Alberta’s PARK gives major boost to State’s fashion industry, designers

It can come as a surprise to many residing outside of Alberta which Wild Rose Country is actually a thriving hub of style and style, thanks in no small part to the efforts of grassroots organization PARK. Short for Marketing Arts Redefining Kulture, PARK was set in 2008 by president Kara Chomistek and vice president Jessie Li. Inspired by the Los Angeles yard sales held by party photographer the Cobrasnake, both decided to arrange a market in the University of Calgary where 50 or so designers, artists and manufacturers from throughout the state gathered to sell their wares. “It was an ideology and an idea and understanding of how we can keep creative talent in the home,” states Chomistek.

Nine decades later, PARK has expanded into a fulltime operation for Chomistek, an engineer, and Li, an accountant. The organization hosts multiple events each year, such as PARKLuxe, ticketed runway shows featuring established designer labels like Paul Hardy and Narces, PARKShow, a three-day market, food-truck festival and runway event, and PARKForum, a series of seminars and workshops geared towards educating young creatives. ” “We are really trying to educate them that this is the job, this is a company, it is not simply a passion today,” says Li.

To further support the industrial side of running a fashion label, an important element of PARK’s mandate is that the shop-the-runway model, an approach they found in 2011. “It’s far more concrete when there’s really transactions taking place,” states Chomistek. In August, they started PARKStore, a retail area at Edmonton’s Londonderry Mall where buyers can store designs by a assortment of Canadian labels at varying price points, such as House of Nonie, Coutu Kitsch and Gypsy Soul.

It is a version that has bolstered the career of 24-year-old designer Spencer Badu of S.P. Badu. He dipped his toe into fashion about six decades ago as a PARK volunteer. While S.P. Badu has ever benefitted from organic buzz, the designer’s time working with PARK taught him that the nitty-gritty of running a label. “People kind of realized, OK, he’s growing, he is paying attention to detail, he isn’t just showing up with a rack of clothing,” he says. “It helped me become who I am now.”

Up for PARK is the introduction of Otahpiaaki x PARK Indigenous Fashion Week, running from Sept. 17 to 23 in partnership with Calgary’s Mount Royal University. The celebration of native beauty, style and style goes beyond the runway as a gesture of reconciliation, fitting characteristically with PARK’s unconventional approach. “We definitely do not claim to be an incubator and we do not claim to be a fashion week,” Chomistek states. “We’re really focusing on providing people with a base of support{}”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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