Evan Biddell Talks About Upcycled Fashion

It’s no secret that the global Fashion industry is wasteful. In fact, it’s the second most polluting industry in the world next to Oil. The average North American discards around 81 pounds of clothing per year, and that scary number. What’s even more shocking is that within a year of being made, three-fifths (3/5) of clothing produced ends up in landfills.

Events like Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week aim to bring awareness to these issues and help promote the movement of upcycling. Returning for its 12th season, the Vancouver-founded event highlights the importance of moving towards a sustainable textile industry and celebrate today’s most innovative fashion!

But what exactly is upcycled fashion?

Simply put, upcycling is the process of making something new and improved from old and used items. It goes beyond reusing and recycling by building upon the original materials. The outcome is a new, handmade, eco-friendly, and one-of-a-kind piece.


So, what does it look like?

Many designers are bringing upcycling to life, including Evan Biddell. Winner of Project Runway Canada Season ­1, Biddell has transformed second-hand clothing from Value Village into a fully realized fashion collection. Value Village by Evan Biddell (VV by EB) just debuted at Toronto Women’s Fashion Week and features 81 pounds of repurposed and upcycled garments.

In an interview with Goldie, Biddell gave some insight on what inspired VV by EB.

“Rock & Roll.  It’s going to be loud and hard-hitting.  We wanted to create a memorable show and be loud as a voice for the cause.”

And he shared a little bit about what textiles are being used in the collection.

“Weight was a factor.  Heaviness.  Leather, suedes.”

As to what inspired Biddell on this project and the opportunity to work with Eco-Fashion week…

“I was born into it… I grew up shopping at Value Village. You know, everyone wanted those track jackets in the late ‘90s and you’d get them at Value Village… I started making clothes when I was sixteen or seventeen.”

VV by EB is a perfect example of how the textile industry is finding innovative solutions in sustainable fashion, which has become more important than ever in today’s fast fashion world.

To learn more about Evan Biddell’s collection and the excitement of upcycling, join us at

the Museum of Vancouver on April 2 for the Upcycled Fashion panel discussion. Stylist Ellen Balsevich will also join the discussion, while Kelsey Dundon, editor of The Anthology, will moderate.

The 81lb Challenge – Value Village by Evan Biddell will be on display at the Museum of Vancouver from March 30 - April 17


Sketching Fashion from Yesteryear

On the morning of November 8th, the Vancouver Urban Sketchers MeetUp group convened at MOV with their pencils and books in hand, to experience our current fashion exhibition From Rationing to Ravishing - which spans the 1940s and 1950s. Twenty-eight members came out to participate in the event creating many fantastic representations of the exhibition.

Visit their MeetUp page to see more.

Historic Fashion Accessories from the MOV Collection

The MOV’s current temporary exhibition, From Rationing to Ravishing: The Transformation of Women’s Clothing in the 1940s and 1950s, draws from the private collections of fashion historians Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke. In its collection, MOV also has a large amount of fashion related artifacts, and while very few of them are seen in From Rationing to Ravishing, a great number of them are now available on the MOV’s online collections database, openMOV.

Over the past 6 months, with financial aid from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre’s BC History Digitization Program, MOV staff have digitized over 2400 accessories from this collection of fashionable artifacts, including hats, shoes, handkerchiefs, fans, and jewellery.

To view all of the artifacts digitized in this project, search the keyword phrase BC Digitization 2014 on openMOV. Here, though, we share a few artifacts that would fit in perfectly with the stunning pieces featured in From Rationing to Ravishing, as well as the stories of the women to whom they belonged.

Pink skullcap hat with black braid, c. 1955-1965: H984.128.11
Donor: Estate of Mrs. Iby Koerner

Born to Hungarian-Jewish parents in 1899, Ibolya (Iby) Koerner became actively involved in community life in Vancouver after arriving with her husband and daughter shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

During the war years, Mrs. Koerner was an active volunteer at the Shaughnessy Hospital Red Cross Lodge, as well as a member of the Vancouver Art Gallery Women’s Auxiliary Committee. After the war, she served on the board of the Community Arts Council, later becoming heavily involved with the Vancouver International Festival and the Community Music School, now the Vancouver Academy of Music.

After her death in 1983, a donation of clothing and accessories was made by her estate to the Museum, including this hat. It is representative of the variety of hats Mrs. Koerner would have worn to various charity and cocktail funtions.

Navy straw picture hat, c. 1948-1955: H985.33.10
Donor: Miss Nora Nedden

Purchased in Vancouver sometime between 1948 and 1955, this hat belong to Miss Nora Nedden. Miss Nedden was born in England in 1903 and educated at a convent in Ireland. She came to Vancouver in the late 1910s to live with an aunt and uncle, Captain and Mrs. Nedden and remained in Vancouver for the rest of her life, save during the Second World War when she served with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in the RAF.

Miss Nedden was a noted South Vancouver socialite, active in the Southlands Riding Club and in charitable organizations such as the Alliance Française, CNIB, and St. John’s Anglican Church.

