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Sheri Radford

Chloë Angus: A Life in Design

Chloë Angus’s winding path from small-town girl to fashion designer

By SHERI RADFORD

Chloë Angus, hard at  work in her gorgeous  new studio and showroom  on East 6th Avenue. (Photo: KK Law)

Chloë Angus, hard at work in her gorgeous new studio and showroom on East 6th Avenue. (Photo: KK Law)

The best way to fuel creativity is to grow up without a television, a phone or even electricity. At least, that’s how it worked for Chloë Angus. What the local fashion designer did have as a child was a small Singer sewing machine—and encouragement from her mother. “There were five kids in my family,” Angus says. “I think my mom was just happy to keep us busy doing different things.” Angus sewed clothes for herself and her dolls, along with “anything I could talk my brothers into wearing on Halloween.”

The family ran an organic seafood farm on the Sunshine Coast, 13.5 km (8.5 mi) by boat from the nearest small town, Egmont. When Angus was 12, she got a summer job working in Egmont’s one consignment store, but she made more money selling t-shirts she’d designed than from her wage. “I would catch live fish and paint them with some fabric paint, and I would press them into the shirt. And I signed on it that it was from Egmont, BC.”

After graduating high school, the bright lights of the big city drew Angus to Vancouver. “I spent most of my childhood scheming how I was going to get out of the small town and into the city. It’s funny, because now I spend most of my adult life scheming how I’m going to get back,” she says. After travelling around and exploring the world a bit, she—almost on a whim—started up a landscaping company and built it into a successful business. “Landscaping is about colour and balance and fitting into somebody else’s ideas with your own aesthetic. And a lot of hard work.”

As her 30th birthday loomed ever closer on the horizon, Angus did some soul searching and decided it was time to revisit her first love, fashion. She signed up for a one-year program at the prestigious Helen Lefeaux School of Fashion Design. Angus credits her farming background with giving her the work ethic (not to mention the stamina) to juggle a demanding school program, a thriving landscaping business, and a new marriage.

As a newly minted fashion graduate, Angus caught the attention of a buyer for The Bay, Canada’s most venerated retail institution. She designed several collections for The Bay’s Canadian by Design department. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sketch for a spring design. (Photo: KK Law)

Sketch for a spring design. (Photo: KK Law)

Over the past 11 years, Angus has gone from toiling away on her designs in her basement, to a small office downtown, to a larger studio on Dunbar Street, to her current 280-sq-m (3,000-sq-ft) studio on 6th Avenue. She designs everything from t-shirts to fancy wedding dresses (just two or three each summer, for a few lucky brides), and an extraordinary amount of time and care go into each one: “We spend weeks on fitting a simple t-shirt—a t-shirt that looks as good on an extra-small as it does on a triple-extra-large.” Best known are her Spirit Wraps, the result of a creative collaboration with local First Nations artists such as Clarence Mills (Haida) and Corrine Hunt (Tlingit). Angus is also the fashion sponsor for the Leo Awards (BC’s version of the Academy Awards) here in Vancouver, and she loves dressing the trophy models and some of the actresses: “It gives me the opportunity to be over-the-top creative in any way that I want to be.” When actresses sometimes hesitate at the fancier gowns, “I always tell them it never hurts to be the best dressed lady at the party.” Recently, Angus had her first chance to design all of the costumes for a movie, a shot-in-Vancouver short comedy called I Wanna Date U.

Even as Chloë Angus Design grows and evolves, one thing that will never change is Angus’s commitment to staying in Vancouver. She finds design inspiration in the city’s natural beauty, and she loves the climate here compared to the rest of the country: “It might be raining really hard out today, but it’s not snowing,” she says. “I am a true Vancouverite. I own a nice collection of gumboots. I like umbrellas. I have a really fabulous raincoat coming out for fall 2015. I don’t like parkas. I think the rest of Canada is pretty much uninhabitable most of the year.”

The other place Angus finds inspiration? Beautiful fabrics. “Often I see a piece of fabric and it just talks to me. It says, ‘Make me into this.’ And I know right away what I will do with it.”

With any luck, Angus will continue finding inspiration for many decades to come.

Find Spirit Wraps at The Gallery Store and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. To see an array of Angus’s creations, visit Chloë Angus Design.

A Must for Travellers

By SHERI RADFORD

The ultra-handy Moshi IonBank 10k

The ultra-handy Moshi IonBank 10k

If you rely on your electronics—whether for an important phone call or for entertaining a cranky kid—there’s nothing worse than watching the battery indicator drop to zero. Frequent travellers know to bring Moshi’s IonBank 10K on every trip. This handy device can charge a smartphone multiple times and give a tablet enough juice for an extra seven or eight hours. It can even charge two devices at a time. And it’s easy-peasy to recharge this mobile battery: simply plug it into any USB wall or car charger. Crisis averted. Available at Mac Station or www.moshi.com.

