ICYMI: Toronto Fashion Week Is Cancelled

Could it be a chance to rethink the local approach to fashion?

In an Instagram caption posted this past March, I sadly bid "adieu" to Toronto Fashion Week, leaving my best wishes for all of the young designers whose work I have come to know and love at this bi-annual event.  I am moving to New York for school this fall, and so I thought that the good-bye would just be a temporary one, right?  Wrong.  Little did I know, my 'last time' would be shared by thousands of Canadian style purveyors, as fashion week organizer IMG announced this week that it is pulling out of its Canadian operations.  In brief - Toronto Fashion Week is no more.

While this is obviously dejecting news for Canadian designers, writers, bloggers, and the hundreds of fashion students who flock to Ryerson University every year, I can't say that it isn't entirely unfounded.  In a news release, IMG cited a simple lack of community interest and investment in the Toronto fashion scene to have been the primary motivator for their exit.  Fashion is growing quickly in Toronto, but it still faces its fair share of hurdles; unlike our music and film industries, it doesn't qualify for government arts funding and our brightest fashion exports have become just that - exports.  International names like Jason Wu and Tanya Taylor have taken their labels stateside, while Ryerson-educated Erdem Moralioglu has become one of Britain's buzziest designers.  Even our other fashion artists, like photographers Tommy Ton and Petra Collins, have set up shop elsewhere and had little to do with the local industry since their departure.  Whereas Drake is an international musician who still takes the time to invest in the growth of the Toronto entertainment industry, Toronto's fashion talent seem to have a habit of splitting fast, and given that I myself am moving abroad to start my career, I can't entirely blame them.

Toronto Fashion Week is a much-needed event.  But its demise reminds us of the flaws that kept it from attaining the status IMG may have envisioned 6 years ago, when they signed on to host.  For one, TFW was very accessible, a fact that I often enjoyed; I sat front row at my first show when I was sixteen and have been granted last minute invite requests with ease more than once.  But the accessibility was also linked to the fact that at any given show, up to half of the seats in the catwalk venue were usually empty.  The rest tended to be populated by a very small percentage of editors and buyers, while the majority were held by aspiring - but sadly struggling - bloggers.  At risk of sounding like a snob, I will reiterate that TFW's accessibility made it more democratic and down to earth (which the fashion industry can always get another dosage of), but it also gave the presentations little mileage.  A feature on a small blog or Instagram isn't all that likely to get a new designer a deal with a department store or funding from a fashion mogul.  Unlike fashion weeks in Sydney, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Seoul, Berlin, or any other number of on-the-rise fashion hubs, TFW brought in little to no international press or celebrity buzz.  In a city known for its current it-musicians (ex. The Weeknd, Drake, Alessia Cara) and film industry cred, TFW didn't get the support it needed from the city and its diverse sources of press, resources, and, to be blunt, energy.

Secondly, the venue was getting tiring.  A massive tent in David Pecaut square was impressive the first time, but after four seasons of walking through the same Juicy Perfume and Mercedez Benz sponsored lounges into a massive (but again, largely vacant) showspace, it did start to feel a little bit seedy.  In fact, I'm actually looking forward to seeing how young designers get creative with finding their own spaces off-site from now on.  As a big proponent of presentations over catwalks, I get a thrill from seeing how a presentation space is curated to align with a designer's vision.  It also allows for higher quality social media coverage, a more intimate opportunity for a designer to explain their choices to a potential buyer, and it costs a lot less.  For visiting journalists, it gives them a chance to see the whole city and discover how the designer fits into their ecosystem based on the neighborhood or locale they chose to host in.  Sure, having sprawl can make things trickier to organize on the calendar, but it adds character and opens up the opportunity for other, newer brands who might be vying for a spot on the schedule.

This brings me to my final point, which is one that I've often struggled to articulate without sounding bitter.  And that is the fact that we need to put the "fashion" back in "Toronto Fashion Week."  Too often, there is space and time given to small businesses who specialize moreso in craft-making than in fashion itself; at times, I've seen bottlecap jewellery and necktie vendors mixed in among credible designers at TFW tradeshows.  Like I said, openness and humility is an asset, but we need to make the industry more competitive.  We need to highlight the brands who are taking creative risks and excelling as a result.  We need to vigorously support the young, up and coming names like Beaufille, Sid Neigum, Mikhael Kale, and Vejas, whose ingenuity will bring the global attention that we so desperately need.

If TFW wants to get more community interest and investment, then it needs to give the community something to be really excited about.  With the plethora of brilliant young artists bursting out of Queen Street West or Ryerson's fashion programs, this shouldn't be hard. But in order to turn this setback into a success, every member of the Toronto fashion industry must make a conscious effort to be more forward-thinking and more ambitious than we have ever been before.  
Main Images via @tia.elisabeth

Relive Toronto Fashion Week's glory days with this re-cap of our favourite street style from the Spring 2016 shows.  Then catch up with local photographer and zine-founder Danielle Suzanne.

WHO: Tia Elisabeth Glista, Editor at Couturesque magazine
WHERE: Toronto
LISTENING TO: Work Song - Hozier
CAN BE FOUND AT: @tia.elisabeth

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I founded Couturesque Magazine when I was 15 years old because like many of my peers, I felt ignored and talked down to by all of the other teen fashion publications out there. I figured that at the end of the day, the people who knew the most about my generation, were the people who belonged to it. The fashion industry is becoming increasingly dependent on the creativity of younger voices who challenge the status quo and make us rethink what we wear and why we wear it. And that is exactly what Couturesque set out to celebrate - authenticity, intelligence, originality, and diversity... in other words, what makes Gen-Z tick. Fast-forward to 2016 and we now have a staff of more than a dozen fashion distruptors contributing to our daily content from all around the globe, 100K+ readers following us from Toronto to New York, to London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv, and a plethora of big-wig industry fans and collaborators. But what matters to us the most is the responsibility that our publication has to make a positive impact in the lives of those who come across it - we stand against retouching our photoshoots and we stand for sharing the beautiful, individual, complex voices of everyone, especially those who feel marginalized by mainstream fashion media. We hope that you love our site as much as we do and that you take the time to follow us (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest / Tumblr / Snapchat / YouTube) throughout our journey to make fashion accessible to the powerful young adults of today.

Tia Elisabeth Glista
Editor in Chief