Canadians to Woo China with World Music Fashion Festival

Photos courtesy Empress Communications | Two Flies Photography
The two worlds of fashion and music first collided during the Jazz Age of flappers and Prohibition. Ever since, this marriage of like artistic minds has played out in music videos, runway shows and commercials. Events like Fashion Cares and Fashion Rocks launched in 2003 brought music and fashion together for charity. This fall music and fashion come together for the future.  
 
The future of Canadian fashion. 
 
I heard about the World Music Fashion Festival (WMFF) on its first tour through China featuring Canadian designers Evan Biddell, Paul Hardy and Juma. Developed by Vancouver-based Empress Communications as part of the China Overseas Designer Program, WMFF helps expose independent designers and artists to the Chinese market. It’s only offered to a select number of designers each year.  Triarchy, Bustle Clothing and Lucian Matis participated in 2012.
Bustle Clothing’s Shawn Hewson
Luxury labels have had their eye on China for business expansion for years. While the recession has slowed retail growth around the globe, China’s middle class is booming, packing a lot of power behind consumer spending.  
 
Even though luxury is driving most sales – this year alone, Chinese consumers will account for about one-third of all luxury purchases* – there is also a growing demand for fast fashion brands and Western labels in general. That’s good news for young designers looking for buyers. So good in fact, that Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and the Council of Fashion Designers of America recently sent three American designers to China as part of a joint Fashion Fund program. Rag and Bone, Marchesa and Proenza Schouler staged a fashion show near the Great Wall of China last month.
Wintour explained the benefits of this kind of exchange program in a recent interview, “One of the reasons the European houses went to China is that they needed to expand. The U.S. didn’t have that sense of need at the time, but young designers are working in a very different environment [than] when a Ralph Lauren was their age and they are thinking in a very different way. They are thinking globally.” (The Malta Independent, August 1, 2013).
The World Music Fashion Festival is gearing up for its third trip East this October.  Once again the festival will take Canadian singers, DJs, models and designers through three major cities – Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu in October.  Stay tuned for more from WMFF.  Until then check out previous year’s WMFF photos here.
 
(From Fashionbi.com’s Fashion Retail Trends in China, June 3, 2013)

Paul Hardy puts Calgary on Canada’s fashion map

In the weeks surrounding World MasterCard Fashion Week it’s nearly impossible to get Canadian fashion press to pay attention to anything outside Toronto. But last weekend over 25 journalists, bloggers including my trusted assistant, Kevin, and me, flew to Calgary, Alberta to toast designer Paul Hardy’s tenth year in fashion and his spring 2013 show.

And toast we did! Beyond expressing adoration for Paul, the weekend was also a spotlight on all that Calgary has to offer a fashion-forward traveler. From a four-course brunch at River Cafe, during a snowfall no less, to a VIP reception hosted by former Dragon’s Den member, Brett Wilson, to Paul’s runway show and VIP-packed after party, the best of Calgary’s food, fashion and music was on full display. Major shout out to Tourism Calgary and Travel Alberta for making the weekend possible.

Kevin enjoys a Narnia-like scene outside the River Cafe

Paul’s entree into Canadian fashion is somewhat legendary. Over a decade ago, after hearing about his brilliant designs from a friend, Barb Atkin, now fashion director at Holt Renfrew, literally came knocking on his basement bachelor apartment door. It wasn’t long before word spread and he was invited to show at Toronto’s fashion week. “I didn’t know anything about a shoe sponsor or a runway soundtrack, so I showed the collection in bare feet, in complete silence,” Paul laughingly recalled in conversation. “It was fitting since that collection was actually inspired by silence.”

Paul Hardy organizing the 60 looks before show

Paul demonstrated his strength in storytelling with his spring 2013 collection show. Titled Breaking Amish it told the story of a young girl who flees the colony for the big city, ultimately finding herself immersed in the underground speakeasy world of prohibition. As the story evolved over eight chapters, so did the clothes, referencing the character’s struggles and self-discoveries through the fabrics, cuts and detailing. The runway show’s soundtrack came in the form of live performances by musical artists Paul Brandt, Greg Sczebel, Peter Barbee and an ensemble from the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

Smitten with the cowboy, aka country singer Paul Brandt

Thanks to Calgary’s strong economy, Paul has been steadily growing his business, cushioned by a circle of wealthy, private clients. In the past ten years Paul Hardy Designs has already expanded to knitwear, leathers, special order shearlings, jewelry and soon will include leather handbags. An e-commerce site, expected in 2013, should do wonders to build the brand beyond the Canadian market. Now Paul must figure out how to expand his manufacturing – perhaps beyond its current ‘Made in Calgary’ status – to fulfill the increase in sales that will surely follow.

