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.

Zac Posen Comes Home in the House of Z

Fresh off Monday’s Met Gala date with Katie Holmes, Zac Posen touched down in Toronto for the international premiere of House of Z, an intimate documentary that charts his rapid rise to fame.

Katie Holmes 2017 Met Gala | photo care of Zac Posen

At 37, Zac Posen is already a legendary fashion designer, renown for artisanal craftsmanship. Celebrities like Uma Thurman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Natalie Portman flock to his atelier for red carpet wow. House of Z is a generous peek inside Zac’s well connected, Manhattan upbringing and a family that rallies behind his early success.

As a 20-year old Central Saint Martins drop out, Zac already had enviable media buzz but no business. In 2001 Zac’s older sister Alexandra and their mother (a former corporate lawyer) join forces to help him launch his design studio out of the family’s living room. The media darling struggles to exceed the fashion industry’s high expectations while supporting his family. It’s a familiar “fake it until you make it” success story, but one that nearly backfired.

The question this film seems to ask is, what happens when the business outgrows family?

Looking at his career now – successful designer of his namesake label, creative director for Brooks Brothers Womens, judge on Project Runway – it’s hard to imagine the pressure nearly unraveled him. We’ve seen mega talents get sidelined by success before. The question this film seems to ask is, what happens when business outgrows family?

Some of movie’s best moments are interviews with the celebrity set who play a major role in Zac’s rise to fame. Naomi Campbell, Sean “P Diddy” Combs and Claire Danes are just a few of the bold face names to make a cameo.

Canadian Connection

It’s no surprise they selected Toronto’s Hot Docs Festival for House of Z’s international premiere. The documentary was written, filmed and produced by Sandy Chronopoulos, a Toronto broadcast news producer at Rogers Television. As well, fashion philanthropist Suzanne Rogers serves as an executive producer on the film.

 

Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation Opens

JCF Fashion Innovators | photo by Joe Fresh

Joe Fresh Centre’s 2016 Fashion Innovators | photo by Joe Fresh

As my regular readers know, I rarely use this blog to promote my own endeavours. In this case it’s unavoidable. Last March Jeanne Beker reported on a $1 million investment by Joe Fresh in Canada’s Fashion Future. Today that investment has been realized, and I’m proud that a team I’ve been working with is officially a part of it.

The new Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation opened last month at Ryerson University, modelled after the highly successful Digital Media Zone (DMZ). Six start-ups were chosen through a nationwide a competitive entry process, juried by top executives from Joe Fresh and the Canadian fashion/tech industry.

During a 18-month program, each business — StyleID, Klothed, Formen, Wear Your Label, Blanc de Noir and Love Winter — enjoys physical workspace in the new Centre, access to Ryerson University’s equipment and facilities, professional guidance and a chance to receive up to $50,000 in funding.

Klothed is where I come in — it’s a mobile styling and shopping app that enables users to quickly and easily create a personalized model that includes a selfie of their face, and a body shape and skin tone that resembles their own. Working with the founders over the past two years, we’re developing something I believe will sit at the forefront of the omnichannel future of retail.

klothed style at your fingertips

The first iteration of klothed caters to men. Users can swipe to virtually try-on clothes, tap to share their outfits with their social networks to get input and advice, buy items and plan what they’re going to wear – all from their mobile device. Check out the quick demo video on our website now. I’ll keep you posted as we move to the next stage of development.

Learn more about our friends and fellow innovators at the Joe Fresh Centre here. They are a fascinating and diverse group of startups. And stay tuned for more from the fashion innovation sector on the F-list — it’s a part of the industry that’s close to my heart.

School is In

April has been a busy month for fashion schools. As the semester inched to a close, graduating design students spent their last weeks frantically wrapping up final collections for the runway.

Student fashion shows are a common event around Toronto thanks to a number of secondary schools with fashion design programs. Ryerson University hosts the largest and the oldest student-run show with Mass Exodus (shout out to Pay Homage by Anabel for the photo below). It blends three fashion programs in carrying off the event from front of house to back. Fun fact – it’s also one of the few (only?) fashion shows to occur in a hockey arena.

Mass Exodus

Seneca, Humber and George Brown Colleges also exhibit student work through runway shows and exhibitions. Showcasing your fledgling brand is an important step as a young designer. I worked with London, Ontario’s Fanshawe College for many years as a guest judge during their annual student show, UNBOUND.

Winning academic accolades for a collection can often kick start a career. Sebastian Guarin, who won Best Collection at Fanshawe in 2014 explained. “Winning the David Dixon Award for Best Collection helped validate my point of view as a designer,” he said. “And helped get my foot in the door…in terms of legitimate recognition.”

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Atelier Guarin

As a student designer, figuring out how to translate your design vision into great looking clothes is only part of your task. These shows often bring out high profile industry professionals who have both advice and opportunity to share. It’s on the student to take advantage of these networking opportunities. With a little perseverance they can earn a leg up to start their own label, as Sebastian found in launching Atelier Guarin  after graduation. “I was able to feel part of the industry right away,” Guarin noted.

