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 Week – Part Deux

Fashion week isn’t just about what happens on the runways, it’s how we capture and share it. Since the dawn of Twitter, live events are for the audience — whether actually in attendance or not — to offer their play by play. Now with Instagram and Vine, it’s not just about what we say, but how we see it. I saw many use Vine  to record the final walks from designer shows in New York, London and Paris, so I put my own spin on it frequently last week. What else can you say in six seconds?

One of my favorite moments of the week was the Joe Fresh show. If you wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that the fast fashion of Joe Fresh could be heavily influenced by the British impressario Malcolm McLaren, you don’t know Joe Mimran. McLaren and his girlfriend Vivian Westwood were largely responsible for the punk style of youth in the 1970s. Joe went straight to Paris for punk (with a hint of jazz) in the form of a French ingenue, a stylish young thing who, channeling a young Carine Roitfeld, donned mostly black. He brought us art in the form of Ed Ruscha — an artist known for painting words on large canvasses — and his lettered sweaters that wrapped up the collection. And then he brought us the best after party of the week. That’s Joe.

Photo by George Pimentel
Photo by George Pimentel

I skipped out on Friday’s shows due to commitments for Canadian Music Week (why, oh why does everything have to happen at the same time in Toronto?) but not before co-hosting FGI Toronto‘s Speed Networking event with Fashion Takes Action. This is the second season we’ve worked together with IMG to host the event during fashion week. Speed networking matches you up with someone new every two minutes, so if you’re not good at conversation, you will learn quickly!  The event was sold-out, thanks to everyone who came out for it. Check out FGI on Facebook and Twitter for more upcoming events.

Ready, set, go!

Caesarstone & Mackage: Home, Home on the Runway

The tents of World MasterCard Fashion Week have literally just come down and my reviews are in – Toronto’s fashion week sponsorship was happening

See, I’m always a fan of our design talent, but given my profession, I watch the logistics of fashion week with a more discerning eye than others.  That’s why sponsorship always intrigues me. 

IMG now has full-fledged parental control over the event, though they have been steering the sponsorship for a few a seasons now. Many activations took the experiential route to showcase their brand’s message. Target? A sponsored media lounge with power outlets, a lounge and a bar (convenience, style). Ritz-Carlton? Constant refreshments for media and VIPs (exceptional service). 5 gum? Endless packs meant we never once lamented unfresh breath (savior to an awkward situation).

It should surprise no one that home brands like Caesarstone and Korhani have aligned with fashion week. They may cover your floors and counters, but the nascence of these products is just as fashion-y as the shoes you’re wearing. 

Caesarstone’s fashion-y collection

Korhani proves it each fashion week with their popular runway show inspired by real life fashions. And honestly, with rugs priced $100 and less, how is a new throw rug for the fall different from a new fall handbag?

Korhani’s Great Gatsby-inspired collection
Korhani on the World MasterCard Fashion Week runway

Caesarstone also capitalized on fashion’s association with interiors. Beyond appearing as just a  fashion week sponsor this season, the company collaborated their Supernatural line with well-known outerwear label Mackage on a runway show and after party at The Spoke Club. “Trends in interior design are often influenced by fashion,” notes Fernando Mammoliti, CEO of Caesarstone. “We feel that the Mackage runway show will serve as the perfect platform to showcase new and innovative designs from both brands.”

This was a great example of how two brands can align in perfect harmony. The stone was subtly visible as a backdrop to Mackage’s runway show and as accessories adorning the models. Afterwards, at the Spoke, guests were treated to a fashion exhibit where Mackage models and Caesarstone’s Supernatural product were displayed over the club’s three floors. Of course the real fun was discovering what else was hidden on each floor — as after parties go, this one was epic. If the endless martinis and oyster bar didn’t impress, surely the waffle station did.

