This woman is somethin’ else. When Vee walks into a room, you can’t help but feel compelled to find out more about her. She is a bubbly, bold, beautiful and the kind of woman who looks like she might kill you.
“If people were to describe me, they would likely say, ‘all black, abundance of rings, very long hair and eyebrows.’” And that would be true – she always looks on-point, radiating her inner witch and being comfortable in her shoes, which are usually black docs, duh. But there is a lot of light behind Vee’s mysterious and moody appearance.
Vee is another vital part of the Eco Fashion Week team and from what we’ve gathered, those who work with her or encounter her at work, only sing her praises. I mean, listen to us. Like her go-to drink, a muddy gin Caesar with extra olives and horse radish, Vee looks like she could jab your insides with a mere stare but really, she just wants to make you feel magic.
Thank you Evan Eisenstadt for this gorgeous image.
How did you get involved with Eco Fashion Week?
I was at SFU (Simon Fraser University) and saw an interesting and stylish person in one of my classes so I approached them with a ticket to Ladytron, a band that I love. I said ‘hey come to a show!’ She didn’t end up coming but we started talking. Later on in the year, she asked if I wanted to volunteer at Eco Fashion Week with her. Obviously, I said yes. I went to the first show with friends then the second day, I volunteered. I got to know Ashleigh and approached her a year later at the Cobalt (a bar I work at) and told her I wanted to work with EFW again! So I was there the second season assisting the PR team and that winded up with me being part of the core team!
How did being part of the sustainable fashion world influence your life?
I’ve always loved fashion but I hated trend. I hated the fashion politic. I hated the idea of consumption as a means of living. So I didn’t try to be part of the fashion world for a long time. I cared about style and clothing as an art form but not as a commodity. So I was drawn to EFW immediately because there was more to it than just fashion. It was responsible fashion. In that sense, it revitalized my passion and it also made me feel better about my passion. I feel like I can consume responsibly and I don’t necessarily have to compromise what I like for what I believe in, which is super cool! It also introduced me to some awesome people. Ashleigh and Myriam are my mentors but they’re also my sisters. They instilled confidence in my skill set, which I didn’t have. It’s hard to feel like you’re good at something in the fashion industry so when somebody validates that you are and gives you a chance, it means more than anything.
You do lighting for various events and shows around the city, how did you get into the industry?
In my first year of university, I took a production technology course in the contemporary arts faculty. I did it because I saw there was costume design in the description but it was basically a survey course. We learned the basics of sound tech, lighting tech, stage building and costume. Part of it required us to commit to a certain amount of hours volunteering in the school, helping out with the play or production that year. I ended up putting 95% of my time into costume design because I really bonded with the teacher. But around that time, I realized how cool lighting is. It’s not just illuminating something; it’s an art. Lighting is super rad and I’d never thought about it that way. I moved in with a friend of mine who is a drag king in the city and also took the same course at SFU. She said they were looking for a lighting person for a drag show called Man Up. I said, “Yeah I can totally do that!” and kind of white lied my way through it, as I’d never professionally worked a lighting board. She said if I knew the basics, she’d show me the rest so I studied the basics at the Cobalt, figured it out and lit my first paid show at Pride of 2013. From there, I lit Man Up every month for a year and a half, picked up other shows and then, to prove myself, I offered my lighting services for free to a bunch of events for their first shows. If they liked it, they would have to hire and pay me for the next one. So I worked a deal and ended up picking up a bunch of shows. Now, I light quite a few!
How do you figure out how you want to light a show?
I always ask three questions because it’s a collaboration with the performer. The first question is what’s your song? I play what I call lighting jockey. I play with the nuances of the song. Second thing is, what’s the mood you want to set? Cold colours verses warm colours are very important especially when you want to set a scene. The last thing is what are you wearing? If you’re wearing something red and I use red lighting, you’re not going to get contouring, you’ll be washed out and you’re going to look so angry, it’ll be a problem. I really love lighting as an art form, not as a tech necessity.
Another shot of Vee by Evan Eisenstadt.
What would you say your biggest challenge lighting shows is?
I think one of my biggest challenges is my technical ability. I took one course in my undergrad; I’m not professionally trained. Every lighting board is different. It’s kind of like playing an instrument. I play piano and I was classically trained until I was 13 but my technique is not where I shine. Technique is not my forte. It’s about how I feel. So if I really feel something then I can do it well. The other thing is wanting to do it full time but the money not being there. A lighting gig will pay for my night out and then a little bit but it’s not like I can sustain myself off of it. But the hardest thing for me is when people don’t realize how important lighting is. Yes, I could just do a wash and people will see you but the point is not to just see you, the point is to revere the person on stage. You’re creating an illusion.
Were you welcomed into the production community in Vancouver?
I have a reputation in the city, not as a party girl but I’m out all the time. I go to every show, I support everything I can so often people question my ability to do lighting. That’s why I started lighting the first show for free and then requiring pay. The drag queens I work with now were running all the drag queen shows on the east side. I would message them every few months asking if they need lighting. They responded saying they didn’t. Then one of the producers of these shows attended a show that I lit. They saw the photos that came out of it and immediately hired me for all of their shows. You just have to prove yourself.
How do you feel as a woman in the tech industry?
I think I’m treated differently because I’m a woman who cares about her aesthetic and is femme-presenting. Typically women, in any industry but especially in the queer communities, who care about their looks – you know I make sure my eyebrows are on, my hair looks good, my outfit is on point – are treated differently because you’re assumed to have it easy. The truth is the opposite because I’m working in an industry and community that doesn’t see me that way.
For example, there are gamers who are perceived and labelled by society as nerds. I don’t want to upsell but say there is somebody stylish, who cares about their looks and who’s up to date with pop culture, who is considered ‘cool’ but who consider themselves a gamer, all the other gamers are likely gunna be like “well, you confirm to society so I’m not sure.” There’s an element of minority bullying or segregated community bullying. I don’t think I get it that bad. But because I’ve chosen to look a certain way that is romanticized by society in terms of my style and what I enjoy and the music I listen to etc, I’m going to get that.
I look a certain way because I like it and because I was born like this. It’s silly, I see myself as a nerd. But the industry in which I see myself a nerd is a romanticized, cool industry – fashion, style, music – all coveted cool things that happen to be the things I’m really nerdy about!
Vee’s was the final profile in our series on the women behind Vancouver Eco Fashion Week, the world’s largest celebration of sustainable design. Meet co-founder Myriam and PR head Ashleigh and find our coverage of the week here.