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!