Danier Does it Again with the Design Challenge

In marketing, they say it always starts with the kids. Four years ago Danier initiated a design challenge with Ryerson University’s School of Fashion that would allow third year students to demonstrate their fashion chops. In return for creating an original women’s leather garment design, a handful of students had a chance at seeing their garment put into production for Danier stores, a paid summer internship and cold hard cash.

At that time the concept of designer collaborations was still relatively new. But sure enough, a series of successful collabs with notable names from Canada’s fashion industry quickly followed – Winnipeg-born, London-based Mark Fast, Toronto’s Greta Constantine and Philip Sparks and stylist George Antonopoulos. (That’s me wearing Greta Constantine’s SKIN for Danier on the left; George Antonopoulos’ OBJECT line on the right.)

Just as school returned to session this month, I stopped by Ryerson to see this year’s design challenge winner revealed and catch up with Olga Koel, Danier’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.

“Getting students to create something commercially viable was our initial goal, but it has evolved to focus more on the creativity and innovation,” she remarked. “We want to encourage these students creativity, help them understand leather.”

Oh, there is creativity alright. This year’s winner demonstrated some sick design skills. The fact that young Ostwald Au-Yeung was unavailable for comment or a congratulatory handshake speaks volumes: he was finishing a design internship in Hong Kong. 

I have a hunch Ostwald is not long for this land. As we see often in Canada, talent like this either gets snapped up quickly or itches for bigger experiences than they can enjoy here. And with talent like this, I would rather see him rubbing elbows with another next big thing. 

World domination, Ostwald, it’s yours for the making.

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

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.