Nova Scotia·Video

Fashion show to flaunt collaboration, diversity in Halifax industry

The fashion industry is known as cut-throat, but in Halifax the opposite is true. Six designers are set to showcase their work on Monday as part of a fashion show at the restaurant The Mercantile Social celebrating diversity and collaboration in Halifax's fashion scene.

Solitha Shortte says the designers showcase breadth of city’s fashion scene

The Fabric of our DNA event is taking place on March 9 at The Mercantile Social in downtown Halifax. (Submitted by Joshua Morley)

The fashion industry is known as cut-throat, but in Halifax the opposite is true.

Six designers are set to showcase their work on Monday as part of a fashion show at the restaurant The Mercantile Social celebrating diversity and collaboration in Halifax's fashion scene.

The show — titled "The Fabric of our DNA" — is the brainchild of Solitha Shortte, owner of the production company and model agency Soli Productions Management Inc.

Shortte said in order for the local industry to grow, artists of different backgrounds need to collaborate.

"In the fashion world, there's not a lot of people who look like me, and it's kind of hard knocking down doors," said Shortte, who is black.

The Fabric of our DNA

2 years ago
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This fashion show is celebrating diversity in the beauty industry and giving a range of designers a chance to showcase their talents. 3:02

Shortte said the fashion industry sometimes sets unattainable beauty standards. She said it's important to showcase our society's diversity and "true beauty," so that the public can see themselves represented in fashion.

The designers and brands taking part in the show are: Veronica MacIsaac Apparel, Donn Sabean, tREv Clothing, Michelle Rober Fashion, Fervente Canada and African Apparel.

"These six designers coming together shows the vast breadth of the industry in Halifax," said Shortte, as models and designers chatted recently in the venue above the sound of Hip Hop Hooray by Naughty by Nature.

"This is a 'for yourself' industry that we're in on a global scale, but this can be a blueprint moving forward, where diversity is necessary."

Ashley Orser, owner of The Mercantile Social, left, Veronica MacIsaac of Veronica MacIsaac Apparel, middle, and Solitha Shortte, owner of Soli Productions Management, collaborated on the fashion show. (Submitted by Joshua Morley)

Models from different cultural backgrounds will be stomping down a makeshift catwalk at the L-shaped restaurant, flanked with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city's downtown and harbour.

It's the third year for the show — which also seeks to celebrate African Heritage Month and International Women's Day — and Shortte had intended to take a break from running the event. 

But designer Veronica MacIsaac, owner of Veronica MacIsaac Apparel, reached out with an idea for a photoshoot in honour of African Heritage Month featuring 11 black models dressed in her tartan designs.

Shortte said after the photoshoot, she decided "it needed a runway."

Two models show off designs by tREv Clothing at The Mercantile Social. (Aly Thomson/CBC)

MacIsaac said because she uses tartan in her work, she wanted to show two different ancestries coming together.

She said since she works in a heritage-based business, collaboration has always been an important part of her work.

"Solitha's show is called the 'Fabric of our DNA,' which is exactly how I make a living. It's using — literally — the fabric of my DNA to showcase heritage and to showcase culture," said MacIsaac, adding she always tries to feature models of different sizes, ages, genders and races.

"I think it's important for more of these events to happen where we all come together and show how different we are but how similar we are at the same time."

Veronica MacIsaac wanted to showcase black models wearing her tartan designs in honour of African Heritage Month. (Submitted by Brent McCombs)

MacIsaac — the featured designer for the show — said because Halifax is a smaller market, designers are better off working together than competing.

"Like most things on the East Coast, we all end up working together, we're all friends, and it's all about … growing the industry together," she said.

Another designer taking part in the show is Praise Mugisho of African Apparel. Mugisho came to Canada a few years ago from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Shortte said the show will give the up-and-coming designer a platform she may not have had otherwise, as many black designers face an uphill battle when entering the industry.

"We all need each other in order to propel the industry to the next level," she said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aly Thomson

Reporter/Editor

Aly Thomson is an award-winning journalist based in Halifax who loves helping the people of her home province tell their stories. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding justice, education and the entertainment industry. You can email her with tips and feedback at aly.thomson@cbc.ca.

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