For the past 10 years, PARK has been promoting Canadian artists and fashion designers, and taking part in redefining the cultural landscape in Calgary and beyond. The past decade has seen a rise of cultural organizations that have been making Calgary a sustainable place for creative entrepreneurs to call home, and we are proud to be a part of this evolution.
Since 2008, PARK's events has grown to include an annual outdoor market PARKSALE; creative entrepreneur workshops PARKFORUM; a store for Canadian brands PARKSHOP; a kids fashion show called PARKFAMILY; and PARK's premier events, PARKSHOW and PARKLUXE, the annual spring/summer and fall/winter fashion shows that showcase Canadian designs to consumers, buyers and media. Each of these events promotes, educates, or provides a sales platform for creative entrepreneurs in Canada.
This page is dedicated to sharing the past ten years of adventures with you. We hope you enjoy!
It all started with a conversation.
In 2008, PARK founder Kara Chomistek started talking with her ACAD and University of Calgary friends about the future for artists in their community. Calgary provided few opportunities for their businesses to grow making it challenging for them to stay and root their businesses here. Many of them were moving to cities like Toronto and New York, to further pursue their creative careers. Kara and her peers decided to host a free outdoor market on the grounds of the University of Calgary, with the hopes of providing a community space for artists, makers and designers. They didn't know that this conversation would later become part of the Calgary cultural movement.
The first PARKSALE had 20 vendors, and was a simple grassroots event hosted at the end of June 2008. Organized by a small team of volunteers, it was attended by faculty, students, and staff of the University of Calgary, and from there it took off like a wildfire.
A year after the first successful event, Kara knew she had to go a few steps further. PARKSALE 2008 was a great experience for everyone involved, but she wanted to continue building on that initial momentum. Some of the PARKSALE vendors that had joined them from University of Lethbridge wanted to help raise money for the event, and through the efforts of community collaboration PARKSHOW was born.
In 2009, PARK co-founder Jessie Li approached Kara about getting involved in PARK after one of their salsa dance classes. The two have been inseparable since and Jessie has become an integral part of the organization.
PARKSHOW 2009, the first fashion show our team ever produced, gave our co-founders the a taste of what PARK could become. While model casting for the event, they met the amazing woman who would become PARK's Director of Fashion, as Maeghan Archibald walked our runway for the first time in PARKSHOW Fall 2009.
2009 created downtown line ups selling out both Spring and Fall showcases. PARKSHOW Fall 2009 was our first themed show taking place at the Arrata Opera where models (literally) stepped out of a 1920's film. Centre It also saw the return of PARKSALE, and laid the groundwork for what PARK would eventually become.
PARKSHOW Spring 2009
PARKSHOW Fall 2009
2010 was a year of experimentation for the burgeoning PARK team, as well as a year of strategizing. After the success of our first fashion shows, we knew that we had something potentially amazing on our hands, and we wanted to learn how to do it right. We needed to find out more about not only producing a fashion show, but how to draw a crowd.
While the doll themed PARKSHOW Spring 2010 was the only event our team hosted that year, it was by no means the only work we did. By the end of the year, we had a strategy that would start to make PARK a household name. That strategy included how we would attract sponsors, how we would build our audience, and how we could develop a team to continue to create bigger and better shows each and every year.
PARKSHOW Spring 2010
2011 was a year of incredible growth for PARK. We started recognizing the different demographics at our events and segmenting our audience. PARKSHOW became an emerging designer show case for new brands, street wear companies and lifestyle design. PARKLUXE emerged as a luxury fashion event presenting designers like Caitlin Power, Lara Presber and Anne Bacalso. We also began working with image creators like Jason Eng, Tyler Stalman and Ania Boniecka. These initial champions of our brand pushed our team to become image makers. These early campaigns would lead to Kara and Jessie becoming some of Western Canada's most sought-after stylists.
PARKSHOW 2011 returned to the opera centre with a 1940's burlesque theme and PARKLUXE 2011 was our first shot at doing something amazing in an unexpected venue at Jamieson Place in Downtown Calgary. Our audience was growing and changing, and we had to work harder to grow and change right along with them.
2012 was breakthrough year for PARK. Kara Chomistek left engineering to pursue PARK and fashion styling full time. Our first major partnership with Mercedes Benz Downtown led PARK to a big jump in our production capabilities. We became influenced by larger city centres, attending fashion weeks in Toronto and New York, and working with larger brands across Canada.
In 2013, we celebrated our 5th anniversary with a growing team, a bigger audience, and grander plans than ever before. It was the year we hosted PARKSHOW at the Aerospace Museum (now called the Hangar Flight Museum), an event that we are proud to say still has people talking to this day.
We worked hard to get to the five year milestone and shared a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to that point. Here's to another 5 years!
PARK's 5th Birthday
By 2014, word of PARK was starting to spread outside of Calgary, and we hosted our first out-of-town event in Edmonton, PARKSHOW YEG 2014. The crowd was amazing, and our first trip to the capital of Alberta led to some of our most long-lasting relationships. We met some amazing new designers there who we continue to work with to this day, and forged some fantastic new relationships.
2014 also saw us hosting our two biggest at-home events we had ever done. PARKSHOW 2014 at the Golf Dome was attended by over 600 people, and PARKLUXE 2014 in the tents on Riverwalk Plaza was attended by almost 700. We saw new national partnerships, expanded our line-ups to include talent across the country and made our dads lay a 12'x200' runway of floor board that they vowed never to help us with again.
