Don’t Call it a Comeback

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Toronto dominates worldwide lists of “best cities to live” when it comes to quality of life. But living in Canada’s largest city can have its drawbacks. Real estate prices have become astronomical, the traffic is unreal and, for many, it can be tough to succeed as a small fish in a massive pond. Enter Hamilton.

Canada’s Brooklyn

Hamilton has been tracking Brooklyn’s success in leveraging its gritty character and history to attract talent and investment from Manhattan over the last 20 years. Now the “Hammer” is banking on its own small town charm and progressive community building to lure young couples, creative and tech professionals and others looking for a slower, simpler way of life.

Hogtown, meet Steeltown

The Hamilton Consulate hits Toronto next week as a two-day pop-up event to showcase Canada’s “biggest urban comeback story.” (Yes we know, you’ve been there for years.) Through a collection of industry talks, luncheons, shows and parties, Torontonians can get a closer look at Hamilton real estate, fashion, food, music, art, tech, film and culture.

May 31 – June 1
The Burroughes, 639 Queen Street West

All of the events are free, too. RSVP here.

On the fashion front, organizers have teamed up with the Ontario Fashion Exchange to showcase the work of local designers with Hamilton’s Got Next fashion show and sale on June 1st. Doors open at 4:30pm for cocktails. The fashion show will begin at 5:15pm. Stick around afterwards for the Super Crawl featuring Hamilton music, art and food.

Fashion highlights include:

  • DeMontigny, whose native heritage (Cree/Metis) drives the inspiration for elegant, bespoke designs made in luscious leather and suede.
  • Coppley menswear appears with Charles & Hunt to offer custom works with distinctive British style and meticulous Canadian workmanship.
  • Rachael Warner, a 17-year old design wunderkind with six collections under her belt already.
  • Blackbird Studios designers Kerry Wade and Lynn Bebee create many of their own prints for their womenswear line.

 

Canada’s Fashion History Lurks in Cambridge

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At a recent fashion industry event, I was catching up with a writer friend of mine over a glass of wine when she dropped a bombshell.

“I just came from a Dior exhibit at the Fashion History Museum. Did you know we had a Fashion History Museum?”

Say what? I confessed I did not.

As she went on to explain her discovery of this little gem, we exchanged genuine shock and surprise that it even existed. If we – a seasoned journalist and a blogger – claim to have our fingers on the pulse of fashion in this country, how did neither of us know…

  1. Canada has a museum on the history of fashion.
  2. It’s located over an hour outside of Toronto.
  3. There’s a Dior exhibit on now.

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Located in a small heritage building downtown, the Fashion History Museum is a cheerful advocate of the role fashion plays in this country. In addition to its tiny homage to Dior, which includes designs made exclusively for Holt Renfrew, the museum features a hearty collection of Canadian fashion in celebration of Canada’s 150th. The opening statement for this exhibit, Fashioning Canada Since 1867: 150 Years of Canadian Style, could be our industry’s new mantra:

Canada is the only nation that can say fashion is the reason for its existence.

So unapologetic for Canadians, eh?

It takes under an hour to cover the entire museum, but admission will only cost you five bucks. If you’re going to be in the Kitchener or Guelph area this summer, plan a side trip to Cambridge for some Canadian culture that doesn’t include beer and hockey. The Dior exhibit closes July 9th.

International Fashion Exhibits

If vacation travels take you further afield – such as London, Paris or the Netherlands – check out FashionUnited’s round up of 2017’s must-see international exhibits. Take note of the dates, as some exhibits may have closed.

IMG Shuts Down Toronto Fashion Week

Sid Niegum 2013

It’s the end of fashion week as we know it. Thank goodness.

IMG has shut down Toronto Fashion Week due to lack of funding. While the closure itself is somewhat surprising, many of us in the industry could spot the writing on the wall. Vacancy at the title sponsorship level for more than a season can’t be a good thing. But since IMG’s takeover, the event had turned it into a bloated, corporate beast of a thing. From sponsor activations to designer fees and ticket prices, it was all about the money.

