STYLE

New Fashion Week organizers seek to bolster profile of homegrown brands

10/17/2012 04:06 EDT | Updated 12/17/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - Eyeing the latest spring and summer styles may be the main draw, but with new organizers at the helm and a roster of emerging designers, changes are afoot behind the scenes and on the runway at Toronto's Fashion Week.

World MasterCard Fashion Week kicks off Monday under the makeshift tents at David Pecaut Square, where Canadian designers will unveil their style visions for the warmer months.

The new season will mark the first with IMG Canada holding the ownership reins. The company had previously been involved in consulting closely with the event since 2010, said Peter Levy, senior vice-president and managing director for IMG Fashion Events and Properties.

For 13 years, Fashion Week was owned and produced by the Fashion Design Council of Canada. IMG Canada will now operate the event in collaboration with IMG Fashion, with fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Tokyo among those within its portfolio.

While the event is focused on highlighting the homegrown fashion scene, organizers say they are giving thought towards how to help boost the profiles of designers — even beyond Canada's borders.

"We don't make clothes or take pictures, walk the runway or tell the story about ourselves. But what we do is try to provide solutions to help talent become globally known," Levy said in a telephone interview from New York.

While that may not necessarily mean having a Canadian designer stage a runway show in Tokyo, Levy said much of what the company does is centred on digital content and hinted at that as a potential alternative.

"Fashion has no language barrier. People in Toronto or people in New York don't only wear U.S.-based designers. So ultimately, it isn't so much moving people around; it's telling and letting them be part of an international platform of opportunity."

Beyond the major fashion capitals, there are no shortage of homegrown and international Fashion Weeks vying for attention within an increasingly crowded calendar. New York staged its marquee style showcase early last month, and Toronto's runway event follows the Paris shows which wrapped in early October.

"I think that's a challenge for every Fashion Week, and just moving the time doesn't always just mean that people will come," said Levy.

"I think it's creating and articulating... a point of view that's about fashion's future and discovery, and putting these people into a consideration set so that they become part of what we need to see for the future."

Retailer Holt Renfrew and womenswear label Pink Tartan are set to launch the event's 27th season on Monday. Pavoni, co-founded by Montrealers Mike Derderian and Gianni Falcone, will be bringing their red carpet fashions to the runway on opening night. The luxury fashion house has outfitted stars including Celine Dion, Katy Perry and Carrie Underwood.

The calendar will feature returning mainstays such as affordable apparel brand Joe Fresh and sportswear label Bustle. Montreal-based Melissa Nepton, Soia & Kyo and Travis Taddeo are also set to show the latest looks from their respective labels, while womenswear designers Arthur Mendonca and Golnaz Ashtiani and Canadian home decor brand Korhani Home will also be returning to the tents.

Designers Sunny Fong and Lucian Matis will each be pulling double duty showcasing their respective luxe lines along with looks from their affordable collections.

There will be a fair share of up-and-comers seeking to make their mark, most notably on Tuesday, when the winning label is named in the Mercedes-Benz Start Up contest.

Emerging designers from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island will be vying for the top prize, which includes a fully-produced solo runway show for fall 2013 collections next March.

Beyond the Start Up contest, several newer names are featured on this season's calendar, including Whitney Linen, Paraezo Couture and plus-sized clothing line Allistyle.

While many international Fashion Weeks keep their events reserved strictly for press, buyers and industry, prospective consumers and fashion fans have the chance to take in the Toronto festivities in person. General admission tickets are available for select shows starting at $25 each and $175 for full-day passes.

Those unable to make it to the tents can have a front row perch via their laptop or desktop, with the event's makeup sponsor, Maybelline, offering live streaming of select shows on a dedicated YouTube channel.

Fashion Week runs until Oct. 26.

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Online:

www.worldmastercardfashionweek.com

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