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Velo Vogue is high-class fashion for the low-emission commuter

By Eric Murphy on June 9, 2015

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Ironically, as I pulled into Saturday night’s Velo Vogue Fashion Show, a brilliant event pairing local style with great bikes, I accidentally stained my favorite caramel-coloured pants with a long, jagged line of bike grease.

Some might call that a sign. Maybe bikes and fashion aren’t meant for each other. Cyclists are always finding new ways to mess up our outfits, after all. We sweat, we get splashed by Nissans racing through puddles, we even lean too close to our freshly greased bike chains while parking. Considering all this risk, is it really worth trying to look amazing while we’re on two wheels?

Well, if you posed that question to anyone walking away from the runway Saturday night, I’m guessing the answer would have been a resounding hell yes.

Velo VogueThe bike-style blog XO Velo absolutely outdid themselves for the annual event’s 2015 edition. Stepping inside Maker Space North’s main room, you were immediately confronted by models standing statue-still on small platforms. These ‘instillations,’ as makeup artist Lyz Plant calls them, wore simple, but edgy retro outfits. One model showcased a white knee-length dress decorated with a hundred red lips, each matching her lipstick. Another wore a short, yellow floral patterned dress from local designer Rachel Sin.

“It was a fun atmosphere,” says Plant, who worked on the installations and runway models. “The makeup wasn’t too cut and paste. We had a bit of wiggle room.”

The space itself was equally decked out. Multicolored bike tires livened up the ceiling and the sound of bike bells rang out from every direction. In a way, Maker Space North was the perfect venue for the show. Like bike fashion, it’s inherently utilitarian but can be beautiful with the right amount of attention. It also had a ton of space.

All eyes turned to the runway after 9:30pm, and the models didn’t disappoint. As I’m sure you can imagine, no of them walked with stern expressions and purposeful steps, in fact, plenty of them didn’t walk at all. As they strutted, or coasted, past the lines of photographers most of the models seemed like they were having a lot of fun. One even biked out with a tiny dog in her basket (later replaced by an E.T. doll) and City Councillor turned model Mathieu Fleury dropped one of his bikes halfway through and pretended to blow up its tires.

Bike sponsors included Tall Tree Cyles, Joe Mamma Cycles, Scooteretti, and Retro-rides.ca. The recipient of all the night’s fundraising, Right Bike Ottawa, also leant three bikes from their purple fleet to the runway.

“This is an awesome fundraiser,” said Samuel Benoit, the operational manager for Right Bike, after the curtain closed. “It’s just going to help us better serve our mission.”

Velo Vogue 4You might know Right Bike from their bike share system, where customers can rent one of their 67 purple bikes and return it to any participating business. The company also has repair classes, but more importantly, it’s a social enterprise that trains and employs locals who have had trouble overcoming barriers, such as disabilities, in their lives. Right Bike brought a few volunteers to the event, but Benoit was overjoyed seeing how much XO Velo put together without him.

“I can’t say I’ve had a lot to do with it, and that’s great,” he said.

The night’s outfits ranged from the stylish but comfortable to full on business attire that I can’t imagine biking in, but looked really cool. There was a strange lack of helmet-hair, though. Clothes came from Twiss and Weber, Milk Shop, and E.R. Fisher Menswear, to name just a couple.

After the first showing was over, the audience had some time to breathe in much-needed cool air outside, and after a sufficient lull the fashion show continued with a set of retro-styled bikes and outfits. This showing was much shorter though, with only a handful of bikes that the models traded, so it really felt like an afterthought compared to the earlier set of bikes and styles.

As amazing as the styles, decorations, and rides were Saturday night, what really impressed me about the Velo Vogue Fashion Show was the concept. I think a lot of people understand that bike fashion can be more than just skin-tight exercise gear or the shorts you don’t mind splattering mud on. We know we can look good on a bike, but Velo Vogue shows us we can look amazing. They ran dozens of outfits, some that might be a little stiff, or a little hot, but perfectly useable and, most importantly, gorgeous.

And there were no Lycra suits or grease stains in sight.

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