Let’s be clear – the end of Toronto Fashion Week is not the end of Canadian fashion.

Everything seems to be in transition today. The fashion business is being transformed by technology and social media, not to mention financial fallout around the globe. Designers large and small are rethinking, reimagining the purpose of a runway show. But no more fashion week, you ask? What’s this really about?

There are a few things at play here – the first is simply money. Anyone who works in events marketing can tell you how difficult it is to find sponsorship dollars for an event, especially in Canada. Marketing budgets are continually slashed, there’s stiff competition for the same dollars, and the demands to prove a return on investment are high. Not to mention a multi-year title sponsorship of Fashion Week is a six figure commitment. We just don’t have a lot of companies with deep pockets here.

Fashion weeks originated as an industry event for buyers and media but, over time, in order to attract new sponsors, it needed a consumer element. Toronto Fashion Week was one of the first to allow the public in — in fact, this very blog sold the first consumer tickets on behalf of the Toronto shows almost ten years ago. It worked for a while. But perhaps the event didn’t attract enough people – or the right people – to make this worthwhile to marketers in the long run.

The other consideration is the designers —  what did fashion week really do for designers? Participating in the shows was an expensive endeavour for Canadian designers  – creatives who don’t have corporate backing or access to government funding that other arts industries offer. Ideally, a runway show would introduce designers to buyers who pick collections for retail, but our shows happen too late in the season for that. So in essence it was a publicity tool. Sure, you might get some press, but if the consumer can’t find you in a store, what can that really do for your business?

You could say the model was already broken.

There are smaller, independent groups who produce curated runway shows – [FAT] Alternative Fashion Week and TOM* Toronto Men’s Fashion Week – and I expect we’ll see new grassroots shows in the coming years. The biggest challenge facing designers is how to find an audience and generate demand for their clothes in a very cluttered market. That’s a marketing issue, one that a runway show alone will not solve.

Time to rethink, reimagine and recreate the model. Personally I can’t wait to see what’s next.

As we bid adieu to Toronto Fashion Week and all of its title sponsor incarnations (L’Oreal Fashion Week, LG Fashion Week, World MasterCard Fashion Week), let’s take a trip down memory lane of Toronto’s most famous runway. Here are a few flashbacks from the F-List archive.

Down the Vintage Shopping Rabbit Hole (Giveaway)

Luxe Touch vintage bags

Luxe Touch vintage bags

Anyone who knows me knows my love of vintage. It’s a good bet that almost any outfit I wear includes a fashionable nod to the past.

When scouring shops for vintage, you can’t have expectations. Perhaps this is why vintage fanatics like me love it — the sense of adventure, of discovery, the thrill of coming across something so unique, so interesting, so potentially now again.

These days, unfortunately, great vintage finds are hard to come by. As the Globe and Mail reported last month, the availability of high-end designer vintage has changed. Trolling through thrift stores today rarely reaps more than fast fashion cast-offs. Many vintage shops have evolved into high-end contemporary resale stores in order to maintain a viable business.

Well, get ready vintage lovers, this year’s annual Toronto Vintage Clothing Show is coming. And it’s going to be bigger than ever.

Featuring:

Luxe Touch, an independent Canadian based reseller of authentic luxury handbags and specializing in pre-owned and vintage Chanel flap bags in particular.

Ian Drummond Collection, a legendary fixture in the local vintage scene. Ian has been a passionate collector of vintage clothing since the early 1980s, and was responsible for the costuming of 3000+ background performers in HAIRSPRAY and CINDERELLA MAN.  Indulge your love of the 80’s and 90’s – this year Ian will be featuring a huge selection of outfits from a recent purchase.

If Victorian period is more your speed, The Fashion History Museum (located in Cambridge, Ontario) will be participating for the first time offering a one-time-only sale of some excess inventory (nearly 10,000 garments in the regular museum collection). This year guests can also explore a treasure trove of hand-picked antique and vintage decor at the Toronto Antique & Vintage Market.

