebirth. This is like a new song…” Forster said.

“It took me since the ‘80s to finally get here and so these hats are all about starting a new life.”

Forster’s hats are made from vinyl records and may incorporate bits of rubber, foam and velcro. One piece of headgear with beaded tassels makes the sound of rain when shaken, inspired by her new West Coast home.

“I look for materials that have been discarded or not used in the same way … because I want to make something that’s broken into something beautiful again,” she said.

“Put new life back in.”

WHAT’S ON … Commercial Fashion Show comes to Gallery Merrick, 13B Commerical St., on July 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets $25 available at the gallery.

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