Welcome to a special report by TFI News featuring the highlights and lowlights of L'Oreal Fashion Week (October 20 - 24, 2008) through the eyes of the TFI News editorial team: Susan Langdon, Gail McInnes and Doris Montanera. We're starting our blog on October 24, 2008 (Day 5) and working backwards to Day 1.
Friday, Oct 24, 2008 - SL
It was definitely worth the wait! Denis Gagnon's show at 9pm was OUTSTANDING! Having seen his fall 2008 collection, I didn't think it was possible for him to do better; I mean, how can you improve on perfection? But Gagnon's spring 2009 collection was simply breathtaking. The man is a genius! Gagnon's runway show began with a teaser, leading the unsuspecting audience through some familiar looks: head-to-toe black, a touch of S&M, tough and sexy chic, even some leather for spring. Then suddenly, he shocked us by introducing white, then fuschia, red and finally gold...and in JERSEY! Open backs, twists and ties, smocking, soft voluminous shapes, even some lady-like looks, GORGEOUS bold jewellery and bags; he did it all but the line was consistent throughout. What was most impressive was how he deftly balanced ingenuity with sexuality and marketability. He's wise to the fact that women who can afford his looks may not have the body to bare all the way they used to, so he's designed a line that can be worn by women of all shapes and ages. Young designers take note: This is how it is done! Study the work of Denis Gagnon and let this master of design inspire you.
Note: I apologize for the quality of the images above; the models walked too fast so these are a bit blurry.
I was intrigued with who and what Afshin Feiz was (as a brand) and so I attended his show at 8pm. As it turns out, he was born in Iran but must have lived in Canada at some point; his press package said that this show marked Feiz' "return home". Also turns out that he designs for a very specific woman, namely: young, hot and rich. I liked the mid-toned brights of his sexy dresses as well as his use of chains as trims but after a while I found it a bit too repetitive. For all of the hype that surrounded this show (voiceovers made at the end of the previous show made it loud and clear, several times, that Afshin Feiz' show was by invitation only), his press kit was not very impressive. The kit folder was plain, unbranded and of the quality one could find at Dollarama. Press materials were simple photocopies on inexpensive paper; not exactly on-brand with his collection.
Earlier in the day, I attended several shows by young designers, many of whom are TFI members, as I like to show my support and encouragement. Throughout the afternoon I noted several looks that were inventive, experimental and creative, but I also noted too many repeats within everyone's collection. Young designers: Please remember that you're showing to a seasoned audience of experienced fashion professionals. We get it the first time around; you don't need to show it to us in 10 different versions: long, short, bustier, halter, top, dress etc. I know it's hard to come up with 30+ outfits that are different yet cohesive so until you're at the stage where this comes naturally to you, it's better to show fewer outfits that make a statement than to milk a good idea to death.
At 2pm, we presented our TFI New Labels seminar at L'Oreal Fashion Week this season and it was a very positive experience! Held in the Fashion Environment, over 30 people registered for the seminar that featured panelists Nathalie Atkinson from the National Post (photo below, far right), designer David Dixon (photo centre) and 2008 TFI New Labels winner Eugenia Leavitt (photo below, far left). Questions about the application, about what the judges (David and Nathalie) will be looking for, why some semi-finalists get eliminated from the competition, how important it is for designers to listen to the judges' comments and more, were all discussed. Many thanks to the FDCC who provided gorgeous gifts for the 3 panelists (a leopard print suitcase filled with fabulous goodies). Designers: Last day to enter TFI New Labels, a prestigious, national fashion design competition, is November 7th. For details and an application, click here.
The only disappointing thing about today were the continued whispers and talk about the speech Robin Kay made on Monday night. Robin is the President of the Fashion Design Council of Canada and organizer of L'Oreal Fashion Week. You know what, everyone makes mistakes. Show me one person who has never made a mistake in his or her life or who doesn't harbour some secret sin (okay, I'll admit mine is shopping!). Remember that famous saying about casting the first stone? Give me a break and cut the lady some slack. I'll admit that Robin and I have had our share of disagreements but in all sincerity, I believe Robin has done more good than harm for our industry. She has been charged with a task that requires an incredible amount of fortitude. I know first hand how hard it is to run a non-profit and how difficult it is to raise money especially in these tough economic times. It's not easy nor glamorous. We would all be better people to forgive and to forget.
Thursday, October 23, 2008 - DM
Montrealer Renata Morales crafted beautiful eveningwear dresses out of chiffon and organza that looked more like confections, manipulating the fabric into a froth of pleats and twisted, tulle rosettes. Marrying her couture discipline with her love of modern art, the other half of her collection was distinctly Japanese. Long sheaths and tunics were graced with large-scale prints of the cartoon faces of Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, while others carried cityscape photos taken by Morales on her last trip to Japan.
Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008 - DM
With Carlie Wong, Andy The-Anh and Thien Le on the schedule, today's theme was clear: party wear.
Toronto¹s Dr. Draw, an electric violinist known for his street punk, opened and closed Andy The-Anh's show, jamming with a soundtrack of hits from the '60s and '80s: Paint It, Black by the Rolling Stones, The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby and Queen's Another One Bites the Dust. Fittingly, The-Anh's line was structured, architectural and, as usual, cut close to the body, so even without the exaggerated slits (thigh high), it¹s not made for the shy. "We wanted to bring the idea of Hollywood glamour up to date, to urbanize it," he says. The long, lean silhouette is like the city, he says, "High buildings, and colours like black, dust and concrete. Everything is toned down." A laminated linen suit, glazed black like fresh asphalt, hugs the models curves with a belt that slides through a slit in fabric. Chiffon liners peeked out between skirt-suit slits, keeping them sexy but not vulgar. The-Anh's lines were clean and confident, the main adornment trios of sunburst brooches or crisscross wrapping around waists and hips.
Thien Le (runway images below) offered up an explosion of pretty. From his African-print and butterfly-inspired cover-ups, to his Dior New Look cocktail dresses tied in front with a bow, to the elegant ivory bustier gown worn by actress Tara Spencer-Nairn, he romped from cruise to garden party to charity ball. Kind of makes you wish you had a gala or two, or three, to attend.
Carlie Wong, one of the finalists from Project Runway Canada, did party-chic for a glamorous gangster. Translation: sexy and sharply confident jumpsuits with plunging necklines, Grecian-draped gowns, fluid pants with ruffled, backless tops, and high-waisted, tailored skirts paired with satin halters.
Evan Biddell hit a different note, inspired the people he sees on Queen Street West in Toronto, where he¹s been living. "She's on the beach and wants to go clubbing," he says of his muse, explaining a collection that included hooded one-piece swimsuits and holey coverup jackets. Although he didn't focus on eco-friendly fabrics, as he did with his first show after winning Project Runway Canada, he has continued the theme with Lycocel jerseys and denim made from organic cotton. "I loved it; I thought it was really exciting," says HBC fashion director Suzanne Timmins. "The styling was amazing with the all-over (cartoon) print unitards, and the bottoms were great; the fit, the drape; especially the dark denim. They were really edgy." The pants were inspired by men's jeans and, in another play on ideas of masculinity and femininity, Biddell sent out denim skirts on male models although says the skirts can be worn by either gender. "We tested them on Queen Street," he says. "No one said anything and when they did notice, they said 'awesome'." Sharing a closet just got easier.
Tuesday, Oct 21, 2008 - DM
Stellar day all around, but Joeffer Caoc and David Dixon were the stars. Caoc's collection, appropriately entitled Nude, was pared down, clean, sexy and sensual. "They¹re all naked because I¹m not done," he quipped. "Kidding! My whole inspiration is the purity and esthetic of design." Translation: soft, feminine dresses, tunics and sleeveless jackets in graphic, yet fluid, lines. Imagine haphazard yet put together. The colours, ranging from white and ivory to tans and champagnes, were created through transparent fabric layered over translucent over opaque. Adornment came in triangular wedges made from sewn-down darts on chiffon or georgette, sequins subtly peeking out of shoulders and sides and an etched-silk print that resembled cross-hatching as seen under a microscope. No bags, no accessories, only the 3-D architecture of his clothes. Images from Joeffer's runway show follow.
Rarely ever just a runway romp of clothes, David Dixon always puts on a little show with his shows. Our hint to tonight¹s plot were the lonely silhouettes of trees against a South African sky projected onto the backdrop, and the title, Walk to Freedom. As always when he draws inspiration from written words (his memorable war letters collection comes to mind), his line is the most cohesive and tells the best story. This time he drew from a Nelson Mandela quote, which includes this excerpt: "I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look the distance I have come." Dixon brought us a hint of that vista with the dresses studded with thin, hanging spikes of what he called porcupine leather, the bright hibiscus silk prints, the "glass alligator organza" and hand-beaded cracked leather. Finally, the African-print dresses whose billowing panels most evoked a sense of freedom. No wonder for Barbie's 50th birthday next year, the first doll of fashion has chosen Dixon to create her new, styling wardrobe. Below are images from David's show.
Nada Shepherd presented a well-edited, cohesive collection of only 22 looks. Her inspiration was Grecian draping and Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war. Highlighting it was the opening green plaid gown with leather halter and belt (below far right), quickly followed by a gold sequined shift dress with leggings (below centre). Other notables: an effortless pale grey drop-shoulder tunic paired with beaded leggings, baggy palazzo and harem pants, as well as a vibrant magenta caftan with twisted rope neckline that billowed like sails to the sound of waves washing onto shore. Actresses Wendy Crewson and Tara Spencer-Nairn were spotted in the front row; Crewson in a bronze metallic shift (below left) and Spencer-Nairn in brilliant blue.
