Rogue fashion week: Jeremy Laing & Sid Neigum

This past week was an interesting reflection on Toronto’s fashion reality. While conjecture flew around what to expect at World MasterCard Fashion Week now that IMG Worldwide is our new big fashion daddy, two very different groups set up camp for a series of offsite shows. 

The shOws featured four international designers with a Canadian connection including Tanya Taylor, Jean Pierre Braganza, Antonio Azzuolo and Jeremy Laing. Laing has long been a darling of Canada’s fashion media. Dividing his time between Toronto and New York, he typically eschews a Toronto showcase for presentations in New York. (It’s nothing personal, Toronto. It’s business, baby.) And while I always find Laing’s work interesting, I don’t always relate to it personally. Not this time. Loved loved loved. 

Jeremy Laing spring 2013
Jeremy Laing at the shOws

On the opposite side of town (and on the same days) were The Collections, produced by the Fashion Collective, which featured up and coming designers like Chloe Comme Parris, Klaxon Howl and Sid Neigum. Neigum is the winner of Toronto Fashion Incubator’s 2012 New Labels competition. Having watched him progress over five months while developing his winning fall/winter 2012 collection, it was a treat to see what he’d do with spring 2013.

Sid’s unisex approach to design has always set him apart from his Toronto design peers, and it seems he’s found a beautiful balance of unisex features and feminine fit. (Praise must be given to TFI New Labels for mentoring him to a stronger, better place.) I found this collection incredibly wearable, while still maintaining that unique aesthetic that’s all Sid. Here’s hoping we can find it in stores six months from now. And may you be our next Jeremy Laing.

Sid Neigum spring 2013
Sid Neigum spring 2013
Sid Neigum spring 2013
Sid Neigum at the Burroughes Building

Dear Donna….

I’ve got a lot on the go right now so, admittedly, I didn’t give much thought before heading over to Holt Renfrew for Donna Karan’s personal appearance.  To be clear we are talking the DK of DKNY.  I was recently reminded of Karan’s iconic stature in Flare‘s September issue, that it’s been 25 years since she launched her 7 Easy Pieces collection during her reign at Anne Klein.  Since then Karan’s designs have become synonymous with ease and versatility.  She even brought us the first diffusion line when she launched DKNY, a less expensive line for the younger shopper.

Aside from being an incomparable designer for the modern woman, one whose work I always loved, I knew she is a yoga afficionado and a philanthropist supporting AIDS and cancer charities.  I’ve always appreciated the upbeat, no-fuss approach she appears to have in life.  The CFDA has honoured her an astonishing seven times.  And lately this queen of American fashion is sharing more of her spiritual side and influence through her Urban Zen Foundation.
Even knowing all that, I thought I’d just pop over to Holt’s with a pal for a quick photo opp of Donna hanging with her latest collection and that’s it.  But there is something so…compelling…about this woman’s presence.  Within minutes of being in the same room I knew that I had to introduce myself.
 “Hi Donna, I’m Leesa and I’m a big fan.” (gush)

“Thank you.” Her eyes lock on mine and her smile is infectious.

“I have huge respect for you as a businesswoman and designer. You’re quite an inspiration.” (gush, gush)

“Thank you so much. Are you a designer?” she asks, still smiling.

“Fashion media. I have a web site about Canadian fashion called the F-list.”

“The what?” I realize I have a fleeting moment here.  I quickly pull a F-list promo card from my purse and hand it to her.

“The F-list,” I repeat. “It’s a web site devoted to supporting and promoting Canadian designers and retailers.” 

“Oh, fantastic,” she murmurs, pondering over my F-list bookmark.  “Do you have good designers here in Canada?”

“Yes, quite a few. Some of whom are carried here.” (#1 – yes, I said “some of whom” like a nerd and #2 – Holt Renfrew, you’re welcome.)

We chat a bit more about designers and fashion weeks (she thinks mid-October is “NOT too late!” for ours), have a quick photo together and then she’s devoured by another fan, hungry for some DK conversation.

Like a schoolgirl with a crush, I’m smitten.  I want so badly to link my arm in hers and gab over lunch.  She IS an inspiration. And so, Ms. Karan…in light of keeping it simple, modern and very Canadian, I offer seven top  designers I think you would like:

Denis Gagnon – (right) a minimalist from Montreal with a tendency for the monochromatic.  He’s also absolutely brilliant and far too special to keep to ourselves here in Canada.

Jeremy Laing – this serious, young lad apprenticed with Alexander McQueen and often draws from the Canadian landscape for inspiration.  His work shows signs of Japanese influence yet somehow he maintains an organic, natural quality.

Pink Tartan – designer Kimberley Newport-Mimran reminds me a bit of Donna in that everything under the label speaks precisely to what Kim herself will wear.  Her collections are for the practical woman who knows how to balance girlish charm with a clean, modern edge.
Greta Constantine – (left) Stephen Wong and Kirk Pickersgill may be known as the “jersey boys” for their expertise with the fabric, but their talent in creating edgy, feminine designs with all sorts of textiles is well-known.  Dare we forget their seat belt couture?

Rad Hourani – think urban warrior when considering Rad’s work.  He calls it asexual, aseasonal and anti-conformist.  I just call it awesome.

Joeffer Caoc – one of the first designers I discovered after moving to Canada and one of the nicest people on the planet.  Joeffer’s work is intricate yet subtle, classic yet unconventional and built for the sensible, modern woman.

Thieves – Sonja den Elzen’s fledgling line brings sustainability and style together for good.  Through uncomplicated (but expert) draping and detailing she works wonders with eco-fabrics for both men and women.

Dear readers, I encourage you to check out the article on Donna in last month’s Town & Country magazine.  You can download it at Urban Zen Foundation website.  It’s an unbelievable insight into her world and the power that one individual has to motivate a movement.
“What you have been given, it’s to give back.” – Donna Karan

HBC Goes From There…to Here

Above, a model wears an original HBC point blanket coat.

Above, Comrags’ designer Joyce Gunhouse poses with their sculptural re-creation.

Above, Jeremy Laing took a modern approach with a cinched waistline on an A-line cut.

Above, Smythe’s take on the HBC point blanket coat.

If you felt a slight breeze in the downtown air last night, it could have been a new breath of life blowing across the floor of the Queen Street Bay store. The retailer is again making great use of their past with the launch of the Hudson’s Bay Company collection, 120 deliciously Canadian items including their classic point blankets, coats and scarves along with everything from boxed maple sugar cubes to scented candles, hand-knit sweaters to made-to-order canoes.

Ten Canadian fashion designers were hand-picked to create one-of-a-kind coats using a Hudson’s Bay Company Point Blanket in the colour of their choice. The participating designers include Comrags, Erdem, Harricana, Jeremy Laing, Klaxon Howl, Krane, Lida Baday, Pink Tartan, Smythe and Todd Lynn. The showpiece coats were on display for the fashion VIP crowd last night and will be part of a national exhibition, as well as a feature installation in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The iconic stature of HBC’s point blanket came up in conversation frequently throughout the short launch party. The coats were a huge hit, but we think the entire collection has legs to move beyond 2009. Stylist George Antonopoulos shared an interesting thought on its future. “This is our Burberry. [This collection] needs someone to take the helm, to come and lead as head designer of…well, the House of Hudson Bay.”

We can dig that. How long ’til we see the House of Hudson Bay at LG Fashion Week? Not long, we hope! Not long.