DefSup Celebrates a Decade of Derelicte

Story by Kirsti Salmi, Photos by Chad Kirvan

A decade into Derelicte, DefSup’s David Karasiewicz and Renee Terpstra are feeling nostalgic. Over 10 successful years, the event has exploded into a sensory feast that keeps Thunder Bay’s chilly Januarys haute with a kaleidoscopic show of fashion, visual artistry, music, light work and projection mapping, dancing, and performance art. Unlike traditional fashion shows, it’s an intimate and immersive experience that defies convention and categorization. “It’s sort of like a fashion show that’s gone strange,” says Karasiewicz. “It’s difficult to describe—it has to be experienced.”

A cheeky homage to Zoolander’s infamous fashion walk-off, Derelicte began as a part of a series of events designed to promote Urban Infill: Art in the Core. When the DefSup board began to run the Urban Infill series, they did so with the goal of revitalizing the downtown core, which hadn’t yet seen its era of small business revival. “Urban infill is an architectural concept that aims to fill abandoned space with art and business to attract more of the same,” says Terpstra. “It’s really grown and blossomed over 10 years. Urban Infill doesn’t just present art and artists. By choosing to support the show, people created culture and community.”

Derelicte found its roots in Urban Infill’s closing event, TokyoPop + Shock, which celebrated cosplay as a part of Japanese anime and manga culture. As Urban Infill grew in scope and size, TokyoPop + Shock fell by the wayside, but the DefSup board wanted to continue fostering costume and performance elements in a new event. Two years later, Derelicte was born as a multidisciplinary art show with a twist—a curated exhibition featuring wearable art. “The artists that we commissioned were so excited to do something outrageous and challenge themselves with the wearable art pieces,” says Karasiewicz. “They use a lot of recycled material in their original works, which further promotes the idea of celebrating the re-use of materials, as well as urban space.” Derelicte also involves showing fashion by local retailers and designers, many of whom have been inspired to incorporate performance aspects in their sets.

As with other DefSup events, community partnerships were an important feature of Derelicte—none more so than its iconic, long-standing tenure at Black Pirates Pub. “It’s an open space, a safe environment, and inclusive,” says Karasiewicz. “They trust us, and anything goes there—which is good, because we like to push the limits. It’s the perfect space because it’s intimate enough to include everyone.” Openness and intimacy is key for Derelicte, which encourages audience participation with a DIY fashion/costume contest, a walk-off challenge, and a time-honoured tradition that surprised organizers—an end-of-event DJ set that inspires audience members to jump onto the catwalk for a dance party. “We had to reinforce the catwalk over the years once people started that,” laughs Terpstra.

“We look back on the first Derelicte—we were so nervous and anxious,” reflects Karasiewicz.

“We’re hard to impress, but by the end we agreed—Okay, that was insanely good. We are continually wowed by the artists and performers, every single year. It all comes down to available talent you have in your city. It was there. It just needed to be put together.”

Derelicte 10 is a fundraiser for DefSup and LU Radio, and will be held at Black Pirates Pub on January 27 from 8 pm-2 am. For programming information, visit