vladimir markovich and all things fashion

Vladimir Markovich’s creative skills have led him on a professional journey that has spanned an extensive 
production career in fashion, television, commercials, and music videos in Canada, Europe and the Latin
American markets. During that time he has worked on fashion and creative projects that included such
preeminent personalities as Paulina Rubio, Gwen Stefani, Shakira, Miss Universe Amelia Vega and Whitney
Houston, as well as cutting edge directors such as Sophie Miller.

His professional background also includes collaborations with fashion forward designers and brands from
around the globe including Roberto Cavalli, Dolce and Gabbana and Reebok International.  Since his
arrival in Vancouver, he has worked on a number of projects including co-founding British Columbia Fashion
Week in 2004.  

We tracked down Vladimir, currently working in Europe, to talk about his passions, his role as ITM's creative
director, and all things fashion.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

In the beginning I was not sure what was called fashion... but I was interested in the way people look and dress themselves ...later I found out it is called fashion and I see it as the mirror of our time, similar to music and things that contribute to a varied and diverse lifestyle, including travel – that is the aspect that tickles my attention.   I am a very visual person, so I am often stimulated by seeing and observing… Being curious and having an open mind is critical to growing as a person.   When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.

I studied marketing and multi-media communications.  All things beautiful to look at need to have a basis for getting them seen and appreciated, and a sound business perspective helps accomplish that task.

How did you get started in this industry?

Just basically followed my interest and my heart... it’s hard to think back to when you took your first step when you are just so thrilled to be walking…. and running….and jumping…. and dancing!

Do you consider yourself an artist?

I would say that we are all artists, of one form or another and contribute something to the world.  We are all responsible for leaving some footprints, some more, some less.  We all have our uniqueness and individualities; I don't like to shrink myself to fit.  I like to be myself and that is art!!!

What is your personal style?

My personal style evolves as I evolve.  Things that I find stylish now are different than when I was a teenager and will be different again as I continue to experience the world.  I wear what makes me happy and confident and tend to stick what I like.

I would say: sophisticated, sexy and preppy.  But I am unconventionally bold in what I wear and pay a great attention to shoes.

What are you pet peeves?

I am very much a common sense person so when something doesn’t make sense, it frustrates me; and the problem with common sense is that most people don't demonstrate that they have one – dishonesty, manipulation and generally poor communication.  Too many people think that the way to get anyone to respond or solve problems is to not be clear in their communications or communicate at all.

You’ve worked in television, music and fashion industries.  Which do you most enjoy or find most challenging?

I find that these industries overlap and build on one another continually.  It really would be hard to pick between them because they all feed into the greater whole.  I am multi-tasker and most of time I see the bigger picture.  The industries are just pieces of the overall puzzle.

Bon Bon Bodywear Project Shakira - Reebok Commercial

Who are you most proud to have worked with?

Deb Walker … she is my favourite team player member :)

I have been very fortunate to work on many interesting projects and in different capacities.  From TV series, to fashion shows and campaigns, to videos and performances…. I am most proud of any project that takes the audience’s breath away and gives them a delightful surprise that they weren’t expecting.  I like to create and build in order to recognize the potential in something and make it visible or tangible to share with people.  You never know what emotions will evoke and that is the best part.

What do you enjoy most about working with ITM?

It is a very educational experience for new models and I welcome that part.  The ability to see the difference from when a model starts at the beginning of the competition and how they have grown during the process.

How do you keep in such great shape?

Discipline, right foods and motivation.  I believe that looking after your body and your mind are equally important parts for a balanced whole. I find that hot yoga helps me bridge that balance between mind and body.  I have as well my exercise  programs that I often do, like plyometric,  interval training and etc.  They are quite challenging but you have to bring it on.

What is your latest project?

I am currently working on a variety of projects but really enjoyed being able to work again with Rozemerie and Thomas Cuevas of JC Studio on their new brand JAC and Jacqueline Conoir, and of course, ITM.  But there are some interesting art projects cooking as well.

Advice for aspiring models? And those applying to ITM?

Go for it!  What do you have to lose?  Be flexible and open to direction; come prepared to both work and bring your “A” game; stretch yourself – as nobody else will do that for you.

Where do you get your inspiration from?  

I draw my inspirations from a very wide variety of places, people, events and lifestyles.  Love inspires me; the most important thing in our life is connection to other people.  I enjoy watching people taking risks and trying something new.  I like people and events to push individuals to their limits, to try things that are one step further than they thought they could go.

Name your favourite city

I was lucky to get to see many great cities and places, and I haven’t finished travelling and exploring.   Shakespeare said, " What is the city but the people?”  I have many places that I love but that has more to do with the people that I have met in each place – the people are the ones that give character and the soul to the buildings and streets.

