CAFA to Celebrate Canadian fashion

Elisha Cuthbert (left) with Vicky Milner, CAFA Managing Director 

Last week, near the opening hours of World MasterCard Fashion Week, about a hundred or so well-heeled guests filed into a Ritz Carlton ballroom for a little star sighting and the first CAFA announcement. CAFA, or Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards, was recently created to recognize and celebrate outstanding achievement and emerging talent in Canadian fashion design. Its lofty goals include helping spur the economic development of the Canadian fashion industry.
That said, there actually is a $10,000 prize for the Emerging Talent Award. It’s the one category eligible to self-nomination and refers to someone with fewer than five years in business. Otherwise it’s mostly bragging rights for winners. Outside of Emerging Talent, the award categories include:

Womenswear Designer of the Year
Menswear Designer of the Year
Outstanding Achievement
Accessory Designer of the Year
Canadian Style
Image Maker
International Canadian Designer of the Year
Stylist of the Year
Model of the Year

Elisha Cuthbert, Canadian darling and a front-row-at-Toronto-fashion-week kind of celebrity, was there to announce the first-ever CAFA nominees. (As part of the nominating committee, yours truly had a hand in picking them.)

The CAFA website publishes online interviews members of their inaugural jury. ELLE Canada’s Editor-in-Chief Noreen Flanagan is among those industry experts profiled, along with TFI’s Susan Langdon and FLARE Magazine’s Tiyana Grulovic. Check back for new profiles. The awards show takes place February 1, 2014 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

See the CAFA website for ticket information and a full list of nominees.

Project Runway Redux

Last night was Toronto Fashion Incubator’s New Labels gala where four designers – GushueSwim by Cheryl Gushue, Jody Leigh, Thieves by Sonja den Elzen and Faren by Faren Tami – faced off in a runway competition for $25,000 in prizes from TFI and Elle Canada. (The specifics of the prize are near impossible to find, but surely there’s a magazine spread involved.)

The designers have been toiling for the past six months to perfect their collections. It’s nice to see Sonja den Elzen and her Thieves label gain more exposure. Her advice for any new designer is to have a strong point of view, and Sonja walks the talk here. Her collection for the urban nomad kept true to her eco-style by mixing in elaborate, chunky knits and leather with Tencel fabric and organic wool. The outfits were well-styled with oversized natural accessories by Toronto’s Dandi Maestre (also seen at Lucian Matis’ LG Fashion Week show).

Jody Leigh embraced family albums from the 1940’s in her first ever runway show. Some outfits were a bit overstyled, making one wonder how recognizable a Jody Leigh piece would look without the WWII pins and wide belt. There were some unique feminine touches here and there, but the polyester-blend fabrics were missing the elegance needed for her slim silhouettes.

Cheryl Gushue took us to Rio with an opening dance number from a couple of adorable Carnivale showgirls, then promptly continued the beach party with a collection of killer swimwear. Keep your eye on this label and don’t be surprised if it shows up on the cover of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition magazine (where models and swimwear alike are launched into the celebrity stratosphere). Kudos to Browns for providing unbelievable footwear…their spring line is all Italian and H-O-T.

The last spot in last night’s runway show was also the winner, Faren by Faren Tami. The audience seemed to love the collection judging by the frequent applause, impressive given it was also her first show. Faren’s approach was inspired by futuristic eco-architecture and included lots of interesting shapes. (The Faren labels on the outside of the clothes weren’t a favourite touch.) Winning the New Labels competition should be a pivotal moment in a young designer’s career, so here’s hoping we see lots more of Faren Tami going forward. (At the very least, we hope she builds a web site with her winnings!)

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.