When asked about North America’s fashion capitals, one immediately gravitates toward New York City or L.A. Extend your aperture to include the rest of the Western Hemisphere, and even major centres in that region often miss the cut. London, Milan, Paris…Victoria is far from in frame. And if our sister-city, Vancouver, even enters the style conversation, it’s due to its recent crown: the Third Worst Dressed City in the World.
Màrio Szabò, a young man with a camera, hopes to change that. Of course, in the YYJ community, he’s probably better known as the personality behind the website www.victoriafashionscene.tumblr.com.
Szabò is slight framed and energetic. When I pick him out at a local café, he’s shoes-off, cross-legged at his bench. His forearms are snaked with bracelets, his mid-length brown hair pinned up. He’s requested ahead of time that we sit at a dim table toward the back of the room.
“I’ve always been interested in fashion,” Szabò begins. Yet two years ago, he was on the fast track toward a career in medicine. He studied biology at the University of Victoria, only picked up a camera when he was designated family photographer on hikes around the lower mainland, where he grew up. It was in the fall of 2010 that Szabò decided to peruse fashion full time. Szabò was volunteering at a hospital in Japan when he realized the lifestyle he chased so long didn’t resonate the way he hoped
“Just because you have the potential to do something, doesn’t mean you have to, or should do it,” he says. Following his contract, Szabò returned to a now familiar Victoria, determined to find his next step. The internet became his refuge—the quickest means of crafting a new identity.
“I’m sure there’s a great fashion scene in Toronto and Montreal, but I never hear about it,” he says. This lack of celebration has what few Canadian fashion photographers there are — Toronto Native, Tommy Ton, for instance — heading overseas in pursuit of recognition. Victoria’s full of well dressed people; it doesn’t lack style, it lacks voice. With Victoria Fashion Scene, Szabò hopes to become the keystone to that conversation.
Throughout our hour-long discussion, Szabò’s recognized and interrupted by three different patrons. My tape has been running for 30 minutes and his mocha is far from half empty. I begin to understand why he chose the seat he did. When Szavo first decided to shoot pictures of pedestrians, he was terrified. On his first day, he walked for 45 minutes without approaching a single subject. Now that he’s become a litmus test for Victoria’s fashionistas, he’s realized just how welcome he is. And it becomes obvious how enthusiastic some are to appear behind his lens.
“Style is something individual. Fashion encompasses a series of styles,” Szabò says when asked how he chose his domain name. “Victoria doesn’t have one specific style and I try to capture that.”
Szabò estimates that he gets a shot about 20% of the time, most of his day is spent walking around. “Of course, if I were to sit here, I could shoot people all day,” he says — the café we’re stationed at is wedged within the trendy corner of Pandora and Government. “But the Lo Jo neighborhood isn’t Victoria. It’s only a part of it. I don’t want to leave anything out.”
When one scrolls through Szabò’s feed, they will notice the diversity of his subjects — age groups, ethnicities and genders — as well as a myriad of familiar backdrops, from the constantly rejuvenated inner harbor, to the old worldly Oak Bay.
The past nine months have hurdled past for Victoria Fashion Scene. Not only has Szabò found his grasp in the world of online media and fashion photography — I’m given advice when it comes time to shoot his portrait for this article — but he has also moved from street style blog emulator to innovator. Recently, Szabò has begun to incorporate short interviews into his posts, which originally featured little more than the subject, his or her age, and his or her profession.
“Style is really about the person. And there’s so much that you don’t know about a person unless you ask.” Questions have included: What is your favorite fairytale? Where in the world would you spend a year? And, Why are you in your respective industry?
Szabò hopes to continue in this direction — to pay further tribute to the stories of his subjects and the city they inhabit — all while pursuing his new found interest in the fashion world.