Subtle sponsorship speaks louder than words
Caesarstone’s runway accessories for Mackage
Caesarstone’s runway accessories for Mackage
Caesarstone product sprinkled throughout the Spoke Club

New Start Up Designer Competition

Lauren Bagliore Spring 2011
When IMG sent an invitation to the fashion crowds in Toronto inviting them to attend a “cocktail reception and special announcement” at the Mercedes-Benz dealership, most of us assumed it was a new sponsorship of LG Fashion Week.  After all IMG has steered event management of fashion weeks worldwide and Mercedes-Benz is the title sponsor of many of them (NY, Miami, Berlin). IMG has taken an increasingly active role in Toronto’s shows. Bring on the high-end hot wheels, I thought.
Instead, after the champagne and canapes, they announced a new designer competition called Start Up that will launch this fall at LG Fashion Week’s Spring 2012 event. Only designers in Vancouver and Montreal are invited to compete the first year, though it will expand to other cities in 2012. To be eligible, designers must be in business for less than five years. 
Twenty finalists will make the semi-final round, and four designers will be selected to show their collections at the national final during LG Fashion Week. The winner will enjoy a five month incubation period where they will work with industry mentors to prepare a debut solo show for the Fall 2012 runway.

“The goal is to facilitate a platform for these designers to showcase their talent in a professional setting with access to key mentors from various segments of the industry.”
       – Peter Levy, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of IMG Fashion

Details on application process, judges and industry mentors are forthcoming. What isn’t coming is cash for the winner, sadly. It seems odd to offer a designer competition, a la Project Runway, and not offer cash. Will the industry mentors help raise funds for fabrics and production? What about costs associated with the runway show, does the FDCC absorb that?
If IMG and Mercedes-Benz really wanted to wow us, they would promise the winning designer cash and a slot at an international show. Canada’s proximity and influence from the States makes expansion into the U.S. almost a requirement in business. I’m not positive this will prepare designers for that important step, so for now I’m filing under “wait and see.”
Photo by George Pimentel.

Runway Recessionistas

All eyes will be on the runways this Spring to see how the recession scare plays out in real life.  While the bottom line impact has yet to be fully felt, designers have already started to pull back on spending.  In New York Betsey Johnson and Vera Wang, among others, had announced plans to forego the Bryant Park tents for cheaper, more intimate shows.  Now three labels – Mara Hoffman, Sergio Davila and Nicholas K – are teaming up for a joint show in the tents, which means each label cuts their expenses by about 40%.

It got me thinking about our own fashion weeks in Canada.  While we may not have the same financial turbulence seen south of the border, it’s always been tough to be fabulous in fashion here.  IMG’s new sponsorship role in Toronto’s LG Fashion Week ensures their shows will go on, but the economy could be an excuse for smaller fashion weeks on the west and east coasts to disappear.

But wait – there isn’t just ONE west coast show. There’s BC Fashion Week and there’s Vancouver Fashion Week. Come to think of it, on the east coast they have Atlantic Fashion Week and Atlantic Canada Fashion Week.  Seriously, you ask?  Oh wait, it doesn’t stop there… in Ottawa they have a Capital Fashion Week plus Ottawa Fashion Week. Ok, you say, now you’re talking crazy. But I’m not.

Let’s ignore the fact that there is just no good reason for Vancouver, Ottawa or Halifax to have two fashion weeks. (But perhaps some ego checks are in order? Asap?)  I’m no economic expert, but my hunch tells me it’s going to be harder to find double the sponsors and designers to fill two fashion weeks in these smaller locales.  So in the name of recession, can’t we all join hands and get along?

LG Takes Over Toronto Fashion Week

Big changes to our bi-annual fashion extravaganza known as L’Oreal Fashion Week. LG Electronics has further solidified their hold in Canada’s fashion scene by taking over the title sponsorship from L’Oreal, who will continue on as a presenting sponsor. Roll your tongue around this one kids, it’s a mouthful: LG Fashion Week presented by L’Oreal Paris. (Free cell phones for all?)

The event, produced by the Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC), will celebrate its 20th appearance in Toronto this March with the Fall 2009 shows. Worried that the economic downturn may interfere with our fashion week? Fret not, my friends. It may be a relief to know that the powerhouse IMG has stepped in to exclusively manage the sponsorship and sales for fashion week. IMG Worldwide has already worked magic with fashion around the globe, including New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and Australia’s Rosemount Fashion Week. Presumably, this will take a load off the FDCC which can now focus solely on creating and producing an amazing week of shows.

Now, about those free cell phones….