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Meet the winners of Vancouver Magazine's first annual Made in Vancouver Awards.
It’s no secret that Vancouver is bursting with creative talent: between the never-ending schedule of craft shows, farmers’ markets and pop-up shops, our city’s maker culture has never been more on point. And with our brand new Made in Vancouver awards program, we’re thrilled to shine a light on the homegrown makers who are taking it to the next level.
Over the past few months, our judges rigorously tasted, tested and examined each and every entry. We knew it would be a tough gig, but the richness, diversity and talent of Vancouver’s maker scene exceeded even our wildest expectations. We’re thrilled to announce the winners of our first-ever Made in Vancouver Awards.
Photographed on-site at Straight Line Designs at Parker Street Studios.
Check out our full list of 2019 Made in Vancouver Awards finalists here.
Meet our Made in Vancouver judges here.
If you told judge Shiva Reddy, wine director at Vancouver’s buzzy Savio Volpe, that in a sea of lauded craft spirit entries a kefir would win top prize in this category, she wouldn’t have believed it. And not only a kefir, but a water-based kefir. It’s a subset of the growing popular fermented wonder that the judges didn’t even know existed before seeing Culture Kefir’s smartly designed bottle. But this unique beverage—to really up the ante, the judges sampled the all-black activated charcoal version—threw everyone for a loop. “Kefir has always been on the very outskirts of my radar. When we tried it, we were all caught off guard, not expecting it to be tasty with a light, yet creamy, mouth feel,” recalls Reddy. But this drink is no parlour trick—in addition to its I-can’t-believe-this-is-kefir chops, it’s actually a drink that may be the ounce-for-ounce champ in terms of packing a healthful wallop. You have the probiotics from the kefir, you have low-sugar raw fruits and raw herbs, and then you have superfoods like spirulina and the above-mentioned activated charcoal to round out the health lineup. With this embarrassment of benefits, we think Culture Kefir (available through specialty retailers like Le Marché St. George) won’t be able to play the role of underdog for much longer. From $4.99, culture-kefir.ca
A new craft distillery seems to open every week in B.C., but many newcomers seem as if they spent more time focusing on their branding than on learning the actual craft part of the equation. Which is why this classic gin, made by distiller Tariq Khan at OG distillers Yaletown Distilling (in this nascent industry, opening in 2013 makes you an éminence grise), was such a pleasant surprise. It’s triple-distilled with all-local grains, so there are no harsh angles, and the floral-forward botanicals make this a gin that cries to form the backbone of a cold, no-B.S. martini. Cheers to being a trailblazer.$39, yaletowndistillingco.com
The craft soda trend has been full of promise but a tad short on delivering a drink that tastes better than mass-market options that are a fraction of the price. But leave it to the brewers at one of our fave beer makers to crack the soda code. This bottle uses juice from Fraser Valley raspberries and marries them with Earl Grey tea sourced from the Tea Centre in Courtenay, B.C., for a combination that’s everything you want a handmade soda to be—fresh, local and delivering a blast of taste with a clear conscience. $3.95,callistersoda.com
Craft distillers are falling over themselves in a race to make Canadian single malt, but a bottle like this reminds you that there’s one area that we don’t have to play catch-up on—rye. Made from 100-percent organic rye grown in Armstrong, B.C., Trust is a powerhouse with all the elements that go into a great expression of the grain: baked apples, vanilla and an undeniable backbone of spice and warmth that let you know it’s built for the True North, strong and free. (Well, not quite free, but still a great deal at $70.) $70, thelibertydistillery.com
Minori Takagi’s Glass Circle chain set may appear delicate—the handmade necklace and earrings are crafted primarily from, well, glass, after all—but by employing the ancient art of Japanese lampworking, the local artist has managed to manipulate a characteristically fragile material into stunning and extremely wearable bling. Composed of borosilicate glass—a substance that, to be fair, is stronger and more durable than the typical soda-lime variety—the jewellery has been textured so that every circular chain link catches the light just so, emitting a radiant gleam. The Shizuoka-born Takagi says she was inspired by the confidence of Vancouver women and wanted to create something that matched their aplomb. Considering the set’s clean, translucent construction, however, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have trouble pulling it off. The necklace and earrings have a poetic quality, too: Takagi chose the chain link shape to demonstrate what she sees as the unbreakable quality of her material of choice. “The time and detail put into these pieces make them more than a fashion statement,” said Michelle Rizzardo, owner of local womenswear boutique One of a Few and the head judge of our style category. “They’re truly works of art.” $655, mylampwork.com
