It’s funny how quick time flies by as we get older. Hoax Couture had called my studio asking me to design for the 2012 Dare to Wear Love Collection. They liked what I did the previous year and wanted me to design and participate again. The previous years’ event seemed to have happened just a few weeks ago. It was my first time selected to design for the fundraising event that supported the Stephen Lewis AIDS Foundation and I was still enjoying the emotional high from being included in the prestigious event. I couldn’t hold back and jumped at the invitation. Every year, Hoax Couture selects a theme for the gala event. It’s their way of keeping all the designers on their toes and ensuring the event will be full of fun designing drama. For 2012, they selected “Flower Power” and allowed each designer to determine what flower power meant to them and how to incorporate it into our designs.
I’m a designer that does not like to blend in with the crowds. Couture is meant to pull at the emotions of the audience and show “what can be” for ready to wear designs. It provides a platform for designers to show how creative their imagination can be and their technical strengths of fashion design. It’s one thing to put an idea to paper. It’s a whole new exciting nightmare to cut fabric and bring it to life. I’m a designer and not a florist. I asked a friend of mine, Sabine Calame CAFA (co-owner of Gardenland Nursery in Cambridge Ontario) to co-design for this years event. To say Sabine has a green thumb is just insulting. She creates magic with flowers and plants resembling a conductor leading a professional orchestra. I don’t know who was more excited or crazy between us.
We both agreed the design needed to make a statement about AIDS. Since 1981 when AIDS was first classified, it has had a great impact on society, both as an illness and as a source of discrimination. The disease also has significant economic impacts. Over 32 years of this disease, first world nations have become complacent as medicines have dramatically better the lives of people living with HIV. Patients no longer fear dying of the disease. The fear of death has been replaced with life time economic sentences of paying pharmaceutical companies enormous fees for medicines. The poor of Africa don’t have this bitter sweet opportunity. Our design needed to be bigger than life. It needed to be so unique people stopped and began to listen again.
I decided to design a cat suit that had an exaggerated train. I further pushed my design by selecting nude mesh as my base. This would make my model appear naked on the catwalk. I than turned the African fabric into strips and covered the nude mesh with geometric lines that would draw immediate attention from the first steps of the catwalk. I asked Sabine for flowers that were visually striking and that would dry without losing the integrity of the flower. I wanted the entire design to reflect the notion that HIV and or AIDS was not a lime-light social issue. It’s a way of life for approximately 35.3 million people globally. Our final design did more than we expected. It caught the attention of the public and it survived after the event to be a reminder of the crisis.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation works with community-level organizations which are turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa by providing care and support to women, orphaned children, grandmothers and people living with HIV and AIDS. Since 2003, they have funded over 1100 initiatives, partnering with 300 community-based organizations in the 15 African countries hardest hit by the pandemic.
These grassroots groups are the lifeline for their communities: they provide counselling and education about HIV prevention, care and treatment; distribute food, medication and other necessities; reach the sick and vulnerable through home-based health care; help orphans and vulnerable children access education and work through their grief; and support grandmothers caring for their orphaned grandchildren.
Special thanks to;
1. Chris Tyrell and Jim Searle of Hoax Couture for believing in me and inviting me to participate once again in Dear to Wear Love.
2. Sabine Calame, CAFA of Gardenland Nursery for the floral artistic magic you performed.
3. Lean Love for being larger than life and an incredible entertainer.
4. Jennifer Gralec of Tiny Cakes in Cambridge, Ontario. You came and helped me that night dress Lena Love and be the best assistant and friend anyone could ask for. You even brought your world incredible cupcakes. People, I’m telling you Jennifer and her husband are artists in the kitchen. I don’t care where you live, the cost of the plane ticket is worth the trip to eat from their couture bakery.