Learning about an amazing woman, who helped build the Vancouver fashion scene…
The last time I attended the Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) event last September, I got to know more than just next season’s fashion lines. A memorial was held for the late Virginia Leeming (1942- 2012), fashion reporter for The Vancouver Sun. I’ve never heard of her, let alone actually have the chance to meet her. So I don’t know what probed me to approach the speakers (some of her past friends, colleagues and family) after the memorial. Perhaps I was moved by the gesture of the memorial, the video of personal testimonies, the pictures; or perhaps the speeches given by her friends and family. I just did, and the fruit of it was a long blog article I wrote up for Assignment Fashion. This was by far the most challenging blog article I’ve ever written, not just because of the length, but also for the sentiment. How do you summarize the life of someone who has had such an impact on a community, and without having met her ever? But it was an incredible process, albeit taking nearly two months to complete.
And so, even after her one-year death anniversary, this is how I met Virginia Leeming. As a fashion reporter and public relations expert, Virginia was known to be like the yellow-pages-phonebook of connections. If you needed someone to get a certain job done, whether fashion-related or otherwise, she could immediately give you a name, address and phone number straight up from memory. In the spirit of that, my research gave me the opportunity to meet a couple of amazing people, who I don’t think I would have met otherwise.
There was Eva Hompoth, a former stylist and now corporate consultant, whose overwhelming feelings for her friend, Virginia, had made it possible for me to write this post. Without her, I wouldn’t even think it was possible to write about Virginia.
Jamal Abdourahman, producer of Vancouver Fashion Week, whose insight on Virginia’s impact on local fashion gave me inspiration and extra drive to be proud of what I do.
Valerie Casselton, managing editor at The Vancouver Sun newspaper, whose stories about Virginia set the standard for what people need to know about her.
There was David Jack, a prominent Vancouver designer, who showed me the power and value of friendship when it comes to chasing dreams.
And finally, Kama Tolan-Souter, who shared the most amazing pictures by her aunt Virginia, affording me the opportunity to see the world in Virginia’s point of view.
Photos by Virginia Leeming, captured on film.
She was an inspirational lady, whose own humility has kept her importance unknown to many. But to those who knew Virginia, they would always talk about how much she had a hand in their endeavours, how she had helped them along the way. Then there were the stories– the many many stories: Virginia’s sense of humor and free-spirit always got her special attention. Eva told me about that night down at Roxy’s, where she and Virginia met a band member of The Temptations. Virginia’s reaction was so ecstatic and out of control, the band member was taken by surprise, and the night ended with him buying them all the drinks and food they wanted. Another night, she and a friend came home from an event, both slightly tipsy and giddy. In a whim, both decided to be street beggars for a night, sitting on the street and asking for spare change (“I made five bucks!” Virginia said proudly).
As a fashion reporter, Virginia travelled all around the world. She would share her own adventures in pictures, and in funny stories. How she had once taken photos of Evelyn Lauder of Estee Lauder, only to realize her camera had no film. How she had accidentally left a recorder on pause in the middle of an interview with Sophia Loren. How she had criticized a hotel plumber in Europe, only to find out it was the manager’s father, and many many more.
In the end, there’s only so much I can learn about a woman, whom I probably would have looked up to. Sadly, she passed away on the year I came to VFW for the first time. All I can say now is, she left a legacy of talent and creativity, that which amateurs like me are only starting to take advantage of.
Her biggest advice for all aspirants (and many of her friends have repeated this to me) is to just simply be nice: When you’re climbing the ladder to success, always be respectful, Virginia would say. Remember everyone you’ve spoken with, everyone who has helped you on your way up. Whether it is just having a conversation, or meeting somebody in the street, always be polite and respectful. Because when you are on your decline, like most stars who reach the top and then go into recession, you are going to meet those people again on your way down. You’re going to need them to pull you up again.
Such words to live by… 🙂 Many thanks to all who helped me make this attempt possible! This is for you as it is for Virginia. ❤
To read the full article about Virginia Leeming, and her amazing work in Vancouver, click on this link to Assignment Fashion.
Have a great week!
Photos are courtesy of Vancouver Fashion Week, Kuna Photography, David Jack and Kama Tolan-Souter.