Jackets to Warm Up Winter

By SHERI RADFORD

This heated jacket from DEWALT will keep you warm

Heated jackets from DEWALT keep ski bunnies warm

What’s better than a thick jacket to wear in ice-cold weather? A heated jacket from DEWALT. Hot new styles this season include a women’s jacket with a removable hood (pictured), a khaki jacket with a hood, and two styles of hoodies. Each one incorporates a battery to provide hours of heat, which means outdoor adventurers can stay toasty warm longer than ever before. Available at Canadian Tire and Amazon.

Best Books on Vancouver

By SHERI RADFORD

Read one (or all) of these new books and you’ll be sounding like a Vancouverite in no time

The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour

The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour

The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour by Donald Olson ($31.95): Discover the 60 best green spaces to visit in BC, Washington and Oregon, including Stanley Park and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. (more…)

High Tech Tools: NuFACE

By SHERI RADFORD

NuFACE Trinity Facial Trainer

NuFACE Trinity Facial Trainer

Anyone seeking the fountain of youth, take note: you can look years younger without plastic surgery by using the NuFACE Trinity Facial Trainer. This device stimulates muscles by delivering a low-level electrical current. To get started, first pamper yourself with a NuFACE facial at Sense: A Rosewood Spa, then continue the treatments at home to reduce wrinkles and achieve firmer, smoother skin.

Crustacean Sensation

By SHERI RADFORD

Rob Feenie getting up close and personal with his ingredients

Rob Feenie, getting up close and personal with his ingredients

Ten years ago, Rob Feenie (pictured) faced off against Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America. Feenie’s ultimate triumph—the first such win by a Canadian—might have stunned some Americans, but it came as no surprise to Vancouverites, who have long loved his creative cuisine. The award-winning crab meal, cooked by the man himself, takes place at Cactus Club in February. For a chance to win two tickets to the event, visit www.cactusclubcafe.com.

Beauty and the Beast

By SHERI RADFORD

A Tale as Old as Time - Beauty and the Beast

A Tale as Old as Time – Beauty and the Beast

Though it’s been around since the 1700s, the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast is, for most people, synonymous with the 1991 Disney movie and its memorable songs and soaring musical score. Hear all of your favourite tunes brought to life on stage, everything from the Academy Award–winning title song to the irresistibly catchy “Gaston” to the guaranteed crowd-pleaser “Be Our Guest,” when the hit Broadway musical based on the film returns to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Feb. 3 to 8.

Fancy Fast Food at MARKET

By SHERI RADFORD

Grilled pork loin from MARKET

Grilled pork loin at MARKET by Jean-Georges

Think fast food is all the same? Think again. In the kitchen of MARKET by Jean-Georges, fast food becomes something exquisite. The restaurant—Canada’s first for three-star Michelin chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten—recently launched a menu of two- and three-course express lunches that can satisfy time-pressed diners in as little as 30 minutes. The menu changes weekly, and past highlights include grilled pork loin (pictured), steelhead sashimi and poached sole. What are you waiting for?

Tee Off at One Under Urban Golf Club

By SHERI RADFORD

Don't worry about the weather at One Under

Don’t worry about the weather at One Under

Winter golf comes with three big drawbacks in Vancouver: rain, showers and intermittent drizzles. The solution? Take it inside. One Under Urban Golf Club boasts six simulation bays, so you can experience what it’s like to tee off at some of the world’s finest courses—no umbrella required. And the menu of pizzas, salads and snacks, complemented by a comprehensive drinks selection, means the festivities can continue long after the last round of golf is played.

Icebreaker’s Wonderful Wool

By SHERI RADFORD

Icebreaker uses merino wool

Icebreaker’s merino wool garments are Whistler Blackcomb’s official base layer

If the thought of wool brings up memories of scratchy, heavy sweaters that took forever to dry, think again. Icebreaker uses soft merino wool to create all of its lightweight and highly breathable garments. Recently named the official base layer of Whistler Blackcomb, Icebreaker makes cute-as-can-be clothes that also regulate temperature, resist odours and dry quickly, thanks to the strong, pure merino fibres from New Zealand sheep. Outfit yourself from head to toe at Can-Ski or Escape Route.

Winter Warm-Up: NHL Heated Throws

By SHERI RADFORD

Stay warm while rocking your team colours

Stay warm while rocking your team colours

Has Jack Frost worn out his welcome? Conquer the cold and support your favourite hockey team at the same time with a heated throw from Sunbeam. With three heat settings and a three-hour auto shut-off, this soft fleece blanket cuts through the chill quickly and keeps you toasty warm while showing your love for the Vancouver Canucks (pictured), Montreal Canadiens or 11 other NHL teams. Available at Home Outfitters.

Vancouver Light: Photography by David Nunuk

By SHERI RADFORD

Vancouver Light: Visions of a City

Vancouver Light: Visions of a City

Photographer David Nunuk can find beauty in the unlikeliest of places, such as junkyards, log booms, freight trains and industrial streets. But he also does wonders with familiar scenery, capturing the timeless beauty of Stanley Park, Science World, the Lions Gate Bridge and the Sea to Sky Highway. His latest book, Vancouver Light: Visions of a City (Harbour Publishing; $49.95), proves yet again why Vancouver is known as the supermodel of world cities. At local bookstores.