CAFA to Celebrate Canadian fashion

Elisha Cuthbert (left) with Vicky Milner, CAFA Managing Director 

Last week, near the opening hours of World MasterCard Fashion Week, about a hundred or so well-heeled guests filed into a Ritz Carlton ballroom for a little star sighting and the first CAFA announcement. CAFA, or Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards, was recently created to recognize and celebrate outstanding achievement and emerging talent in Canadian fashion design. Its lofty goals include helping spur the economic development of the Canadian fashion industry.
That said, there actually is a $10,000 prize for the Emerging Talent Award. It’s the one category eligible to self-nomination and refers to someone with fewer than five years in business. Otherwise it’s mostly bragging rights for winners. Outside of Emerging Talent, the award categories include:

Womenswear Designer of the Year
Menswear Designer of the Year
Outstanding Achievement
Accessory Designer of the Year
Canadian Style
Image Maker
International Canadian Designer of the Year
Stylist of the Year
Model of the Year

Elisha Cuthbert, Canadian darling and a front-row-at-Toronto-fashion-week kind of celebrity, was there to announce the first-ever CAFA nominees. (As part of the nominating committee, yours truly had a hand in picking them.)

The CAFA website publishes online interviews members of their inaugural jury. ELLE Canada’s Editor-in-Chief Noreen Flanagan is among those industry experts profiled, along with TFI’s Susan Langdon and FLARE Magazine’s Tiyana Grulovic. Check back for new profiles. The awards show takes place February 1, 2014 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

See the CAFA website for ticket information and a full list of nominees.

My So-Called Date with Rob Lowe

Late this summer I got an email requesting my participation as a judge in the 2012 P&G Beauty & Grooming Awards. The fourth annual event honors the exceptional beauty, grooming and fashion editorial work from the past year. 

Faster than you can say BB Cream, I said yes. Beyond my fashionable inklings, I am a product queen when it comes to cosmetics (seriously, I have five bags of make-up.) I was thrilled to be involved, and to spend an early September morning deliberating with fellow judges Jeremy Laing, Glen Baxter and Carly Stosjic. I was not so thrilled to find out the awards were scheduled while I would be in the states visiting family during the week of American Thanksgiving.

Then – insult to injury! – I found out Rob Lowe was hosting. 

Rob Lowe hosts the 4th annual P&G Beauty & Grooming Awards

So while I ate a tasteless dinner of Mom’s lasagna (sorry, Ma) my industry friends and family enjoyed Rob’s ridiculous baby blues and toasted this year’s winners. Awards were presented to leading Canadian stylists, photographers, writers, editors, models, bloggers and art directors in 15 categories. “The level of talent we have here ranks on a global scale and P&G Beauty and Grooming understands how important it is to support and nurture this industry,” said Thom Lachman, President, P&G Canada.

Congratulations to all the winnersAnd Rob, how about a rain check on our dinner date?!

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
Best Design winner Andrea Kuntz
Best Design winner Andrea Kuntz
Best Design winner Andrea Kuntz
Best Collections winner Kristin Burgess

TFI New Labels Final Four

Let’s catch up on New Labels. Last month, the eco-loving label, Lois Lane, was dropped from TFI’s competition leaving Sid Neigum, [blak]•i, Jameson K and Patrick Larrivee left to battle for a prize package that includes $25,000 cash.
Earlier this month the judges convened at TFI’s headquarters to review each designer’s collection thus far — they had to submit eight outfits and include some runway styling options. The judges – TNT’s Arie Assaraf, Flare magazine’s Lisa Tant, Toronto Star writer Derick Chetty, designer David Dixon and philanthropist Suzanne Rogers – feel pretty well-versed on the collections by now. They are getting to know the designers and have a lot of expectations from them. The remarks come full throttle once the fit models shows up in an outfit.
“Impressive stitching.” “Still has a Sears vibe.” “Could have used some pressing.” “Why do this?”
TFI’s director Susan Langdon admits it’s unusual to see so much outerwear in the New Labels competition, leading me to believe that even though Canada boasts some great outerwear labels, our own designers are not impressed. They feel they can do better.
Susan Langdon presents a few of Sid Neigum’s pieces for review
Checking the construction on a Patrick Larrivee coat
Jameson Kane

