Winnipeg fashion showcases diversity

Modelling reallness on the Red River Mutual Trail

Kathleen Gabriel, a model for Fashion on Ice, practices posing at Kildonan Park.

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

As fashion becomes more accessible, indie designers and amateur models have found a place on the Winnipeg scene.

Ashlee Snell, designer and owner of SmashKnitsCo, will contribute her knitwear to Le Défilé Sur Glace (Fashion on Ice) for the third year this February.

“Events like Fashion on Ice are such a great opportunity for local designers to have the ability to showcase what they are doing to the community, so I love being a part of it,” she says.

Fashion on Ice makes The Forks’ skating trail into a runway, showing off local designs as part of Festival du Voyageur.

Snell says the everyday person isn’t going to be interested in high fashion runway looks, but a show like Fashion on Ice allows people to embrace winter and envision themselves in the more wearable styles of the season.

“This event makes winter fashion more accessible to the general public,” Snell says. 

In Fashion On Ice, professional models walk the runway alongside amateur models. This year’s show includes students, a nanny and a physiotherapist. 

“It’s really cool that they use diverse body types, different ages, different genders,” Snell says.

Teri Hofford, Winnipeg-based boudoir photographer and body positivity activist, regularly helps her subjects shed their inhibitions and see themselves in a new light. 

After keeping an eye on Hofford’s work, Kathleen Gabriele responded to a casting call.

“I was really surprised that I kind of fit the criteria of what she was looking for,” Gabriele says.

Gabriele, owner and operator of a home cleaning company, says she was hesitant to step in front of the camera at first.

“I was pretty nervous, because, I mean, I have two daughters. After having my second one, my weight had never really gone back down,” she says.

Seeing more diversity in models helps Gabriele re-frame the way she sees herself, she says.

“In a way, it kind of makes me sad that the media has that much effect on the way we feel about ourselves,” Gabriele says. 

At age 35, she feels she has figured herself out, but worries about her daughters only seeing one body type showcased in fashion shows and photography.

“I really would like if my girls could grow up and be more confident about themselves in that way,” she says. “I don’t want them to worry so much about that stuff. I hope they have better options to look up to than I did.”

After seeing Gabriele’s photos on Facebook, one of her daughters asked if she was a model.

“I’d feel good about considering myself that,” she says.

Expanding the idea of what it means to be a model would be a positive thing for the self-esteem of consumers, she says. 

Though she feels accessible fashion is a fairly new idea, she hopes the trend continues.

Fashion On Ice is free and takes place Feb. 19 at 4 p.m. on the Red River Mutual Trail at The Forks.

Published in Volume 71, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 26, 2017)

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