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Designers, models and retailers say PEI Fashion Weekend was a resounding success, and all the talk in the community is when the next one will be.
Julia Campbell is the organizer of PEI Fashion Weekend, which took place on March 25-26. She said the Friday night show at Trailside Music Hall sold out weeks in advance. Throughout the weekend, the island’s artists and designers were celebrated, with pop-up shops in Charlottetown and retailers showcasing local creations.
“Retailers were very encouraging about hosting designers many of them had never met, giving up space in their physical store to give a designer the opportunity to display and sell their collection,” he said.
“We are very, very happy.”
The weekend was quickly organized, so Campbell was surprised by the number of sponsors, retailers, models, designers and fashionistas who made it possible. Campbell credits Discover Charlottetown and its Ignition Fund for bringing the event to life, saying the weekend was something the province’s fashion community was hungry for.
“I moved home 10 years ago and I see so much creativity, so much diversity,” he said.
“There’s so much talent happening here, and we just wanted to provide a platform and a place for people to showcase their art and expose all of the amazing designers, stylists and artists that are putting art on clothing at this fashion show.”
‘God’s timing is just amazing’
Designer Jean-Grace Kifwabala owns Truly Motivated, which started in 2021. She got a text asking if she wanted to be a part of PEI Fashion Weekend and didn’t take the time to respond.
“Definitely. Come on! I need it right now!” he said. The timing was perfect for him, as he had just finished working on a new clothing line.
“My friend says, ‘God timing is awesome,’ so the collection ended the day I got the text. So in my head it was meant to be,” he said.
The process of coming up with an idea for a design, tweaking it, making it, having someone use it, and seeing how people react is a feeling that can’t be matched, he said. This was her first fashion show and it won’t be her last.
“To be here right now and showcase my products and meet models and do this right now is amazing,” she said. “I am very grateful.”
Chrysler Hewlett, co-owner of Created Unbound, designs clothing and art with his brother Chester. Chrysler said the opportunity to showcase his work is huge.
“We officially launched last May, so to have this opportunity less than a year from when we started is crazy to me,” he said.
“All the hard work, all the sleepless nights with the designs…it’s really paying off.”
He described the PEI fashion community and its designers as a collection of people “chasing their dreams together,” so having PEI Fashion Weekend and the commercial support was an incredible feeling.
‘That’s enough pay for me, to see people happy’
FINIX designer Jerry Oriade said the event far exceeded his expectations.
“I thought, ‘Wow, look at the people wearing clothes I designed,'” he said. “Nobody sees the behind the scenes, the hours of work done just for a few seconds. But I was very happy. I could see that the audience liked it, smiled, clapped. I felt amazing. That’s enough payment for me, to see happy people.”
Oriade said being able to make friends with people on the scene in PEI was the highlight for him.
He said that 10 years from now he will look back and say, “I was part of the first [fashion week] in PEI”
Artist and designer Almendra Romero said that her clothes are inspired by Mexican culture.
“I just want to show, you know, where I’m from… and the traditional clothing that we have,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve been able to show people…what I can design for clothing, so it’s great.”
Romero said it’s something he’s wanted to do since he was a teenager. She feels empowered and happy that the islanders see her designs.
‘This show just proved how diverse we are’
Model Lox MacMillan-Metatawabin said it was an honor to take part in the show and showcase local brands.
“I felt so safe. I felt like PEI came together, and we’re showing what we have on this little island, and there’s so much to offer,” she said. “The energy that was felt in the room, you just fed off of it.
“This show just showed how diverse we are.”
Kency Manalili, who modeled for three PEI designers, said he was nervous at first. But when he saw the red carpet he thought: “Now it’s my time to shine.
“I felt at home and I felt very comfortable. I’ve always wanted to do something like that, and to have the opportunity tonight, I feel very blessed,” he said.
Manalili said he hopes events like this will broaden what some islanders see as fashion and make people feel more comfortable experimenting.
Andrew Imade also modeled, representing three brands. Walking during rehearsals, he said, was the first time he felt nervous.
“I was in a panic. I basically forgot how to walk.” She went home and practiced his steps and rhythm.
Before the backstage show, he was tense and breathing heavily. But the spotlight changed all that.
“I would do it a million times,” he said. “They should have another. If I could, I’d do this all week.”