Stratford Trashion Week: Challenging the Status Quo

This article was written by Angela Brayham, Director & Curator of Gallery Stratford. Photos by William Riquelme taken at Gallery Stratford. The surrounding art installation, “Shifting Shelters” is by Vessna Pernovich.

I sat in her chair at the Green Hair Spa, scissors expertly moving around my head.  It was spring 2017. “So, I have this idea,” Jessika Guy blurted out.  Her voice was hesitant, questioning, but with obvious excitement. “I want to create a fashion show that focuses on recycled, repurposed, and environmentally sustainable fashion.  And I want it to be on Earth Day next year. Is that crazy?”

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We all have ideas, but what differentiates those that are truly creative from the rest of us, is the act of making our ideas and dreams come to life.  “A” fashion show, quickly grew into Stratford Trashion Week, April 15 – 21, 2018, a week-long celebration of eco-fashion with not one but three fashion shows, a clothing swap, lectures and workshops.  In many ways, Stratford Trashion Week was a natural, although ambitious extension of Guy’s existing business model. Her salon and spa in Downtown Stratford, promotes an environmentally friendly approach to beauty and haircare, Stratford Trashion Week brought together her commitment to the environment with her love of vintage and recycled fashion allowing her to focus attention on and celebrate Earth Week in a cool and creative way.

The line between fashion and art has always been blurred.  Gallery Stratford was the venue for the RE-FASHION show, the highlight and finale of the week long Trashion Week events in 2018.  Nine designers (Dar Cameron, Joan Chapple, Cathy Dawson, Lisa Hodgetts, Angie Keller, Melanie Kindrachuk, Tami MacDonald, Maaike Roosendaal, and Cassidy Sneddon) re-created stunning fashion from clothing items most of us would pass by at our local thrift or consignment store. The fashion show was performance, art, and a celebration of creative innovation and adaptive re-use.

Tasked with the difficult job of selecting a winning design, the judges (Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks, Dana Ruby Martin, William Riquelme, and Carrie Wreford) selected Joan Chapple’s dress.  The audience, invited to select a People’s Choice winner, agreed.

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Joan studied Fashion Design at Ryerson and has always merged her love of art and design, with her holistic lifestyle and yoga practice.  Her twin sister Claire, collaborated in designing Joan’s hair and make-up for the walk down the runway. Collaboration is an innate element of Joan and Claire’s relationship as sisters, business partners and founders of The Yoga Chapple, and best friends.  The work created for RE-FASHION had an element of androgynous futurism but at the same time was beautiful and feminine.  The designer creatively played with contradictions. Joan’s dress was at once playful and powerful, elegant and sexy. It could be read as a visual statement of the breakdown of gendered expectations and norms.

Not only did she successfully create something much bigger and more spectacular than the sum of the individual clothing parts that went into their creation, showing us that there is an exciting future for our discarded clothing items; but this work also spoke to issues underlying contemporary feminism.  The grey bodice with woven spine was almost reptilian and stood in sharp contrast to the flowing blush skirt. It was this juxtaposition of material and style that made this work so successful.

Stratford Trashion Week is looking for artists and designers for their 2019 series of events.  The RE-FASHION show will once again blur the lines between art and fashion at Gallery Stratford on April 20, 2019.  Visit for information on how to get involved.

The winning dress is now on display until December 30, 2018 at Gallery Stratford.