Rogue fashion week: Jeremy Laing & Sid Neigum

This past week was an interesting reflection on Toronto’s fashion reality. While conjecture flew around what to expect at World MasterCard Fashion Week now that IMG Worldwide is our new big fashion daddy, two very different groups set up camp for a series of offsite shows. 

The shOws featured four international designers with a Canadian connection including Tanya Taylor, Jean Pierre Braganza, Antonio Azzuolo and Jeremy Laing. Laing has long been a darling of Canada’s fashion media. Dividing his time between Toronto and New York, he typically eschews a Toronto showcase for presentations in New York. (It’s nothing personal, Toronto. It’s business, baby.) And while I always find Laing’s work interesting, I don’t always relate to it personally. Not this time. Loved loved loved. 

Jeremy Laing spring 2013
Jeremy Laing at the shOws

On the opposite side of town (and on the same days) were The Collections, produced by the Fashion Collective, which featured up and coming designers like Chloe Comme Parris, Klaxon Howl and Sid Neigum. Neigum is the winner of Toronto Fashion Incubator’s 2012 New Labels competition. Having watched him progress over five months while developing his winning fall/winter 2012 collection, it was a treat to see what he’d do with spring 2013.

Sid’s unisex approach to design has always set him apart from his Toronto design peers, and it seems he’s found a beautiful balance of unisex features and feminine fit. (Praise must be given to TFI New Labels for mentoring him to a stronger, better place.) I found this collection incredibly wearable, while still maintaining that unique aesthetic that’s all Sid. Here’s hoping we can find it in stores six months from now. And may you be our next Jeremy Laing.

Sid Neigum spring 2013
Sid Neigum spring 2013
Sid Neigum spring 2013
Sid Neigum at the Burroughes Building

New Labels Final Showdown

 In the last judging session for TFI’s New Labels, there was a poignant moment where the judges realized how far the finalists had come through the competition. Montreal-based Patrick L’Arrivee already had orders from 57 retail shops for his namesake outerwear collection. That’s right, 57. (Can you even name 57 stores in Canada that sell outerwear?!)

Patrick L’Arrivee’s Fall 2012 collection

An example of what to expect for his runway styling proved that Patrick had literally arrived. “You took everything we said, and appreciated it,” exclaimed Suzanne Rogers. To win over retail is one thing; to win over Suzanne Rogers is another. 

Patrick L’Arrivee’s Fall 2012 collection

The judges agreed ditching the red leather was a good move by Sid Neigum. “I didn’t have the time or money to make it meaningful,” he admitted. It’s important to know where and when to stop when a piece isn’t working. Given how many things Sid has had on his plate over the past five months, it highlighted his focus and strength. Between traveling, finishing both a women’s and men’s collection for Fall 2012, market weeks, store appointments, a fashion show at Toronto Fashion Week, producing and shipping 2012 and researching spring 2013….well, let’s just say there wasn’t a dull moment. “I love that.”

Sid Neigum Fall 2012 womenswear

Jameson Kane had “great hanger appeal” according to judges David Dixon and Arie Assaraf. “Very important.” Hard to believe six months ago the label was just a dream. Designers Genevieve Pearson and Stan Capobianco were unanimous in their enthusiasm. “We are so happy we listened to our hearts. What would have happened if we decided not to go for it? So now we are always listening to what our hearts tell us.”

Jameson Kane Fall 2012

For Diego Fuchs and Helder Aguiar, the challenge has never been knowing where to go, but the getting there. “Our challenge has been distance and time,” said Diego. “I live in Richmond Hill and he lives in Hamilton. And we both work full-time jobs.” Evidently, distance makes the bond grow stronger, as the boys noted that every step of producing the [blak]-i (pronounced black eye) was shared quite evenly.

[blak] • i Fall 2012 collection
On Thursday it’s all on the line, as Joe Zee says, for these four finalists. Only one can walk away with the big prize. But don’t expect anything bitchy behind the scenes. “You’d expect a group of people competing for $25,000 [cash] to be aggressive, to say the least. This is not the case at all. Everyone has been nothing but supportive of each other and everyone in the running is talented and deserving of the prize,” surmised Sid.