This easy-breezy button-up flutter-sleeve blouse by Abel Wear would make a sweet addition to any summer wardrobe (tuck it into an A-line midi skirt and feel the wind in your hair—and on your arms and legs—as you cycle down the Adanac Bikeway for some brews), but even sweeter is the top’s backstory. As a registered non-profit, Abel Wear employs women who face barriers to finding work, and the sales from its natural-fibre, sustainably dyed garments go right back into supporting its job-creation and skills-building programs. $85, abelwear.com
The term “one of a kind” gets tossed around a lot these days, but it’s an apt descriptor for this show-stopping coat by Sara Felts. The pretty, poncho-esque garment is made from superfine Italian merino wool and silk gauze, which have been bonded together to create a smooth, lightweight textile through meticulous nuno felting. The earthy, plant-influenced print is the result of pressing and steaming eucalyptus leaves onto the fabric—an eco-friendly and truly artistic process, not least because the coat will soon be exhibited locally. Pricing varies per custom piece, sarafelts.ca
With the Sara Dress, local bridalwear darling Truvelle has dreamed up a fresh, modern take on the big-day gown (think fairy-tale without the froufrou), and we can’t help but say, “I do” to it. The intricate satin-and-hand-beaded-lace bodice supports busts of all sizes, while the voluminous skirt—made up of not one, not two, but three layers of airy tulle—is designed for hours of twirling and dancing. Bonus: the dress incorporates lace remnants (cheers for waste reduction!) that would otherwise be unusable at Truvelle’s Mount Pleasant studio.$2,675, truvelle.com
We were convinced the world had reached peak salted caramel—Starbucks was hawking it as a mocha topping, after all, which typically means a flavour has jumped the shark. But then our Made in Vancouver judges cracked open a bag of ChocolaTas milk chocolate salted caramels, and our love affair began anew.
“Honestly, we just couldn’t stop eating them,” notes lead food judge and cookbook author Joanne Sasvari. It’s the genius of Belgian-born chocolate master Wim Tas: his clever cream-based filling creates a unique runny caramel that doesn’t stick to your teeth. Pair the delicately salted sweet stuff with a rich milk chocolate shell, and you’ve got an irresistible variation on a theme we thought we knew too well. “The ChocolaTas salted caramels just ticked all the boxes: sweet, salty, chocolatey and so pretty,” Sasvari says. “They’re sophisticated but approachable.”
Tas honed his craft in Belgium, training at La Maison Wittamer, exclusive suppliers to the country’s royalty, but has been creating chocolates fit for a queen here in the Lower Mainland since 2002, running a workshop in Abbotsford and a retail shop on Granville Island. “I just want to make people happy through chocolate,” says Tas. Mission accomplished. $6.95, chocolatas.com
Okay, La Glace: you’re just showing off at this point. We already knew that your custard-style French ice creams are quite literally the crème de la crème, but now you’ve aced your vegan option, too? You’ve got some nerve…though it’s hard to stay mad at this Kitsilano dairy king with a scoop of its rich coconut ice cream in front of us. “How they got this so perfectly creamy without actually using cream is remarkable,” notes Sasvari. The grassy, vanilla fragrance of the pandan adds an intriguing Southeast Asian flavour profile, while the Tiffany-blue glass canisters make it a feast for the eyes, too. $15, laglace.ca
“These Chez Christophe flutes have become a staple in my house,” admits Sasvari. It’s not hard to see (rather, taste) why: the flaky, savoury sticks are at once perfectly elegant and totally bingeable. The breadsticks are hand-made in small batches from buttery puff pastry, an irresistible complement to our charcuterie spreads that we didn’t know we were missing. “Flutes are a popular Swiss product and integral to the Swiss culture, but we weren’t finding anything like them in Vancouver,” says chef Christophe Bonzon. “So we began to make them ourselves.” $6.25, chez-christophe.ca
Did we know what koji salt was before this competition began? No. Are we total converts, using it in everything from marinades to fried-chicken recipes? You betcha. The umami-rich paste made from naturally fermented koji rice creates a serious flavour bomb that adds a depth and richness to pretty much any dish. “We like to call it our wet salt,” says Koji Fine Foods founder and CEO Denver Mace. The fact that it’s low-sodium (75 percent less sodium than traditional salt!) and soy-free is just a bonus. “It’s a great idea for anyone concerned about wellness, and it’s a delicious product to boot,” says Sasvari. $12.79, kojifinefoods.ca
Though Trae Designs founder Gabby Livsey may have intended her handcrafted wooden blocks to be used as children’s toys—the mother of three started her career as a maker after years of running a daycare—there’s plenty for adults to love about these little geometric gems. “These multifaceted rock blocks don’t need to be tidied away at the end of the day,” says Jody Phillips, head home judge and director of IDS Vancouver. Made from North American walnut or maple and waxed smooth with handmade beeswax balm, they’re as beautiful as they are playful. (And eco-friendly, too: Trae partners with One Tree Planted to, well, plant a tree for every product sold.)