Toronto Vintage Clothing Show
Admission $10 (cash only)
Saturday, March 5th 10am-5pm
Sunday, March 6th 10am-4pm
Queen Elizabeth Building at Exhibition Place (map)

Enter to win a pair of tickets to the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show by sharing your love of vintage on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #vintagelovah (a la Carrie Bradshaw’s “Hello, lovah”) by 11:59PM on March 2nd. Feel free to tag me @TheFList. Two winners will be contacted March 3rd to claim their prize.

Are you a vintage newbie? Here are my top tips for successful shopping:

  • By nature vintage is one-of-a-kind, so shopping is competitive. Arrive early.
  • Bring cash. Not all vendors take credit cards, and while there is an ATM on site you don’t want to miss out on a purchase while waiting in a long line-up.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle! This is why you bring cash. Prepare to cut a deal, but know when to walk away.
  • Inspect an item thoroughly before buying. Natural wear and tear on vintage may not be immediately visible, so be sure to check for loose seams, missing buttons, stains and such.
Photo courtesy the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show

Photo courtesy the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show

F-Listed: Milliner David Dunkley is the Tops

I have always believed in the power of the hat as an expression of personality and style. I attribute this to the endless selection of outfit-matching bonnets my mother tied to my head, a clever distraction from the little hair I had as a toddler. Last month I was invited to indulge my grown up hat passion as a judge for the RBC Woman to Woman event at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. This annual fundraiser brings together florals and fashion with ladies who lunch. It’s a gorgeous spread of food, flowers and femininity with women turning up in stunning hats and fascinators hoping to win bragging rights of Best in Show.

Who do I call for a proper head topper in Toronto? The one and only David Dunkley.

Couture Millinery DDFM show

After studying millinery in Toronto, David Dunkley headed to England for training by the former Royal Milliner to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Since then his designs have been sported by members of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s royal entourage and guests of the Royal Wedding. He’s outfitted racegoers from Kentucky to Ascot – including the Royal Enclosure. His celebrated Diamond Jubilee collection millinery has been inducted into the Fashion History Museum.

And this year David was named the official milliner of the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s most famous horse race.

“Hats have always been a fashion statement for both men and women at the races,” said Ann Scott Director of Events & Sponsorships for Woodbine Entertainment Group. “We expect the nearing Queen’s Plate to be no different. It’s our pleasure to name David the first ever official milliner of the race.”

The Queen’s Plate is the first race in the Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. This iconic sporting event celebrates its 156th edition this Sunday, July 5th at Woodbine. In addition to the action on the track, there’s a Hats and Horseshoes party for the ultimate in pomp and pageantry. The yellow feather pillbox hat I wore at the Toronto Botanical Gardens event was created for the 2014 Queen’s Plate, but he typically collaborates with clients to develop custom pieces for weddings, special events or real life runway.

This Sunday David will host a pop-up shop in the Hats and Horseshoe arena. He’ll also appear as a judge for the George Brown Millinery contest with hosts from CTV’s The Social .

David Dunkley Fine Millinery is located at 974 Bathurst Street in Toronto.

F-Listed: Candice & Alison Events Group

Candice & Alison photo by George Pimentel

Candice & Alison photo by George Pimentel

As a marketing professional and now a college professor of marketing, the number of diverse career paths one can take fascinates me. Take the event planning business – there are wedding planners, meeting planners, corporate event planners and then, there’s Candice & Alison.

Alison Slight and Candice Chan combined talents in 2009 to create the Candice & Alison Events Group. After pursuing careers separately in event planning, fashion design and marketing, these two Ryerson University grads reunited with a mission to do their own thing. Starting a new business in the midst of a major recession is bold, but starting a luxury events business? Some would call it crazy.

But it worked. Within a few years BizBash Magazine named Candice & Alison one of North America’s most innovative event designers. Of all the events they’ve done – luxury weddings, corporate events like Sharp’s Book for Men party, gala fundraisers like the Right to Play Ball, Power Ball and most recently, the Bata Shoe Museum 20th anniversary – it is the party they planned in honour of their own 5th year anniversary that takes the cake.