So Canadian, eh?!

Stay tuned to @TheFList on Twitter for updates from TFI25 starting at 6pm.

Countdown til TFI25 New Labels

There is only one week until TFI’s 25th anniversary celebration, a show which will no doubt leave a fashionable impression on Toronto. The multi-tiered evening weaves a Barbie fashion show featuring looks by Canadian designers, a retrospective installation of 25 looks from the past 25 years (styled by Flare Magazine’s Elizabeth Cabral) and of course the final New Labels competition show into one fantastic night at the ROM. 

We’ve been tracking New Labels since the start, and will be sharing insights from our interviews with the four finalists next week. In the meantime, you only have a few days to get your tickets to the show before they are gone. 

Expect quite show to happen off the runway too — the evening is black tie optional. I know you’re all wondering, what will Suzanne Rogers I be wearing?

TFI New Labels Final Four

Let’s catch up on New Labels. Last month, the eco-loving label, Lois Lane, was dropped from TFI’s competition leaving Sid Neigum, [blak]•i, Jameson K and Patrick Larrivee left to battle for a prize package that includes $25,000 cash.
Earlier this month the judges convened at TFI’s headquarters to review each designer’s collection thus far — they had to submit eight outfits and include some runway styling options. The judges – TNT’s Arie Assaraf, Flare magazine’s Lisa Tant, Toronto Star writer Derick Chetty, designer David Dixon and philanthropist Suzanne Rogers – feel pretty well-versed on the collections by now. They are getting to know the designers and have a lot of expectations from them. The remarks come full throttle once the fit models shows up in an outfit.
“Impressive stitching.” “Still has a Sears vibe.” “Could have used some pressing.” “Why do this?”
TFI’s director Susan Langdon admits it’s unusual to see so much outerwear in the New Labels competition, leading me to believe that even though Canada boasts some great outerwear labels, our own designers are not impressed. They feel they can do better.
Susan Langdon presents a few of Sid Neigum’s pieces for review
Checking the construction on a Patrick Larrivee coat
Jameson Kane

Inside TFI New Labels Judging

Last fall the F-list reported on a beefed up prize package for TFI New Labels 2012 designer competition. Each month leading up to the May reveal, we’ll go behind the scenes to document the New Labels judging process. 
At the first judges meeting last month, TFI’s director Susan Langdon presented 36 submissions for review, narrowed down from the overwhelming number of applications received – no doubt a result of this year’s $25,000 cash prize, care of fashion-loving philanthropist Suzanne Rogers. Five semi-finalists were selected to move forward.  
The judging panel of Derick Chetty (Toronto Star), designer David Dixon, TNT boutique’s Arie Assaraf, Flare magazine editor-in-chief Lisa Tant, Suzanne Rogers and Susan regrouped earlier this month to see the designers’ progress.
Storyboard from Lois Lane’s Arctic collection
Each designer had submitted samples to review against their initial storyboards and technical drawings we saw in December. It’s the first chance for the designers to personally impress the judges. They are there in person to help outfit a fit model and meet the judges. Will they show enough promise to continue in the competition?
The judges review a [blak]-i outfit on a fit model
First up is [blak]-i. Designer team Diego Fuchs and Helder Aguiar may have recent press to flaunt, but in this room the only thing that matters is the fit and fabric. The judges start at the seams, literally. The model changes into the cargo pants and jacket. “Fit is great,” someone chirps. “Decent quality.” The hip, contemporary line isn’t selling yet anywhere, but the boys get extra points for a reasonable price point ($95 – $495) and knowing their retail targets.
David and Suzanne discuss the detailing on a Patrick Larrivee coat
Next is Patrick Larrivee, no newcomer to fashion. Many remember his label Fashion Psychology with Beryl Bacchus from 2002. Patrick learned a harsh lesson of fashion design when the sales didn’t match the line’s critical acclaim. As Arie points out, considering he is designing coats in a country that boasts Mackage, Rudsak, Soia & Kyo, he better know what he’s doing. “You know who your competitors are, which is good,” Arie says.  But the collection “has a Sears vibe,” which in these circles, is not a compliment. That generally means it’s not fashion-y enough. “Picture it on a runway, how is it styled?” someone asks. Patrick is selling already – bonus! – but more importantly, he is willing to listen and incorporate the judges design feedback. 
Lois (Elaine) Van Koughnet of Lois Laine had idealistic plans for a second career in fashion – stylish, structural apparel made from organic fabrics. Unfortunately, eco-fabrics don’t hold structure – they are just too flimsy. And as David points out, “Eco is a ‘nice to have’, but it’s not a selling feature.” She’s encouraged to move away from the 100% eco ethos, and mix organic fabrics with natural looking fibers and materials to accomplish her design goals in production. Arie suggests she research what retail and the customer want. (This is the last we’ll see of Elaine. The label is eliminated from competition.)