Inside TFI New Labels Judging

Last fall the F-list reported on a beefed up prize package for TFI New Labels 2012 designer competition. Each month leading up to the May reveal, we’ll go behind the scenes to document the New Labels judging process. 
At the first judges meeting last month, TFI’s director Susan Langdon presented 36 submissions for review, narrowed down from the overwhelming number of applications received – no doubt a result of this year’s $25,000 cash prize, care of fashion-loving philanthropist Suzanne Rogers. Five semi-finalists were selected to move forward.  
The judging panel of Derick Chetty (Toronto Star), designer David Dixon, TNT boutique’s Arie Assaraf, Flare magazine editor-in-chief Lisa Tant, Suzanne Rogers and Susan regrouped earlier this month to see the designers’ progress.
Storyboard from Lois Lane’s Arctic collection
Each designer had submitted samples to review against their initial storyboards and technical drawings we saw in December. It’s the first chance for the designers to personally impress the judges. They are there in person to help outfit a fit model and meet the judges. Will they show enough promise to continue in the competition?
The judges review a [blak]-i outfit on a fit model
First up is [blak]-i. Designer team Diego Fuchs and Helder Aguiar may have recent press to flaunt, but in this room the only thing that matters is the fit and fabric. The judges start at the seams, literally. The model changes into the cargo pants and jacket. “Fit is great,” someone chirps. “Decent quality.” The hip, contemporary line isn’t selling yet anywhere, but the boys get extra points for a reasonable price point ($95 – $495) and knowing their retail targets.
David and Suzanne discuss the detailing on a Patrick Larrivee coat
Next is Patrick Larrivee, no newcomer to fashion. Many remember his label Fashion Psychology with Beryl Bacchus from 2002. Patrick learned a harsh lesson of fashion design when the sales didn’t match the line’s critical acclaim. As Arie points out, considering he is designing coats in a country that boasts Mackage, Rudsak, Soia & Kyo, he better know what he’s doing. “You know who your competitors are, which is good,” Arie says.  But the collection “has a Sears vibe,” which in these circles, is not a compliment. That generally means it’s not fashion-y enough. “Picture it on a runway, how is it styled?” someone asks. Patrick is selling already – bonus! – but more importantly, he is willing to listen and incorporate the judges design feedback. 
Lois (Elaine) Van Koughnet of Lois Laine had idealistic plans for a second career in fashion – stylish, structural apparel made from organic fabrics. Unfortunately, eco-fabrics don’t hold structure – they are just too flimsy. And as David points out, “Eco is a ‘nice to have’, but it’s not a selling feature.” She’s encouraged to move away from the 100% eco ethos, and mix organic fabrics with natural looking fibers and materials to accomplish her design goals in production. Arie suggests she research what retail and the customer want. (This is the last we’ll see of Elaine. The label is eliminated from competition.)

Jameson Kane has great styling, fit is another matter, says Lisa Tant
Jameson Kane‘s designers Genevieve Pearson and Stan Capobianco are in a pinch with their coat collection. They’ve made the samples themselves, and the result is not good. “The styling is better than the execution.” The judges look past the puckering seams for a moment and insist their price point is too high. “Empires have been built on one thing, look at Smythe!” Chetty remarks, noting that it comes down to excellence. You can do one thing, but do it perfectly. They promise to have it locked up for next time. 
A late plane arrival from NYC nearly derailed Sid Neigum, but he arrived with samples just in time. (As a result of connections he made interning with Yigal Azrouel, Sid’s samples are made in New York.) His unisex collections have appeared in the last two seasons of Toronto Fashion Week. Sid’s customer wants to be different, he claims, she doesn’t like to wear what everyone else is wearing. The judges were easily impressed with his storyboards last month, but the fit is troubling them in person. It’s too 80’s. “It’s all about the fit,” says Arie. But it’s edgy and interesting, so we’ll see him again.
The judges meet again next month, stay tuned for more!

TFI’s New New Labels

Designers aching for the opportunity to shine should be thrilled with this year’s design competition from Toronto Fashion Incubator. TFI New Labels® has put together its most winning prize package valued at $60,000. This year’s top label will enjoy:
• The Suzanne Rogers Award for Most Promising New Label, a cash prize of $25,000.
• A one-year, 24/7 design studio at TFI sponsored by TNT
• A full page editorial in FLARE magazine
Ashtiani Golnaz, 2011 winner

And what designer wouldn’t want to be feted with a gala runway show? On May 3, 2012 the top finalists will compete and the winner will be announced that night.

The competition is open to designers who have been in business three years or less. With an application deadline of December 6, there’s just enough time to prepare an impressive application. Get everything you need to know at TFI’s website.
Since 1992, TFI’s New Labels® Fashion Design competition has featured the hottest up-coming design talent in Canada. The F-list was there last year when Ashtiani Golnaz took the crown.