UNBOUND in London Town

Fanshawe College (yes, we’re talking London, Ontario) hosted a fashion show last weekend to present the 2012 fashion design program’s graduating class.  As this year’s emcee, I embarked on a 24-hour trip along with other Toronto fashion faces – designers David Dixon, Arthur Mendonca, Wesley Badanjak and Franco Mirabello plus seasoned industry players Tamar Matossian, Erin O’Brien, Gail McInnes and Natalie Deane – who all appeared as judges of the evening’s show.
Fanshawe plans quite a bit of pomp and circumstance into UNBOUND. Held at the hip Museum London, it includes a red carpet, a cocktail party and goody bags for attendees. While most of the attendees are friends and family, I met a number of guests who bought tickets just to see a splashy runway show.
This was my fourth year working with the UNBOUND event, and in my opinion, one of the strongest group collections. Overall Fanshawe’s students showed promise in their ideas and wearability of the garments, even if many lacked in execution. (Puckering seams don’t lie.) 
Supporting the next generation of fashion is important, perhaps just as much as spotlighting today’s current roster of talent. By hosting the judges who are successfully working in the industry, Fanshawe proves how important this is. After all, it could be a Franco Mirabelli or an Arthur Mendonca who gives a graduate their first break. You gotta start somewhere, kid.
Special thanks to Hotel Metro, London’s new boutique hotel, for a lovely stay, and great service that went above and beyond! For more pics check out Flare.com.
Best Design winner Andrea Kuntz
Best Design winner Andrea Kuntz
Best Design winner Andrea Kuntz
Best Collections winner Kristin Burgess

Ashtiani Golnaz takes TFI New Labels

With fashion week barely behind us, Toronto’s fashion crowds hit the Design Exchange for TFI’s New Labels runway show. Over five months, selected designers work independently and with a team of judges to create a collection. Three finalists shared the runway: Caitlin Power, Golnaz Ashtiani and Nikki Wirthensohn for NARCESAfterwards, the judges picked a winner based on a line’s fit, quality, innovation, marketability and styling. 
Caitlin Power
Caitlin Power
I’m a fan of Caitlin Power – having noticed her at Edmonton Fashion Week years ago – and would wear NARCES cocktail dresses in a heartbeat, but Ashtiani’s line was a clear front-runner and took the crown. Her grand prize is valued over $40,000 and includes a Flare magazine feature and the chance to design an outfit for Sears womenswear. Interestingly, one of the judges, Sears Canada’s brand and trend director, Cynthia Florek, is a previous finalist of TFI New Labels competition for her now defunct label CINCYN.   
Other previous New Labels finalists and winners include David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc and Ashley Rowe. Unfortunately, there are too many who are no longer designing at all, proving you can have the talent but fashion is still about the business. Those of us who work in and follow fashion must do a better job of helping designers sustain their labels. In the meantime, I wonder if they are working on a TFI New Labels “where are they now” special. Here’s (hint, hint) hoping. 

Pla$tic & Fanta$tic

The winner of this year’s annual TFI New Labels design competition will enjoy an added prize from everyone’s favourite fashionista. One year after her 50th anniversary, Barbie® has teamed up with Toronto Fashion Incubator to award $10,000 in cash along with the $25,000 in prizes from ELLE Canada magazine.

For 17 years TFI’s national competition has helped launch talents like David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc, NADA, Mercy, Katya Revenko, JUMA, Eugenia Leavitt and last year’s FAREN to name just a few.

This year the playing field has been levelled. What could be more challenging than taking on the little black dress? Applicants must be professional Canadian women’s wear apparel designers who have been in business three years or less.

Hurry! Deadline is November 24th.

An All Night Fashiony Art Thing

Heidi Ackerman pushes the envelope with dazzling knits. Photo by George Pimentel.

Toronto musician Lights wins the Best New Artist Juno wearing Maybe by Sarah Catalfo

Torontonians would be smart to get some extra shut eye tomorrow night. Saturday, October 3rd is Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, officially billed as a “free all-night contemporary art thing.” With 130 art projects spread over three geographical zones in the city, there is plenty to see. But if you’re looking for the fun and fashionable, there is only one place to be.

The Art of Fashion takes over the Fermenting Cellar in the historic Distillery District from 7pm – 3am Saturday for a design competition and trunk show. Ten designer finalists – a group whose work is definitely more art-based than ready-to-wear – have been chosen to exemplify and interpret the Art of Fashion’s theme Iconic Power. Guests to the show will have an opportunity to weigh in with their vote for Best Exhibit and Most Promising Designer. Votes will be tallied with those of AOF’s guest judges (including designers Brian Bailey, Shawn Hewson and David Dixon) for two winners.

The finalists are an amazing bunch. Anyone remember seeing Lights capture the 2009 Juno Award for Best New Artist? I do. And I clearly remember wondering who made her dress. That would be Art of Fashion finalist Sarah Catalfo, who has been crafting one-of-a-kind pieces for friends since 2004 under her label Maybe.

