The ShOws must go on

It’s not easy to produce a fashion show. It also isn’t cheap. The hair/makeup people, models, dressers, front/back of house people and production staff doesn’t always work for free. That’s why presentations like The ShOws are important.  With the assistance of generous sponsors, The ShOws welcome Canadian talent who have made a name for themselves outside of Canada’s borders and bring them to Toronto to present their latest collections.

This year, Bellavance, Steven Tai, Kaelen and Antonio Azzuolo are the ones to watch. If their names don’t ring a bell, remember, Jason Wu, Erdem and Mark Fast – amongst many others – were once relatively unknown, yet called the land north of the 49th parallel home at one point in their careers.

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The Bellavance team (comprised of Alberta-born Nolan Bellavance and NYC-bred Ava Hama) were rebelling against a uniform (i.e. scholastic) type of dressing for next fall/winter. It was all about taking a twist on the traditional. They played with materials (i.e. the pleating on their “garbage bag” dress, and the process of reversing men’s shirting fabric to render it softer to the touch) in their separates, but the strongest pieces were made of denim. Left mostly in a raw condition, the hand-sanding technique resulted in a glowing effect that gave the workhorse fabric an element of sophistication.

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Known for his textile manipulation, Steven Tai pared down the exotic materials from previous seasons but amped up the volume this time around. With a strong showing of outerwear (with shapes that pre-dated the styles of Phoebe Philo’s current Celine tenure), his oversized silhouettes were a play on the b-boy/hip-hop look with multiple layers and boxy trousers. Most striking were pieces designed with a fringed fabric that was created through cutting the warp fibres and allowing the seams to fray; a lofty concept that proved luxurious to the touch.

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Wanting to refrain from anything too feminine, Kaelen Haworth (of namesake line, Kaelen) featured thick wools in vibrant reds and splashes of grape to compliment the blush pinks (in daintier fabrics) in her latest collection. Throwing a curve into the ruffled separates, Haworth used zippers that altered the frilly pieces into something more streamlined, while her choice of textiles (including one that was dyed using an unusual method) kept the looks from being too precious.

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The only designer to show both men’s and women’s clothing on the runway, Antonio Azzuolo had a clerical-cum-Japanese-warrior vibe in mind – unknowingly, or not. Using high-end tailoring techniques (like a suit jacket made with a half-canvas inner shell for lightness and structure), the high necks and dropped inseams (with cropped pants) kept the body fully covered. While most looks were sombre in tone, Azzuolo took a cheery spin on nubbly sweaters and tunics in fuchsia and mulberry for an unexpected jolt of colour.

What will next season of The Shows bring? No one knows. But one thing is certain: Canadian talent needs platforms like these to not only increase their public awareness, but also celebrate them for their hard work and determination to succeed in an industry known for sometimes being tough on its newcomers.

(Photography courtesy of Michael Ho/Brill Communications)