Royal Canadian Air Force handkerchief and mailer, c. 1940-1945: H980.62.2
Donor: Miss Jane Rittenhouse

During the Second World War, Jane Rittenhouse joined the WRENS (Women’s Royal Navy Service), working mostly as a supply clerk in Halifax. After working a variety of jobs in Toronto after the war, Ms. Rittenhouse moved to Vancouver, where she began an active volunteer career, working largely within Kitsilano.

For some time, she spent more hours than a full-time work week working on volunteer activities with organizations such as the Kitsilano Neighbourhood Association. She served on the Local Area Planning Committee, the Community Resources Board, and the Parents Book Committee, among others, bringing her expertise to numerous projects such as the development of local day care centres, seniors’ activities, and the production of a Roger's Cable documentary.

It’s likely this handkerchief was one of many mass produced for fundraising purposes. It would have been folded into the mailer and sent to those deployed in service overseas.

Flower shaped brooch, c. 1950s: H997.26.28
Donor: Ms. Sonya Kraemer

From a very early age, Sonja Kraemer adored jewellery, for she saw it as a means to feeling beautiful and being accepted by others. Born in Vancouver in 1958, she moved with her family to rural Richmond when she was six years old. Her mother came from a middle-class family in Germany where the proper clothes and the right appearance and image were very important.

Kraemer was in her early teens, c. 1968-1972, when she began to purchase jewellery for herself; her first purchase was at Woodward's. Between the years of 1980 and 1981, Kraemer worked in a curio shop, "Aleksandra's" where she took jewelry in lieu of a salary until she became a sales clerk. "Aleksandra's" was at 312 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver, until it closed in 1981. Most of the jewelry in this collection came from Aleksandra's.

This brooch features rhinestones with an “aurora borealis” treatment, so called because it gives the stones an iridescent quality similar to the Northern Lights. The treatment was introduced by Swarovski in 1955 and became a very popular trend in 1950s costume jewellery.


MOV wishes again to thank the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre’s BC History Digitization Program; without their financial support, this project would not have been possible.



Museum Monday: Evening gown with Greek soldiers, chariots 1938

art deco evening gown with trojan soldiersApril Fools!  Do you know the Tale of the Trojan Horse?  It has been said that this ruse ended an epic war. Legend has it that the Greeks were able to gain entry to the city of Troy by hiding their best soldiers in a giant wooden horse — offered as a ‘gift’ to their unsuspecting rivals. 

In the spirit of one of history’s biggest ‘April Fools’ pranks, our Museum Monday feature for this week is a glamorous evening gown circa 1938 (also now on display in our Art Deco Chic exhibition).  This red silk and gold lamé dress is tailored to accentuate curves and adorned with Trojan soldiers and chariots.  I wonder about the woman who might have worn this. Was she one of those ‘modern women’ of the 1930s era — an emerging presence in the workforce perhaps?   Did she take inspiration from famous starlets, and disarm every gaze as she entered a room?  I’m not sure, but this is a pretty confident ‘power suit’ of a gown.

Come see this beautiful gown for yourself during this Thursday’s Talk & Tour with Ivan Sayers (April 5 - limited space, so please RSVP or purchase your tickets ahead of time).  Fashionistas and design aficionados will enjoy this unique opportunity to delve into vintage garment construction techniques.

If you’re an emerging fashion designer, we also encourage you to enter the Art Deco Chic Design Challenge!  Deco is a delicious inspiration and it’s hot all over again on the runways for 2012. Winning Vancouver originals will be showcased by MOV in September.

MOVments: Vancouver Offside

Greeting, MOVers. Just as Canada’s West produced harrowing hail while the East saw seducing sun this week, Vancouver’s sightlines are equally diverse. Caught between the closing of little YVR gems like The Book Warehouse and the growing movement of BC schools to offshore destinations, one is left to wonder about values and priorities when it comes to staying in the city.  Did you know 300 BC certified teachers are employed in 29 BC offshore schools?

Should I stay or should I go? Your local radio program, On the Coast, is hosting a series of conversations on housing affordability as conversations out east say the next federal budget should stretch its long arm of policy reform to put the rental housing market “on solid ground”.

This way to Grandma’s… Of particular interest to MOVers is where this stay/go dilemma intersects with visual history and our built city. Recently Vancouver knocked down an old building to reveal a new (old) ghost sign for Grandma’s Boy.
Should it be saved? Maybe this is a question for Vancouver’s museum professionals. If you’re interested in what Museum educators have to say, you might be interested in the upcoming un-conference, Then/Hier.

Cut a Rug. Or… some other fine fabric… As you may know there’s a fashion design challenge happening at the MOV around our new exhibit, Art Deco Chic. In tune, this article explores the question, Can historic garments be used for contemporary fashion? In small-business response, the owner of Musette Bicycle Café thinks so. This Italian-vintage-cycling-attire-inspired café recently opened off Hornby bike route and we think it pulls off the contemporary-glam thing quite well.

In other worldly affairs, the LA Times is examining the ups and downs of Vancouver’s Climate Action Plan, 5 years post instatement. And for those of us interested in the goods behind the Canadian Economy, a free dialogue is being held at SFU Woodwards Wednesday night.

