Tag Archives: vancouver alternative fashion week

MITMUNK: Not Your Average Legging


The local print clothing company Mitmunk first came to my attention when I was invited to participate in a fun photoshoot to promote their leggings.  I had never seen leggings like this before – covered in brightly coloured prints of chainmail and armour, transforming the wearer into a modern day medieval action figure.  In other words, these leggings were super rad.


At the recent VALT Fashion Week in November 2013, I had the opportunity to meet the faces behind Mitmunk, Wayne Elliott and Heather Joan Tam.  Since I was unfortunately unable to attend their fashion show at the event, they invited me to visit their studio and check out the stock up close.


Their homey studio, situated in the industrial area of East Van, consisted of a small showroom out front with a large storage space in the back.  My friend Jenn and I were treated to a teacup of hot toddy, again a first for me.  Over this cozy bit of whiskey goodness, Wayne told us the story of Mitmunk.


After many years in the video gaming industry as an artist and 3-D renderer in both the UK and Vancouver, Wayne decided to change direction and spent some time assisting a local designer who used a colour dye sublimation printer to create her fashion garments.  It was this printing technique that sparked the idea to create his own pieces inspired by his background in video gaming.

The sublimation process first starts with the pattern being designed on the computer, after which it is printed life-size onto thick stock paper.  This paper and the fabric are then both run through a sublimation printer, the heat of which converts the dye on the paper to a gas which diffuses onto the fabric and solidifies.  Traditionally this method had been used to produce banners and cycling wear, but Wayne brought it into the fashion arena with the production of his first pair of ‘anatomical’ leggings (see photo) which highlighted the musculature of the human leg.  After this first prototype, he expanded his designs to include chainmail armour and eventually bionic leggings.

It was at this time that his life partner, Heather, herself a multidisciplinary artist, became his business partner as well.  Together they showcased their creations at the local Blim Market, but it was their debut fashion show at the inaugural VALT Fashion Week in 2012 which catapulted their presence and attracted a fan base.  Over the past year, they have expanded their product line to include tank tops, tank dresses, tube tops, boy shorts, and have plans to branch out into outerwear.  They first started producing about twelve pieces at a time, and have had to keep increasing their batch sizes multi-fold to meet the increasing demand.  For the foreseeable future, they intend to keep sales solely online, but do have select pieces available at Ayden Gallery in downtown Vancouver.

I tried on a few of their pieces, including one of the bionic tank dresses.  This was done with great apprehension – a bodycon dress made of 100% stretchy material with zero forgiveness?  I had fearful visions of looking like a sausage squeezed into a slightly too small encasing.  Once I had it on however, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Although form fitting, the material was just the right degree of elasticity that it held everything in without squeezing the excess bits out the armholes, while also being incredibly comfortable and lightweight.  Not only that, the bionic pattern was both very cool and cleverly slimming – using strategic colour blocking and lines, the dress literally drew a flattering silhouette, including a shapely butt.  What more do you want in a dress??

Mitmunk’s sense of aesthetic is an obvious favourite amongst the cosplay and nerd/alternative demographic, but it is clear that there is also a much broader potential into everyday street wear, workout and athletic attire, etc.  Wear one of these leggings to a yoga class and you’re sure to be the coolest kid in the room.  I only see a bright future for this burgeoning company and will enjoy watching Mitmunk’s rise to the top of the fashion heap.  And if you’re wondering where the name Mitmunk comes from, as a little boy, Wayne would call a monkey “mitmunk”.  How adorable is that?

Photos of the 3 models in leggings by Jeff Kew Photography

Individual model photos by GrindDown Photography

Style by Fire photos + words by Aurora Chan

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The Scene at Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week 2013

Jacqueline Ryan as the ethereal host of VALT day 1: Utopia

Jacqueline Ryan as the ethereal host of VALT day 1: Utopia

VALT 2013-24

VALT 2013-28

Lead singer of Modern Limits

Pauline Lee, lead singer of Modern Limits

The display of Oculto Steam Masks

The display of Oculto Steam Masks

VALT 2013-20

Oculto Steam Mask designer Shay Lhea with a mysteriously masked VALT guest

VALT 2013-03

Dani Barnes of The Femstar Revolution (by The House of Barnes)

VALT 2013-25

VALT 2013-16

VALT’s founder, Kat Kozak!

Over the few days of VALT, a lot of fantastical, fun, beautiful, and dystopian styles happened on and off the runway. In this post, we bring you some of the best moments captured from the 2013 edition of Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week during artistic performances, music performances, and good ol’ behind the scenes fun.

We loved Jacqueline Ryan’s outfit by Shiverz Designs on Day 1 Utopia, performance artists who looked like they were tormented but done so beautifully, Pauline Lee, the daring lead singer of Modern Limits, Shay Lhea’s Oculto steam masks display, beautiful performances by The House of Barnes… and much more!

Can’t wait until the next edition of VALT. Because aren’t we lucky that Vancouver is alternative?

Photos by Aurora Chan

Words by Miranda Sam

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VALT Day 2: Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week – Dystopia

The second night of VALT continued the journey of futures from Utopia to Dystopia, a bleak and anarchist nightmare world full of human suffering without respite.  The swashbuckling Aaron Morris, VALT Model Coordinator and Event Host,  guided the audience through this show of darkness with a jovial wink.  This Dystopia doesn’t seem so bad!  At first, that is.

