Toronto Fashion Week Diaries (part one)

With each passing year, there seems to be more fashion weeks popping up around the world. Although, it’s a new kid on the block, Toronto’s fashion week can be seen as a veteran (of sorts). While not as large as the main four (Paris, Milan, New York, London), it still manages to produce a lot of big talent.

Pre-fashion week festivities usually begin with The Shows. Created to showcase a carefully chosen set of Canadian designers who normally show in other cities, The Shows hosted local favorites Comrags (by Joyce Gunhouse and Judy Cornish), Jean-Pierre Braganza (UK), Tanya Taylor (NYC), Steven Tai (UK) and Jeremy Laing (Toronto/NYC).

Starting things off was Comrags. It was 50s shapes, with 90s minimalism. Imagine Milan by way of Toronto. Grey wool for coats and separates, washed silks on vintage-inspired dresses, and a windbreaker-like fabric hardened up the feminine looks. A flash of color came in a Mondrian-inspired landscape print; incredibly lovely. Small touches (ex: a notched collar tied together with string) kept things interesting. Made for every woman of any age and size, this collection will fly off the racks.

Jean-Pierre Braganza took Japanese influences mixed with the occult (how’s that for a juxtaposition?) with obis, kimonos and origami-like folds. Mixed in with the strong, sharp suiting (mostly in black, grey and a teal blue) were long, draped dresses that clung yet were just loose enough to fit most body types. Fascinating to know was that the designs on the tailored pieces were in fact laser cut and not embroidered. The collection begs to be inspected up close since the runway won’t do it justice.

Tanya Taylor looks at Parisian sportswear from the 70s and brings it up to date with a preppy-like makeover. The sweet – but not saccharine – looks took separates up a luxe notch with leather, lace, wool and cashmere. There was a variety of prints, including one that was based on a medallion and then digitally manipulated to its current form. Worn as head-to-toe looks or not, there was a lot to like and even more to covet.

Looking for something different? Steven Tai’s collection was made for 13 year old hip-hop boys, but destined for edgier 25 year old women. Wide track pants with inverted pleats, kitschy sweaters (with images of pastoral scenes gone awry), and oversized outerwear (a bomber jacket assembled in pieces) were standouts. His methods with textile manipulation are adventurous (silicone can’t be sewed – a time-consuming multi-stage process achieved the final outcome). Who knew?

Fan favorite, Jeremy Laing, showed his collection last. Known for not following trends (in a good way), his layered approach to separates made his (sometimes) complex designs more accessible than what people would think. The well-cut outerwear, slim cut pants, and floating layers of chiffon moved with little motion. And, the palate of grey, yellow, blush and gold (in seersucker, of all fabrics), plus his work with artist Vanessa Maltese (check those prints and accents) brought hits of lightheartedness.

After two days of presentations, it was time to think of what lay ahead. Luckily, guests were given snacks to nosh on as well as an abundance of Vitamin Water between presentations to stay fully hydrated – no one wants to be around fashion people who haven’t eaten. Still, The Shows was a great start to Toronto’s fashion week. Onto the next ones!

Written by Steven Carver