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.

Toronto Fashion’s Foray in 2013

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, really, since I make resolutions all the time. Around my birthday in April, when I’m forced to contemplate my age, or in September, timed with the fresh start of a new school season. Actually, on any random day of the week I could be inspired to invite change into my world. 

However I do enjoy contemplating what a new year will bring and adore making lists. So here are a few Toronto-based fashion events I count as “must see” in 2013.

February 2, TFI’s Guilty Pleasures Designer Sale & Silent Auction
Held on two floors of the Drake Hotel, here’s a chance to scour fun indie and up-and-coming apparel and accessories labels. Proceeds go to support the Toronto Fashion Incubator, a model for fashion incubators worldwide. They may have celebrated their 25th anniversary last year, but all eyes are on this year’s TFI New Labels show. Target has come on board as a major partner giving the winning designer’s collection space in roughly 150 retail stores across Canada. TFI’s New Labels show is scheduled for April 18th. Tickets will be available soon.

February 26, FGI Toronto’s Digital Retail: A Look at Shopper Marketing
Fashion Group is an organization for professionals working in the business of fashion (full disclosure – I’m the regional director of the Toronto chapter) hosting events on emerging trends that touch on retail, design, business and marketing. With consumer behavior changing rapidly thanks to increased mobile usage, retailers are now forced to evolve they way they interact with their customer. After a chance to network over cocktails, a panel discussion of industry experts will break down the latest strategies and innovations on shopper marketing. Stay tuned to fgitoronto.org for more ticket information.

April 23 – 27, [FAT] Arts & Fashion Week
For a truly weird, wild and wonderful intersection of fashion and art, don’t miss [FAT]. This mult-arts festival features 200 Canadian and international artists across a variety of disciplines including fashion design, photography, performance and installation art and film. I have a special place in my heart for [FAT] Arts & Fashion Week ever since I had the luxury of hitting the runway for a special showcase by Evan Biddell. Yep, that’s me! Hit up the [FAT] website for schedule and ticket information.

June 21 – September 15, Christian Louboutin exhibit at the Design Exchange
There was a chorus of “OMG” posts across Twitter when this announcement came out recently – the Christian Louboutin shoe exhibit that premiered at London’s Design Museum last spring is coming to the DX. Expect a display of Louboutin archives including his first prototype, the origins of his signature red sole, a special ode to his “Fetish” collection and photography by artist David Lynch which were last seen at La Gallerie Du Passage in 2007. Until then, the DX looks to make us happy with The Happy Show, on now through March 3rd. Internationally renowned graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister invites us into his mind to explore what makes people, including him, happy.

Dates Unknown!
World MasterCard Fashion Week has yet to release dates for the Fall/Winter 2013 shows, but I’m hoping to see the tents erected once again in mid-to-late March at David Pecaut Square.

A documentary on Iris “I think style is all attitude” Apfel has been in the works for a while. Maysles Films, the production company, released a trailer last summer on the iconic style maven and interior designer. This darling woman may be in her 90’s, but her impact on the fashion scene hasn’t wavered a bit. I’m hoping for a summer release.