“I’m most proud of that event,” gushes Chan. The glitzy party, dubbed #CversusA, showcased Candice & Alison’s level of creativity and high standards of execution. And if their individual work ethic is the same – driven, highly professional – their personal styles are anything but. Slight, the managing director, is a prim and polished morning person. Edgier Chan, the creative director, is a night owl. Their yin and yang became the design inspiration for the event. Festivities kicked off in an elegant all-white theme created by Slight, followed by a dark and sexy rooftop patio party designed by Chan.

#CversusA 5th anniversary bash

#CversusA 5th anniversary bash

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#CversusA 5th anniversary bash

“We make every detail a priority from the level of decoration to hospitality. It is always important for guests to be impressed and to feel special.”

Event planning always starts with the client, who has some kind of vision and a purpose for their event. Is it to showcase a new product? To sell? To celebrate? “We have to turn that into something feasible for the event, and manage expectations and priorities along the way,” says Chan. For the Bata Shoe Museum’s 20th anniversary party, the client’s vision was an unexpected discovery through the museum. Candice and Alison brought that vision to life from start to finish – entrance, decor, food, entertainment and most importantly – at least as far as social media is concerned — opportunities for the guests to engage live with the event. “We make every detail a priority from the level of decoration to hospitality. It is always important for guests to be impressed and to feel special.”

Bata Shoe Museum 20th anniversary | photo by Ryan Emberley

Bata Shoe Museum 20th anniversary | photo by Ryan Emberley

What’s rule number one of event planning? Speak the same language as your client. If they want the colour pink, for example, know the precise shade down to the Pantone number. If a client wants Art Deco-inspired décor, make sure everyone is in agreement on exact Art Deco elements. This is why mood boards, renderings and floor plans are the tools of every event planner’s trade – as are comfortable shoes! Here’s more from Candice and Alison:

F-List: What are three ingredients that make a party great?

A: Good food & beverage, the guests.
C: Agreed, it’s the same basic rules as any great house party. The ingredients never change, only the scale and occasion do.

What’s a big event no-no?

C: Line-ups! Ensure there are enough staff at the event for registration or coat check, or invite only a guest count that is manageable.
A: Bright lighting. Lighting makes a big difference in people’s mood and in the way they interact. It should be dim but just bright enough to capture the environment and adjusted over the course of the evening as the party evolves.

What would be your dream event to plan?

A: It would definitely be a wedding or high end gala as they offer a much bigger opportunity for decorative elements. I love the idea of doing something really over the top and romantic in a countryside French Chateau.
C: The Met Gala!

My F-Listed profile series gets up close with leaders across retail, marketing and technology. Know a good candidate? Contact me leesa at divinelab dot com.

How to Wear a Revolution

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Face it, fashion isn’t always pretty. The industry has a long list of atrocities to contend with, from the unethical treatment of workers and animals to environmental concerns around industrial waste and sustaining overtaxed resources.

This month marks the two year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapse where 1,133 workers lost their lives and over 2,500 were injured.  In response to the tragedy, a Fashion Revolution was born. This global, grassroots campaign aims to remind us of the continued social and environmental dangers lurking in our fashion supply chain.

Fashion Revolution wants you to find out who made your clothes — from who spun the threads, to who sewed them together, to who grew the cotton in the first place. On April 24th, you can join the Fashion Revolution by taking a selfie showing your label. You could turn your clothes inside out to make more of a statement.

Tag @fash_rev and the brand on social media and ask #whomademyclothes?

Fashion Rev chain

Making squares for the Fashion Revolution chain

Want to join the revolution close to home? The Toronto-based Fashion Takes Action has been holding sew-ins with Ontario schools to create a literal fabric chain that will later be displayed in events and a possible museum installation. Students have been collecting used clothing and fabric, which they have then cut into squares to sew together and form the chain. The chain of fabric is both symbolic for the supply chain and acts as a petition encouraging transparency in the fashion industry. Swing by the public sew-in this Friday at OCAD’s main lobby (more on the event here) from 10am – 2pm.

