Toronto Fashion’s Foray in 2013

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, really, since I make resolutions all the time. Around my birthday in April, when I’m forced to contemplate my age, or in September, timed with the fresh start of a new school season. Actually, on any random day of the week I could be inspired to invite change into my world. 

However I do enjoy contemplating what a new year will bring and adore making lists. So here are a few Toronto-based fashion events I count as “must see” in 2013.

February 2, TFI’s Guilty Pleasures Designer Sale & Silent Auction
Held on two floors of the Drake Hotel, here’s a chance to scour fun indie and up-and-coming apparel and accessories labels. Proceeds go to support the Toronto Fashion Incubator, a model for fashion incubators worldwide. They may have celebrated their 25th anniversary last year, but all eyes are on this year’s TFI New Labels show. Target has come on board as a major partner giving the winning designer’s collection space in roughly 150 retail stores across Canada. TFI’s New Labels show is scheduled for April 18th. Tickets will be available soon.

February 26, FGI Toronto’s Digital Retail: A Look at Shopper Marketing
Fashion Group is an organization for professionals working in the business of fashion (full disclosure – I’m the regional director of the Toronto chapter) hosting events on emerging trends that touch on retail, design, business and marketing. With consumer behavior changing rapidly thanks to increased mobile usage, retailers are now forced to evolve they way they interact with their customer. After a chance to network over cocktails, a panel discussion of industry experts will break down the latest strategies and innovations on shopper marketing. Stay tuned to for more ticket information.

April 23 – 27, [FAT] Arts & Fashion Week
For a truly weird, wild and wonderful intersection of fashion and art, don’t miss [FAT]. This mult-arts festival features 200 Canadian and international artists across a variety of disciplines including fashion design, photography, performance and installation art and film. I have a special place in my heart for [FAT] Arts & Fashion Week ever since I had the luxury of hitting the runway for a special showcase by Evan Biddell. Yep, that’s me! Hit up the [FAT] website for schedule and ticket information.

June 21 – September 15, Christian Louboutin exhibit at the Design Exchange
There was a chorus of “OMG” posts across Twitter when this announcement came out recently – the Christian Louboutin shoe exhibit that premiered at London’s Design Museum last spring is coming to the DX. Expect a display of Louboutin archives including his first prototype, the origins of his signature red sole, a special ode to his “Fetish” collection and photography by artist David Lynch which were last seen at La Gallerie Du Passage in 2007. Until then, the DX looks to make us happy with The Happy Show, on now through March 3rd. Internationally renowned graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister invites us into his mind to explore what makes people, including him, happy.

Dates Unknown!
World MasterCard Fashion Week has yet to release dates for the Fall/Winter 2013 shows, but I’m hoping to see the tents erected once again in mid-to-late March at David Pecaut Square.

A documentary on Iris “I think style is all attitude” Apfel has been in the works for a while. Maysles Films, the production company, released a trailer last summer on the iconic style maven and interior designer. This darling woman may be in her 90’s, but her impact on the fashion scene hasn’t wavered a bit. I’m hoping for a summer release. 

The Social Side of the Fashion Business

Yuli Ziv

Those of us immersed in social media recognize its power for business to connect with its customers and grow a customer base.  It’s the perfect tool to build a brand, but not everyone knows how or where to start, or certainly where it’s all going.  Toronto’s Fashion Group International chapter (of which I’m a board member) hosts #fgiSMS this Wednesday, October 6th.  This networking and seminar will include a panel discussion featuring top business minds from the fashion, beauty and design worlds to share their knowledge and experiences with social media. 

Recently I spoke with Yuli Ziv, a New Yorker and co-founder of My It Things, Style Coalition, and the organizer of Fashion 2.0 discussion panels and networking event series in NYC about social media’s role in building a fashion brand.

How does a young fashion brand decide where to pour their energies in social media? How do you decide which avenue is right?
First of all, you should find out where your audience is and what social media channels they interact with the most. These things are easy to find out by doing a quick survey of your customers or simply looking at their demographics. For example, teenagers and young people tend to use Twitter less than other channels, such as Facebook. Working moms might not have the time to watch a five minute video piece you upload daily on YouTube, but they might be active in groups and niche social networks targeting their peers. It’s important to focus on the right channels, rather than have presence on all. 
What do you see as a young brand’s biggest challenges (e.g. Exposure, funding) in 2010?
With the democratization of fashion, there is no shortage in exposure avenues, so the barrier for entry is pretty low. On the other hand, social media is very personal and many brands are struggling with their identity in this new world. The biggest challenge these days is to come up with a good and believable brand story, which will make consumers identify with the brand and the products. It’s not enough just to make clothes these days, brands and designers are judged on their personalities, as well as the quality of what they produce.   
How do you think the social media landscape can help them override or tackle these challenges?
If a brand has a strong identity and a good story, social media would be a great catalyst for exponential growth. Smart brands are able to utilize the natural tendency of users to share their experiences via social media, and use it for their growth.  
What’s the biggest advantage right now in building a brand using social media?
There are multiple advantages – low cost, direct and personal engagement with the customers, collection of valuable data about customers. All these opportunities didn’t exist before in such an accessible way. 
There are a lot of new players, new apps, new tools, etc. coming to market in the social media landscape.  How do you think the next five years of social media will influence the way customers relate to brands, to the way they shop?
We will see more loyalty to brands, because of the connections created via social media. On the opposite side – brands that aren’t doing a good job in connecting and providing support will be challenged. Online shopping in general will increasingly become more customized to our tastes and needs, so brand positioning online will be extremely important. Mobile technologies will finally be able to connect the offline and online shopping experiences into one, and even enhance our in-store experiences. There is lots of innovation waiting to happen in that area.
Can you share any great examples of a young fashion brand using social media in a new and compelling way?
Among young brands Hayden-Harnett are great with keeping in touch with the customers online via blog, photo journal, twitter and series of short videos on Youtube. Rafe Totengco of Rafe New York writes a great personal blog. Both of these brands are really driven by the personalities of the designers behind them and it resonates with the people online.

Register now for this Wednesday’s #fgiSMS and hear more about how social media is used in the business of fashion.  Tickets are available online here – $35 for Fashion Group International members, $60 for industry.