My head starts to swim as I near the end of my second drink. I’m at my first magazine launch party, and it’s nothing if not a learning experience.
The last two weeks have been a learning experience, as I’ve shamelessly used my status as a student journalist to steep myself in the fashion world, spending a week in Toronto covering L’Oréal Fashion Week, hitting the shows in Montreal, and rounding off my in-depth fashion experience with Zink magazine’s launch party.
The Canadian fashion experience is diverse. During my stint as a fashionista, I discovered the luxury of the media tent, the delicious thrill of hunting down swag and the highs and lows of the runway shows. I learned that runway lights hurt models’ eyes, Canadian designers are traitors, and magazine launch parties are minefields of forward, middle-aged men.
L’Oréal Fashion Week
Monday, March 17
I can see tears in the model’s eyes as she walks into the blinding flashes of white light at the end of the runway. She is wearing a black, asymmetrically tiered knit dress, silver jewelry, and black leggings that go over immensely tall platform shoes, shoes generally reserved for the pole-dancing set.
Designer Denis Gagnon is the first of the fashion traitors I see at Fashion Week. Despite being a Québécois designer and the recipient of a Beyond Silk & Down (BSD) foundation scholarship, Gagnon shows his collection in Toronto.
One of the first looks he sends down the runway for his 2008 fall fashion collection is something that smacks of last season. Fall fashion in 2007 was dominated by the sweater dress, chunky knits, and waist-defining belts, looks that Gagnon certainly echoes. Fortunately, the tiers and pleats in the fine-knit dress offer something slightly new; a dress that is thick with layers without being bulky.
As the show continues, many of the looks start to incorporate leather. A pair of leather pants, sewn in winding strips up the models legs and over her hips, coupled with a sheer top to show the rocker-chic edge the designer was going for.
Spring looks are incorporated into the fall line, with the swing dress redone in leather, this time sewn in bands of concentric circles. It’s an interesting piece, but the show gets a little monotonous. It’s an almost entirely black collection- other colours are mainly white and brown.
The designer seems pleased with it though, sprinting down the runway with arms outstretched as the show concludes.
Tuesday, March 18
My day starts with a press conference featuring the mayor of Toronto, the head of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, and the Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC). They announce a new program to further fashion design in Canada: bursaries for promising Toronto design students to study at design institutions in Milan. In addition to the bursaries, the city of Milan will provide approximately $12,600 to the chosen graduates to cover their living expenses in Milan.
These bursaries could have a very positive impact on fashion design in Canada, a point later stressed in my mind as I discover, later in the day, that I’m also a traitor to Canadian fashion-more on that later.
1:00 LEWD – Lust for life
This is the first fashion show of the day, and it’s poorly attended, likely because of the early afternoon start time-some fashionistas have jobs. It could also be because LEWD delivers a lack-luster show, sending grey sparkly sweatshirts and striped leggings down the runway as if designing what everyone is already wearing makes you deserve your own show. The clothes are all things I did not need to leave Montreal to see.
The clothing line is Quebec based, and it looks like the designers picked up clothes right off the streets of Montreal. I suppose there is something to be said for wear-ability when it comes to fashion, but this line offers nothing new, except the incorporation of bows on the backs of shirts and dresses-the first of many bow embellishments to come.
It seems that L’Oréal Fashion Week could stand for a bit of editing when it comes to which shows make the cut. A tight schedule showcasing our best designers would be preferable to an never ending list of shows, making the event a hit-and-miss showcase of ALL Canadian fashions.
I’m sitting in the back of this show nervously eyeing the mittens and cookies resting on the vacant front row seats. I’m lamenting my unimportance, underscored by my back row status, as I sit on the edge of my chair, waiting for the announcement: “please move down into the front rows,” that accompanies shows that don’t fill up. The announcement comes, and I make it to the front row, to the cookies, but someone has already snagged the mittens from my chair. My jealousy of those with mittens only deepens as the show starts and I see the most beautiful and innovative clothing I’ve seen this week comes down the runway.
Preloved is a Toronto based clothing line that recycles fabrics from old clothes to make new suits, knit-ware, jumpers, and jackets. Though this line incorporates trends from last fall-preppy, ski-lodge inspired knits; opaque tights in bright colours; and school-girl-style jumpers-the recycling aspect of the design process results in imaginative layers and unexpected embellishments.
Preloved, is by far my favourite collection so far, and has redeemed fashion week for me when I was beginning to think the best part of the whole event was free stuff.
4:00 Talenti Moda Milano
My faith in the fashion industry is restored, as I die a slow and agonizing death fuelled by the envy and desperation that accompanies the viewing of beautiful clothes you cannot possess or even try on. This is the goal emotion of the fashion industry-envy.
Six collections are shown as part of the new Milan/Toronto fashion culture exchange that was announced this morning at the press conference. The clothes have an elegance and an artistry that tends to be sacrificed in Canada in favour of practicality.