PARKSHOW YEG 2014
In 2015, the PARK team grew bigger than ever, and we hosted one of our most ambitious shows to date. We transformed the underground parkade at CF Chinook centre into a coastal-themed fashion and art show, that housed over 800 people, took it down and had it back to normal - all in the span of 36 hours. It was a challenging experience, to say the least, and it brought us together not just as a team, but as a family. Most of the people in this photo are still involved with PARK in some way even now, 3 years later!
We were also provided with an opportunity that took us in an entirely new, and somewhat unexpected, direction; CF Chinook Centre allowed us to use a vacant retail space in the mall to host our first ever PARKSHOP, a pop-up shop with a rotating selection of PARK affiliated designers, artists, and apothecary brands. This one-off opportunity has lead to the launch of our online store, our PARK Curated brand, and two semi-permanent brick-and-mortar stores in Edmonton.
2015 was also the first year we had the opportunity to work with Adam Warner, who designed the PARKLUXE 2015 campaign and has become a de-facto member of our team - he has designed all of our PARKSHOW and PARKLUXE campaigns since then, and would be the mastermind behind our 2017 rebranding.
PARKSHOW YEG 2015
2016 was a banner year not only for PARK, but for Calgary as well. The rapidly developing East Village was now the host of Canada's newest architectural masterpiece, Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre. We were lucky enough to host one of the first major events to take place at NMC, and it was an experience nobody on our team will ever forget. PARKLUXE 2016 was full of firsts for our events: For the first time, we had a live band, Citysleep, playing music in the middle of the runway while the fashion show went on around them, and we hosted an intimate Platinum VIP experience with paired champagne and music performed by Volante String Quartet. Run Deer Run rounded out the muscial experience, playing a live set for our VIP guests.
2016 was also the year of our first ever 2 night show; PARKSHOW 2016 took over a vacant retail space in CF Chinook Centre, and our team went to town in the months before-hand, transforming the space into the Wynwood district of Miami. The casual-themed Friday night show and the upscale-feeling Saturday evening event drew over 600 people each, and we kept the momentum going in the weekends that followed with our second PARKSHOP and PARKSALE in the same venue.
In late 2016, we teamed up with Mount Royal University to produce their first ever Otahpiakki fashion show, a celebration of Indigenous fashion, which has now grown to encompass a full week of events.
In 2017 , we made our first foray into the business to business world when we hosted PARK SHOWROOM, a small Canadian fashion trade show, alongside PARKSHOW YEG 2017 in Edmonton. Later that spring, the PARK team (now made up of over 30 volunteers and staff) took over an empty warehouse in the historic community of Inglewood for PARKSHOW 2017 the three-day market and two-night fashion show that celebrated Mode Models' 30 anniversary. Our largest audience to date saw the 2017 collections from some of our old favourites like Camp Brand Goods in Edmonton, and internationally recognized brands like Rad Hourani.
We followed it up with PARKLUXE 2017 at Spruce Meadows, one of our most epic shows (and our most complicated runways) that we have ever produced thanks to our partnership with Bankers Hall.
In the fall of 2017, we joined forces with Southcentre Mall and local kids clothing brand [pre]shrunk to host our first PARKFAMILY fashion show, showcasing Canadian brands that produce clothes for kids and their parents. This was quickly followed up by our second Otahpiakki partnership, which had us hosting three separate Indigenous fashion shows in City Hall.
We also spent a good chunk of the year working with our long-time graphic designer, Adam Warner, who gave us a new logo and a new brand identity. It was sad to say goodbye to the blue and white squiggles, but it gave us the chance to see just how far we've come.
PARKSHOW YEG 2017 & PARK SHOWROOM
Our tenth anniversary has arrived, and with it some of our most ambitious plans to date. We kicked the year off with our most well-attended PARKFORUM, and quickly followed it up by shooting our PARK TEN campaign with some of our biggest supporters - you will soon be seeing this campaign around the city! PARKSHOW and PARKSALE will be hosted again in the East Village, but this year's show will be a little bit different - it's taking place on the George C. King Bridge over top of the Bow River. The way we see it, for our tenth anniversary we need to go big or go home (and you know we won't be going home any time soon!)
The past 10 years have been an incredible journey, and we want to thank everyone who has taken it with us. We want to thank our audience for joining us in doing what we love. We want to thank our sponsors for helping us to produce bigger and more complex shows every year. We thank the photographers and graphic designers who truly understand our vision and help us spread the word. Thank you to the retailers and commercial buyers who support the artists, musicians, and designers we showcase. We can't forget the media, bloggers, and influencers who have helped us to promote our events year over year. We thank the businesses around Calgary who promote our events by displaying our posters and giving out our postcards in their stores. Thank you to the successful creative entrepreneurs from across Canada who have shared their knowledge and wisdom with the next generation. We thank our friends and family who have put in long hours helping us set up and run larger and larger events (and who put up with our insane schedules!)
The amount of love and support we have received from the entire community has been truly overwhelming.
Finally, we want to thank the dozens of volunteers who have joined us over the past decade. Some were part of the team for only a short time, while others have been with us for years, and we thank you all - without you, this past decade would not have been possible. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.