Also on Livsey’s roster of design-y playthings: cartons of perfectly smooth wooden eggs and handcrafted maplewood cameras with moving dials. But the maker understands clearly the appeal of the abstract blocks that won our judges’ hearts. “They’re like playable art,” says Livsey. “They make a great conversation piece that is tangible, interactive and visually pleasing.” Ultimately, there’s no wrong way to use the uniquely shaped forms: they’re designed for open-ended play, after all, whatever your age. As Phillips puts it: “They’re simple but so fun.”$48, traedesigns.com
MTH principal Michael Host has crafted a signature style over the years, but he still manages to intrigue with ever-evolving variations of his materials of choice: salvaged cedar stumps and eco-friendly soy resin. His new offering, an asymmetrical side table that cantilevers a smooth white-resin platform above a raw cedar stump, is light and airy, and it’s firmly in line with Host’s goal: “Bring a piece of outside, inside.”From $1,950, mthwoodworks.ca
Furniture designer Mark Cocar’s low-slung armchair puts a twist on classic mid-century-modern design. Here, sustainable Baltic birch is used in place of the less sustainable exotic hardwoods typical of vintage pieces; the cleverly cut frame is designed for minimal joinery, resulting in a streamlined structure. “He’s taken a classic, identifiable aesthetic and successfully reconsidered it using fresh materials,” says Phillips. Colourful upholstery options make use of a playful palette—like a little sunshine yellow to combat a grey Vancouver morning. $895, instagram.com/icon_mfg
Crafting an all-natural deodorant that’s pleasant to use, actually works and, y’know, ditches the harmful, potentially endocrine-disrupting toxins typically found in drugstore roll-ons is no small feat. But Radmila and Ada Juristovski, the mother-daughter duo behind Nala Care, seemed to have cracked the code. Spurred by the loss of Radmila’s husband (and Ada’s father), Alan, to cancer in 2013, the pair channelled their grief into enhancing their health and discovered that, when it came to personal-care goods, there was plenty of room for improvement in the natural-deodorant category. And so came Nala, a line of unisex “free-from” stick deodorants that use a blend of easy-to-pronounce, botanically derived ingredients, like cocoa-seed butter, ylang-ylang essential oil and carnauba wax, to keep underarms feeling and smelling fresh. (They’re “free-from” in the sense that they’re free from parabens, aluminum and other compounds that research has linked to cancer and reproductive issues, among other concerns.) Choose from three scents (and strengths): we love the charcoal-and-peppermint for every day, while the geranium-and-lemon-myrtle is ideal for early-morning HIIT workouts and then some. “Not only did it leave me feeling protected all day, but it’s also lightweight and lovely to apply,” said Ana Allen, beauty director of Evalina Beauty and our head beauty judge. $26, nalacare.com
You could probably eat up Schmear Natural’s Hibiscus and Pomegranate Antioxidant Face Mask if you were really hungry—a testament to how natural its ingredients are and just how damn good it smells—though you’d be missing out on the benefits it provides your skin. The colloidal oat base gently soothes and exfoliates while superfoods like pomegranate, hibiscus and acai berries help fight signs of aging, leaving you with a radiant and more balanced complexion. $24, schmearnaturals.etsy.com
The humble body wash typically plays second fiddle to volumizing shampoos and fancy keratin-infused conditioners in our bath time caddies, but this irresistibly scented entry by Mifa and Co. makes body wash the star of the shower. Composed of a delicious blend of aloe vera, cocoa butter and eucalyptus (plus lavender, peppermint and other essential oils), the all-natural revitalizing wash will transform your bathroom into a luxe, multiple-diffuser-equipped spa—and have you lathering up again and again.$32, mifaandco.com
