MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - David Dixon has been a mainstay on the homegrown fashion scene for two decades, but after debuting his bridal wear line for Kleinfeld Hudson's Bay last spring, the state of the world away from the runway led him to take a season off.
"I was being inundated visually by horrific things that are happening in the world, and it just became so much noise," he recalled recently at his office west of Toronto.
"I guess I went through like a mid-life fashion crisis where I thought: 'How do I justify doing what I do in a world that needs so much more than just clothes?' I struggled with that a little bit in terms of: 'How do I fit in?'"
It wouldn't take long for Dixon to find the answer.
It came in the form of emails from clients telling him how they valued his creations during landmark moments in their lives. One woman thanked him for creating the dress she wore for her wedding in the Bahamas. Another said her day was made when she sported ruby-red slippers designed by Dixon for Town Shoes for her graduation.
"I was doing my small part in the sense of making people feel better about themselves, feeling confident and sharing that special moment with them — even though I'm not there with them. And then I thought: 'Oh, that's a good thing to do.'
"That's become what keeps me going is that I'm part of a memory base for someone else's life — and hopefully that's a good thing and hopefully they're good memories. That's part of my telling my story."
Dixon is preparing to mark a special milestone of his own as he returns to Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week on Tuesday.
The womenswear designer renowned for his chic, feminine creations and elegant eveningwear will unveil his fall-winter collection while celebrating the 20th anniversary of his label.
In addition to his signature line, bridal wear and shoe collections, he was approached by Mattel in 2009 to create the adult women's line "Barbie by David Dixon" to commemorate the iconic doll's golden anniversary. He also teamed with Sears Canada to create a special collection of little black dresses.
"At times people ask me: 'How do you stay so relevant?' or 'How do you keep it going?' And a lot of the time, it's building relationships with people that you have.
"I think listening to what people are seeing and listening to what's happening in culture — I think that's an extremely important value as a designer."
While his creations have been sold in the U.S. and internationally, the Toronto-born Dixon hasn't followed the path of other homegrown labels who have established their brands overseas, opting instead to nurture his design roots within Canada.
"I've travelled quite a bit, and it's always nice to come back," said Dixon.
"The advantage of being here is we produce everything in Canada. We have tried producing overseas, but it just didn't feel the same. The connection wasn't there to the clothing.
"The disadvantages of being Canadian is that we are a small community. We're a big country and a small number of people, so going outside of that is really important in terms of ... bringing the dresses to different markets — and that's been a slow and steady process."
As he enters his third decade at the helm of his label, Dixon said he wants to take on more, including helping expand the marketplace to ensure clothing is available at many levels.
"For me, it's just exploring and telling stories again ... keeping it fresh, and just keeping doing my thing."
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