Opinion
4 min

The skinny on FAT

Fashion Art Toronto week features piles of cutting-edge clothing

Mic Carter's work is challenging, provocative, confusing and exhilarating.
“I’m a FAT model and I love it!”
 
Now there’s a sentence you don’t come across every day. I mean sure, there are plenty of fantastic big-boned gals out there making a living in the “plus-size” or Rubenesque world of fashion, but Myles Sexton, the person uttering this incredible statement, is neither female nor (from what I can see) carrying even an ounce of spare flesh. He is, however, one of the models and designers presented at this year’s Fashion Art Toronto week – or FAT, as the hip kids call it.
 
FAT has come a long way from its inaugural outing in 2005. Back then it was known as Alternative Fashion Week, a two-day display of runway fashion held in a King Street bar. Now it’s five days of live performances, film, photography and, yes, tons of cutting-edge clothing that you’d never find at The Bay.
 
For designer Mic Carter, FAT is the ideal combination of new aesthetics, mixed media and personal expression. “I went to a couple of shows last year and was really excited by the community that surrounded the event,” he says. “I welcomed how affirming it was to different concepts of fashion.”
 
Carter’s work is challenging, provocative, confusing and exhilarating. There are no blazers and cashmere pullovers: men in masculine, almost sculptural dresses abound, with ropes and casually draped pieces of fabric lending a surreal painting-like quality to the pieces. If anyone can finally bring the man-skirt into the mainstream, it’s artists like Carter.
 
“The work is mostly male, but it’s exploring what it is to be a male outside of the subcultural norm,” he says. “If a man is getting married, for instance, there’s a beautiful piece of clothing that one could wear to a wedding that isn’t a suit. I’m interested in a disavowing of gender, where we’re almost looking past it.”
 
The designer began working with fabric at a young age, heading to George Brown after high school to hone his craft.  From there it was a stint at London’s renowned Central Saint Martins University of the Arts, where Carter further explored his fascination with sociology and fashion.
 
“A friend gave me a book on fashion and psychoanalysis,” he says. “It was fantastic. I really connected with this one chapter that talked about transgressive actions within social movements and people who worked to deconstruct the male hegemonic gaze, to embrace performance art as well as fashion art.”
 
For models like Sexton, this disassembling of gender in fashion fits perfectly with his ethereal, androgynous look. Looking like the love child of Tilda Swinton and David Beckham, Sexton’s one of those rare models who can carry off a female or male look with equal aplomb. A few lashes of eyeliner and he’s an icy-blond sorceress; three days of stubble and he’s pure rock and roll. 
 
“FAT was actually my last effort at modelling,” Sexton confesses. When he first arrived here from Nova Scotia three years ago, Sexton had hoped that his extensive East Coast portfolio would help him land an agent in the Big Smoke. No such luck.
 
“Everyone was kind of saying ‘no’ here,” he says. “I didn’t understand, because I’d been used a lot in Nova Scotia. I’d booked a national ad campaign and done print and runway. It was pretty humbling.”
 
Sexton brought along a pair of heels to his audition for FAT and landed nine shows, presenting both men and women’s wear for various designers. This is now his third year modelling for the event, as well as his first year showing his own jewellery designs. Sexton believes diversity is the key to longevity in the fashion world, like any other industry. “I was reading an article with Jeanne Beker and she was saying how back in the day you were only allowed to do one thing, and you had to be the best at it. Now, with the budgets being so much smaller, the artists need to be more than one thing: modelling, styling, makeup and hair and photography. I’ve had to adapt to make money, so I became a makeup artist to pay for modelling.”
 
The M Sexton jewellery aesthetic is absolutely avant-garde. Sexton’s spiked eye-patches, headpieces and rings are dangerously sexy and look equally at home on men and women. Like Carter, this model-designer sets aside normal gender aesthetics for something bolder.
 
“I think androgyny is being recognized as a third body type,” Sexton says. “I think it’s not so much about gender now, but more about, say, a woman who doesn’t have a full chest or a man who doesn’t fit an archetype. 
 
“I feel like I’ve been an androgynous boy, but I’m still a boy at the end of the day. It’s more about changing the male stereotype. We ask ourselves, why can’t men wear high heels? Why can’t men wear makeup or dresses? And, of course, there’s no reason we can’t.”
 
FAT Arts and Fashion Week
Runs Tues, April 23–Sat, April 27
213 Sterling Rd
fashionarttoronto.ca

For more on Mic Carter: lostrano.com

For more on Myles Sexton: msexton.ca