Canadians to Woo China with World Music Fashion Festival

Photos courtesy Empress Communications | Two Flies Photography
The two worlds of fashion and music first collided during the Jazz Age of flappers and Prohibition. Ever since, this marriage of like artistic minds has played out in music videos, runway shows and commercials. Events like Fashion Cares and Fashion Rocks launched in 2003 brought music and fashion together for charity. This fall music and fashion come together for the future.  
The future of Canadian fashion. 
I heard about the World Music Fashion Festival (WMFF) on its first tour through China featuring Canadian designers Evan Biddell, Paul Hardy and Juma. Developed by Vancouver-based Empress Communications as part of the China Overseas Designer Program, WMFF helps expose independent designers and artists to the Chinese market. It’s only offered to a select number of designers each year.  Triarchy, Bustle Clothing and Lucian Matis participated in 2012.
Bustle Clothing’s Shawn Hewson
Luxury labels have had their eye on China for business expansion for years. While the recession has slowed retail growth around the globe, China’s middle class is booming, packing a lot of power behind consumer spending.  
Even though luxury is driving most sales – this year alone, Chinese consumers will account for about one-third of all luxury purchases* – there is also a growing demand for fast fashion brands and Western labels in general. That’s good news for young designers looking for buyers. So good in fact, that Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and the Council of Fashion Designers of America recently sent three American designers to China as part of a joint Fashion Fund program. Rag and Bone, Marchesa and Proenza Schouler staged a fashion show near the Great Wall of China last month.
Wintour explained the benefits of this kind of exchange program in a recent interview, “One of the reasons the European houses went to China is that they needed to expand. The U.S. didn’t have that sense of need at the time, but young designers are working in a very different environment [than] when a Ralph Lauren was their age and they are thinking in a very different way. They are thinking globally.” (The Malta Independent, August 1, 2013).
The World Music Fashion Festival is gearing up for its third trip East this October.  Once again the festival will take Canadian singers, DJs, models and designers through three major cities – Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu in October.  Stay tuned for more from WMFF.  Until then check out previous year’s WMFF photos here.
(From’s Fashion Retail Trends in China, June 3, 2013)

Join me at CUBE’s Style & Fashion Holiday Soiree

It’s the first week of December, are you holiday partied out yet?! I hope not, dear readers, as your festive energy is needed Friday, December 21st. That’s when the F-list co-hosts a Style & Fashion Holiday Soiree at CUBE with Evan Biddell, Push Models, Kealan Sullivan of 69 Vintage and many more fashionable types. 

Join me before 11:30pm for complimentary cover, holiday cupcakes and cocktails. Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, get your photo taken with Santa and his fashionistas. Work off those Christmas cookies by hitting the dance floor to sounds from DJ MISSTARA and resident DJ Mike Toast.

Consider it your warm up for New Year’s! See you there.

Pre-Fashion Week Part 1

Once again fashion week in Toronto gets a head start with off-site shows.  From Evan Biddell’s invitation-only affair at SEVEN CONTINENTS on Tuesday to Philip Sparks presentation in the Burroughs Building on Wednesday, then over to Evergreen Brickworks for the Art of Progression Thursday night, the fashionable crowds crisscrossed the city for a sneak peek at Spring 2011.
Philip Sparks presented a hybrid runway show of menswear mixed with new womenswear pieces – love the boyfriend jackets and cute romper.  The watery colour palette was an ode to spring rain and included Spark’s first custom digital print.
Philip Sparks
Thursday’s Art of Progression show sponsored by Audi brought together Joeffer Caoc, Dmitri Chris and NADA in a group show.  Each designer featured a short video (all but lost on the audience) punctuated by a slick Audi driven down the runway.  The collections themselves were light and wearable.  We may not be sure what it was all about, but for the adventurous, the rough Brickworks venue turned an ordinary fashion show into a night of discovery.
Before it’s environmental overhaul, Evergreen Brickworks sat vacant for years, serving only as a secret destination for ravers and graffiti artists.  The owners have kept much of that character in tact, perhaps as a nod to the “urban” in urban revitalization.
Joeffer Caoc
Caoc’s line was coined “the Comfort Zone” and featured easy maxi dresses, stretch fabrics and warm weather suits. It was one of the more casual lines I’ve seen from Joeffer in a while.  It didn’t seem to wow the crowd, but every piece was likable and wearable.  In the cold chill of the October night I imagined myself wearing these outfits… in Los Angeles.
Dimitri Chris
Dimitri Chris opted for laid-back spring suits as well.  His typical dapper-ness was dialed down for washed out colours and pajama print stripes on short jackets and shorts.  I labeled this piece the “girlfriend jacket” for coming off a little too small and a little too pink.
NADA’s collection was tight – simple and ladylike.  I love her knack for injecting incredible colour and wildly interesting prints into a collection without letting them overtake the show.  And great draping on the finale blue dresses left the audience madly twittering.

Biddell’s Kingdom of Ass-Kicking Ladies

Photos by Peter Balinski
For a designer to resonate with a public, they need to have a voice.  That may be an odd choice of words given a designer’s silent contribution in the form of fabric, but the voice is what the customer either relates to – or doesn’t – as it must also speak for them.

Evan Biddell‘s voice has been loud and clear since he first showcased his winning Project Runway collection. And each season that voice seems to get stronger.  It’s a voice says,  “I’m feminine and soft, but don’t f#%k with me, I can’t be played.  “For spring, the ever-daring Biddell combined the hard edge of armour with the wispy float of a summer breeze and made it work.  

