Vancouver’s annual Couve Couture — the popular fashion and trunk show that attracted over 700 people last year — is on hold until the spring of 2018, show producers said.
Local business owners Alisa Tetreault and Brett Allred, who have coordinated the event since 2010, have been on the hunt for sponsors and venues for the show for months now, but fell short in their search, leading them to make the decision to not continue with their production for 2017.
Part of the challenge is the show’s growing popularity.
Because Couve Couture features entirely local designers, models and businesses — including local catering firms, beauticians, light designers and security guards — the producers have struggled to find the right people and event venue in and around the Vancouver area for a show rapidly growing in size.
It would be easy to assume Couve Couture has been abandoned by searching through the event website or Facebook page, both of which haven’t been updated in over a year. But the WordPress site does include a hopeful note about future show sponsorships.
Allred, owner of the local hair salon BeigeBlonde, said the show is much anticipated with local artists and fashion lovers and many have contacted both him and his co-producer asking about this year’s production. Tetreault, who runs Most Everything Vintage just down the street from the hair salon, said it isn’t rare for locals to stop by in person to ask about the future of Couve Couture.
The fashion show began as a way to promote downtown businesses and celebrate Southwest Washington’s culture, Allred said. But over the years, he said, it expanded into a beloved event that brings many pieces of the community together in an exciting and interesting way.
Because past attendees have come to expect an annual event, Allred and Tetreault had plans of organizing this year’s show but realized it wouldn’t come together with the two trying to expand their own businesses at the same time. That fact, coupled with the lack of people reaching out to team up with Couve Couture, influenced the decision to hold off on this year’s fashion show, the business owners said.
Tetreault also said that as the show expands they have to “reinvent the wheel” every year in a new location, including everything from the number of seats and amount of parking to the prep time it takes to get ready for a show. And, she said, “with that comes many degrees of learning how to do stuff, figuring out how to make things work within that space.”
Allred called location the biggest challenge of the entire planning process for the event, knowing that it will take the perfect venue to be able to house the number of expected viewers while maintaining the same great show they have had in the past. The two agree that finding a venue downtown that they could use every year “would be wonderful” for their planning.
The producers have learned that to be ready for Couve Couture, which is typically held in the spring, they must begin organizing nearly a year in advance. This is difficult in a small community like downtown Vancouver, where few venues able to hold large numbers of people exist and can be hard to rent out for a prolonged period of time.
Previous Couve Couture shows have been held at the Academy, Gravitate on Washington Street, and Red Lion at the Quay.
Tetreault and Allred are now brainstorming other venues that fit their budget, capacity, and vision. One approach, Tetreault and Allred said, would be to do several smaller shows, instead of one large one.
“If we go with multiple smaller shows, we know we can find a space,” Tetreault said. And that is exactly what the two producers plan to do. In the following years, Tetreault expects shows to take place over several days back-to-back while staying in the downtown area that has so heavily influenced the entire production.
Looking to 2018
It’s the not the first time that Couve Couture has undergone a transformation. Last year, the two organizers converted their fashion show into a pop-up event across the downtown area where designers and artists could sell their products and meet their customers face-to-face.
While local designers invest “hundreds to thousands of dollars to put together collections for a show”, Tetreault said it is challenging for the artists to meet anyone interested in purchasing the garments after an event as busy and fast paced as Couve Couture. “We wanted to give one season where there could be a connection between the consumer and the designer.”
Tetreault also saw the “trunk show” as a way of creating pride in not only the purchases made, but the idea that it was provided and thought up by somebody straight out of the Northwest.
If it weren’t for shows organized by Allred and Tetreault, many people may not have gained work experience. Models and designers used Couve Couture as a trial run. Elle Layne, a 19-year-old Vancouver native, modeled with her friends for the event in 2014 at the Red Lion by the Quay.
“We all modeled for the same designer, and I think that made it exciting,” she said of the experience. “I made some money and I was really young, so it was just a fun thing to do.” Layne continues to model and said the show prepared her for what it takes to put on a production of that size.
The show producers hope to offer that experience again in 2018. Tetreault and Allred agree that to run a show as successful as Couve Couture is simply to “use what you’ve got and try to make the most out of it.”
Those who would like to sponsor Couve Couture 2018 should contact Alisa Tetreault at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kindal Dolph is a journalism student at Clark College. This story was written as part of a collaboration with The Columbian called Voices From Clark College.