I  haven't done an eco-Wednesday post for a while. So it seemed a good time to highlight another great designer from Vancouver Eco Fashion Week (EFW).    

Dahlia Drive is interesting to me on two accounts.    

  1. A very pretty femine line of upcycled designs. 
  2. A story of career re- invention after 40...

This post is longer than usual, but I wanted to include a Q&A with Wendy, in addition to a review of her runway show. 

The EFW Runway Show 

I found her line  full of feminine and unique pieces.  Many of her pieces had a real whimsy and a sense of humour.  As I watched the show I didn't realize the designs were made from upcycled materials.  And I would never have realized except to read her bio information after the show.   Her designs are made from pre-loved slips, shirts and fabric remnants, which she resurrects by hand dying, screen printing, embellishing and using rusting techniques to create original pieces of wearable art.  

There was also a great pink felt wrist band from her in my media kit.  It adds a fun punch of colour to casual outfits.  And it is so soft.  Wendy made the felt from a white blanket and then dyed it pink.  But I digress.... some of my favourites from her runway show...   

Dahlia Drive Eco Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2011

Dahlia Drive Eco Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2011

Dahlia Drive Eco Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2011

Dahlia Drive Eco Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2011

Dahlia Drive Eco Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2011

Q&A with  Wendy Van Riesen - Dahlia Drive

 Q. Who Do you Design For? 

 Me mostly. The slip evokes intimacy, transparency, subliminal meaning, beauty, foundational layer, female form, reproduction, a thresh hold to deeper meaning. I expand on these ideas into visual concepts and then create the means to print or paint them. People seem to resonate with the stories so I make more!  

 Those that buy my slip dresses and kimonos tend to be women wanting to make a personal statement and attracted to the idea that their piece is completely unique to them.  

Q. What is inspiration behind your current line? 

There are three; One is a giant nest with eggs in it which I place at the ovaries on the dress: reproduction, warmth, nurturing and a home of new life on a skimpy piece of nylon. Two is a giant tree where the trunk leads down to the legs and our legs become the roots. This image is on kimonos and my new tunic dresses too. Three are giant polka dots on bubble dresses and kimonos. Why? I love polka dots and have always used them. Now they are bigger. 

Q. Where do you source your materials? 

Second hand stores and textile warehouses where clothing is sorted as a commodity to send all over the world. 

Q. What challenges do you find working with existing materials and designing pieces that will fit men and women in all shapes and sizes? 

Men's shirts have been very challenging size wise so I will probably leave that market. Slips come in all sizes and I use the history of each piece to inform what I do to it. I have now ventured into using curtains to sew garments in all sizes and then print on them sculpturally much the same as I do with the slips. 

Q. What is dying processes do you use? 

I mostly use rust to stain and natural vat dyes to create organic colours. Brighter colours are created by painting or printing on paper with disperse dyes. the paper can be recycled and reused/repainted. 

Aside - For the DIYers out there, check out the link on Wendy's Website on how to use Kool-Aid to dye your clothes. 

 Q. Where are you designs sold? 

In my studio right now. But plans are to increase my scope to Twigg and Hottie, Starfire Gallery and other small shops in Vancouver as soon as I come back from the One of a Kind Spring show in Toronto. Up to now, I have mostly done trade shows and Portobello West. I might be there in April and May!   

Q&A with  Wendy Van Riesen - Re-inventing her career.

Q. When did you decide you wanted to design and leave your acting career?

I had been dissatisfied for awhile with the performing business but I had found it was a good match as the primary caregiver. I could work occasionally in film and t.v. and make good money but still take my kids with me. As my children grew, I knew I needed to find more satisfaction in my work when my kids became teenagers and no longer looked to me for primary guidance, influence. Our family bought a boat and sailed it to Alaska in 2001 and on that journay my husband and I could see our children were growing beyond us, that we would continue on together after they left home and that I was going to start something new. Design was not even in the picture.

Q. Why re-invent yourself in mid life?

The cathartic moment was realizing that my full time parenting job was ending, that in the midst of that job I had changed and was not interested in what I had been before and that in order to take the energy I had invested in my family and put it into something else I needed to uncover another passion.

Q. Why did you decide to go back to school first? Versus diving right in.

I looked around and saw needles and looms and dyes and fabric and a spinning wheel and I sewed a lot, made lots of things for my kids, scarves for friends, dyed with kelp, rubbed petroglyphs, knitted with kelp; the Capilano textile course felt like the right place. School gave me confidence and the ability to identify my strengths as an artist. I wouldn`t be doing what I am doing without it.

Q. Advice for any women who are considering making a drastic change in their careers after 40?

 Dream big and jump in. The risk is exhilarating and you will feel young again if you avoid mirrors.

More information on Dahlia Drive can be found on dahliadrive.com.  Or you can check out this video of her appearance on Urban Rush.


Source:  Thanks to Alexis Hinde for the use of a few of her photos. The rest are mine.