Not all fashion industry leaders recommend starting a label fresh out of school. Steven Kolb, the CEO of Council of Fashion Designers of America, has been advising students to work for someone else for at least six or seven years before starting their own brand. Essentially, he’s suggesting they learn the business on someone else’s dime. The business of fashion.

That phrase, the business of fashion, is getting a lot of play these days. There’s good reason. Central Saint Martins captured the state of the industry well:

“With the explosion of new media over the last 10 years, the fashion industry has been democratized. Opportunities in fashion are no longer primarily focused on the role of designer.”

Things are changing, and they’re changing at warp speed. Fashion has been blown wide open with the influx of Wall Street finance and Silicon Valley technology. The conversation on global supply chain is gaining more traction that should help bring accountability to fast fashion. In a few years the entire retail sector – and perhaps even the fashion calendar – may look vastly different.

Enter Centennial College’s Fashion Business & Management program. Full disclosure: I was not paid for this article, but I am a paid employee of Centennial as program coordinator and part-time professor. This program is the reason I am.

The two-year Fashion Business & Management diploma program will teach students how to demonstrate business acumen across finance, communications, human resources and ethics. As well, students will drill down into all areas in the lifecycle of fashion – product development, sourcing and manufacturing, retail, marketing and media. Every step of the way the way they’ll experience the latest innovations in technology and sustainability. In fact, every student enrolled in the program will receive a brand new iPad.

We are committed to bringing relevance to our curriculum with program advisors and faculty who are who still embedded in the industry. These individuals have diverse experience – from Odessa Paloma Parker, fashion editor at The Globe and Mail – who also helped bring this program to life last year – to Tomas Romita, founder of MADE Custom Clothing.

Tomas Romita, founder of MADE Custom Clothing

Tomas Romita, founder of MADE Custom Clothing

Last week we enlisted the help of more advisors to be in a soon-t0-be-released video touting the program. It featured Shopgirls owner Michelle Germain, industry vet Marlene Shiff, designer Jennifer Fukushima and factory owner Kathy Cheng. (See it first! Stay tuned to the @TheFList on Twitter and Instagram.) I’ll share more about our other program advisors and faculty soon.

This is an exciting phase in fashion, and I’m quite proud to help further the education of the industry’s next generation. Check out the program detail on Centennial’s website and stay tuned to the F-List for new developments.

For more information on Centennial’s Fashion Business & Management program and admission requirements, click here. Have a specific question? Feel free to contact me directly at lbutler at centennialcollege dot ca.

ThirdLove Starts Up a Bravolution

ThirdLove balconet bra

ThirdLove balconet bra

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m a big follower of the fashion and tech start-up industry. So when ThirdLove, a San Francisco-based lingerie start-up, contacted me about writing a sponsored post, I had to say yes. They have been ones to watch on the e-commerce scene. It was barely two years ago that ThirdLove was nabbing a cool $5.6 million in seed money.

It’s not a social shopping experience, so it’s actually the perfect category to bring online.

Along with Brayola and True&Co, ThirdLove co-founders Dave Spector and Heidi Zak were early disrupters in the lingerie category. Moving bra sales combined with personal fitting services online makes sense. Zak explained to TechCrunch, in an article published at the time of their funding, “It’s not a social shopping experience, so it’s actually the perfect category to bring online.”

The Fit is the Feature

Before ordering from ThirdLove, I recommend downloading their sizing app to guarantee the right fit. This innovative mobile app walks you through how to take two photos of yourself wearing a bra and fitted tank top. The app uses an algorithm to identify your size based on the photos and matches you to the perfect size. It should be no surprise how ThirdLove married fashion and science – their app development lead is also a senior scientist at NASA. (The app is available on iPhone only, but an Android version is in the making.)

As other women can attest, sometimes “your girls” aren’t a true cup size – enter ThirdLove’s signature half cup sizes. And no matter your size, they’ve got you covered from the AAA to DDDD. ThirdLove also provides a Breast Shape Dictionary to help you define the shape of your breasts. For example, one being bigger than the other means “They’re Sisters, Not Twins.” Get it?! Their style chart will point you in the right direction based on shape as well.

According to Zak, women change bra sizes an average of six times in their lifetime.

While the shape of our breasts might stay the same over our lifetime, our bra size does not. According to Zak, women change bra sizes an average of six times in their lifetime. This rings true when you consider puberty, pregnancy, menopause and lifetime weight fluctuations. It also means we should be measuring ourselves with each bra purchase.

Photo by ThirdLove

Photo by ThirdLove

Let’s Talk About the Pretty

ThirdLove lingerie offers European-inspired lingerie in a small but solid selection of colours and styles. I chose the balconet bra in stormy lilac. It’s so pretty! Made with nylon, rayon and Spandex, the seams and fabric are both soft and comfortable. Their selection of panties, while a bit more basic in design, is quite broad.

Whatever interest they stand to lose on their selection, they’ll more than make up for in price and service. A perfect-fitting bra will only run you $45 to $70, while panties range $11 to $35 and – don’t forget – it’s a perfect fit with no changing room.

That’s something to love.