Biddell is, in fact, all business now.  He has spent the last five months working out of Seven Continents, a local manufacturing company steeped in design.  They produce mannequins, bust forms and pretty much any display or merchandising item used in retail, from Joe Fresh to Abercrombie and Fitch.  They clearly appreciate all facets of design and innovation.  It’s a Warhol-ian Factory circa 2010.  In fact the runway show took place inside the factory where endless mannequins towered above at the guests on massive shelves.
Off the top we saw Biddell’s signature flowing gowns and dresses capped in spiked collars and metal detailing.  Then the armour began to soften, looking more reptilian.  Military cuts paired with the delicate floral prints came off Little House on the Prairie in a post-apocalyptic world.  (I swear the best fashion is made for the end of the world!)
What I appreciate about his work is that he can continually surprise us with new shapes, textures, cuts and detailing but still keep it – for the most part – quite wearable.  His is not a collection you will likely ever find at The Bay, but when you do stumble upon a piece by Evan Biddell, you will be know immediately you have discovered something special.

Speaking of special….

Evan Biddell autographed TWO limited edition shopping totes by Aldo for YOU, F-listers!  I’ll pick two winners at the end of the weekend – contest closes at 8pm on Sunday, October 17th. One entry per person.

All you have to do to enter is email with the names of all seven continents. (Here’s a hint…)

The bag is a symbol of the donation Aldo has made on behalf of the Canadian fashion industry and Evan in the fight against AIDS. You will be proud to carry it!   

Catch Evan’s show at LG Fashion Week – Thursday, October 21 at 6:30pm.

Is that a Bookmark in Your Pocket?

Toronto Public Library Foundation hosted its fifth annual Book Lover’s Ball Thursday night at the Fairmont Royal York, complete with gala dinner, silent auction and a fashion show. Eight Canadian designers sent creative interpretations from their Spring collections inspired by popular fiction works like Twilight and Sherlock Holmes. The literary crowd lost its vocabulary when the Northbound Leather boys hit the runway, resorting to hoots and hollers. And who could blame them? Half naked men tend to put the “fun” back in fundraiser. It’s no wonder this is one of the best events of the season.

From top: Evan Biddell – Twilight; Marie Saint Pierre with Northbound Leather – Spartacus; Lucian Matis – Water for Elephants; LOVAS by Wesley Badanjak, featuring David Rocco – David Rocco’s Dolce Vita; Ines DiSanto featuring Lilliput Hats; Farley Chatto – Sherlock Holmes

Runway to Retail? Ce n’est pas possible.

We’re down to the finale of Project Runway Canada (Global, 10pm), and this is where things start getting complicated. See, the show sells a promise. It sells the promise that, as the winner, you will be endowed with all you need to create a successful clothing label that all of Canada will buy. In reality – and not the television kind – designers in this country can be extraordinarily talented in design, wickedly precise in construction, enjoy seamless manufacturing and STILL see their label fail.

You can dress PRC’s winner up with a photo shot, magazine cover, mentorship and cash prize, but all of these will not make them a successful designer. If no one is selling the clothes, then no one is buying.
Evan Biddell was Project Runway Canada’s first winner. After winning, the self-taught designer moved to Toronto and spent the next year working out of Wayne Clark’s studio (WAY better than a Winners’ mentorship). Later he moved to his own location, revamped his fashion entourage with a new PR rep and business manager and WA-LA!

Sounds like good progress on paper. But according to his site, there are only five retail locations where you can find Evan Biddell. And one of them just closed as a result of the economy. So make that four. Local boutiques are the retail mainstay of our homegrown designers — when they go, where do our designers turn?

Both Jason and Sunny have produced collections. Jason Meyers showed his spring line at last fall’s L’Oreal Fashion Week. (I discovered Jason Meyers years ago at a local Toronto boutique….that closed last fall.) They’ve been around the design block a few times with minor starts and successes. If one of them wins, will their luck change?
Unfortunately, the answer is “probably not.” The issue isn’t talent, the real issue is the lack of retail options for a young designer. And until that changes, there are no real winners.


The thing about reality television is sometimes you have to create drama. Without a script to dictate it through dialogue, reality tv often relies on sudden changes in challenges to insert tension.

Sometimes surprises backfire, like when Jason and Genevieve returned to the competition last week. That drama would have been enough, but the designers were paired into teams and two people – TWO – would go home at the end of the show.

It seems unfair to take TWO people out, especially when there’s only one person we want to go. (Spoiler alert! No offense to Kim, but you knew she was next to go.) But Adejoke – that outfit KILLED. Made out of camping materials, but fresh as an inner city preteen.

Adejoke’s final design of the show would be her best yet, and by far the best thing on the runway. But she left a victim of dramatic circumstance. Was she disappointed she saw the same fate as Kim, whose construction was criticized?

She appeared optimistic the morning after the show. “Once you do the best you can, there’s nothing left to do.”

Adejoke has been sewing since she was six. Kim’s construction was the death of her. That must have weighed on Kim, right? “I loved my designs.” Kim said to us later. “But I wish I could have made stronger garments.”

Right, that.

While in Toronto for the Project Runway final taping during LG Fashion Week, Kim expressed her love and awe of Evan Biddell. “He doesn’t even make patterns. He just drapes the fabric and cuts out these shapes and creates garments. It’s a beautiful process to watch.”