Fellow finalist Heidi Ackerman was a stand out last March in the Ryerson alumni fashion show at LG Fashion Week. The timid need not apply here, Ackerman’s wild knits are meant to dazzle with their couture-like construction. And people are taking note. FASHION magazine recently featured a few of her fall pieces in their September 2009 issue.

There is way more talent to discover at the Art of Fashion, plus a trunk show featuring Canadian designed clothing and accessories. Bring your wallet. Bring a Red Bull. But most of all bring an open mind. This is art, after all!

Note: The Art of Fashion exhibit runs from 7pm – 3am. The trunk show runs 7pm – midnight.

UNBOUND in London

Thursday the F-list skipped town to guest judge UNBOUND, a student fashion competition at Fanshawe College, Brandon R. Dwyer’s alma mater (photo, with Fanshawe faculty Loren Carriere). We hopped a train to London with some great company – one half of the Comrags label, Joyce Gunhouse, National Post fashion writer Nathalie Atkinson and fashion guru Marlene Shiff (photo, with Joyce and Fanshawe student Donald J. Procunier). London is a college town and they know how to party. In mid-afternoon, the patios were overflowing with beer-swilling students. With a few hours of our own to kill we hit Saffron Road (a retail success, now celebrating 20 years) to say hello to owner Gail Lynn (photo, with David Dixon) and check out the racks. If you’re in the area be sure to check out their massive Basement Blowout Sale Thursday, May 7th.

The evening’s show took place at the Museum London and we joined ranks with six other judges including Thien Le and David Dixon. Twenty students sent five piece collections down the runway in a maddening display of everything from ready to wear to formal. Who was the most UNBOUND of them all? Jessica Steever’s cocktail dresses made the biggest impact, taking the prize for Best Single Piece and Best Collection. Look for Jessica on season three of Project Runway Canada (Maybe? Just a hunch).

Barbie Gone Wild

LG Fashion Week typically kicks off with cocktails amongst the brand labels at Holt Renfrew in what’s called the Holt Renfrew Media Cocktail. With Canadian design on the table this week, Holts chose to highlight some Canadian designers they love and carry in the stores including Greta Constantine, Mikhael Kale, Jeremy Laing, Philip Sparks and Denis Gagnon.

Meanwhile, back in the tents the crowds were jonesing for a trip down memory lane. David Dixon was presenting the highly anticipated Barbie by David Dixon line (to be carried by the Bay, fall 2009) following his own fall collection. The tents were doused with Barbie top to bottom. And with inspiration like this one-of-a-kind Barbie hat (above, seen on National Post writer Nathalie Atkinson), I got to thinking of all the Barbies that were never made, but would fit in today.

Feel free to add to the list!

Girls Gone Wild Barbie
Social Climber Barbie
Reality TV Star Barbie (complete with her own US Weekly cover)
Ecoholic Barbie
Vegas Showgirl Barbie (feather headress included!)
DWI Barbie (comes with her own mugshot and ink stained fingertips)

Who Am I Wearing?!

Oh, the Oscars….all the world is an expert in fashion come Oscar night.  Like most red blooded females with an interest in fashion I scour the red carpet footage, racking up my list of Do’s and Don’ts (and the No-She-Didn’ts and my favourite, the Somebody-Lied-to-You).  But let’s forget who’s wearing it for a moment.  It’s really about who is being worn.

While this year’s Oscar red carpet was filled with the heavyweights of the industry, we all know a star studded moment can make a star out of an aspiring designer (Jason Wu, anyone?).  Of course, that really requires that people know who IS the designer being worn, a job usually left to the media.  But what if the media are the ones on display?  Case in point – eTalk’s Tanya Kim and Elaine Lui.  CTV’s on-air talent had prime position overlooking the red carpet arrivals, and both looked fresh and lovely Oscar night.  But who were they wearing?  

Canadian, of course.  Tanya Kim (left) wore David Dixon and Elaine (a.k.a. LaineyGossip.com) wore Andy The-Anh.  Even GlobalTV’s Cheryl Hickey – who was apparently no where near the red carpet – got into the Canadian designer action.  ET Canada held an online contest for viewers to select from three designers which would outfit Cheryl Oscar night.  Sodalicious’ designer Cindy Mathieu won out apparently.  You can see all three options here.  

(eTalk host with the most Ben Mulroney wore a Tiger of Sweden tux and Hugo Boss shirt.  Um, calling Philip Sparks, are you there?)

Barbie Gets New Groove at 50

I loved Barbie as a kid and, I’ll admit, far too long into my ‘tween years. My mother even made a birthday cake with Barbie for my 6th birthday. (The skirt of her huge, flowing dress was the cake part. Barbie stood motionless in a pile of delicious flour and frosting.)

So it’s no surprise to me (or Mom) that I’m all ears about Barbie turning 50 this year. In celebration, Mattel Canada has hooked up with a few notable Canadians with special collections, including one of our favourite Canadian designers, David Dixon. He’ll debut the first co-branded Barbie women’s apparel line in Canada at LG Fashion Week in Toronto (March 16 – 21). Inspired by Barbie and made for women, the Barbie by David Dixon collection takes influence from modern and vintage styles. The pieces blend fabrications in Barbie’s signature shade of pink, black and ivory.