A moisturizer, cuticle cream, lip balm—however you use this workhorse of a whipped balm, you can trust that it will hydrate the heck out of your skin. Formulated with argan oil, tomato oil, sea buckthorn, pomegranate extract and astaxanthin—a highly nourishing combo of ingredients that lends the product a gorgeous orange hue—the balm melts beautifully into the skin to help soothe, soften and renew. There’s no lingering scent or residue, just bright, glowing results for just about every skin type.$95, okokocosmetiques.com
You’re a makeup artist on the set of Vikings, in the midst of an epic battle scene and a downpour: just how heavy is your kit now? MYO Cosmetic Cases founder Suzanne Carter saw just how lacking film sets were for compact makeup cases when she was searching for one herself. She wasn’t in the industry but assumed the pros would have figured out how to turn volumes of foundations, creams, tubes, eyeshadows and blushes into a more portable design; when she found out they hadn’t, the former corporate trainer decided to create it herself.
It was a hit. MYO Cosmetic Cases now counts the teams at Riverdale, 13 Reasons Why and The Good Doctor among its loyal fans (and Vikings, too, natch). Made from food-grade, recyclable plastics (the company will take the kits back to upcycle them at the end of their lifespan), the cases are designed to handle multiple types of products, including pans, pencils, creams, liquids and powders. Magnetic “pods” keep products like pan makeup in place and can be personalized for individual actors for between-take touch-ups. (And for the at-home user, they’re ideal for carry-on packing of all your travel essentials.) “It’s a very innovative idea and one I hadn’t seen on the market before,” says Kristina Matisic, former host of the popular consumer show The Shopping Bags and head judge for our wild card category. “I know from being on movie and TV sets, makeup artists are often juggling so many containers and tubes, and this really simplifies it and puts everything all in one place.”$65, myocosmeticcases.com
We’re fairly inundated with meal-prep services, so why get excited by a Vancouver-based one? Fresh Prep has tackled one of the common complaints and failings of the others—namely, in garbage production. Meal kits are delivered in a reusable cooler each week, which is collected the week following, along with any plastic wrapping—the latter duly recycled. Paper bags are used as much as possible (the company encourages its clients to use them for compost bin liners), while the recipes themselves are interesting, smartly prepared (almost no chopping involved, hurray!) and, most importantly, tasty. From $44, freshprep.ca
Lunapads is one of the OG alternative period products, getting eco-conscious women into reusable pads since 1993—long before upstarts like Thinx came on the market. So it’s not surprising that they’re trailblazing again, creating a new design for trans and non-binary folks who desire more masculine alternatives to period products. The Luna Undies Boxer Brief is absorbent, leak-proof period underwear that replaces regular disposable pads or tampons, and it’s made from 100-percent organic fibres. “It’s a very a niche product,” says Matisic, “but one that caters to an under-represented community in the market, and I applaud them for that.” $42, lunapads.ca
Back in ’84, multi-bit screwdrivers were solely the hollow-handled type, with the bits tossed in (and consequently lost). Picquic switched it up with a design that allows bit selection and storage to happen at the same time—one slides in; the other slides out. And they’ve continued to make the scredrivers out of their South Vancouver factory all the while. “I was really impressed with the Picquic,” says Matisic, “mainly because I had no idea that this design came out of Vancouver many years ago. It’s now been imitated by many companies around the world.”$16, picquic.com
When fitness judge David Webb, editor of Explore magazine, set out to judge the entries in this category, he didn’t want to cut corners. T