From brocade jackets to white lace capes, local fashion brand Chalanse’s second collection at Vancouver Fashion Week’s Spring/Summer 2023 shows highlighted femininity through confident textures and textiles. The looks strongly reflected the brand’s designer Serena Kealy, a second-year bachelor’s of art history and master’s of management student at UBC.
Kealy named Chalanse to be the opposite of nonchalance.
“It represents everything that my brand stands for, which is passion and art and enthusiasm,” she said in an interview with The Ubyssey
Dressing up for everyday is one of the key principles of the brand. While it is categorized as luxury womenswear, Kealy asserts that the brand and its ethos is for everyone and directed toward someone “who is confident in themselves and also wants to bring that confidence onto others; they want to inspire others.”
Commissions span from fits for drag queens to perform in to everyday wear for Kealy’s peers.
On top of showing at Vancouver Fashion Week, completing commissions and running Chalanse herself, Kealy is a full-time student.
“It’s a lot of prioritizing and discipline, late nights, coffee, normal student things,” says Kealy on how she manages to fulfill her roles. “I love my clients, and I love working with them — I get to work with super cool people - but it's also very time consuming when I am anticipating a runway and also midterm season.”
Kealy chose a business degree at UBC over fashion school to learn professional and management skills, as she is mostly self-taught in sewing. Through her study at Sauder, she has learned networking, accounting, and financial management — skills which she claims have benefited her business.
Regarding her art history courses, Kealy is most interested in textile art history.
“I consider myself a textile artist as well as a fashion designer,” she says. Fabric is a key element of Kealy’s looks for this season’s collection, and is a key part of her creative process. “The second I see fabric, I am driven with the motivation to buy it and then rush home and sew it and experiment with it… It’s just like energy that rushes through me when I touch something I like,” says Kealy.
In comparison with other shows that day, the Chalanse collection stood out for its variety of interesting fabrics. Look 7 in particular stood out in this dimension, with a brocade jacket, knitted top, mesh fingerless gloves and satin shorts in coordinating colours that all fit together. Seeing this look down head down the runway, the details and variety of textures were so absorbing it was easy to forget to pay attention to the cut.
In addition to textures, another key element of the show was exploring modern femininity. Traditionally feminine elements like lace and pale pinks were mixed with androgynous or stereotypically masculine elements including leather, mesh and mostly black looks.
The closing look, Look 8, was Chalanse’s first wedding look, which Kealy describes as “a gender-neutral wedding wear outfit for brides, grooms, anybody getting married.” The look was only subtly for a wedding, with black leather pants, a white vest, and a white ankle-length cape, incorporating both Kealy’s exploration of texture, “dressing up” and gender.
Ultimately, the collection embodies Kealy herself.
“I like to say it’s the woman I want to be.”
The looks did not feel unnatural in the artificial environment of the runway - built for media with blaring music and lights so bright they truly hurt your eyes – yet each look could exist exactly as styled on the runway in the real world. The adaptability felt like Kealy herself, navigating university and the fashion industry simultaneously while still keeping a sense of fun.
“I find it such a win: every day I get to sew because I just love it,” said Kealy. “It’s like my sport.”