Pre-Fashion Week Part 1

Once again fashion week in Toronto gets a head start with off-site shows.  From Evan Biddell’s invitation-only affair at SEVEN CONTINENTS on Tuesday to Philip Sparks presentation in the Burroughs Building on Wednesday, then over to Evergreen Brickworks for the Art of Progression Thursday night, the fashionable crowds crisscrossed the city for a sneak peek at Spring 2011.
Philip Sparks presented a hybrid runway show of menswear mixed with new womenswear pieces – love the boyfriend jackets and cute romper.  The watery colour palette was an ode to spring rain and included Spark’s first custom digital print.
Philip Sparks
Thursday’s Art of Progression show sponsored by Audi brought together Joeffer Caoc, Dmitri Chris and NADA in a group show.  Each designer featured a short video (all but lost on the audience) punctuated by a slick Audi driven down the runway.  The collections themselves were light and wearable.  We may not be sure what it was all about, but for the adventurous, the rough Brickworks venue turned an ordinary fashion show into a night of discovery.
Before it’s environmental overhaul, Evergreen Brickworks sat vacant for years, serving only as a secret destination for ravers and graffiti artists.  The owners have kept much of that character in tact, perhaps as a nod to the “urban” in urban revitalization.
Joeffer Caoc
Caoc’s line was coined “the Comfort Zone” and featured easy maxi dresses, stretch fabrics and warm weather suits. It was one of the more casual lines I’ve seen from Joeffer in a while.  It didn’t seem to wow the crowd, but every piece was likable and wearable.  In the cold chill of the October night I imagined myself wearing these outfits… in Los Angeles.
Dimitri Chris
Dimitri Chris opted for laid-back spring suits as well.  His typical dapper-ness was dialed down for washed out colours and pajama print stripes on short jackets and shorts.  I labeled this piece the “girlfriend jacket” for coming off a little too small and a little too pink.
NADA’s collection was tight – simple and ladylike.  I love her knack for injecting incredible colour and wildly interesting prints into a collection without letting them overtake the show.  And great draping on the finale blue dresses left the audience madly twittering.

Shoplisted: NADA’s New Pop Shop

For any designer, having your own retail store is the dream.  The freedom you feel when you finally have your own apartment sans roommates must be similar to what designers enjoy when finally faced with a retail establishment to call their own.
Nada Shepherd shared this new freedom last night at Bayview Village with the official launch of her new shop named for her signature label, NADA.  A sleek, sexy interior of white walls and wood floors was accessorized with simple clothing displays and no less than 13 mannequins.  And while  this is a somewhat temporary location – a year, to start – the fact that nothing was nailed down spoke less to the idea of it being a temporary “pop-up shop” than to the possibility she could experiment with different store layouts.  Still, when and if the NADA store moves on, everything in the place can easily follow.
Experimentation is a major benefit with your own retail space.  I immediately noticed new garments hanging on racks that never made the runway. “Designed for retail,” Nada explained.  Once you have your own spot to sell things you can make capsule collections and even one-offs that never hit your retail partners’ floors.  You also have a place to test drive new products – accessories, fragrances, all of those things that drive the bottom line of big labels like Marc Jacobs and Chanel.  (What, you thought it was the ready-to-wear?!)
Designing your own store, while exhilarating, comes with a whole new set of challenges.  Like buying mannequins, what should they look like?  The feet?  Hands?  What about the face?  How many dressing rooms are needed?  Where should the checkout be?
NADA is a perfect addition to Bayview Village’s collection of Canadian retail.  While the upscale mall may live outside most young fashionistas’ comfort zone (speaking geographically or financially, or both) it is a beacon to the Canadian designer-turned-retailer.  Between Andy The-Anh, Brian Bailey, Mirabelli and Ross Mayer to name a few, NADA is in good company.

Pla$tic & Fanta$tic

The winner of this year’s annual TFI New Labels design competition will enjoy an added prize from everyone’s favourite fashionista. One year after her 50th anniversary, Barbie® has teamed up with Toronto Fashion Incubator to award $10,000 in cash along with the $25,000 in prizes from ELLE Canada magazine.

For 17 years TFI’s national competition has helped launch talents like David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc, NADA, Mercy, Katya Revenko, JUMA, Eugenia Leavitt and last year’s FAREN to name just a few.

This year the playing field has been levelled. What could be more challenging than taking on the little black dress? Applicants must be professional Canadian women’s wear apparel designers who have been in business three years or less.

Hurry! Deadline is November 24th.