Daphne Launches on The Shopping Channel

Designer Lucian Matis, who drew legions of fans during the first season of Project Runway Canada, returns to the television medium to promote his latest womenswear line, Daphne, on The Shopping Channel. The network is dedicating a one-hour program to Lucian and Daphne this Sunday, which you can catch at 9:00am, 1:00pm, and 8:00pm.

The incredibly affordable line is made in Canada and includes dresses, tops, pants and jackets priced from $60 – $195. In keeping with the Matis trademark design aesthetic, even when very simple — everything has a twist, an element of surprise. We remember how this Romanian export impressed Iman with his flare for the dramatic, so there is little doubt Lucian will have the Shopping Channel’s host and models swooning over Daphne.

Naked Tuesday

Designer Rosemarie Umetsu hosted a fete for photographer Caitlin Cronenberg this past Tuesday night (photo, Caitlin, left with Rosemarie). The ticketed affair, held at Umetsu’s atelier on Avenue Road, was a fundraiser for POSER: A Collection of Nude Photographs by Caitlin Cronenberg. The book is due out next fall. The party included heavy hitters like David Cronenberg (Caitlin’s dad wouldn’t miss it!), Jeanne Beker, Jian Gomeshi and Rex Harrington. It’s not often I’m invited to sip bubbly while 20 naked people stare at us from the walls. You can try it yourself through April 30th at 96 Avenue Road, just don’t count on any leftover champagne!

Enough with the naked, time for the clothes. I split to catch up with friends for the Project Runway Canada finale at Toronto soccer enthusiast’s bar, The Football Factory. I find guest judge Evan Biddell playing host (photo, Evan shares a plate of desserts). Sadly I didn’t find the other finalists and Toronto residents Jessica and Jason, but Shawn Hewson (photo, Shawn showing off his trademark expression with Michael Sullivan of Victor restaurant). The PRC fans might have looked out of place from the bar’s regular sports crowd, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. (Why a sports bar? Endless televisions of course!)

How would the final runway show at LG Fashion Week play out? Who would break down backstage? And who would win? In the end the judges couldn’t contain their excitement over Sunny’s Alexander the Great-inspired collection admittedly, neither could I. Congrats Sunny!

Runway to Retail? Ce n’est pas possible.

We’re down to the finale of Project Runway Canada (Global, 10pm), and this is where things start getting complicated. See, the show sells a promise. It sells the promise that, as the winner, you will be endowed with all you need to create a successful clothing label that all of Canada will buy. In reality – and not the television kind – designers in this country can be extraordinarily talented in design, wickedly precise in construction, enjoy seamless manufacturing and STILL see their label fail.

You can dress PRC’s winner up with a photo shot, magazine cover, mentorship and cash prize, but all of these will not make them a successful designer. If no one is selling the clothes, then no one is buying.
Evan Biddell was Project Runway Canada’s first winner. After winning, the self-taught designer moved to Toronto and spent the next year working out of Wayne Clark’s studio (WAY better than a Winners’ mentorship). Later he moved to his own location, revamped his fashion entourage with a new PR rep and business manager and WA-LA!

Sounds like good progress on paper. But according to his site, there are only five retail locations where you can find Evan Biddell. And one of them just closed as a result of the economy. So make that four. Local boutiques are the retail mainstay of our homegrown designers — when they go, where do our designers turn?

Both Jason and Sunny have produced collections. Jason Meyers showed his spring line at last fall’s L’Oreal Fashion Week. (I discovered Jason Meyers years ago at a local Toronto boutique….that closed last fall.) They’ve been around the design block a few times with minor starts and successes. If one of them wins, will their luck change?
Unfortunately, the answer is “probably not.” The issue isn’t talent, the real issue is the lack of retail options for a young designer. And until that changes, there are no real winners.


The thing about reality television is sometimes you have to create drama. Without a script to dictate it through dialogue, reality tv often relies on sudden changes in challenges to insert tension.

Sometimes surprises backfire, like when Jason and Genevieve returned to the competition last week. That drama would have been enough, but the designers were paired into teams and two people – TWO – would go home at the end of the show.

It seems unfair to take TWO people out, especially when there’s only one person we want to go. (Spoiler alert! No offense to Kim, but you knew she was next to go.) But Adejoke – that outfit KILLED. Made out of camping materials, but fresh as an inner city preteen.

Adejoke’s final design of the show would be her best yet, and by far the best thing on the runway. But she left a victim of dramatic circumstance. Was she disappointed she saw the same fate as Kim, whose construction was criticized?

She appeared optimistic the morning after the show. “Once you do the best you can, there’s nothing left to do.”

Adejoke has been sewing since she was six. Kim’s construction was the death of her. That must have weighed on Kim, right? “I loved my designs.” Kim said to us later. “But I wish I could have made stronger garments.”

Right, that.