Shiverz Designs

Shiverz Designs is a local online business that specializes in designing fanciful accessories to decorate a woman’s head, including fascinators, hats, masquerade masks, jewelry, and feather hair clips.  It created an equally ornate collection of ensembles to coordinate with their accessories for the VALT runway, each one representing a different character.  There was the flirty burlesque dancer, the lady on the town, the femme fatale, and the elegant lady of the garden, to name a few.  Fantastical.

A.D Designs

A.D Clothing and Costume Design strives to push the boundaries of outerwear, creating costume jackets, vests, and pants to make a woman feel strong and empowered.  Inspired by the insanity and darkest feelings we hold locked up inside ourselves, the models hobbled down the runway in a state of mental mania, bound and restricted by the strappings of their attire.  The jackets represented a high fashion interpretation of the classic straitjacket and could almost be worn to the office….that is if you want to send a strong message to your boss!  Polished insanity.

Jillian Gray

The Art Institute of Vancouver graduate Jillian Gray chose to showcase her graduating collection for VALT, entitled “Slave to the Rhythm,” referring to the Grace Jones album with the same name.  Jones was the inspiration behind her designs with her iconic and androgynous presence.  The overall aesthetic and simple lines of Gray’s pieces struck very close to my heart.  I loved the monochromatic colours and strong lines, with the edginess and interest in the use of contrasting fabrics.  The masculine leather interplayed seamlessly with the softer feminine chiffon.  I would buy the entire collection if I could!  Amazing.

Oculto Steam Masks

Shay Lhea is the mastermind behind Oculto Steam Masks.  She strives to elevate the traditional notion of masks as being merely accessories to full-on disguises that enable the wearer to take on a different persona.  Each luxury piece of wearable art is given an elaborate character profile meant to help breathe life into them.  She designed and constructed a new collection specifically for VALT and the results were conceivably the most mature and honed evolution of her vision.

The models in uniform black business attire strutted down the runway while wielding a weapon specific to their character, ranging from an axe to brass knuckles.  They were given free reign to use their weapons to simulate acts of violence – they threatened the audience, slit their own throats, and slammed the baton on the runway.  The menace was all the more effective by the fact that the audience couldn’t see the models’ faces, but instead were face to face with an emotionless visage.  Darkly disturbing in a good way.

The fashion runway sets were interspersed with another magnetic dance performance by the House of Barnes x Celinski Productions, and the moody pseudo pop music of The Pink Pearl Dragon from Toronto, a return act from the debut VALT.  The world of Dystopia was twisted and tormented, and that has never felt so good.

Words + Photos by Aurora Chan

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VALT Day 1: Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week – Utopia

The Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week[End] (VALT) provides a platform to showcase the creativity of the local alternative fashion industry, bringing together fashion, art, music, dance, culture, and technology into a fully interactive experience over three nights of revelry.  After a highly successful debut in 2012, VALT was back bigger and better over the November 22nd weekend.  This year the theme revolved around the Post-Apocalypse, with three possible futures proceeding over the three consecutive nights – Utopia, Dystopia, and Techtopia.

Rococo Acid Candy

The first night was Utopia, representing the ideal future that is hopeful and optimistic, without any toil or suffering.  With the show hosted by the ethereal Jacqueline Ryan, the evening’s energy was immediately pumped up by the rousing dance performance by the amazing House of Barnes x Celinski Productions.  This was followed up by the equally arresting collection by Rococo Acid Candy.  A confection of colourful and playful creations traipsed down the runway, drawing the audience into the world of Willy Wonka and his sugar high.  Some of the gowns were made of multiple layers of newspaper, while others were downright delectable with jujubes and gum balls stuck onto the bodices.  A collection good enough to eat!


Having just been established in 2013 when the designer behind Zollection moved to Canada, the brand has already developed a very focused and polished vision.  Inspired by art dolls, the collection was a study in boho chic in its many variations and colours, with the models awkwardly stumbling down the runway like the rag dolls that they were.  The overall look with the fingerless gloves made me think of Pygmalion’s street girl Eliza Doolittle.  Beautiful.

Scheherazade Banoo

Scheherazade Banoo specializes in designing costumes for dancers, mainly in the tribal fusion belly dancing arena.  It created a collection of magnificent tribal headdresses for VALT and what can I say, it was jaw dropping.  Elegant and serene models in long robes glided out with crowd stopping art pieces perched on top of their heads, each one more elaborate than the last.  The last model came out on stilts!  And as if the sights weren’t enough, the designer herself was onstage throughout, serenading all of the models a cappella.  Breathtaking.

Milk Tea by Silent Kay

Kari Kanin

Skye Davies

Last but not least, Skye Davies is a local textile experimentalist who draws inspiration for her designs from nature and architectural forms.  Her cohesive collection revealed her innovative dyeing and fabric manipulation techniques, resulting in interesting textures and colour blending.  What I loved was that her pieces seemed very easy and comfortable to wear, flattering for all kinds of body types.  Lovely.

In between the runway sets, the audience was rocking to the tunes of the indie punk-pop band Modern Limits.  A band fronted by an Asian female with a Vidal Sassoon-like haircut, hells yeah!

VALT’s world of Utopia was exuberant and gorgeous; Style by Fire couldn’t wait for more!

Photos + Words by Aurora Chan

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