Jameson Kane has great styling, fit is another matter, says Lisa Tant
Jameson Kane‘s designers Genevieve Pearson and Stan Capobianco are in a pinch with their coat collection. They’ve made the samples themselves, and the result is not good. “The styling is better than the execution.” The judges look past the puckering seams for a moment and insist their price point is too high. “Empires have been built on one thing, look at Smythe!” Chetty remarks, noting that it comes down to excellence. You can do one thing, but do it perfectly. They promise to have it locked up for next time. 
A late plane arrival from NYC nearly derailed Sid Neigum, but he arrived with samples just in time. (As a result of connections he made interning with Yigal Azrouel, Sid’s samples are made in New York.) His unisex collections have appeared in the last two seasons of Toronto Fashion Week. Sid’s customer wants to be different, he claims, she doesn’t like to wear what everyone else is wearing. The judges were easily impressed with his storyboards last month, but the fit is troubling them in person. It’s too 80’s. “It’s all about the fit,” says Arie. But it’s edgy and interesting, so we’ll see him again.
The judges meet again next month, stay tuned for more!

TFI’s New New Labels

Designers aching for the opportunity to shine should be thrilled with this year’s design competition from Toronto Fashion Incubator. TFI New Labels® has put together its most winning prize package valued at $60,000. This year’s top label will enjoy:
• The Suzanne Rogers Award for Most Promising New Label, a cash prize of $25,000.
• A one-year, 24/7 design studio at TFI sponsored by TNT
• A full page editorial in FLARE magazine
Ashtiani Golnaz, 2011 winner

And what designer wouldn’t want to be feted with a gala runway show? On May 3, 2012 the top finalists will compete and the winner will be announced that night.

The competition is open to designers who have been in business three years or less. With an application deadline of December 6, there’s just enough time to prepare an impressive application. Get everything you need to know at TFI’s website.
Since 1992, TFI’s New Labels® Fashion Design competition has featured the hottest up-coming design talent in Canada. The F-list was there last year when Ashtiani Golnaz took the crown.

Ashtiani Golnaz takes TFI New Labels

With fashion week barely behind us, Toronto’s fashion crowds hit the Design Exchange for TFI’s New Labels runway show. Over five months, selected designers work independently and with a team of judges to create a collection. Three finalists shared the runway: Caitlin Power, Golnaz Ashtiani and Nikki Wirthensohn for NARCESAfterwards, the judges picked a winner based on a line’s fit, quality, innovation, marketability and styling. 
Caitlin Power
Caitlin Power
I’m a fan of Caitlin Power – having noticed her at Edmonton Fashion Week years ago – and would wear NARCES cocktail dresses in a heartbeat, but Ashtiani’s line was a clear front-runner and took the crown. Her grand prize is valued over $40,000 and includes a Flare magazine feature and the chance to design an outfit for Sears womenswear. Interestingly, one of the judges, Sears Canada’s brand and trend director, Cynthia Florek, is a previous finalist of TFI New Labels competition for her now defunct label CINCYN.   
Other previous New Labels finalists and winners include David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc and Ashley Rowe. Unfortunately, there are too many who are no longer designing at all, proving you can have the talent but fashion is still about the business. Those of us who work in and follow fashion must do a better job of helping designers sustain their labels. In the meantime, I wonder if they are working on a TFI New Labels “where are they now” special. Here’s (hint, hint) hoping. 

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.

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!)