From social media debuts to open-to-the-public runway shows, our industry insiders can find inspiration and assurance that, though Toronto Fashion Week is shuttered for now, Canadian fashion can be as strong as ever.
To capture the attention of a worldwide audience, our local industry would do well to look at cases of governance in the U.S. and U.K. The Council of Fashion Designers of America and the British Fashion Council are leading examples of how, when a group of designers, media, retailers and other industry forces come together with the singular goal of promoting their homegrown talent, they succeed. These groups – both not-for-profit – helm fashion weeks and awards ceremonies, facilitate funding programs, and liaise with different levels of government and professional organizations to ensure that their designers are front-facing to the world in a collective and cohesive way. The BFC, with the help of the Mayor’s Office of London, is able to sponsor international media during London Fashion Week with hotel accommodations and car service between shows – a boon to journalists facing tight budgets. They’re also proof that non-profit factions such as Fashion Group International (a worldwide group with over 30 localized chapters that hosts forums and events for fashion professionals) and the Toronto Fashion Incubator (which provides mentorship, work space and business development programming) can work together under one guiding body. If the industry expects Canadian and international audiences to take our designers seriously, singular and passionate leadership is required.
Debbie Zakaib, the executive director of mmode, an organization that includes designers and executives at major Quebec-based fashion brands and aims to strengthen the province’s fashion industry through marketing, manufacturing and branding initiatives, agrees. “Our motto,” she says, is ‘Alone, you go faster. Together, we go further.’”
There’s also the issue of connecting designers and their varied audiences (media, retailers and fans). The indefinite cancellation of TFW doesn’t mean designers aren’t able to put on their own presentations, of course, which these days run the gamut from high-end productions held at lavish homes around the city to intimate affairs at art galleries. And ever more often, designers are looking to social media to pitch new collections at a nominal cost – not to mention use it as a way to let customers know immediately what’s in the works for upcoming seasons. New York-based women’s-wear designer Misha Nonoo launched her spring 2016 collection via Instagram, as did Wes Gordon for his fall collection this year. Regardless of the manner in which they choose to present their new lines, what’s important is that designers are supported in their decisions to not be a part of an “official” fashion week calendar should another one be devised. The organizers of TFW were generally unwilling to include off-site shows as part of the official event schedule, hindering attendance and coverage at these independently produced shows. Embracing the various ways in which designers choose to make a statement is a must. Case in point: The announcement of Gordon’s digital launch was sent by invitation along with other NYFW tickets to more traditionally produced shows.
But it’s the lack of awareness by Canadian consumers to invest in locally designed and manufactured fashion that speaks most loudly about the inner failings of the industry. The Montreal-based Groupe Sensation Mode devised a way to interface with the public directly during the city’s Festival Mode & Design, which runs each August and attracts crowds of thousands.
So what does, or rather should, Toronto’s future hold? Designers at five labels share their thoughts and wishes…Get their insights on THE GLOBE AND MAIL