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.

Toronto Fashion Week – Part One

Spring may have announced itself on the calendar this week, but the weather is still pushing its winter agenda, much to the dismay of the fashion crowds. Trust me, we are so over winter. It’s finally time for fashion week in Toronto. We’re both ready for spring and all about fall.

Snow gently falling on the tents

World MasterCard Fashion Week has become a fine mix of our emerging and pro designers. In between the shows we mix in a bit of business, like DHL Express Canada’s fashion industry panel moderated by yours truly. The event featured DHL Canada’s president Greg Hewitt, IMG Fashion Director Jarrad Clark, designers Christopher Bates (Christopher Bates menswear) and Adam Taubenfligel (Triarchy), Roxanne Joyal of Me to We and Mark Zimmerman from MaRs Discovery District. The panelists were a great bunch who offered insight on starting a business, global reach and logistics acumen.

DHL Express Canada fashion industry panel

Toronto Fashion Incubator took over the studio area for two days to present the annual TFI Press & Buyers breakfast event. This showcases up and coming designers in a boutique tradeshow platform.
The organization I head up, Fashion Group International, hosts our speed networking event on Friday.

Opening night included Canadian fashion stalwarts Izzy Camilleri (with a new line Miz), Pink Tartan and Bustle, with up-and-comer label Chloe Comme Parris snuck in-between. I had the pleasure of being asked by Sony Canada to shoot the Bustle show with their new Xperia tablet. Fun! 

My latest accessory, the Sony Xperia tablet
Shot with Sony’s Xperia tablet
Shawn & Ruth of Bustle Clothing

I love how designers support each other — Ruth is wearing Triarchy’s gold denim. The next night featured Mercedes-Benz Start Up winner DUY and last year’s TFI New Labels winner Sid Neigum. Major talent, these boys. But truthfully, would we see their true potential without the help of these design challenges? Likely not. There’s more to come this week, stay tuned.

Sid Neigum
Sid Neigum

Jean Pierre Braganza shOws off in Toronto

Looking at Jean Pierre Braganza‘s early years, his story is typical of any Canadian designer. Here’s a guy whose family moved to Canada from the UK when he was an infant. He grew up in Montreal and Toronto. Once in university to study fine arts, he realized his fashion dream and enrolled in fashion school in Toronto. Just like so many designers I know.

His story then moves back to London to the famed Central St. Martin’s College and well, that’s where the similarities end. Seeing his spring 2013 collection in Toronto this week, I wondered if other Canadian-based designers secretly swelled with envy.

Jean Pierre Braganza’s line is edgy, sophisticated and, in my opinion, jaw droppingly hot. While his talent is clearly innate, he didn’t jump into his own label fresh out of design school, even though he had a few accolades under his belt by then. Instead he chose to continue his schooling in the real world, working under designers like Roland Mouret. That experience shows in his impeccable tailoring and complex construction. 

As much as I fell in love with Jean Pierre, his look isn’t made for the North American customer. Look at his stockists and there’s only one store on the entire continent – of course, in New York City. But he’s out there, all over in places like the UK, Hong Kong and Saudia Arabia. (Somehow it’s no surprise he had a Canadian upbringing, eh?)

Jean Pierre Braganza wasn’t on my radar prior to the shOws bringing him to Toronto’s rogue fashion week, but he’s one I will watch. I think he sets a great example for young designers on how to succeed in fashion. Get out there after school. Experience life. Work for others. Stay true to yourself. And maybe, just maybe, your hometown will be feting you for the fashion masses one day.


Style Addicts Finalists

Congrats to Emily, our next finalist in Pickering Town Centre’s March Break Fashion Week. Her look included a clever pairing of different patterns – stripes and polka dots – along with a punchy red trench coat. We’re seeing similar patterns on the runways of Toronto Fashion Week.

Holt Renfrew shows off a striped jacket from Smythe. Photo by George Pimentel.
Adrian Wu mixed polka dot fabrics. Photo by George Pimentel.

Wear Red to Hit the Runway

The calendar is out and registration is now open for Toronto Fashion Week, now called World MasterCard Fashion Week. Event moniker aside, the new sponsor should bring renewed energy to the tents. It has already brought a few new designers including Ezra Constantine, Cara Cheung and Rad Hourani. Korhani Home kicks off the week on Monday, March 12th along with Holt Renfrew. And once again you can count on Bustle, Joe Fresh and Pink Tartan to bring the crowds.
With a financial partner in the role of title sponsor, perhaps MasterCard carriers will be able to enjoy a few buying perks on site. (Unfortunately I won’t be enjoying those since I carry its competition.) 
The Dare to Wear Love show returns as this season’s closing show on Friday, March 19th (9pm). Dresses from the first few years of Stephen Lewis Foundation fund and awareness-raising campaign are currently on display at the Textile Museum of Canada. Want to join the celebrities walking in the Dare to Wear Love runway show? Wear RED for the month of February and fundraise to win one of three coveted modelling positions on the grand runway at World MasterCard Fashion Week. There is still time to participate.

Shoplisted: Ula Zukowska’s Y5 in Yorkville

The black sequins make this polka dot number party perfect.

Ula’s cropped jackets tie in this fall’s hot structured shoulder trend.

While dodging rainstorms in Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood this weekend I rediscovered designer Ula Zukowska‘s shop, Y5 (5 Yorkville Avenue). And what a lovely discovery it was! Ula has been a fashion powerhouse in Canada since the 1990’s, and still appears on the runway at Toronto’s LG Fashion Week.

One look at Ula’s runway shows and it’s clear her designs are aimed at an independent-minded, daring fashionista. Ula gets lots of publicity for weaving architecture (something she has a master’s degree in) throughout her designs. She balances this approach nicely with feminine volumes and to-die-for fabrics. It doesn’t always mesh with whatever else is on the runway, but is it fashionable? You bet. (Actually, Ula is spot on right now. Check out the shoulders on those black jackets – perfectly in line with fall’s structured shoulder trend.)

I found a sweet little number of red and polka dots matched with black sequins. The polka dot fabric has a dreamy gold hue to it. Just my luck, this perfect party dress was even on sale! Y5’s accessories include an impressively tight collection of jewellery, belts and bags (I bought an 80’s-inspired green belt right off a mannequin.)

Hint: Hop across the street for coffee and crepes served on the sidewalk patio at Crepes a Go Go. It’s the perfect $10 lunch – so if your shopping wasn’t recession-friendly at least your lunch can be.