While in Toronto for the Project Runway final taping during LG Fashion Week, Kim expressed her love and awe of Evan Biddell. “He doesn’t even make patterns. He just drapes the fabric and cuts out these shapes and creates garments. It’s a beautiful process to watch.”

Odds are Good for a PRC Surprise

Something is amiss on Project Runway Canada.

The F-list had the extreme pleasure of attending yesterday’s runway show at LG Fashion Week that will comprise the show’s finale. While we can’t tell you what we saw on the runway, we can tell you what other people were talking about…yes, there are rumours of major twists to come. The televised version is now down to four designers – Jessica, Sunny, Adejoke and Kim. Some think a designer will be brought back for a surprise episode. That would make sense, since they lost three designers in the first episode. (Remember? One left due to illness, one due to crazy and one just didn’t measure up.) There must be TWO more episodes and guest judges before they are down to the finale!

Who could be called back for a rematch? Genevieve? Jason?

My money won’t be on Genevieve, who was kicked off last week. Her most notable design work prior to PRC would be with the highly respected Vancouver line Obakki, created by Treana Peake (married to Nickelback guitarist Ryan Peake). I thought her Post-It origama top was quite impressive. But her legacy with Project Runway Canada fans will be showing the same drapy shape in every challenge and hoping the judges would think it could work for Coco Rocha. Alas, it didn’t.

Missed LG Fashion Week? Catch up on all the action on, off and behind the runway with the F-list’s daily fashion week newsletter, a.k.a. the glossy.

Hopes Smashed Eternally

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  

This week’s Project Runway Canada brought some delicious and some cringe-worthy moments.  While the Kim vs. Jeff drama continued, we watched poor Jeff sink to a new low.  Blame it on lack of sleep, stress, the barrage of negativity coming from many sides…the dude drew fake stitches on a dress.  (Which wouldn’t be so bad if we hadn’t already witnessed him glue a dress together in an earlier episode. Eeesh.)

Thankfully we had a chance to discuss this with him, and it turns out he’s supposedly REALLY talented with hand detailing.  But given the show’s challenging crunch times, we never got to see this side of Jeff.  (His new website may finally give us a peek at this hidden talent once it launches.)  Regardless of how Kim felt about him, he can’t be a slouch of a designer – he’s worked with Brian Bailey and Wayne Clark after all!  

So we’re going to enroll him with a complimentary time management course and wish him the best.  The most delicious moment on the show was watching Jessica win the Winners’ challenge.  Her dress will actually be produced and carried by Winners stores – in fact, limited locations began selling it in fun spring colours as of today!  We can hear her now — Jessica Biffi in the HOOOOUSE!

P.S. The military-inspired coat on Michaelle Jean?  Care of the legendary Pat McDonagh!  Keep your eyes peeled for Pat’s red dress at the Heart Truth Show during LG Fashion Week.

The Brandon & Baylor Edition

We have a little catching up to do. Last week’s Project Runway Canada had the designers working in teams to create an homage to a major design house. Brandon (top) quickly became the subject since he had not heard of the infamous – and dearly departed – Yves St. Laurent.  (Insert audible gasp here. Pause for effect.)  It turns out, the team’s leader Kim (who had selected YSL as the team’s challenge) thought she knew YSL, but alas, she didn’t. (Insert audible yawn here.)

It was hard to comment on this episode. Brandon’s lack of fashion knowledge seems beside the point. His inexperience only elevated Kim’s absolute certainty that she knew YSL.  She loved YSL.  She got YSL, she said.  Bottom line?  She didn’t, so in the bottom two she went with Brandon.  And guess who didn’t measure up?  Bye, bye Brandon.

This week’s challenge was clever – make an outfit for a new divorcee using her original wedding dress.  Like a Beyonce song, all the single ladies got paired with designers in creating the outfit and then worked it on the runway.   It brought a different set of challenges.  Not a size zero in the house.  Unreal design expectations.  Possibly scary fabric.  Kim steals the spotlight again with a (dare we say, feeble) attempt at designing a dress from nothing.  (Kim, darling, that outfit was a Stevie Nicks cast-off. What were you thinking?!)  But before you know it, Kim throws Jeff and his “barely tailored” dress under the bus, pointing out how little he did to the original design.  Ouch. But at least we’re not yawning.

That’s when things got freaky.  Baylor’s client (right) was an Indian woman whose wedding sari was a ream of gorgeous 100% silk.  Sadly the final outfit didn’t work, mostly because it was the kind of design that looked great on a mannequin, but not on the real model at hand.  So, bottom two he went with Kim.  And since staying power lies with who ever can bring the drama, it was bye, bye Baylor!  Say wha?!?!

In two weeks Kim got a lot of screen time, and we lost one of the more promising contestants on the show.  (Yes, I mean Baylor.  Brandon has some mad skills, let’s be clear.  He’s not over.  At all.)  Next week the designers make a “perfect spring dress” for a Winners customer.  Kim going mainstream?!  Now that’s drama!

