We’re barely out of the week-long fashion orgy of World Mastercard Fashion Week, and already it’s time for Fashion Art Toronto’s Arts & Fashion Week.
WMCFW versus FAT is kind of like pitting Sandy against Rizzo; the squeaky clean establishment versus the bad girl. While both serve glamour, the differences are stark. At one, people who pay attention to fashion twice a year mix with folks for whom salability is paramount. Meanwhile, inexplicably snotty bloggers cover people chasing trends.
At the other, those for whom fashion and style is an important part of life gab with nightlife freaks, artists, and Toronto’s creative class. Guess which one I prefer?
To be fair, FAT has a wider mandate than just providing four days of runway shows. You get performance, live music, film, and more, all of it with an eye towards the cutting edge fashion and style. The designers aren’t so much concerned with what will sell as they are with creating a challenging vision and pushing the boundaries of what clothing can do. The runway shows become dangerous, exciting, sexy, dark, and unusual, while the overall atmosphere is party-like. Last year, Drake turned heads at one of the shows, gender lines were blurred, and truly innovative looks stomped the runway; this year promises no less 50 designers and labels over four days.
Among the new faces and returning brands are Asphyxia (last year’s stand out in my opinion – I’m curious to see their use of foliage in the gowns), Body Clothing, and Armour. The promisingly modern designs of Pedram Karimi also caught my eye, as I’m a devotee of simply structured looks with eye-catching colour stories.
But the designer I’m most excited for is Raji Aujla. Her menswear line is a stunningly executed collection of unique lapels and eye-catching pant pleats. Perfect for the dandier among us, the clean silhouettes, exaggerated cuffs, and cooly urban colour palettes manage to be formal and sexy at the same time. It’s fashion with a political edge as well – Aujla took inspiration from an act of Indian resistance to British colonialism during the 1850s. The cultural and era-specific references are quite clear in her work, and I’m excited to see this introverted designer’s full collection writ large on the runway. This is where FAT excels, by showcasing designers like Aujla. She will be one to watch over the coming years.
Worth by David C. Wigley is using this year’s FAT to re-brand as a menswear line utilizing sustainable and eco-friendly silhouettes. An established name in Toronto fashion, Wigley is generously sharing the spotlight with Dylan Uscher’s DylaniumKnits. Uscher is on something of a hot streak lately; recent collaborators include Philip Sparks and pieces for Ezra/Greta Constantine’s WMCFW show.
He refuses to pick favorites between the two fashion spectacles, saying “WMCFW was great because it was a kind of crash course in making sellable garments, while FAT has really let me stretch my creative muscles in ways that I’m really excited to show the world.”
Fair enough, but what’s it like working with Wigley?
“He’s designed all of the main pieces of clothing, including several knit pieces which I executed. In addition to that, I’ve also created my own line of knit accessories: chunky knit pieces as well as some hand-knit leather accessories. It’s important to both of us that we present a cohesive set of looks, so they all fall within the same vision: born from David’s imagination.”
Wait, you can knit leather?
Colour me surprised, but Uscher reassures me “people assume knitting is relegated to old women making granny squares (which is crochet anyway) and ill-fitting sweaters, and they’re surprised when they see that it can actually be quite fashionable.”
DylaniumKnits grew out of a quick knitting lesson Uscher received while stuck on a bus “before I ever thought about a career in fashion.
“I discovered that I could use the skills I’d learned from my hobby and translate them into a business in fashion. As I’ve become more exposed to the industry, I’ve been picking up some sewing skills, and learning about aesthetic and design, but for me, it all started with a pair of knitting needles and ball of yarn.”
FAT’s strength is its function as an incubator for fresh design talent. From pairing emerging designers with the more established, to showcasing designers for whom the political background of a piece is as important as the fit, to opening the runway to looks most of us can’t even imagine, this is the place be if you consider yourself a fashionista in this city.
FAT runs April 24-28 in Toronto. Venue info at fashionarttoronto.ca