Fashion Cares will attempt to recover from a disastrous 2007 event on a new date in an old location.
Last year’s event, which took place in the Distillery District in May, barely broke even and raised no money for the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT). This year’s event, called Fashion sCares, will take place on Sat, Nov 1 in its traditional location at the Metro Convention Centre.
“We were humbled by the mistakes we made,” say Lori Lucier, ACT’s executive director. “Fashion Cares represents a significant portion of the revenue that comes to ACT. It’s an extremely difficult thing for the agency to have weathered, that loss of expected income.”
Lucier says last year’s event was struck by bad weather in the open-air venue. But she admits that the move away from fashion to music, a new producer, low ticket sales and high expenses combined to create a perfect storm.
“The weather being unpredictable, that’s a chance we can’t take,” she says. “We’re mitigating those kinds of risks. One of the things we got feedback on last year was the shift much more to music. This year we’re going to go right back to its roots in fashion.
“It was a combination, our inexperience in working with the production company and our attendance not being what it needed to be to be successful. This year we’re making sure every dollar in the budget is justified. It won’t be as ambitious as last year’s goal but we do have high hopes.”
Lucier says the one positive that emerged from last year was the reaction of the queer community.
“It was really significant the kind of response we got after the event that they were sad it didn’t go as well,” she says. “We had a huge expression of interest from people really wanting the event to succeed and asking what they can do.”
Michael King, the new chair of Fashion Cares, says November’s event will get Fashion Cares back on track.
“The objective is to get it back to where it’s been in previous years,” he says. “I think the biggest thing is we’re going to put the fashion back in Fashion Cares and by fashion I mean haute couture.”
King says the event will have a Hitchcock theme to mark its proximity to Halloween.
“The guests and patrons become part of the theatre of the night,” he says. “We’ll have The Birds and you’ll have the feathers. We’ll have Rear Window and Grace Kelly. It’ll be fun and crazy, not crazy like call the police crazy, not crazy like the old lady across the street, but crazy like dancing.”
King says he was initially reluctant to get involved as chair.
“I said, ‘You must have rocks in your head,'” he says, “but if we don’t succeed it could mean some programs people rely on get cut. You see programs that are helping people through a difficult chapter in their lives. After a couple of cocktails I said, ‘Maybe this is the thing to do.'”
King says one of the most important decisions was bringing back Phillip Ing, who had been the artistic director for virtually all previous events before last year.
“It’ll only come back if we bring back the best and the brightest,” says King.
King is confident this year’s event will be a success.
“At the end of the day this belongs to 20 years of hard work,” he says. “I think people were very upset that it had its challenges last year but if we redouble our efforts it should be possible to return. It’s time for its renaissance.”
King says ticket sales will begin later this summer and will take into account complaints about the cost being too high last year.
“The real challenge is we’ve made the event smaller,” he says. “We’re being aggressive in making sure it’s not all corporate. I think people will be quite comfortable with the pricing.”
Lucier says ACT learned its lesson about pricing.
“We did absolutely take into account feedback we got from the community about accessibility,” she says. “There will be fairly priced gala tables for the pre- dinner reception and there will be over 1,000 tickets that are general admission for the cocktail party and show.”