SID’s Hat Trick at CAFA

Last Saturday’s Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA) proved at least one thing. There is a future for a fashion awards show in Canada.

CAFA hosted its second annual awards show to celebrate and support the Canadian fashion industry by honouring designers, stylists and other fashion influencers. Twelve awards were given out during a gala dinner at the Fairmont Royal York.

NEWSFLASH: Sid Neigum is officially a triple threat. He’s won the TFI New Labels (2012), the Mercedes Benz Start-Up (2014) and now CAFA’s Emerging Talent, Fashion award. Hey Canada, don’t they call that a hat trick in hockey?

Sid Neigum by MJC Photography

Sid Neigum by MJC Photography

Neigum has netted a combined total of $70,000 in cash prizes plus valuable services and mentorship to help push his career forward. All eyes will be on his next move. I think Neigum is perfectly poised to break out of Canada in a serious way.

This year CAFA added a second emerging talent award for Accessories, won by Beaufille. Swarovski sponsored both Emerging Talent categories. Winners each received $10,000 plus time with a six-panel team of mentors. The panel will offer their expertise and services. Vicky Milner, CAFA managing director, explained,

Mentorship is so incredibly important for designers. We approached different individuals who would be able to offer different skill sets and services, helping them save money on things that are normally quite expensive (i.e. PR and digital support) while at the same time providing them honest and valuable advice about  business, finance, marketing , manufacturing, distribution, etc.

Bravo to Tommy Ton who took home two CAFA trophies including the Sephora Image Maker Award and Fashion Blogger of the Year for his (now shuttered) I have mad love and respect for Tommy ever since we spent an afternoon in my closet in the early days of his blog (way, way back). He knew every designer and every season of everything I owned.

In the Closet on

In the Closet on

It is worth noting how many of the gala’s attendees appeared to be non-industry folk – you know, regular people who don’t work in fashion. This is a good thing. More people supporting the industry leads to better resources for designers, more attention from retailers and media and ideally, more success all around.

The list of 2015 CAFA winners includes:

The Womenswear Designer of the Year Award – Mikhael Kale

The Menswear Designer of the Year Award – Philippe Dubuc

The Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Fashion – Sid Neigum

The Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Accessories – Beaufille

The Outstanding Achievement Award – Marie Saint-Pierre

The Accessory Designer of the Year Award – Jerome C. Rousseau

The Sephora Image Maker Award – Tommy Ton

The Hudson’s Bay International Canadian Designer of the Year Award – Erdem

The Yorkdale Stylist of the Year Award –  Zeina Esmail

The Model of the Year Award – Anaïs Pouliot

The Fashion Blogger of the Year Award – Tommy Ton

The Vanguard Award – Joe Zee

Photos by the F-List except where noted.

Pulling Fashion Television’s Plug

In the week since Bell Media announced FashionTelevision was cancelled after nearly 30 years on the air, the reactions have been a mix of shock and reverence.
The lack of pomp and circumstance around its ending is no surprise in this day and age. To simply disappear seems common in Canadian media. (Remember Canadian Idol? Highest rated show in Canada ever?!) And formality?! Please. Jeanne Beker’s tweet broke the news.
FashionTelevision gave the masses access to fashion when it was only granted to a few. I understand why Jeanne and her microphone were no longer considered the force they once were. These days all kinds of media, bloggers and designers themselves are sharing the behind the scenes before the scene even begins.
But aren’t there still fashion stories to tell?
Other networks seem to think so. Television has begun to move beyond the design-driven, often catfight-ridden stories, found on the likes of Project Runway. Fashion is a business and shows like All On the Line and Fashion Star are shedding light on that. For the uninitiated, All On the Line features Elle magazine’s creative director Joe Zee rescuing designers in the midst of a crisis, helping them identify where they’ve gone wrong, and mentoring them through the changes needed to take their label in the right direction. Each show ends with a presentation to a select retailer whom Joe feels are the right fit. And after all, with his experience and connections, Joe knows best. (I’ve met him. He does.)
NBC’s Fashion Star gives a roster of independent designers a chance to be discovered on a national scale. Each week they work with their mentors – designer John Varvatos and celebrity designers Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie — to create and present a single item to reps from three national retail chains: H&M, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
The real drama is when the retailers bid on the items. They might make an offer, they might not. They might bid against each other to nab it for their store, as it can only go to one retailer. In any case it’s the designer who truly wins if they get a deal — that item is produced and immediately appears in (American) stores.
Side note: Having seen a winning item at a Manhattan H&M recently, the reality was a watered down version of what we saw on the runway, but nonetheless….
The point is, the business of fashion is not just a business. It can be entertainment. It’s a shame Bell Media – which owns the CTV network that carries Fashion Star in Canada – felt that a show with 27 years of storytelling and international audience couldn’t tweak their coverage to address fashion’s changing tides. Hopefully the FT brand that still stands can continue to represent fashion as an industry, and of course, fashion in Canada in a compelling way. Because right here, right now, that’s all we’ve got.
UPDATE: Jeanne responded to the article via Twitter shortly after posting….

“@theFList Good story Leesa! Have no fear. I’ll make sure Bellmedia’s fashion/style coverage lives on as FT brand evolves”

10 Minutes with Mr. Joe Zee

I have huge love for Joe Zee and his show All on the Line. Finally, a design show that’s not just about fabric choices and bias cuts. Now this is a reality show, fashion lovers. All on the Line, premiering soon on CosmoTV (Monday, January 2; 8:00pm ET) gives designers with fashion lines on the verge of failure a second chance with the help of this fashion powerhouse.
Mr. Joe Zee comes home
The show, currently in its second season on Sundance Channel Canada, follows the Creative Director of ELLE Magazine as he plays mentor to struggling designers. His friendly, big brother approach is comforting, but Joe keeps it straight up and honest. He’s not afraid to point out their weaknesses in an effort to to prepare them for the real business opportunities he creates for them. 
Get your line ready, kids, Barney’s buyers are coming!
I got the chance to briefly chat with Joe on a recent visit to his hometown of Toronto. When I complimented the show’s concept of highlighting fashion’s struggles beyond the design phase, Joe was quick to agree that designing is just the beginning. What follows are excerpts from our conversation that underscore the message in All on the Line.
“Designing is only 10% of it. Even if you drape and sew, what are you sewing? And then what are you going to do with it?”

“[Fashion] schools don’t want to address business too deeply in their curriculum. My guess is that they think it will compromise creativity. I don’t know what they really think. But I do think understanding the business of the industry allows [designers] to be more successful.”

“My advice for fashion students is to have a point of view. The minute you start chasing something or imitating, you will not be successful. Do something that’s genuinely who you are. You have to design for yourself.”

“Retail is tough. It’s getting harder and harder for retailers to take a risk. They want proven entities. You have to prove to them that you have some level of following. Designers have so many more avenues, now more than ever, to create a buzz. Social media can help be a big part of that.”

“It would be smart for a designer to have that broader business person as a partner. I look at someone like Marc Jacobs who is incredibly creative and so smart, but he has Robert Duffy who is a very astute, smart, innovative businessman. Robert can take care of all the business while Marc can be creative. You’ll see in the show that a lot of it is finding that right person.”

Me & Joe Zee