Allison Wonderland’s summer-soaked sundress

A fetching reminder of summer's honeyed charms.

Credit: Allison Wonderland

A fetching reminder of summer’s honeyed charms by Vancouver label Allison Wonderland

Smack dab in the depths of winter, it’s easy to turn the mind toward the romance of summer. The endless days, the fresh strawberries, the sweet scent of fresh cut grass and—one of my favourite signals of warm summer temperatures—the sundress.

And so it was with a sun-leavened heart that I gazed at this beauty of a frock (left) by Vancouver label Allison Wonderland. The Beach Ave. Dress, as it’s called, is part of a new collection playing homage to “the sunshine at the beach and reading magazines,” says the designer, Allison Smith.

“It’s really a love letter to the city, inspired by patio parties, lying in the grass, dancing all night long, early morning swims at the beach and backyard barbecues.”

And it is upon this idyllic image of Vancouver summers in the manifestation of a grey-and-white plaid, cinched-waisted cotton sundress that I meditate, picturing myself perched on a bench at Trout Lake—my wicker sun hat shading my face, a pair of casual canvas lace-ups on my feet—flipping through the ads in the latest issue of Momentum magazine pretending I’m going to buy myself a new Copenhagen-style bike. (Ha! A fantasy within a fantasy—there’s something a bit sick about that… 🙂

Allison Wonderland

Available in Vancouver at:

Tenth & Proper, 4483 West 10th

Hum, 3623 Main St

Ingenue, 2821 West Broadway

Dream, 311 West Cordova St

Little Dream, The Net Loft, Granville Island

While I covet this dress dearly, I am not without my editor’s presence of mind, so it is with a heavy heart that I report, dear reader, that the fabrics Allison Wonderland employs in this collection—most of it cotton—are not organic. And as an ecofashion convert, I find this hard to reconcile.

Cotton is one of the most water-intensive crops on the planet, and non-organic cotton is the product of often-harsh pesticides that not only run off into and contaminate the water table and pollute our air, but also persist in the soil for years, even after a field has been turned over to more sustainable growing practices. (My heart grows eco-heavy…)

In response to my concerns, Allison admits she’d love to use organic cotton but that it does have its drawbacks. “There’s not a lot of selection,” she says. “I haven’t found any prints, and the colours are usually pretty basic… I love fabric and texture and prints, and I just haven’t been inspired by any of the organic fabrics.”

That said, I was happy to learn that the designer has made a commitment to staying local—a fair consolation in its own right. The company has been in Vancouver for more than 10 years, Allison sources all of her fabrics locally (no easy feat in a city where variety’s in short supply) and does all of the patterns herself in her Gastown studio (right next to Dream on Cordova), and her entire collection is manufactured right here in Vancouver.

By keeping her operations local, she’s ensuring that her business supports a whole network of other local businesses—bolstering the local economy and fashion industry—and that the workers producing her clothes are paid a fair wage while working under government-protected safety regulations.

“That’s really important to me,” says Allison.

Staying local also reduces the label’s carbon footprint, removing the need for long-distance shipment by CO2-spewing freight or air.

While I’m not sure I’m ready to concede my resolve to choose sustainable fabrics or secondhand whenever possible (well, I’m trying at least), for those who consider themselves more “light green” in their sensibilities, Allison Wonderland’s flirty summer dresses and separates may indeed intrigue.

Check out the website for past collections and swoon over these little lovelies below:

AllisonWonderland  AllisonWonderland

AllisonWonderland  AllisonWonderland

The pieces in the Allison Wonderland spring collection reflect the designer’s local focus, with such names as (clockwise from top) Southlands Blouse and Pandora Shorts; the Howe Skirt and Cardero Blouse; the Ambleside Dress; and the Denman Dress (which also comes in grey and black).