Monday, Oct 20 - GM
Drake Hotel Celebrates Young Canadian Fashion
It¹s not everyday you get asked to guest DJ at an event, but when you do you automatically start going through your music collection trying to source the best mix. That is what I did when TFI¹s executive director Susan Langdon approached me to guest DJ at TFI¹s opening night party at The Drake Hotel for L¹Oreal Fashion Week. The night celebrated young Canadian fashion and brought together a fusion of fashion designers, industry, celebrities and Olympic medal winners. TFI members were greeted with a complimentary cocktail and were escorted to a VIP section where they joined by celebrity actors Amanda Brugel (MVP/Paradise Falls), Inga Cadranell (MVP/Rent-A-Goalie) and Salvatore Antonio (Paradise Falls).
My set was only to last 30 minutes but my initial song list went over an hour. I edited it down to include some fashionable favourites including David Bowie¹s Fame, Chick on Speed¹s Fashion Rules!, Madonna¹s Vogue followed by You Ain¹t Vogue by Toronto¹s Fritz Helder and the Phantoms. The highlight of the night‹aside from putting on the headphones‹was the opportunity to meet some gold Olympic medal winners including rower Adam Kreek, kayaker Adam Van Koeverden and wrestler Carol Huynh. Sharing many of the same struggles with funding, Olympic athletes and Canadian fashion entrepreneurs were the perfect meld and a great way to open L¹Oreal Fashion Week. Below are photos from the event: That's me on the far left; door prize winner Janette Ewen from The Globe & Mail; TFI staffers Anne-Marie White and Nina Facciolo; and TFI Outreach members enjoying the party. Photography by www.albertleephoto.com.
Monday, October 20, 2008 - DM
Opening day. The rumor on the runway is that L¹Oreal is leaving Toronto fashion week and passing the naming-rights on to LG. Will we be referring to fashion week as LFW or LGFW next season? With no official announcement, it remains a rumor.
Love the idea of the smaller tent for the smaller shows of up-and-coming designers. It¹s intimate, gives newer designers a chance to be part of the week, gives the industry a chance to watch their progress without running around the city, and doesn¹t drain a show¹s energy, which often comes from the accusing rows of empty seats. Dubbed The Studio, like any good idea in its first season, there were glitches like when some media, waiting patiently in the lineups that stretched back past the fountain/skating rinkin Nathan Phillips Square, missed the show.
Kudos to the main tent¹s décor team for creating an interior design that was as fabulous as the tag line of this season promised: the shimmering curtain that veiled the VIP lounge, the sparkling branches piercing the sky (of the tent, that is), the mesh-enclosed chandelier, the central bar, the streamlined couches. Moving the FT interviews away from the doors to the main runway room, hence, easing the flow of people around that crowded area, was particularly brilliant.
Desperately Different by Katya Revenko launched The Studio space. Her collection, in viscose, polyester, spandex and lyocell fabrics, was light and flui with mesh chemises and tees, gypsy skirts, safari jackets and clingy dresses with exposed bra straps on the back. Some of her 'arab' pants would be a hard sell seeing as the crotch was down to the knee. The palette of aqua, peach and lavendar was pretty, as was the looped ribbon details on the clothes and the long tumbled hairstyle on the models. The nude-coloured draped stocking tubes encasing the models' calves, were not.
There should be an award for the best line sheet of the week. Revenko had it. She listed all the details both buyers and media would need: a breakdown of the outfits, the style numbers, suggested retail and fabrics (some of the pieces included UV protection or were moisture-wicking‹a selling point not noticeable on a catwalk spin). She also left space for notes.
The show was fun, fast and the colours bright. The pinup-girl styling, a sendup of the popular television series Mad Men, was superb. Can¹t say much for the clothes; heads were in the way and it was difficult to see anything below the waist.
Unfortunately, the Mango show was overshadowed by the drunken speech given by FDCC president Robin Kay, which preceded it. We will spare the details here as you can read plenty about it elsewhere. The second most newsworthy event was that Monica Cruz, actress Penelope Cruz¹s sister and co-designer of the Mango collection, sat front row.
Every time a retailer mounts a runway show during fashion week, a swirling debate begins in fashion circles about whether this is the right venue. So, what should be the criteria for who belongs at fashion week? Mass market retailers who sell the majority of our fashion and clothe most of the populace? Or independent designers who are responsible for a small slice? As usual, there was no answer. The debate rages on.