Paul Hardy’s show warranted a standing ovation
Top photo by Leesa Butler; photos courtesy Phil Crozier, PHOTOPHILCRO.

Location, Location, Location

It’s the week before the fashion mega-showcase known as LG Fashion Week beauty by L’Oreal, and fashion crowds are taking in Rogue Fashion Week. The various venues say as much about a designer as the clothes themselves. Kicking off the week at the Burroughs Building, Sparks’ works has a similar kind of historic charm – given his interest in heritage tailoring it’s not a surprise. The former F. C. Burroughes Furniture Company built the original 639 Queen Street West as its flagship retail department store in 1907. I like to think Philip is inspired by the building.

Later in the week we hit the flip side. The almost-complete Trump Tower at Bay and Adelaide provided a great backdrop for the modern flourish of Mark Fast, Mikhael Kale and Arthur Mendonca, and the pre-opening timeslot was edgy enough to warrant men in hard hats as ushers. 

Paul Hardy’s romantic collection and meticulous detailing were on point at the National Ballet School – sorry, bad pun – and I found the bowling shoes a fun disruption. The Greta & Ezra Constantine show closed the week at Audi with a slick show like a shiny new hot rod.

It’s not easy hosting a runway show off site, but these are not new kids on the design block. These are some of our top designers, the ones about whom you will say, “I knew them when…”  And in reviewing the collections, I thought it more fun to see how they looked on Twitter to the people who watch all the shows, no matter where they are:

Philip Sparks
Myth busting evening.  Backstage at Philip Sparks and the models were eating PIZZA.  
Yes – greasy slabs of pizza pie. How bloody refreshing. (@SarahEWaldock)

Lusting after that soft maple print cocktail dress from Philip Sparks tonight. 
Dresses more fun than light fixtures. (@k_cleveland)
Philip Sparks Fall 2011, photos by Jenna Marie Wakani
 
Mark Fast & Mikhael Kale 
Don’t remember this Mark Fast dress from his London show but dammmn do I want it. (@xoxSNP)
So the rich socialites of Toronto definitely came out to play today at 
the Mark Fast / Mikael Kale shows (@marcpiercey)
Just left the Mark Fast/ Mikhael Kale show. Incredible collections and
some fierce models. Love the attitude!  (@ExposedBlog)
Mark Fast Fall 2011, photo by Felix Wong
Mikhael Kale Fall 2011, photo by Felix Wong
Mark Fast Fall 2011, photo by Irem Harnak
Mark Fast Fall 2011, photo by Felix Wong

Arthur Mendonca
Thank God Arthur Mendonca is back designing in Canada. First exit – 
black slick trench – is brilliant. (@LisaTant)
Saw #Arthur Mendonca’s show tonight. Exquisite & sophisticated! 
Tea lovers – It was like a fine #Da Hong Pao Oolong (@theteastylist)
 
Arthur Mendonca 2011, photo by Dean Sanderson
Arthur Mendonca Fall 2011, photo by Felix Wong
Paul Hardy
Right on trend: footwear hitting the ground: shoes at Paul Hardy show at National Ballet school was bowling shoes. Even with evening wear. (@DerickChetty)
From Trump Hotel nouveau riche to National Ballet’s Quaker-style hall. 
Bond girls to school girls. Fast/Kale to Paul Hardy #chooseyourfetish (@amyverner)
Paul Hardy, photo by Owen E. McLeod
Greta Constantine
If you play Adele at a fashion show, I will forgive you for shining that light 
right in my eyes with every exit. (@moshamosha)
Also, for fall/winter 2011, what’s with Canadians showing chest? 
First Kale, then Mendoza, and now shirtless dudes at Ezra (@pliving)
My all white outfit choice has me inadvertantly matching Audis festooning 
dealership venue of Greta Constantine. Fashion faux pas or fun? (@suzanne_boyd)
Greta Constantine, photo by Owen E. McLeod
Greta Constantine, photo by Owen E. McLeod
Greta Constantine, photo by Owen E. McLeod