Lauded as one of the world's most livable cities — with the Pacific Ocean on three sides and a mountain range shadowing it on the fourth — Vancouver's residents celebrate its natural wonders with an eco-centric spirit all their own.

"As a major cosmopolitan city on the Pacific Rim, Vancouver is at the center of international trade and tourism with a thriving port, the largest in Canada," explained Gary Balaski, general manager of Vancouver's Holt Renfrew, the prime luxury retailer in the region. "The [run-up to the] 2010 Olympics have encouraged unprecedented investment and growth in infrastructure, residential and business development, including the retail sector."

"We find Vancouver to be a city with a variety of international and local designers available to shoppers," said Dace Moore, designer for Vancouver-based dace. "The boutiques here are fantastic. The shopping is amazing. This is something we realize more and more coming home [after being] away from the city."

The past five years brought a convergence of fashion, film, music and art in Vancouver, or "Hollywood North" as it is dubbed, due to the influx of movie projects. That elevated the communal fashion sense from layered fleecewear with anorak raincoats to updated styling, with shoppers now sporting smart denim pants, trendy T-shirts and one-of-a-kind jackets.

The increased style awareness also accompanied the city's fervor for earthwise concerns and heightened demand for green-designed lines. This eco-desire, as well as the eight area design schools, provided a foundation for a vibrant crop of hometown independent designers.

"Given the geographic location, there are strong connections to Asia, a cultural diversity and beautiful natural surroundings," explained Debra Walker, executive director of British Columbia Fashion Week, next scheduled Sept. 22-26, and featuring shows by local talent. "Our designers are not afraid to try different things with design and fabric. We are a new city, testing standards as a teenager would, and creating new traditions."

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