Jamal Abdourahman has been at the helm of Vancouver Fashion Week (AKA, VFW) since its inception. Now, twenty-six successful seasons later, Abdourahman and the VFW team are gearing up for the twenty-seventh, where they will feature a week of divergent fashion: global and local, womens and menswear, the established and the emerging, and it all kicks off on Monday.

So who is Jamal Abdourahman? After founding VFW in 2001, Abdourahman’s hard work and distinctive eye for fashion makes the answer quite simple: one of the most important men in Canadian fashion. Channeling diversity and authenticity, Abdourahman has generated a stellar lineup of incredible and loyal designers from both around the globe and locally.

We sat down with the man, the myth, the legend for a quick chat about the upcoming season and extraordinary vision of Vancouver Fashion Week that rivals that of the ‘Big 4’ fashion cities of the world— so much so, that we think it’s safe to predict the ‘Big 5’ will be entering mainstream vocabulary quite soon.


Congratulations on 27 seasons! What’s the biggest difference between this season and the first?

Thank you! I’d have to say the biggest difference between now and then is the magnitude of it all. We have grown exponentially – a massive increase in the designers we feature, the media coverage we receive globally, and most importantly, the growth of the young, local designers who have been with us since the beginning. It’s been incredible to watch them develop, and though now they are much more established, they loyally return each season. We’re proud to have been an integral part of their journey.

Do you anticipate any themes, styles or designs to dominate this VFW season?

There is going to be a bit of everything. Vancouver Fashion Week is one of the only shows that brings in designers from over thirty different countries, so there is going to be a very broad range.

What sets aside Vancouver Fashion Week from the other existing fashion weeks around the globe?

After the ‘Big 4,’ Vancouver Fashion Week is the largest in the world. While we also focus on the local Canadian designers, VFW is also very much so a global production, an international festival of fashion. And thanks to Vancouver’s location in the world, with close proximity to Japan, Korea and China, we are referred to as the ‘Gateway to Asia’ in the fashion community. We have brilliant designers coming in from such countries and our local designers are fostering relationships with Asian buyers and media as well.

Who are the top five designers we should be keeping an eye out for?

Alex S. Yu is always a VFW favourite. He creates colourful pieces that walk a fine line between reality and fantasy. He trained at Blanche Macdonald Centre in Vancouver and at London College of Fashion

Olivia Rubens can be described as conceptual, employing unorthodox approaches to knits and screen-printing. She pushes beyond the confines of ‘normal’ wearability, but maintains a delicate balance in the tactile quality of her work.

44511234 is all about celebrating the ultimate freedom and the brand employs a non-restrictive rule design, bursting with colour, texture and fun.

Danny Reinke’s collections are rich in textural detail and opulent silhouettes. The materials used in his collections are made by hand in a sustainable and sensible way from his Berlin studio and inspiration stems from his childhood spent in a small fishing village.

Gabrielab, designed by Brazil’s Gabriela Braga, was born from a love of colour and knitwear, and is created using high tech machinery with supple yarns. The result is exclusive jacquards and unique prints.

Vancouver Fashion Week takes place from the 14th – 10th of March at the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 

Words: Jennie Neufeld

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