By Brittany Rudyck
EDMONTON – Edmonton may not be the first place that springs to mind when it comes to high fashion. The small pockets of designers, models, make-up and hair stylists who contribute to the scene want to change that perception. The Ethno Fashion Gala not only prides itself on celebrating diversity within Edmonton’s fashion community, but promoting an environmentally sustainable approach to style.
“I felt a bit of a gap with some of the shows that do exist around town,” explains founder and fashion designer Daniel Muthui.
“I wanted to do a show that was diverse and reflected the talents and skillsets from different parts of the world in terms of culture, ethnicity, styles and ideas. The overall theme of this show is the celebration of culture, beauty and diversity through fashion, music and the arts.”
Muthui began his career in fashion design in Nairobi, Kenya after going through a few challenges in his pursuit of education.
“I never planned on getting into fashion,” Muthui admits.
“It sort of happened by default. I became a designer in Nairobi for several years and when I moved to Canada in 2009 I went to school to study politics, history and economics, which is the exact opposite of fashion and creativity.
I got back into it in 2015 when I made my wife a dress from some fabric I had from Kenya. She sent a picture to her friends and I began building a client base from there.”
After a successful first year, the gala has expanded to the Boyle Street Plaza to accommodate a growing team and interest in what the event has to offer. The two day event boasts 20 local designers including hair and make up artists contributing hair pieces and more to each clothing designer’s interpretation of the overall theme. Muthui’s vision for the show is to go beyond simply profiling clothing. At the time of our interview, there was still work to be done in deciding which musicians would be performing at the show, but he wants hip-hop, Bollywood dance, traditional African drumming and more to be represented. His passion for supporting local art is the biggest centrepiece of the gala.
“I want this show to encourage the public to consume locally,” he says.
“To buy clothing from local designers as a form of resistance against fast fashion and fashion being made elsewhere in the world. We want to change the view of fashion. Localize it and make it more of a celebration of art.”
With the support of local MC College, Muthui seems optimistic about where this event could potentially grow in coming years. As long as the designers are happy, he feels this could become a staple in Edmonton.
“We have tremendous talent in this city,” Muthui says, beaming.
“Really gifted people. But many are hidden. It seems a lot of existing platforms are out of reach for the marginalized performers or designers. I want this to work for them; I want them to have a platform so people know their name.”
The Ethno Fashion Gala takes place May 4 and 5 at Boyle Street Plaza (Edmonton). Tickets are available via Eventbrite. (https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/ethno-fashion-gala-tickets-42017297869?aff=es2)Boyle Street Plaza, Ethno Fashion Gala