IMG Shuts Down Toronto Fashion Week

Sid Niegum 2013

It’s the end of fashion week as we know it. Thank goodness.

IMG has shut down Toronto Fashion Week due to lack of funding. While the closure itself is somewhat surprising, many of us in the industry could spot the writing on the wall. Vacancy at the title sponsorship level for more than a season can’t be a good thing. But since IMG’s takeover, the event had turned it into a bloated, corporate beast of a thing. From sponsor activations to designer fees and ticket prices, it was all about the money.

Let’s be clear – the end of Toronto Fashion Week is not the end of Canadian fashion.

Everything seems to be in transition today. The fashion business is being transformed by technology and social media, not to mention financial fallout around the globe. Designers large and small are rethinking, reimagining the purpose of a runway show. But no more fashion week, you ask? What’s this really about?

There are a few things at play here – the first is simply money. Anyone who works in events marketing can tell you how difficult it is to find sponsorship dollars for an event, especially in Canada. Marketing budgets are continually slashed, there’s stiff competition for the same dollars, and the demands to prove a return on investment are high. Not to mention a multi-year title sponsorship of Fashion Week is a six figure commitment. We just don’t have a lot of companies with deep pockets here.

Fashion weeks originated as an industry event for buyers and media but, over time, in order to attract new sponsors, it needed a consumer element. Toronto Fashion Week was one of the first to allow the public in — in fact, this very blog sold the first consumer tickets on behalf of the Toronto shows almost ten years ago. It worked for a while. But perhaps the event didn’t attract enough people – or the right people – to make this worthwhile to marketers in the long run.

The other consideration is the designers —  what did fashion week really do for designers? Participating in the shows was an expensive endeavour for Canadian designers  – creatives who don’t have corporate backing or access to government funding that other arts industries offer. Ideally, a runway show would introduce designers to buyers who pick collections for retail, but our shows happen too late in the season for that. So in essence it was a publicity tool. Sure, you might get some press, but if the consumer can’t find you in a store, what can that really do for your business?

You could say the model was already broken.

There are smaller, independent groups who produce curated runway shows – [FAT] Alternative Fashion Week and TOM* Toronto Men’s Fashion Week – and I expect we’ll see new grassroots shows in the coming years. The biggest challenge facing designers is how to find an audience and generate demand for their clothes in a very cluttered market. That’s a marketing issue, one that a runway show alone will not solve.

Time to rethink, reimagine and recreate the model. Personally I can’t wait to see what’s next.

As we bid adieu to Toronto Fashion Week and all of its title sponsor incarnations (L’Oreal Fashion Week, LG Fashion Week, World MasterCard Fashion Week), let’s take a trip down memory lane of Toronto’s most famous runway. Here are a few flashbacks from the F-List archive.

Giles, George & Margaret

Earlier this month I was fortunate to work on a new fashion fundraiser, Lunch with Margaret and George, to raise money for The Princess Margaret’s Gattuso Rapid Diagnostic Centre. The brainchild of Toronto boutique George C owners, George and Lisa Corbo, it featured a runway presentation of Giles Deacon’s spring 2012 collection. Guests were treated to a champagne lunch at Scarpetta in the Thompson Hotel followed by an old-school atelier show and a live silent auction.
 
Giles Deacon could be your new best friend. (Wait, please mine.) It’s impossible not to like him when he’s so easy going and nice. And getting to see his work up close and on models was a treat – feather headdresses don’t come around Toronto too often! The event raised $200,000 for the Princess Margaret. There is already buzz about who will be featured next year, but I’ll bet they are on the racks at George C. I just hope they are as nice as Giles.
 
Giles Deacon
Giles Deacon spring 2012
Giles Deacon spring 2012
Giles Deacon spring 2012
Giles Deacon spring 2012
Giles Deacon spring 2012
Giles Deacon spring 2012
Giles Deacon spring 2012
Girls modeled the silent auction items live

All photos by George Pimentel.

Ready for Ready-to-Wear

photo by Peter Lytwyniuk
The Superbowl may be over, but as far as I’m concerned the real games are just beginning. It’s the start of Ready-to-Wear season when designers will be fiercely competing on runways around the world for international attention and investment. Of course, runway shows are a different kind of spectator sport than football or hockey.  Let’s be honest, they’re usually viewed while the boss is out to lunch or late at night, just you and your laptop. But in the vein of “more is better” I encourage you to do your hair, don a great pair of shoes and pour yourself a glass of bubbly while indulging in a live stream (where available) or a photo slideshow.
February 7 – 10, Montreal
Montreal’s calendar includes many of the usual suspects – Barila, Bodybag by Jude, Nadya Toto – plus a peak at Rudsak’s new label RUD. Denis Gagnon, along with Marie Saint Pierre, tops this list of must-see shows. As well, the young Montreal-raised, London-based Thomas Tait will debut with Christian l’Enfant Roi and Samule Mercure in a group show presented by Trusst. Live streaming available.
Montreal Fashion Week
 
February 10 – 17, New York
Plenty to heart about New York’s calendar. The pro set of Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Betsy Johnson ground the week. Mix in the glamour of Badgley Mischka, hipster chic of Charlotte Ronson and celebrity shows like L.A.M.B and you have something uniquely New York. Live streaming available for some shows.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

February 13 – 15, London
With an eye on emerging talent and international designers (including Mackage) Scoop appears to be modeled after New York’s Coterie or Copenhagen’s Gallery.  This new show is based at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Check back for live streaming details.
Scoop International Fashion Show 
February 18 – 23, London
London jam packs their week with designer shows…too many to count. Some highlights will no doubt include Christopher Kane, Erdem, Matthew Williamson, Vivienne Westwood Red Label and Mark Fast. Check back for live streaming details.
London Fashion Week

February 23 – March 1, Milan
Gucci, Pucci, Prada and Jil Sander are just the tip of the Milano iceberg. For insider reports from the Milan shows, follow Flare Magazine’s @LisaTant on Twitter. Check back for live streaming details.
Milan Fashion Week
 
March 1 – 9, Paris
There is no other city who can compete with Paris on fashion: Dior, Balmain, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Comme des Garcons, YSL, Jean Paul Gaultier, Galliano, McQueen and of course Chanel. (In case you missed it, check out Jeanne Beker’s interview with Jean Paul Gaultier in the Globe and Mail here.) Check back for live streaming details.
Paris Fashion Week (Mode à Paris)
And let’s not forget our Canadian shows. Check back for designers and live streaming information. More to come!
 
March 24 – 31, Edmonton
March 28 – April 1, Toronto
LG Fashion Week
April 12 – 15, Vancouver