Fashion Forward

Jamal Abdourahman talks style, global and local

Jamal Abdourahman

Jamal Abdourahman, founder of Vancouver Fashion Week, immigrated to Canada from Djibouti in 1990. Landing first in Toronto, he moved to Vancouver in 1993. From then, he went from running fashion shows at nightclubs and warehouses to owning his own clothing store to jet-setting his way around the world’s fashion capitals to launching the first Vancouver Fashion Week in 2001.

Since its launch, this rapidly growing fashion event has become an opportunity for local and international designers to reach global markets, the fashion media and industry buyers. Throughout the year, Abdourahman travels the world, helping to draw attention to Vancouver Fashion Week and the designers who show there.

He recently launched a new endeavour, the Global Fashion Collective, in Tokyo and New York. We recently spoke with him about the hallmarks of fashion in the cosmopolitan city of Vancouver and what the future holds for Vancouver Fashion Week.

“The future has only just started, as Vancouver is becoming a global city.”

What are some of the influences that shape the Vancouver fashion scene?

Vancouver is on the west coast, so athleisure and outerwear are big: people put comfort over high fashion. But there is a big street style fashion scene, and a big underground art scene — just like in every other city. There are always small underground cultures from music to film, and also we have a lot of Asia–Pacific communities that reside here. There’s a big Chinese community, and large Korean and Japanese communities. The Chinese community used to be from Hong Kong and Taiwan; now in the last 15 years it’s more people from mainland China moving here.

If you were to describe Vancouver fashion in a few words what would you say?

It’s a more understated, individual style. It’s not really uniform. You see some places are so uniform — people follow the same trends and everybody wears the same thing. Dominant colours here are grey, green and black, as a reflection of the weather. We’re surrounded by nature, so leisure and athletic wear play a strong role here. That is why we have big companies coming out of Vancouver, such as Arc’teryx and Lululemon.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the Global Fashion Collective?

The Global Fashion Collective is the extension of Vancouver Fashion Week. Our clients enjoyed coming to Vancouver from London, Tokyo, Berlin, Copenhagen and Peru, and they also wanted to have the same platform in the Big Four cities [New York, Tokyo, Paris and London]. Tokyo is now my favourite fashion week, so we started with Tokyo and through the Global Fashion Collective, we’re serving our clients and supporting young Canadian designers with our global platform. Japanese designers are also showing with us in Tokyo as a part of the Global Fashion Collective. So far we have done New York and Tokyo.

What are some of the achievements you are most proud of?

I think just having that platform where we now have about 25 young designers who are building their brands online and selling. They have just started focusing on their own brands and we are looking at having those brands become independent and sell globally in the next four or five years.

What does the future hold for the show?

The future has only just started, as Vancouver is becoming a global city. We will continue to grow Vancouver Fashion Week and also continue to grow the Global Fashion Collective in the Big Four cities. Two are done, and there are two more to go — Paris and London are on the way next year.

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