Toronto
3 min

Fashion returns

Cast off those scarves and sweaters, kids. It’s time to start dressing like we mean it!

Although I love my thrift stores, one cannot live off half-price Salvation Army sales alone. In search of true sartorial splendour, I skipped LG Fashion Week in favour of four nights of Fashion.Art.Toronto, aka FAT. Naming a fashion event FAT might seem like the height of irony, but I felt empowered. Unlike most fashionistas, I believe one can be fat and gorgeous at the same. It’s not a dirty word.

That was beautifully demonstrated with Kinetic Elements, a contemporary dance collective that opened FAT with a dark and engaging piece. Their effortlessly sexy choreography used the challenging runway space creatively, and I was impressed to see a range of dancers’ bodies. Toronto’s dance community should follow their lead.

One dancer in particular would be considered overweight by any standard but moved with grace, strength and flexibility. In his lifts and floor work, he was the one to watch. His presence made me want to see him strut the runway later, knowing he would make any clothes look great.

Unfortunately, he did not return, but the models of the Human Nature runway show made up for that. Designer Kallvis Gents said, “Normative? Not in my show. I specified to FAT that I wanted racial diversity.” I picked up on a certain bending of gender lines, as well. Whether his label’s name makes you think of Madonna or Michael Jackson, Gents’s work is already making waves. Rumour has it he was handpicked by FAT’s founder and executive director Vanja Vasic for this year’s showing.

While this is Human Nature’s first collection, Gents, 22, rejects the idea of overnight success.

“I plan everything. It’s only glamorous for two minutes; the rest is hard work, years of preparation and learning.”

It shows in his work, which I adore. Mass-appeal alert: although details like pleating, cowl necklines and elegant draping look great on any guy, there is recurring use of double-breasting, a favourite look of mine. This gives the pieces a certain edge, which I perceived as defiant.

“A lot of racism in the gay community started from the advertisement of fashion,” says Gents. “While I was doing my collection, I was thinking about discrimination…. then used that anger to keep finishing my collection.”

Human Nature’s political edge makes it relevant and refreshing. Love it!

I also loved Alexandra De Francesco’s Asphyxia show. Imagine a bordello in hell: corsets, antique Victorian lace, distressed fabrics, feathers and black platform multi-buckled PVC boots. Eye-catching cut-outs, sheer textiles and other interesting layered details made this show a standout. A gothic edge always gets my attention, but there is enough sparkle in the pieces to keep it. One of the jackets is something that Prince or Adam Lambert would look amazing in, so of course I want it!

Backstage, De Francesco’s personal style reflected what she had just paraded down the runway; I’m always happy to see a finished line that’s true to the designer’s own aesthetic. She was also the only designer I spoke to who offered to make some of her pieces for us bigger folks. Score one for the few-and-far-between FAT fatties!

There were definitely no fat people at Miller Monroe’s highly anticipated show. Shirtless muscle guys lined the runway, framing the skirts-as-menswear collection in a masculine narrative. Elegant and glamorous, but will men wear it? Designers Louie J Manzo and Baby Steinberg say yes, noting the comfort factor. With the reception their runway collection received, I believe them! I can’t get over how cleanly constructed the clothes are: stunning textiles, manly silhouettes and yes, I’d wear them in a heartbeat.

I don’t know how they did it, but even pieces like feathered neckwear eschew camp. No one appreciates campy outrageous fashion more than me, but Miller Monroe is no laughing matter. Just like Human Nature, Manzo and Steinberg introduce a bit of politicking into the mix: these skirts are not about defining one’s gender or sexuality, and that’s the success of the event for me. FAT defines fashion in Toronto in new, exciting ways, and I’m thrilled to head into spring and summer in all my stylish fatness!