Published on November 1st, 2016 | by Craig Silliphant


Saskatoon Fashion and Design Festival – Fall Event

The Saskatoon Fashion and Design Festival is hosting a fall event this weekend at the Delta Bessborough. It features designers, a marketplace, and much more.


The Saskatoon Fashion and Design Festival is an amazing local event that has been creating further fashion literacy in Saskatoon for half a decade. Now they’re expanding to do a fall event, November 5th and 6th at the Delta Bessborough. The weekend will feature fashion shows, a marketplace, speakers, workshops, a 5-year anniversary party, 15 local designers, and more.

I interviewed the organizers, Saskatoon Fashion and Design Festival Co-Founders and Directors, Jacqueline Conway and Mandy Pravda, two sharp, hard-working women that are developing a sustainable fashion industry in Saskatchewan. I got a chance to ask them about the festival and fashion in Saskatchewan, organizations that set a lot of world trends, and how being local plays into all of that.

THE FEEDBACK SOCIETY: Why did you guys start the festival in the first place?

JACQUELINE CONWAY: It all started when a small group of us got together at The Broadway Roastery six years ago and had a dream about building a fashion hub for Saskatoon. We recognized that there wasn’t a current market for local designers to come together to thrive in by showcasing and making their collections accessible to purchase, at the time there [weren’t] many fashion designers here in YXE, also having a level of platform would help grow their portfolios to apply and show in other major markets. We wanted to grow the community and build awareness about shopping local. We wanted to create opportunities from pop up shops, film screenings to high end production runway shows, and also to create an experience that was not only about fashion but about music, theater, art and other mediums. We wanted Saskatoon to shine. We wanted to build a culture.


(Photo: Jacqueline Conway)

TFS: What are the challenges to running a fashion and design festival in Saskatoon?

MANDY PRAVDA: As with any organizations, challenges do occur, for SFDF the biggest challenge when we started was there [weren’t] many fashion designers in Saskatchewan. This was due to the lack of resources to develop a brand and company within the fashion industry. This no longer the case! Many designers have chosen to create collections and develop businesses in Saskatchewan. Acquiring public funding to assist with the costs of putting on fashion events has been a tremendous challenge. Organizations like Creative Saskatchewan or the Saskatchewan Arts Board generally do not support fashion designers or organizations. As a result, we’ve relied on our sponsors and self generated revenue to maintain our organization, which is entirely volunteer run.


(Photo: Mandy Pravda)

TFS: Why did you decide to do a fall event?

JC: Fall fashion is fabulous. We have been showing spring collections for five years and with this being our big anniversary year we wanted to change the format and focus. We also did market research that showed fall to be a higher selling time. By moving the festival [to a] high end show we could then offer a greater opportunity for designers and artisans to sell their work.

TFS: Why did you feel it was important to include both men’s and women’s fashion in this event?

MP: Quite simply because men love fashion too! Men these days take pride in being able to show their personal style and have become more fashion aware. Having minimal places for them to shop we feel it’s important to show just how many great boutiques are right here in Saskatchewan for them to access. In recent years, designers are now creating amazing men’s pieces, like Melissa Squire, and we can’t wait to show them off!

TFS: It’s a bit of a joke with my wife and I, that the things we see when we’re shopping in New York, that we won’t see that stuff here in Saskatoon for at least two years.

JC: We are always a tad behind here in the prairies! With that said, when we started the festival five years ago we did something no one else was doing — we showed spring fashion IN SPRING! Globally, fashion is always shown a season ahead to give time for buyers to order and designers to create. We wanted our fashion to be relevant, and now five years later, New York City and the rest of the world [are] catching on to see the importance of showing a season, in the season. We were cutting edge and didn’t even know it at the time.

TFS: What do you think of trend forecasters like WGSN?   Do you think by using a company like WGSN we run into the danger of turning paying attention to trend forecasting into just dictating style, making too much fashion homogeneous?

MP: Following trends and research in any industry is important and often times can confirm what you are seeing in front of you. For example, in a digital focused world people are seeking authenticity — enter Snapchat and its record-breaking growth. When it comes to fashion, trend forecasters are interesting animals — they are predicting what people will want to wear up to three years down the road. Designers and brands have the decision to follow forecasting closely or design what feels natural to them, but interestingly group consciousness can happen.

JC:  When I was a fashion student in Montreal we had access to international trend forecasts. It was fascinating how the works we were creating as students had nuances that fell into the forecasts without seeing the trends before we began designing. A classmate of mine designed a high-low skirt and one year later they were everywhere! For designers, yes, they should be aware of global shifts, tastes, and trends, but its their prerogative how to breathe life into trends to create something relevant and unique. Consumers will ultimately see the trends, take them or leave them, and create their style language. Like it or not, we are all stylists!

TFS: How does having great local designers affect local trends?  Especially considering that a smaller designer probably can’t afford a service like WGSN.

JC: Designers who create the actual clothes, not necessarily the trends, we have seen many amazing street trends that designers have then used to inspire their collections but having local established designers allow a unique fashion style to immerse in our community. Each region around the world has their own flare and style while again still keeping the overall era feel. Having our local designers create and promote their personal style allows the opportunity for locals to express themselves in way that match our climate, events, personalities that we may not be able to have otherwise. If all designs came from a place like Central America, we would be pretty cold in the winter months!

TFS: I saw there will be a marketplace a the weekend event. How much product will be available for purchase?

MP: There will be over 15 different shops within our marketplace that will offer an array of products from handbags, jewelry, men’s and woman’s wear, and more. There is definitely something for everyone, also with Christmas around the corner it makes for great shopping to be able to purchase something unique and local, and we are all about supporting local!

TFS: I know it’s hard to choose, but if there’s one designer or portion of the weekend we shouldn’t miss — what would that be?

JC: Honestly, that is an unanswerable question! Each designer is unique and has their own style, all collections are well made, in fashion and diverse! We are offering a festival package at a discount so supporters are able to purchase tickets to both shows and our fifth year anniversary party so any one collection will not be missed, nor will you miss the chance to celebrate with us! Depending on your own personal style one collection may become your favorite, but that will be left up to you to decide!

TFS: That’s actually a pretty good answer, haha. Anything I’ve missed? What else is happening we should touch on?

MP: We have implemented a conference to the festival this season. By providing workshops and knowledge sharing opportunities we can expect that the fashion industry will benefit and grow by collaborating and educating in areas such as marketing, branding, merchandising, reputation management, business development, hands on model and photography workshops, and networking. We have many professionals right here in Saskatoon that have now grown to have international reputations and businesses. We want to provide the opportunity for them to share and pass on the knowledge to up and coming designers, models, photographers and entrepreneurs who can then thrive and expand their own dreams.

Main topics will be in Marketing, PR, Communications, Merchandising and Entrepreneurship. Focusing on business development in areas such as ‘How to build an international network,’ ‘Why a cohesive brand is important,’ ‘How to manage your online reputation’ and ‘The importance of communications’; this is a weekend that is open to all professionals who want to expand their knowledge in marketing.

This conference will benefit everyone, including those in a firm or own your own business, photography, creative industry, event industry, music industry or fashion industry. Also featured is a day for designers, boutiques, models and photographers to advance their knowledge and business by established stylists, merchandisers, photographers, modeling agencies and business owners. We are proud to introduce our international speaker’s series during our Marketing Business Development as well as Fashion Industry Development workshops at the Delta Bessborough Hotel.


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is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, editor, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.

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