At the MOVeum: Veda Hille @MOV Songs of False Creek Flats

& Big thanks to everyone who came out to Mini MakerFaire Fundraiser last week! Here are some photos.   

[Photo care of ]

Museum Monday: Fascinating fables behind our fashions

It’s Museum Monday! Have you ever looked down a bustling street and wondered what sort of shops lived there years before? Have you discovered a great local fashion designer…a Vancouver original, who could proudly represent our signature style 80-100 years ago or years from now?

In celebration of Vancouver fashion, this week we’re shining a spotlight on this cute and sporty navy polka dot dress –a darling example of local Art Deco Chic straight out of the MOV Collection. Typical of the1920s era silhouette, the garment fits loosely, with a bias cut and a drop waist. It has me picturing a vintage Vogue Magazine Illustration…A sporty young gal at the beach with a sunny cloche and a butter silk scarf blowing in the breeze…Maybe calling out “Tennis anyone?” Cut from a sheer cotton toile, this airy frock might have been paired with a slip. In fact, it was most likely a manufacturer’s sample and never worn...A lucky find for Vancouver textile historians? It seems so!

Made by the Aurora Dress Company of Vancouver around 1927, this ‘sweet little number’ is a sampling from Vancouver’s own Art Deco era garment industry. The “Aurora Silk Company” was established in 1923 by Ken V. Lopatecki at 318 Homer Street. By 1930, the shop became known as the “Aurora Dress & Silk Company” and moved to a new suite in the same building. The last listing for the shop in the city directories was in 1933. Sadly, the company went out of business during the depression (as part of the falling stock for ‘Rand's Dry Goods’). Through the mid to late 1930s, former Aurora Company founder, Lopatecki, continued on as a salesman for “Pacific Maid Dress”. By 1940, he became President of “Queen Bess Dress”. Affectionately nicknamed after Queen Elizabeth, “Queen Bess Dress” was located in the ever fashionable area of 3740 Main Street,

Some truly stunning haute couture creations are now on display in our “Art Deco Chic” exhibit. These ultra-deluxe threads offer instant delight. They seem to ‘wink at you from across the room’…Then quickly envelope you in all of their bold, sleek, sparkling beauty…Meanwhile, this relatively unassuming little polka dot shift reminds us of those extra ‘hidden treasures’ that await the most curious MOV visitors…More fascinating stories ready to unfurl!

To learn more about the ‘fables behind our fashions’, follow our MOVblog or join us for a Curator’s Talk and Tour!

Mannequins as canvas for clothing

Down in the basement of MOV, we’ve been assembling a strange collection of female forms. These mannequins and body forms will wear glamorous garments in the upcoming Art Deco Chic exhibition opening March 8, 2012. However, in the meantime they are naked and exposed in all their bodily eccentricities.

MOV staff repairs mannequins for the Art Deco Chic exhibitionWe’ve been challenged to find mannequins that are the right size and shape to wear clothing from the 1920s and 1930s. Luckily, guest curators Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke collect vintage mannequins along with vintage clothing. Ivan’s 1920s mannequin was made by the firm of Pierre Imans of Paris. She has a beautifully modeled wax face, while her torso is wrapped in coarse muslin. You would not mistake her for a man, but possibly for a thirteen-year old girl. Her breasts are barely there, her waist minimal, and hips very slim. Her straight up and down figure was the ideal 1920s female body, designed to fit the era’s straight-cut, sack-like garments (more noted for their surface decoration than for their shaping).

Claus has a lovely mannequin from the late 1930s made by Fery-Boudrot of Paris (we’ve taken to calling her “the blonde”). She will wear an elegant outfit made in Germany or Austria, the areas in which Claus specializes. Many of the 1930s evening dresses depend for effect on flowing drapery and scarves. The backs of the dresses were especially elaborate so that the wearer looked good on the dance floor. We look forward to posing the blonde and her companions to show off these late 1930s garments to best advantage.

We turned to Kevin Smith from Arm & a Leg Mannequins Rental to help make up the numbers for the exhibit (which will have between 66 and 71 garments — the debates are still raging). Kevin provided a group of Rootstein figures from the 1990s with strongly modeled faces and moulded hair. First we tried evening dresses from the 1930s on the Rootsteins, but the dresses only came down to their shins. At 6’ tall, the Rootsteins are all leg. This led us to try garments from the late 1920s. By the late 1920s, the idea was to abbreviate the garment and show lots of leg. The classic flapper-style garments look great on these elegant Amazons.

The non-vintage mannequins will be painted a neutral colour (the exhibition designers, Matt Heximer and Sue Lepard from 10four Design Group, choose Benjamin Moore’s “Mannequin Cream”). Right now a crew headed by museum fabrication coordinator Dave Winstanley are sanding, priming, and spray painting the contemporary mannequins. We have to wind our way through a maze of bodies to have a word with Dave these days. He appears unimpressed by his female companions, and as he carefully sprays a selection of female arms dangling from the painting rack he points out the nearby “hand rail”, a long board that holds a hands upright for easy spraying.

If all goes well, our meticulous prep work will be invisible to visitors once the exhibition opens to the public on March 8. The point is to focus you on the amazing clothes, while the armature of display fades into the background.

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