The Downtown Eastside Women's Centre (DEWC) has been providing a safe space, basic necessities, and hot meals to women and children in Vancouver since 1978. When growing demand in recent years sparked the need to raise funds, however, staff members were determined to stay true to their community. "The idea of putting on a ‘gala’ was troubling to us," says DEWC Fundraising and Communication Coordinator Celine Chuang. "We wanted to celebrate the women and have them be part of the experience."
The resulting event, Herstory in Focus, has become a fundraiser like no other. Held at the Vancouver Art Gallery and hosted by DEWC volunteers, the main attraction is a runway-style fashion show featuring garments both styled and modelled by women of the centre.
When attending Herstory in Focus in 2017, VCC fashion program coordinator Sarah Murray saw the perfect opportunity to contribute. The following year, Sarah and recent VCC fashion merchandising grad Melissa Giesbrecht teamed up to host styling and sewing workshops at DEWC and coordinated the full fashion show behind the scenes. “I learned a lot,” says Melissa, “and I would definitely help out again."
Off the runway, VCC hairstylists and makeup artists also helped with photo shoots, VCC graphic design students assisted with event programs, and VCC culinary students provided dinner to the models on their big night.
"I honestly don’t know how we did it without Sarah or VCC in the past," says Celine. "It's such a powerful thing to see someone who's good at something bring those skills to magnify the work of our organization." In 2018, Herstory in Focus raised a record $65,000.
The next Herstory in Focus gala is coming up soon! RSVP now for this inspiring event on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.