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Third Floor comes out first

Vancouver design company snags coveted catwalk at Fashion Exposed

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By Nicole Fitzgerald

What: Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival

What: Fashion Exposed

When: Friday, April 20

Where: Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival

Sweet little matching coloured heart printed panties and bra, seductive black lace boyish bootie shorts and a girly white see-through tank — this is mountain wear?

“They’ve got to wear something underneath all that snowboarding gear,” reasons Tiffany Ho, co-owner of Third Floor.

The Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, as part of Fashion Exposed, recently chose Ho’s Vancouver-based lingerie design company from four finalists as the winner of the inaugural Designer Search and Expose contest. Third Floor’s colourful prints will take to the Fashion Exposed runway on Friday, April 20 at the Telus Conference Centre where next season’s fashions will expose themselves.

Ho admits she thought her lingerie line was a bit of a stretch for the contest but despite second guessing herself the fashionata is excited by the win, as well as the opportunity to expose her undergarment line, that blurs the line between under- and outerwear, to an international audience.

Third Floor is stories above the bland oatmeal choice of usual black, beige or white undergarments. The line literally springs to life with bold patterns, colour and daywear-feel wraps.

“It’s super colourful,” Ho said. “Really fruity. There are a lot of wrap tops — stuff you could wear out. Before underwear used to be all about support, but now people realize they can have fun. If you know you have a great pair of underwear on, you feel great, even in boring suit office attire.”

Or in an Ullr girl’s situation, long underwear and baggy board pants.

Third Floor is about tapping into that feminine side of the self, and women across North America are doing so.

Ho, along with business partner Brenda Li, started the boutique lingerie design company four years ago. But despite just launching out of the closet, the independent company already shows in the prestigious Ron Herman store located on L.A.’s Melrose Avenue. The line is also sold in Montreal and in Vancouver at the Shop Cocoon on Cambie Street and West 17th — another unique creation by the two businesswomen. They started a collective clothing store that showcases emerging designers. The store changes designers every four months, apprenticing newcomers in running a retail business.

“The most difficult thing about starting was getting people to believe in your product,” she said. “At the boutique, they get a feel for retail and how to run a store while their designs get out there.”

And the Third Floor brand is definitely out there. Already the four-year-old business has been nominated for numerous awards, including the Fashion Export Awards.

“We were nominated against businesses that had been around for 30 years-plus,” she said.

The boutique line is all about going against the grain — and wow does it feel good with underwear designed for both beauty and comfort.

The usual rule of concealing bra straps doesn’t apply with Third Floor — the colourful and beautiful creations almost demand a small staging of their own. And walk the runway they will, along with outwear more typically associated with mountain life. Boarding and skiing suits, surf wear, bathing suits and on and off mountain day and evening wear will also join the Fashion Exposed showcase of Burton, Helly Hansen, Roxy, Quiksilver, Bonfire, 686, DC, Peak Performance, Rossignol, Oakley, Lifetime Collective, Sessions, TNA, Zimstern and of course Third Floor.

And while bitty little bootie shorts and strapless bras might not be a typical vision of mountain life, the line will turn the eyes of even the most committed toque aficionados.

  “Everybody likes hot girls in small things,” Ho said.

Advance tickets are $15   and available at the Whistler Activity Centre or whistler2007.com.

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