Traceable

Emerging Canadian designer Laura Siegel takes on the supply chain issues in TRACEABLE, a new documentary movie airing this Friday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV, Bravo, M3, and E!. The doc connects viewers to the individuals and communities involved in designing and producing garments, illuminating the harsh realities that are woven into the fashion industry. Written, directed, and produced by first-time filmmaker, Ontario’s Jennifer Sharpe, TRACEABLE follows Siegel as she develops her 2013 Fall/Winter collection using ethical and transparent practices.

UNCRATE Africa

Meanwhile some retailers and designers are helping build global communities through fashion. Last year Holt Renfrew unveiled H Project, a shop-in-shop designed to highlight and support different cultures, crafts and artisans from around the world. After a successful debut with UNCRATE India, this month they launched UNCRATE Africa with exclusive collections from over 22 renowned brands, including Dannijo, Stella Jean, FEED Africa, Indego Africa, Me to We, Otago, Kiya Kenya and Chantecaille.

Vancouver-based Obakki is also one of the participating brands. Obakki’s founder Treana Peake is the driving force behind the label and the Obakki Foundation, Obakki’s philanthropic counterpart. The charity focuses on providing clean water and education in Africa. The clothing label absorbs all the administrative fees of the charity, allowing 100% of Obakki Foundation’s public donations to go directly to its charitable initiatives. And Peake’s work with the foundation seems to drive the inspiration behind her Obakki collections.

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Treane Peake in Cameroon, Africa with her Obakki Foundation

You don’t have to look far to find brands with a sustainable, ethical footprint, but you do have to look. Uniikii, a Canadian-based online retailer, features apparel, accessories and housewares from “partners who are socially conscious, environmentally responsible and dedicated to ethical manufacturing processes.” A pair of handmade felt boots that takes eight days to make? Why not. That’s a much nicer story than your cotton t-shirt using 2,700 litres of water before you even buy it.

Speaking of water, let’s get really real. California’s apparel industry is under a serious threat from the current drought. According to the Wall Street Journal, Southern California produces 75% of the high-end denim in the U.S. that is sold world-wide. Water is a key component in the various steps of the processing and repeated washing with stones, or bleaching and dyeing that create that “distressed” vintage look.

We are on borrowed time on this planet. The choices you make as a consumer have a butterfly effect on the rest of the supply chain. If you’re not yet considering where and how your clothes are made, isn’t it time to start?

Win Tickets to Fashion Magazine’s Awards

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Fashion crowds love a reason to fête designers, even if it’s at the end of a long week of fashion parties and runway shows. World MasterCard Fashion Week kicks off today at the tents in David Pecaut Square, but I’m already planning my Friday night with FASHION Magazine.

Once again FASHION’s Toronto Fashion Week Awards is the official closing event. The awards recognize Canadian designers, models and beauty professionals whose dedicated efforts make the Toronto shows possible.

Editor-in-Chief of FASHION, Bernadette Morra and Editor-in-Chief of Men’s FASHION, David Livingstone will announce eight winners in the following categories:

Best Emerging Designer

Best Collection

Best Menswear

Best Hair

Best Make-Up

Best Styling

People’s Choice for Best Show

This season, 300 consumers will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to attend the event at the Design Exchange. (A fashion party dahling – think open bar, hors d’ouevres and a boss of a DJ.) Click here to purchase tickets. You can also enter to win tickets for you and a guest from me!

Sorry folks, this contest has ended. Follow the link above to purchase tickets.

Book Lovers Party in the Stacks

The Toronto Public Library Foundation’s annual fundraising event may be called the Book Lover’s Ball, but today’s library boasts way more than just books.

