Immigrant, indigenous stylists launch from the VFW catwalk

Seeking a new life and career, South African immigrant Larainne Kaplan arrived in Vancouver in 2003 carrying two garbage bags full of clothing samples made by a family charity program near her former home in Cape Town.

“I wanted to pursue a fashion business with a strong social responsibility component,” said Kaplan, who was moving from a 15-year career as a social worker in South Africa.

“And then I met him and he helped me run my business,” Kaplan said, pointing to Jamal Abdourahman, the founder of Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW), in an interview with New Canadian Media.

Today, Kaplan heads Vancouver-based LK Collections, a dynamic multi-brand wholesale fashion agency and import company representing international and locally designed collections throughout Western Canada.

After completing his training at London College of Fashion, Taiwanese-Canadian Alex S. Yu launched his label at the September 2014 edition of Vancouver Fashion Week.

Since then and after 12 VFW shows, her collections have been showcased at fashion shows around the world as her models have dressed celebrities, including Canadian-American actress Sandra Oh and Taiwanese singer Miu Zhu.

For Metis designer Jade Tetrault, this week’s Fall and Winter VFW 2022 show offers her “behind the scenes” experience.

“It’s a great place to get some fashion design experience,” said Tetrault, who hopes to have her indigenously inspired “Arrowhead” dress featured at the next VFW show.

Kaplan, Yu and Tetrault are among the many new Canadian and indigenous designers, who in the past two decades have launched and started their careers from the VFW runway, which is now the second largest fashion week in North America, following that of New York.

“At Vancouver Fashion Week, diversity is truly our greatest strength,” said Abdourahman, who arrived in Toronto in 1990 as a refugee from Djibouti, a small country in the Horn of Africa.

In addition to being the longest-running show of its kind, Abdourahman and his Global Fashion Collective (GFC) team organize special events that take place alongside New York Fashion Week, Tokyo Fashion Week and Fashion Week in London. Paris. VFW also has a special Kids Fashion event.

“In recent years we have received more and more requests from international fashion students, new immigrants and First Nations designers,” said Abdourahman.

Among the presenters this year are Inuit designer Martha Kyak and Sinhalese-Canadian Sujitha Shivajothi, who has a gender-inclusive design label.

Longtime VFW fan, Vancouver Mayor candidate Mark Marissen hopes the event will continue to grow and provide opportunities for future fashion designers.

“It’s a fantastic event that has already put our city in the global fashion world and, if elected, I hope to make it a key event for Vancouver,” he said.

According to a market entry report prepared for the European Union fashion industry, global retail sales of Canadian apparel reached $ 35.27 billion in 2019.

The report singled out Vancouver Fashion Week as one of the most popular events in the city.

“Being home to people from diverse backgrounds, particularly from East Asia, Vancouver is the hub of fashion and style,” the report states.

“The VFW events feature designs from established and new emerging fashion brands and is a focal point for local fashion start-ups that have flourished in recent years,” Alex Martyniak, executive director of the European Chamber of Commerce in Western Canada, said told NCM.

According to, an accredited immigration agency, Vancouver is the first Canadian city to immigrate as a stylist.

“You can expect to earn between $ 63,555 and $ 109,507 per year,” the agency said in a report last August.

Service Canada has listed fashion designers under the National Occupation Classification Code 5243 for immigration purposes.

WorkSafe BC estimates that job openings in this category will increase by nearly 52.7% over the next decade.

The Canadian Job Bank estimates that by 2028, 9,300 new job seekers, including school dropouts and new immigrants, are expected to fill jobs in this sector.


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