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Haute stuff in Spud Valley

New Pemberton designers Earth and Elle announce themselves in a stylish way



Balmain is a Parisian haute couture fashion house known for its elite visionary look; its founder Pierre Balmain was part of France's fashion renaissance after the Second World War.

A link between this setter of trends and a new fashion house in Pemberton may seem unlikely, but thanks to Chic Sheets, a competition during Eco Fashion Week, the village's Earth and Elle created a dress worthy of Balmain.

Rachelle Love, who started Earth and Elle with her partner Elliott Fromowitz this year, sewed and embroidered a ball gown for Chic Sheets inspired by 1950s Balmain and created using sheets from the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver.

She had just over three weeks to put the dress together and said it was a challenge because she'd never made a dress like it before. She said she tried to keep the high standards of Balmain in mind.

"It was amazing. It was my first fashion show," said the 20-year-old designer.

"The sheets go through quality control... they gave them to eight designers, who also got a dye kit to work with. It's Balmain's 70th anniversary this year, so they were the theme."

The resulting dresses, all from different eras, were shown off on the catwalk during Eco Fashion Week and are now on display at Pacific Centre Mall in Vancouver. The public can vote for their favourite garment online until April 30.

Love is self-taught and has been designing clothes since high school. Fromowitz's family owned a garment factory; he owned his first sewing machine at the age of six.

"I fell in love with sewing and ethical-organic clothing in 2011," Love says.

"I learned about the industry and how fortifying it is. I thought my purpose was in it and just sewed and studied business with (Sea to Sky) Community Futures. I wanted to back up my passion with business."

Collections are pending for this summer, Love works on women's designs while Fromowitz designs men's styles.

"We have everything in the studio, we just need to photograph it," Love says.

"We've been sourcing organic fabrics like hemp and cotton. We've also been lucky enough to find dead stock fabric that fits with our standard."

The men's collection includes linen pants, wallets, utility belts, hemp shirts and handmade baseball hats.

The women's collection includes cotton dresses, tops and more.

"We do lots of natural dying," Love says.

Earth and Elle's pieces can be found at One Earth Collections in Pemberton. They will also be at the May Long Weekend Block Party at the Whistler Farmers' Market, and at pop-up shops in the coming months. Their work is also available online.

For more information on Earth and Elle visit www.earthandelle.ca.

To vote for Chic Sheets visit www.ecofashion-week.com.


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