Asia to Edgemont: fashion designer embraces lucky hue

Fashion designer Grandy C. is seeing red for her latest collaboration.

The Edgemont Village area resident was chosen to create a vibrant piece which was premiered Tuesday by Miss Chinese Vancouver at the kickoff for the upcoming LunarFest celebrations in Vancouver.

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For her couture design, Grandy drew inspiration from the fusion-style paintings, specifically cockscomb still life, created by Italian missionary and 18th-century Chinese court painter Giuseppe Castiglioni.

The dress holds the classic silhouette of a feminine gown, with texture and embellishments to mirror the unique fur-like blossoms found on the cockscomb flower.

“When I first saw Castiglioni’s still life of the cockscomb, the dress came to me right away,” explains Grandy, who last year viewed some Castiglioni’s work housed at the National Palace Museum of Taiwan.

“The design not only takes on the physical characteristics of a flower in its texture and form, but also seeks to express this idea of unexpected combinations – in art, fashion, and culture.”

The cockscomb is considered an auspicious flower in Chinese culture due to its resemblance to the chicken – an animal prized for its punctuality and work ethic, says Grandy. This flower is often gifted to celebrate career accomplishments.

“The other definite draw for me was to accentuate the colour red,” adds Grandy. “Any celebratory occasions in Chinese culture is marked by a sea of red – red decor, red clothing, red foods. It was definitely important for me to carry that over into the entire dress.”

In breaking down the design process, Grandy reveals the development phase took a few days of research and sketching, “then the fun begins with the construction of the dress.”

Because it is a couture gown, the majority of the dress is actually hand sewn. Some 250 dyed feathers are attached to the crepe-based bodice by hand. The skirt is made from eight layers of hand-pleated organza in red and burgundy, finished with more than 70 feet of fur-trim attached also by hand.

All in it took Grandy and her team more than 100 hours to complete the dress.

The pairing of a second couture piece designed by Grandy – an inner dress shirt with a hand-embroidered, gem-studded Mandarin collar – evokes traditional Chinese dress elements, while its green tones call to the lush, tubular stems of the plant.

“This is a bit of a signature look for us – pairing a dress shirt with a strapless garment,” explains Grandy.  “It’s a look we first tested on the runway of Tokyo Fashion Week, and it was a wild success.”

The dress will be on display at Oakridge Centre until Feb. 19 inside a box that Grandy designed based on the pop art interpretation of the chinoiserie style, which lends to the narrative of east-west exchange.

A chinoiserie, or a “thing of chinoise,” first became a European decor style in the 17th century, after traders discovered the art of the Orient.

For this Oakridge LunarFest exhibit, Grandy is excited to partner with the National Palace Museum of Taiwan.

“It’s a place I’ve visited before, and despite the turbulent 20th century of Chinese history, they were able to preserve some of the finest Chinese historical and artistic artifacts,” says Grandy. “It’s very special to be able to access their collection up close in this project.”

LunarFest, a legacy event of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, showcases contemporary expression in Asian arts and culture, while fostering collaborations between Canadian and international artists and institutions.

The Year of the Pig will be feted with several cultural events around Vancouver for the next two weeks, including the presentation of An Accident of Love musical at The Centre, and a Coastal Lunar Lantern installation at Jack Poole Plaza.

Trained as a classical pianist and graduating from Simon Fraser University with a business degree, Grandy pursued a career in the finance industry.

Her experiences in a regimented office environment led her to explore alternative career paths, so she turned to one of her longtime passions of dressmaking.

In 2013, Grandy started making one dress a week, and launched ADressAWeek.com to blog about her journey.

Her early exposure to art and music history leads Grandy to draw much of her creative inspiration from the stories and history of great art.

Grandy’s bespoke designs have received global attention, including on the pages of Vogue U.K. and Forbes U.K., as well as on the red carpet at the Academy Awards and Cannes Film Festival.

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