My favourite is Marta Griso from the Institut Secoli. Her models come down the runway barefoot, with tassels of pink fabric hanging over their feet, tied to their ankles with what looks like gold string. The collection has a dreamy, feminine quality, with a neutral colour pallet; float-y pink chiffon and relaxed knits.
Wednesday March 19
8:00 Andy The Ann
This is the show I’ve been looking forward to all week. The show I left my cousin’s birthing room for-my cousin gave birth to a baby girl at 3:30 this afternoon, and I went to go visit her during a break in the shows.
Andy The Ann is a Montreal designer, who only has stand-alone stores in Montreal, and is showing his collection at Toronto’s fashion week instead of Montreal’s. I frequently go by his store on de la Montagne and swoon over his beautiful, body-hugging eveningwear.
The clothes are exquisite. The press material says that in this collection, the designer strived to explore duality, “rigid & fluid, lighthearted & severe.” It seems that this has been the goal of almost every other designer this season, but The Ann has execution on his side. Everything is elegant and well made. He accomplishes the holy grail of design-wear ability without the sacrifice of creativity.
The most exciting part of this entire collection might be the jewelry. Black beaded strands combined with either fur pieces or shirt collars. The pieces will be sold exclusively in his stand-alone stores-only in Montreal.
Montreal Fashion Week
Wednesday, March 26
7:00 DINH BA DESIGN
The first thing I notice when I try to find my seat is the plastic sheet runway. The second thing I notice is that there is no swag. Disappointing.
I had gotten used to the glossy dark-wood runway of Toronto fashion week, and this seems particularly unusual because the plastic isn’t even smooth. I wonder if the models will trip. My concerns are addressed as soon as the lights dim and the show begins; the plastic cover is pulled away, revealing a white runway.
From this first collection I see that Montreal fashion is distinct from that of Toronto. Not many of the elements I saw in show after show in Toronto are visible.
The suits are edgy, but distinctly feminine. The first few pieces are done up in a silver tweed, with a wide, black, buckled belt cinched at the waist. The collection starts strong, with the same silver tweed fabric done in dress and skirts, mixed with voluminous, gathered black shrugs and collars. The show begins to disintegrate from here, with the incorporation of tribal graphic prints and the same suits as before done up in a silvery-pink tweed.
7:45 Myco Anna
This show is divided into groups – had the blue, green, and dusty grey patchwork graphic tees come down the runway any longer than they did, I would have been seriously tempted to vacate my front row seat and walk out.
Thankfully, the next portion of the show was more inspiring with patchwork suits and knits, reminiscent of preloved, coming down the runway. The pieces are a little more bohemian than those of preloved, but there are some very nice, creative pieces, like a white sweater dress paired with an oversized patchwork knit scarf.
For some reason, these models dressed in colourful, cozy-up-at-the-ski-lodge knits are carrying military paraphernalia as accessories, like whips, swords, a bow, a helmet, and a shield. The themes conflict, but the weaponry does stop the show from getting monotonous.
Wrap party/Zink Launch Party
After the runway portion of the my Canadian fashion education, comes my most valuable fashion learning experience in the form of a party, knowledge most efficiently shared in a series of lessons:
Lesson #1: Even though this party is both an end of Montreal Fashion Week party, and a fashion magazine launch party, most of the people in attendance have nothing to do with fashion. In fact, most of the people I’ve spoken to tonight didn’t even know Montreal Fashion Week existed. This brings me to my second lesson.
Lesson #2: If you are attending such an event as a student journalist, you are mostly likely the youngest person in the room. Well you and your photographer are likely to be the youngest people in the room. Many of the other attendees are older men and these older men are serious. Don’t let your guard down for an instant, or you’ll be in trouble.
The tone for this sleaze fest was actually set before I was even in the club. I was wandering around the Old Port like an idiot, looking for a club I’d been by many times when two men pulled up in a white Cadillac. A hairy arm, decorated with a gold watch draped itself out the window and down along the car door.
Are you lost?” The man attached to the arm asked. I run over and tell him where I’m trying to go. “I can drive you there,” the man old enough to be my father, told me, “if you trust me.”
Ah, no. Not tonight. He relents, and points out the club less than a block away, almost far enough for me to need a ride.
Lesson #3: Launching a magazine is not a good reason to ruin a good party with a whole lot of promotion. The magazine is nowhere to be found. There is a wall of “covers,” in a dark corner at the far end of the lounge. I say “covers” because so far the magazine has only put out a single issue. This is just a wall display of pictures with the Zink logo stamped across the top of each one. Not until the end of the evening, when I asked the coat check girl out of desperation, was I able to get my hands on a copy. She turned out to be the person to ask: she pulled out a single copy, wrapped in a black logo bag, and handed it to me like something precious.
Magazine in tow, I decide to leave my photographer to talk with the cute designer she met, and call it a night. I hop in a cab, finally free to riffle through the pages of the magazine and absorb some more Canadian fashion from the safety of my home.