Ashtiani Golnaz takes TFI New Labels

With fashion week barely behind us, Toronto’s fashion crowds hit the Design Exchange for TFI’s New Labels runway show. Over five months, selected designers work independently and with a team of judges to create a collection. Three finalists shared the runway: Caitlin Power, Golnaz Ashtiani and Nikki Wirthensohn for NARCESAfterwards, the judges picked a winner based on a line’s fit, quality, innovation, marketability and styling. 
Ashtiani
Ashtiani
Caitlin Power
Caitlin Power
NARCES
NARCES
I’m a fan of Caitlin Power – having noticed her at Edmonton Fashion Week years ago – and would wear NARCES cocktail dresses in a heartbeat, but Ashtiani’s line was a clear front-runner and took the crown. Her grand prize is valued over $40,000 and includes a Flare magazine feature and the chance to design an outfit for Sears womenswear. Interestingly, one of the judges, Sears Canada’s brand and trend director, Cynthia Florek, is a previous finalist of TFI New Labels competition for her now defunct label CINCYN.   
Other previous New Labels finalists and winners include David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc and Ashley Rowe. Unfortunately, there are too many who are no longer designing at all, proving you can have the talent but fashion is still about the business. Those of us who work in and follow fashion must do a better job of helping designers sustain their labels. In the meantime, I wonder if they are working on a TFI New Labels “where are they now” special. Here’s (hint, hint) hoping. 

Pre-Fashion Week Part 1

Once again fashion week in Toronto gets a head start with off-site shows.  From Evan Biddell’s invitation-only affair at SEVEN CONTINENTS on Tuesday to Philip Sparks presentation in the Burroughs Building on Wednesday, then over to Evergreen Brickworks for the Art of Progression Thursday night, the fashionable crowds crisscrossed the city for a sneak peek at Spring 2011.
Philip Sparks presented a hybrid runway show of menswear mixed with new womenswear pieces – love the boyfriend jackets and cute romper.  The watery colour palette was an ode to spring rain and included Spark’s first custom digital print.
Philip Sparks
Thursday’s Art of Progression show sponsored by Audi brought together Joeffer Caoc, Dmitri Chris and NADA in a group show.  Each designer featured a short video (all but lost on the audience) punctuated by a slick Audi driven down the runway.  The collections themselves were light and wearable.  We may not be sure what it was all about, but for the adventurous, the rough Brickworks venue turned an ordinary fashion show into a night of discovery.
Before it’s environmental overhaul, Evergreen Brickworks sat vacant for years, serving only as a secret destination for ravers and graffiti artists.  The owners have kept much of that character in tact, perhaps as a nod to the “urban” in urban revitalization.
Joeffer Caoc
Caoc’s line was coined “the Comfort Zone” and featured easy maxi dresses, stretch fabrics and warm weather suits. It was one of the more casual lines I’ve seen from Joeffer in a while.  It didn’t seem to wow the crowd, but every piece was likable and wearable.  In the cold chill of the October night I imagined myself wearing these outfits… in Los Angeles.
Dimitri Chris
Dimitri Chris opted for laid-back spring suits as well.  His typical dapper-ness was dialed down for washed out colours and pajama print stripes on short jackets and shorts.  I labeled this piece the “girlfriend jacket” for coming off a little too small and a little too pink.
NADA
NADA’s collection was tight – simple and ladylike.  I love her knack for injecting incredible colour and wildly interesting prints into a collection without letting them overtake the show.  And great draping on the finale blue dresses left the audience madly twittering.

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

Ruling the World One Outfit at a Time

For fashion that comes with a butt-kicking attitude, look no further than Joeffer Caoc’s fall line, available online at Aria Boutique. In an outfit like this I am certain I could rule a futuristic planet, or at least my morning meeting. Either way I’m the queen of the world!

Want to feel like a king or queen, just for a day? Sign up at the F-list for your chance to win a fashion and beauty prize pack that includes $100 gift certificate to Aria Boutique plus goodies from Diesel, Jessica Jensen, L’Oreal Paris and more!

The F-list is picking a new winner every week this month! You’ll not only be entered to win amazing prizes, we’ll keep you in the loop on Canadian fashion with our monthly newsletter, The F Word. Plus you’ll also have access to ongoing sales and events, special offers, contests and sample sale invitations. Sign up today!

Winners will be announced on the F-list’s Twitter feed and here! (Congrats to last week’s winner, Maureen C. of Mississauga, Ontario.)

Pla$tic & Fanta$tic

The winner of this year’s annual TFI New Labels design competition will enjoy an added prize from everyone’s favourite fashionista. One year after her 50th anniversary, Barbie® has teamed up with Toronto Fashion Incubator to award $10,000 in cash along with the $25,000 in prizes from ELLE Canada magazine.

For 17 years TFI’s national competition has helped launch talents like David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc, NADA, Mercy, Katya Revenko, JUMA, Eugenia Leavitt and last year’s FAREN to name just a few.

This year the playing field has been levelled. What could be more challenging than taking on the little black dress? Applicants must be professional Canadian women’s wear apparel designers who have been in business three years or less.

Hurry! Deadline is November 24th.