Vladimir with Dawn Langstroth (left) and Anne Murray (right) Vladimir with Wendy Crewson (left) and Evangeline Lily (right)


kevin chong talks beauty and models in his latest novel

beauty plus pity

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, Kevin Chong is the author of four books including the novel 
Baroque-a-Nova and a music memoir entitled Neil Young Nation.  He teaches creative writing at the University
of British Columbia and Kwantlen University, and his writing has appeared in numerous publications including
the Globe and MailVancouver Sun, Western Living, Fashion Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Chatelaine,
Georgia Straight and CBC Arts website.  Kevin studied at the University of British Columbia and Columbia

We sat down with Kevin over lunch one afternoon in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood to talk about his
latest novel, Beauty Plus Pity – a tragicomic modern immigrant tale, and how his main character Malcolm
came to be an aspiring model.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I didn’t always think I would be a writer, but I likely never had a plan about what I wanted to be.  I think some people have this romantic idea that they are going to be a creative individual, and people are going to love them unconditionally for the things they write or produce.  I think it was very presumptuous of me to think that people would lavish me with acclaim and riches for what I produced.  But one thing led to another and I kept writing books.

What was the inspiration behind Beauty Plus Pity?

I wanted to write about a family dynamic that was unlike my own.  I come from a pretty boring nuclear family – I have a brother and two parents that are still together, and I have friends who had all these interesting meetings with estranged parents or siblings that they never knew about.  I wanted to explore the idea of what that kind of relationship would be like.  If you had a blood connection to someone that you meet later on in life, how do you form a sibling relationship when you don’t grow up with that person.

I also wanted to talk about the idea of beauty – whether beauty is something that you understand intuitively, or is shaped by your experiences in life or things that you see.

As you mentioned, Malcolm’s family dynamics are very different from your own.  But are there any similarities between your characters and experiences?

A lot of friends who read the book hear my voice.  I don’t think it is incorrect to do that because the way he describes things or looks at things are a lot like how I look at things.  I made him a lot different from me in terms of him being a slacker and a wannabe model.  I never wanted to be a model – I don’t think that was in my cards.  But he has an interest in book and movies – like I do.  When your parents grew up in a different culture, you feel as though you don’t quite understand their culture, or the greater Canadian culture.  So one of the ways that I compensated for that was to read a lot, listen to a lot of music, watch a lot of movies, and be very, very fluent in popular culture.  Another thing about having parents who are from another culture is that you can watch what you wanted to, or read what you wanted to, because they didn’t really quite understand (any of) it.  I think it made me a little bit of a smart-ass in some respects.

So would you say film and music are your passions?

I think I have a passion for indoor pursuits, things that don’t involve me leaving the house.

Let’s talk about Malcolm being an inspiring model.

I wanted to play around with the idea of beauty – for example, whether an alien can come from outer space and recognize a beautiful person from an ugly person, or whether it is something that you are trained to understand through connoisseurship or relationships, or people that you meet.  Everyone around you influences your idea of beauty.  Having Malcolm as a model was one way I could approach that theme.  I’ve done some travel writing, and I’ve been to places like South America, Africa and Asia, and seeing what beautiful means in a different context is very interesting.  You realize how your perceptions can be change or affected by where you are from.

Did you do any research about the modeling industry?

I did some Googling.  And I asked my friend who did some modeling.  As he told me about it, I couldn’t stop laughing. I started writing years ago when Zoolander came out, and I think that was the reason why the book took so long because I wanted people to forget about Zoolander – it was just so ridiculous.  Not that my book isn’t completely free of silliness. I want to write seriously, but then I have this lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek side to my writing.

So when Malcolm attended a modeling school, did you actually research this or was this your perception of what an aspiring model would do?

I think at one point I found a Dummy’s Guide to Modeling at the library and flipped through it.  But to be honest, I didn’t do much research.  I guess I wanted to talk about what it was like for me to be a writer, but I thought it would be too on-the-nose if I had a guy go to writing school, so I just had him go to modeling school.  There was a bit of a transposition there.

      There is a lot of tragedy in the story, for example, Malcolm’s dad passes away from cancer.

In my life, I have an aunt who died of cancer.  It is important that awareness is raised and that people give to charities that support cancer research.  It seems to touch everybody’s lives.

Beauty Plus Pity was very different from your earlier works.   Was writing this book more challenging than others?  How long did it take you to complete it?

The book took a long time to write.  My first draft was written in 2002 and I put it away for many years.  It was challenging in a lot of ways.  In my first couple of books, I didn’t want to write about growing up in a Chinese-Canadian family.  I thought there had been enough stories that dealt with that.  But then I realized that there weren’t enough stories about coming to Canada the same time I did, and being an immigrant now compared to being an immigrant 50 years ago.  The world has changed; it is so much easier to go back home now – It’s a direct flight.  It’s not like once you come to Canada you are stuck here.

Can you tell us what you are working on right now?

I’m working on two different book-length things right now because I don’t want to be stuck on one thing.  I’m still writing magazine articles and I have a new book coming out about horse-racing, My Year of the Racehorse which is coming out in April; it’s a non-fiction work.  Three years ago I owned a racehorse and it allowed me to see this interesting world, and to try my hand at betting on horses, which I wasn’t very good at, but it was still fun.