The Expert: What I Know About… The Runway

She started designing jewellery and restyling clothes at eight and, by 14, she was working as a fashion model.

Who: Sandra Sing Fernandes

Job: Founder of Western Canada Fashion Week

Experience: She started designing jewellery and restyling clothes at eight and, by 14, she was working as a fashion model. Studying dance at Grant MacEwan gave her a keen sense of kinesiology perfect for catwalks. In 1986, she entered the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where she launched her company, Studio Ze NYC, which specialized in fashion and design for music videos, film, magazines and Broadway theatre. After returning to Edmonton in 2002 and becoming disappointed by the lack of opportunities for those in the fashion industry, she created Edmonton Fashion Week in 2005. The week-long show began humbly in her studio space; it featured just 10 designers and drew about 100 attendees per night. Since then, the biannual event, renamed Western Canada Fashion Week, has grown to include 30 established and emerging designers from around the world, and puts on a spectacle for hundreds of followers at TransAlta Arts Barns.

– “The runway should be entertaining – but not in that shopping mall, strike-a-pose way. It’s finesse. The language of the runway is all about alignment and facial energy. Sometimes, you’ll have these beautiful girls and you don’t even notice them. It’s because they lack the performance ability to project energy.”

– “Movement is very complicated – involving posture, alignment, acting. You need to be in control of your face, your emotions and your body all at the same time on the runway. When a girl uses too much hips or she is not carrying herself with proper posture, the garment is moving in all these odd ways. It’s very distracting.”

– “I feel like the stopping and posing and stuff like that is pass. It’s not really high fashion. I think it’s got an ’80s feeling to it. I think girls sometimes feel like they’re not doing anything if they’re just walking, so they add all these little things and it becomes busy. A model is supposed to be floating with the garment and it’s supposed to be about the garment.”

– “On the runway, designers are trying to brand themselves. Designers decide on elements – visuals, music and models – that help create their mood. It’s very important to have the right type of model for your branding because you can produce a runway show with all size-two models. But if you’re trying to market to [different sized] girls, that might not work.”

– “If models are a bit flamboyant, some designers don’t want to work with them because they are showboating. You’re trying to create continuity. You want the models to flow and you don’t want one person who’s really standing out.”

– “If you’re [like the late] designer Alexander McQueen, you can go completely over the top on the runway; everyone expects it of you and it translates because of strong branding. Clients knew his loud designs would translate into wearable fashion. But if your brand isn’t well established and you go completely flamboyant with wild costumes, you may not do much to develop an actual clientele. We try to get designers to take what they do, pump up the volume and still have a connection between the real woman and the stores.”

– “A visual is worth its weight in gold – and with runway, there’s not a lot of talking so we need a way to get moods across. If you had [a line] that is quite earthy, you could use multi-media to project an outdoor scene on the screen at the back of the runway. Whereas, [Edmonton designer] Sid Neigum would use high-tech images, pinball machines, something that went along with his fabrics, his mood. Some designers choose to use a white background, and that can also have an impact.”

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