Local designer Jennifer Small will show dresses from her Tainted Love collection at Fashion Splash in Victoria on August 22.

Eco couture

Castlegar designer Jennifer Small will show her latest eco couture collection at Fashion Splash in Victoria on August 22.

A local designer will present her latest collection of eco-friendly dresses at Fashion Splash in Victoria on August 22.

Jennifer Small of Discarded Couture got into fashion while she was living in Victoria and interning at a flower shop.

“They were throwing so much stuff out, like it was ridiculous,” she says. “And I thought, ‘I’m gonna do something with this.’”

Small started recycling the ribbons and materials that the flower shop would have otherwise thrown away, creating couture dresses from the scraps and used pieces of clothing bound for the thrift store, or that she picked up at garage sales. She also started taking donations of old grad and wedding dresses.

“I will not go to the store and buy fabric when there is so much wasted fabric out there,” says Small.

In Victoria, Small partnered with a hair and makeup team, and photographers who took photos of models wearing her clothes for their portfolios.

So far she hasn’t found a team to work with in the Kootenay area, but she’s already taken most of the collection being shown at Fashion Splash to Victoria, and did a shoot there.

Small helped start the fashion show last year, when Joseph Gonyeau, who runs the Victoria Harbour Festival, wanted to create a new event. Eight eco designers participated the first year, and this year that number has nearly doubled to 15.

Most of the designers show everyday-wear made from eco friendly materials like hemp. Small closes the show with her couture designs, which she describes as wearable art.

She takes inspiration from Alexander McQueen—an internationally known couture designer—and designs her collections to tell a story.

Her collection for Fashion Splash is called Tainted Love, and was inspired by her recently ended relationship.

“It’s basically the story of getting married, being abused, cheating, … and then sort of darkness, and then back to light,” explains Small.

Small moved back to Castlegar from Victoria about eight months ago and hopes to start a fashion show for high school grads in Castlegar, giving them not only the opportunity to try fashion design, but also giving them a chance to raise money for their graduation.

She’d also like to teach kids to sew, and have them enter their final projects in the fall fair.