Toronto’s Fashion Week to preview cool-weather styles for fall-winter

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TORONTO – While many winter-weary Canadians are more than ready to ditch their parkas, tuques and boots, at least one segment of the population isn’t quite ready to give chilly-weather styles the cold shoulder.

Canadian designers will unveil fresh fashions for fall and winter at Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week beginning on Monday. The semi-annual showcase will offer a fashionable flash-forward to styles set to land in stores later this year.

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Day 1 will feature some of the most buzz-worthy labels on the homegrown scene with Mikhael Kale, VAWK by Sunny Fong, sibling design duo Chloe and Parris Gordon of Beaufille, John Muscat and Jennifer Wells of Line Knitwear and Alberta-born, Toronto-based Sid Neigum.

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And not unlike the emergence of new fashions, the calendar is undergoing a facelift with up-and-coming talents and other new additions poised to present their latest lines.

Longtime Toronto-based designer Farley Chatto and Dutch-bred retailer gsus sindustries are returning to the Fashion Week fold after several seasons away from the Toronto runway. Montreal-based designers Claudette Floyd, Helmer Joseph and Brit Wacher, Vancouver-based ready-to-wear label Madame Moje and Toronto-based emerging menswear label Outclass are among those set to unveil collections.

Returning Fashion Week fixtures include womenswear labels Stephan Caras, David Dixon, Melissa Nepton and Pink Tartan, men’s sportswear label Bustle, leather goods retailer Rudsak and affordable apparel brand Joe Fresh.

“It’s always important to have a good mix because the established brands help bring more attention to the event and the emerging designers help to bring a look at what is the future,” said Jarrad Clark, global creative director of IMG Fashion Events & Properties, whose organization spearheads World MasterCard Fashion Week.

Fashion Week events are particularly pivotal for emerging talents in allowing them to experiment not only with who they are as designers, but to help identify their customers, Clark noted, adding that the showcase provides them with the opportunity to “really get their product right.”

The Toronto event arrives toward the end of yet another long season featuring fall-winter collections unveiled in major style hubs like New York, London and Paris. But there has been a sizable gap on the homegrown calendar with the absence of Montreal Fashion Week, which has been a prominent platform for designers in the province.

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Organizers of the event announced last November that they had “temporarily put a hold” on the winter edition, opting to focus on merging with Montreal’s summer Fashion and Design Festival.

There are several other style showcases that are staged across the country, including those held in Calgary, Ottawa and Vancouver, as well as Atlantic Fashion Week in Halifax and Western Canada Fashion Week in Edmonton.

Laura deCarufel, fashion features director at Elle Canada, said she was disappointed to hear that Montreal Fashion Week wasn’t going ahead this season, adding that it’s “lovely” to have regional showcases for designers.

While having a singular national Fashion Week may be most beneficial in terms of offering wider exposure to national retailers, media and bloggers, deCarufel acknowledged the costs that come with staging a large-scale show may present a potential challenge to some designers.

“If you have a designer based in Halifax who is already being sold at five different stores and they know their clientele … and they’re not necessarily looking to expand that at this point, to have a regional showcase, I think, does makes more sense for them rather than investing all of the time and the money to participate at a national level.”

Clark said they’ve always had the ambition to have the Toronto event serve as a national platform, with doors open to designers from any market in Canada to show collections. That said, he believes additional local and regional events show “a very healthy consumer appetite for Fashion Week in Canada.”

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“I think it’s a great thing that there are these other events taking place. They really help designers in their own backyard with their own support systems really to experiment with what they’re doing, and to be able to provide the confidence for them to then come onto a bigger stage.”

Jamal Abdourahman, organizer of Vancouver Fashion Week which begins Tuesday, said it’s important for them to host their own event, one that seeks to highlight talents from within Canada and abroad.

“Canada is a big country, and we happen to be in a very great central location that offers a global show,” he said. “We believe we can serve Canadians better by bringing in international designers, by inspiring them, by bringing in other international media to expose them to the international market.”

Vanja Vasic, executive director of Arts & Fashion Week in Toronto – known as FAT – said when the event launched nine years ago, the fashion landscape was quite different with few venues in the city to present emerging designers.

Even in today’s far more cluttered fashion climate, Vasic isn’t concerned about FAT getting lost in the shuffle, saying that she thinks it’s exciting to see different style events emerge.

“I think that one of Toronto’s most respected qualities is its diversity and that should be reflected in the fashion industry as well,” said Vasic, whose event takes place April 22-26. “We have so many different art galleries, so many different types of film festivals, art festivals. Why not fashion events? Why not Fashion Weeks as well?

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“It creates more excitement in the city, not just for people here, but … creates more opportunities for designers to choose from more platforms to promote Canadian design, which is sort of the ultimate goal of each of these events.”

World MasterCard Fashion Week runs from March 17 to 21.

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