Don’t be Cruel to ‘Carny Love’

Dear Project Runway Canada,

It is with great love and support that this blog is addressed to you.  As you know we love the show.  Or rather, we WANT to love the show. But last week’s episode was a little cruel.

Ideally, the finalists of any reality show competition should represent the best undiscovered talent in the country.   This makes for fierce competition and unbelievable performances or, in the case of PRC, runway results.  The opening episode aside, we have spent the last few weeks watching as fish-out-of-water designers are thrown against the current and expected to swim. 

Let’s face it – you should have certain level of expertise to compete on Project Runway.  And while being self-taught or a streetwear designer does not necessarily count you out, if you’re going to expect cocktail dresses in competition, surely you should bring on designers who can cut cocktail?  

This is no reflection anyone in particular.  Margerita and Christie are great personalities and fine streetwear designers with fun labels and happy, loyal customers.  But under tight deadlines and high expectations, they quickly deteriorated before our eyes.  It was almost too much to bear.  Tell us, does that make for great tv?

We spoke with Christie after last week’s show.  She thinks her streetwear line, Carny Love, will benefit from her learnings on the show, “The Spring/Summer line is super cute, it’s getting more sophisticated.”   But even she admitted her aesthetic and abilities did not prepare her for the ELLE Canada judgements that would come.  (She is still good pals with fellow design-mate Jason, not to worry.) 

We hope the rest of the season focuses on pointing out how great the remaining designers are, not the inexperience of a few.  Let the (real) games begin.  

PRC Episode #2: Claim to Cuthbert’s Fame

When you come up with Elisha Cuthbert as the celebrity muse for a challenge, you know you’re digging deep in the barrel of Canadians in Hollywood.  (Sorry Elisha, but what have you done lately?!)  The title of this week’s show was “Claim to Fame” and the designers were to create something for Elisha to wear for a night out on the town.  (We’re guessing in Cuthbert’s world this means room service with her hockey player du jour or a Maxim magazine party.)

The designers seemed pumped to see Cuthbert up close and personal when Brian brought her by the mansion for one-on-one consultation.  A few drinks later the group began to compete for her time to garner the most information about her style.  “So you like classy not trashy, right?” “Are you looking to pick up?”  (Looks like they had her pegged just right!)

Once in the design phase it was an all out Margerita vs. Brandon showdown as Margerita accused Brandon of copying her dress.  The he-sketched-but-she-sketched-first debate lost its interest once it became clear neither designer was going to finish well (if at all!).  And it was no surprise when they both ended up in the bottom two.

While Brandon’s overconfidence and lack of material on the bottom end hindered his work, it was Margerita’s poor construction and fabric choice that sealed her fate.  We caught up with her after the show:

F-list: What did you expect going into the show?
MV:  As a streetwear designer I knew it would be a challenge designing cocktail dresses.  I had no idea it would be so intense, so militant in what we could do, when we could do it.

F-list: What do you regret or wish you’d done differently?
MV:  I wish I had stuck to what I know in some cases, like the war challenge. I’ve done lots of military style stuff in my own design (for her label Proper Apparel), and I should have stuck with that. But I didn’t think it was clear whether I could make an outfit or a dress, and I went with a dress.  I’m disappointed I didn’t show my strength there with a jacket.

F-list: So what now?
MV: I actually did finish that dress I designed for Elisha the way I wanted.  I’m adding more evening wear choices into my line, which is new.

By the way, the winning design was by Jason Meyers. Those of us who are familiar with Jason’s work have seen that particular design in his previous collections. The scooped back with ruffle edge is a darling look, and it is a good example of “stick with what you know.”  

Next week the designers work in teams. Let the egos roll!

Television’s Most Stylish Drama

The holidays are definitely over which means you can now waste your weeknights in front of new television shows, instead of has-beens and reruns.  We’re just two weeks away from a new season of Project Runway Canada.  The show begins its sophomore season on Tuesday, January 27th (Global, 10pm) with Iman as our queen hostess along with Brian Bailey as mentor and Rita Silvan and Shawn Hewson as judges.  

Many loyal fans of the original Project Runway believed Canada’s version was better, but those people live here and we’d expect them to say that.  It was a great first season to be sure.  Now here’s hoping Iman has loosened up in her delivery and pray they don’t edit out the judges personality. 

Canadian cover girl Coco Rocha and designer Wayne Clark will appear as guest judges.  At some point actress Elisha Cuthbert will also appear as a judge.  I’m not familiar with Elisha’s style (to say nothing about her work) and after a brief Google search I know why.  With her penchant for wearing very little, if any clothing at all, we can only presume Elisha appears in the “invisible clothes” episode.  

Stay tuned…

P.S. Join the F-list Wednesday, January 28th, with Shernett Swaby (from PRC season one) for the Designer Spotlight Series!  Meet Shernett and talk fashion and PRC2 over cocktails!  Details on the F-list!