This Vancouver Fashion Week event flaunts designs by Downtown Eastside women

Enterprising Women Making Art hits the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week

Five women living and making art on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside will be featured tonight (Oct. 9) as part of Vancouver Fashion Week.

The women are all part of Enterprising Women Making Art, an self-employment initiative of Atira Women’s Resource Society for women facing significant barriers to traditional employment who are looking for a safe way to make money.

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“The genesis of the program was that we had a handful of tenants who were gifted artists,” said Janice Abbott, CEO of Atria, adding that one of the women made beautiful lace tablecloths and placemats, while another was a talented beader.

They were also struggling with substance abuse and “would make these beautiful pieces of art and sell them for next to nothing on the street,” Abbott said.

The idea behind Enterprising Women Making Art (EWMA), which started in 2002, was to create a marketplace where the women could sell their wares for a fair price. The program consists of a maker studio where women can practise and create, as well as a small store where they can sell.

The studio also hosts peer-led classes and workshops around specific kinds of crafts or art.

Over the years, Abbott said, many of the women have come to treat it like a job.

“It's a way to be out of their eight by 10 rooms to be interacting with other women to be doing something that they love. And so they'll come and spend four, six hours a day in the studio and it gets them out of their SRO.”

She added that the money some of the participants are able to make through selling their creations can make a big difference in their lives.

“[It’s] the difference between being able to get your haircut, or having protein in your diet, or maybe being able to afford a slightly better place to live,” she said, adding that it also creates a community of women who work together.

EWMA first got involved with Vancouver Fashion Week in 2015 as a not-for-profit partner, and every year several of the women have their designs featured.

This year, five will have their creations grace the VFW runway:

  • Laurie – a ceramic jewelry designer and who has submitted all of the jewelry for the runway.
  • Karen – is a multidisciplinary artist and has two dresses, two tops and two scarves walking in this year’s runway.
  • Annette – is new the EWMA studio and has submitted a fantastical blue mermaid look to the runway.
  • Amanda – is a new artist to the EWMA studio and has submitted a wondrous coral mermaid look.
  • Sri – is an accessories designer and has some bathing suit bottoms, a tube-top, and some other accessories walking the runway.

Vancouver Fashion Week runs until Oct. 13. EWMA is featured in Wednesday night’s show, which starts at 5 p.m. at David Lam Hall.

For a full schedule of events visit


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