Saskatchewan·Opinion

Sask Fashion Week is here. So what is Sask fashion?

With Saskatchewan Fashion Week upon us, Melissa Fiacco muses on what defines our province's sense of style.

Street style in the province is a myriad of looks

Models strut their stuff at Saskatchewan Fashion Week 2013. (Alex Honey)

Fashion has never been ingrained in Saskatchewan's identity.

Saskatchewanians are a practical brand of people, born from our Indigenous and agricultural roots. Survival was dependent upon resourcefulness.

Saskatchewan is recognized for its robust agricultural production and impassioned football fandom. We are salt-of-the-earth kind of people, humble, hard working and generous, but we are not labelled as fashion icons.

In Saskatchewan, fashion is often perceived as elitist and shameful, only for those who have so much disposable income that they can dive into their gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.

An important distinction needs to be made: fashion and style are not mutually exclusive. Style is interpretive and it does not discriminate. Style does not imply expensive fashion labels and uncomfortable fit. Style is an expression of self and it is translated in the garments you choose to wear.

Some common threads

Street style in Saskatchewan is a myriad of looks.

There's the Dad look, most commonly seen in the corporate workplace, which pairs pleated khaki pants (often one inch too short) with a Fit Bit and a golf shirt that was likely the prize for longest putt in a golf tournament from four years ago. Sometimes he pairs his Fit Bit with a cell phone belt holster if he's all business. You know this look. You've seen it while biting into a perogy from Baba's Food Spot on City Square Plaza during your lunch break.

Then we have the confident women wearing a strapless electric turquoise polyester number from Giant Tiger's nightclub collection. She can be seen anywhere and she walks with the confidence of Beyonce. Yaasss Queen! Confidence is the core of style.

It's OK to want to look good

Saskatchewan designer Becki Bitternose has had her work, such as the jacket shown here, showcased on runways in New York. (Peter Scoular)

In recent years we've experienced the emergence of fashion in Saskatchewan, a throwback to the era of tailored garments and thoughtfully matched accessories, worn by every class of people.

This fashion re-emergence was lead by the creation of Saskatchewan Fashion Week (SFW) in 2012. It challenged our province to discover the local retailers in our communities, like Coda & Cade, T + A Vinyl and Fashion, and Colin O'Brian Man's Shoppe and to experiment with our style.

We were finally being given permission to wear something other than pajama pants to Walmart. You should never wear pajama pants to Walmart, or anywhere outside of the house, ever. You don't have time to put on pants that weren't designed as sleepwear?

It's not bougie to care about your appearance. Don't @ me.

SFW shows offs Sask. style

When SFW announced it would be introducing an annual provincial celebration of fashion and creative entrepreneurship, the concept was mocked with cynical commentary. I was a founding member of SFW and vetted the comments on social media so I learned how fashion in Saskatchewan was perceived by those who call this place home.

People sarcastically quipped that SFW goers could expect to see a collection of Canadian tuxedos, jean jackets paired with jeans, on the runway alongside the cargo short and tube sock look, which makes the statement, "I have a receptacle for every item on my person but I like to be casual about it."

Saskatchewan designer Hillary Ryder (centre) accompanies models wearing her clothes. Ryder's work has appeared at SFW in the past. (Hillary Ryder Designs/Facebook)

SFW attracts some of the most stylish people in Saskatchewan wearing garments that are impeccably curated. I think it's because the spirit of the event gives them permission to experiment with trends, patterns, and textures. These people aren't only stylish during SFW, but this is when they are most visible because they all assemble there.

Saskatchewan doesn't have a distinct fashion identity, but part of our style is stepping up for each other in the darkest moments, like we experienced during the Humboldt tragedy. That look is timeless.

Editor's note: The author dedicates this column to Jeannie Straub, who was a founding member of Saskatchewan Fashion Week. Her absence will be felt deeply at the events this year.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ

About the Author

Melissa Fiacco is a public relations and communications strategist in Regina, Sask. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaBrie.

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