The Toronto Reference Library (TRL) is headquarters for the city’s nearly 100 branches. Not only can you find books and other media in the expansive five-story space (over 400,000 sq. feet), the TRL offers a Digital Innovation Hub. Kids and adults have access to design classes, 3D printers, 3D scanners and a variety of design software (printing fees apply). Starting your own business? Their business plan series and other small business seminars can get you started. Ready to self-publish your own book? Thanks to Asquith Press you can print a high-quality paperback (fees apply). But in fact, today’s library offers countless services – most of them free – for every walk of life.

In case you missed it, the library is cool, man. (Perhaps why 72% of our city’s residents use it.) How do you make it even cooler? Add cocktails, dinner and a DJ, and forego the “shushing” for a night.

The Book Lover’s Ball has raised over $3.6 million since it started in 2006. In its 10th year the event became an historic opportunity to “Party in the Stacks” of the Toronto Reference Library. Dinner guests mingled amidst the bookshelves over fare from renowned chef Jamie Kennedy. The After Dark after party brought the literary scene to life with Celebrity Author Speed Scrabble, a Prose Store, dancing, desserts served by “librarians” on book return carts and other literary-inspired activities.

The Book Lover’s Ball happens only once a year, but guess what? The library is almost always open. Now, where did I put my library card?

Photos by George Pimentel, mostly.

SID’s Hat Trick at CAFA

Last Saturday’s Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA) proved at least one thing. There is a future for a fashion awards show in Canada.

CAFA hosted its second annual awards show to celebrate and support the Canadian fashion industry by honouring designers, stylists and other fashion influencers. Twelve awards were given out during a gala dinner at the Fairmont Royal York.

NEWSFLASH: Sid Neigum is officially a triple threat. He’s won the TFI New Labels (2012), the Mercedes Benz Start-Up (2014) and now CAFA’s Emerging Talent, Fashion award. Hey Canada, don’t they call that a hat trick in hockey?

Sid Neigum by MJC Photography

Sid Neigum by MJC Photography

Neigum has netted a combined total of $70,000 in cash prizes plus valuable services and mentorship to help push his career forward. All eyes will be on his next move. I think Neigum is perfectly poised to break out of Canada in a serious way.

This year CAFA added a second emerging talent award for Accessories, won by Beaufille. Swarovski sponsored both Emerging Talent categories. Winners each received $10,000 plus time with a six-panel team of mentors. The panel will offer their expertise and services. Vicky Milner, CAFA managing director, explained,

Mentorship is so incredibly important for designers. We approached different individuals who would be able to offer different skill sets and services, helping them save money on things that are normally quite expensive (i.e. PR and digital support) while at the same time providing them honest and valuable advice about  business, finance, marketing , manufacturing, distribution, etc.

Bravo to Tommy Ton who took home two CAFA trophies including the Sephora Image Maker Award and Fashion Blogger of the Year for his (now shuttered) JakandJil.com. I have mad love and respect for Tommy ever since we spent an afternoon in my closet in the early days of his blog (way, way back). He knew every designer and every season of everything I owned.

In the Closet on JakandJil.com

In the Closet on JakandJil.com

It is worth noting how many of the gala’s attendees appeared to be non-industry folk – you know, regular people who don’t work in fashion. This is a good thing. More people supporting the industry leads to better resources for designers, more attention from retailers and media and ideally, more success all around.

The list of 2015 CAFA winners includes:

The Womenswear Designer of the Year Award – Mikhael Kale

The Menswear Designer of the Year Award – Philippe Dubuc

The Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Fashion – Sid Neigum

The Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Accessories – Beaufille

The Outstanding Achievement Award – Marie Saint-Pierre

The Accessory Designer of the Year Award – Jerome C. Rousseau

The Sephora Image Maker Award – Tommy Ton

The Hudson’s Bay International Canadian Designer of the Year Award – Erdem

The Yorkdale Stylist of the Year Award –  Zeina Esmail

The Model of the Year Award – Anaïs Pouliot

The Fashion Blogger of the Year Award – Tommy Ton

The Vanguard Award – Joe Zee

Photos by the F-List except where noted.